The San Antonio Spurs surprised many last night in a draft day deal that sent George Hill to Indiana for the rights to the 15th pick, Kawhi Leonard, Erazem Lorbek and the 42nd pick, Davis Bertans.
Hill had been mentioned in trade rumors days leading up to the draft, and the Spurs decided to part with the third-year backup when the right deal came along.
Tonight was probably one of the most difficult nights in Spurs history since we’ve been here,” Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford said. “To move a player like George Hill, who’s meant so much to our team, our culture, our locker room was one of the most difficult decisions that we’ve made.”
“Pop talked to him (Hill) tonight and plans to see him again tomorrow. Danny’s talked to him tonight,” Buford said. “It was difficult for us all to get to him. A very difficult conversation but a very sincere one. The thing we made George aware of, he’s always a Spur.”
Buford said the opportunity to get Leonard and some other “impactful opportunities” led the Spurs to send Hill back to his native Indianapolis.
“George has been a big part of everything we’ve done over the last three years and I’m not sure that that will be replaceable any time in the near future,” Buford said. “But we think the talent level Kawhi has, the winning habits that he brings to our group give us an opportunity to add some talent to our team in a different location.”
Leonard is a 6-7 forward that is more known for his defensive abilities and athleticism, but he won’t be drawing comparisons to former Spur Bruce Bowen any time soon.
“I don’t know if he’s a throwback to Bruce, but he led a team at San Diego State that had little to no success in basketball at all and took them to one of the top four rankings in the country and he plays hard, he defends, he’s a multi-skilled player that’s got good size, good length and good strength,” Buford said. “As we saw some of the teams that we’re going to have to face in the future, size for our positions weren’t one of our strengths, and i think that he addresses that issue.”
“We hope he’s a good basketball player and we hope he can find different ways on the floor to contribute to us winning.”
After trading away a fan favorite in Hill, Spurs fans certainly also hope Leonard will be a good basketball player and will be able to help right away.
With the loss of Hill, considered one of the better backup point guards in the league, the Spurs sets their sets on drafting a guard at 29 and looked no further than their own back yard, drafting Texas’ Cory Joseph.
“Another part of the decision making process through the whole draft was an opportunity to get Cory Joseph,” Buford said. “You go into the draft you only know what you have and we knew we had 29 and the guy we were focused on was Cory and how that played out is exciting for us.”
Buford should know Joseph well since he serves as the guardian of Joseph’s Longhorn teammate, Alexis Wangmene.
“He had a very very good freshman year at Texas and we saw him a lot,” Buford said. “We think he’s got terrific defensive qualities, terrific Spur qualities one one of the best freshman guards in the country.”
Along with Leonard and Joseph, the Spurs also received the rights to Erazem Lorbek and they used Indiana’s 42nd pick to nab Latvian forward Davis Bertans.
“Along with Kawhi we also got the draft rights to a couple of really good players overseas in Erazem Lorbek and Davis Bertans. Erazem has been an incredibly effective player in Europe,” Buford said. “He’s been a second team all Euroleague the last two years, has one Spanish championship, the Italian championship, the Russian championship and been on final four Euroleague teams on several locations. He’s a very, very effective player and one that we have hope hope for getting him to San Antonio at some point in the future.”
With Bertans, who was expected to go to the Spurs at 29, falling all the way to 42, the Spurs wasted little time in drafting the sharpshooter.
“Bertans I would argue may be the best shooter in the draft class, and as a 6-10 three man, has some outstanding growth opportunity,” Buford said.
While the Spurs’ draft day trades sent shockwaves through San Antonio, the Spurs may not be done dealing.
“I don’t think its any secret what Pop has said and we’ve talked about since the end of the season. We’re probably going to impact our roster via trade more than we are although through the draft now seem to have been and it was a combination,” Buford said. “I think organizationally, we’ve just been willing to look in areas that maybe in the past we would have maintained a different position on our roster.”
“Nobody’s roster is ever done at the draft. I think there’s always a lot that happens in the summer prior to training camp.”