Top 11 NBA Players under 25, Spurs edition

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San Antonio Spurs
Original photo courtesy SS&E,

Rocky Garza Jr. for Project Spurs

ESPN recently released their list (subscription required) of their Top Players under 25 based on potential and not one San Antonio Spurs player made the list.

However, Keldon Johnson got a vote from ESPN writer Kevin Pelton, but none of the young players could crack the overall rankings that were totaled off the average of accumulated ballots of the writers. 

In the spirit of their list, I was inspired to make my own ranking of the Top 11 Spurs players under 25. 

My list is based on overall talent and potential and includes all Spurs players who are under 25, and if anyone is confused why DeMar DeRozan or Derrick White aren’t on the list.. well they’re not under 25.

*Any statistics used in the players’ breakdowns were taken from Basketball-Reference, Cleaning the Glass, and the NBA.  The acronyms used for the provided stats will be BR, CTG, and NBA.*

The list begins with number 11 below:

11. Keita Bates-Diop, SF, 25 years old

Through 16 games for the Spurs, Bates-Diop is averaging 2.1 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 0.4 assists. 

The Spurs signed him on a two-way contract and people viewed it as another potential reclamation project, as he has been a solid role player during his career who plays the game the right way, hustles, and can guard the perimeter. 

Bates Diop was selected as the 48th overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft by the Timberwolves and was traded to Denver last year, before making his way to the Spurs. 

Bates-Diop has made the most of his spot-minutes this season and has a season-high of 9 points against OKC, but given his sample size, there is no telling what the Spurs have planned for him. 

10. Quinndary Weatherspoon, SG, 24 years old

Weatherspoon has yet to crack in the rotation but still offers optimism for fans because of his scrappy, defensive style that previous Spurs players have had.

 According to CTG, he has seen a total of 63 minutes this season and is averaging 1.1 points, 0.4 rebounds, and 0.3 assists and seen most of his action in the G-League throughout his career.

In his first G-League season he averaged almost 15 points before it was cut short due to the pandemic and in his one game played this season in the G-League bubble he dropped 22.

 Weatherspoon was drafted by the Spurs with the 49th pick and was known as a reliable shooter, a smart player, and an active defender. 

He ranks on the lower end of the rankings only because of the lack of playing time, but his 3 and D playing style could see him crack the rotation in the near future.

9. Drew Eubanks, C, 24 years old

Eubanks is known to bring hustle, energy, and physicality every time he hits the floor and fans can recall the monster dunk he had on Thanasis Antetokounmpo.

He was able to get more playing time during the season and put up respectable numbers during his run and is averaging 4.6 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 0.8 assists this season.

However, with the recent signing of Gorgui Dieng, it seemed to provide a signal that the Spurs weren’t comfortable providing more minutes to Eubanks. 

He has improved his overall game from last season but some can say he needs to provide a better shot selection instead of his signature hook, layups, and dunks. 

There is nothing bad anyone can say against Eubanks as he paid his dues going through the G-League, earning a contract and a rotation spot for the Spurs. 

He could become a key contributor for the Spurs if he develops more or even for a future team if he were to leave. 

8. Trey Lyles, PF, 25 years old

Lyles is a player that was hard to gauge in these rankings because of his inconsistent playing time this season. 

This past NBA trade deadline there were rumors that Lyles and his representation were seeking a fresh start, as the emergence of Johnson is what demoted him to the bench. 

Lyles is averaging 5.0 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 0.7 assists while shooting in the 80th percentile from the 3-point range at 40 percent this season and was deemed as the next Spurs resurrection project. 

He was portrayed to be a big part of the Spurs young core but has gotten limited minutes and multiple DNP’s.

Lyles can still grow if he is given the opportunities and showed to be solid stretch 4 for the Spurs this season, and even showed some flashes by leading the scoring for the Spurs last month against the Knicks with 18 points. 

7. Tre Jones, PG, 21 years old

Tre Jones was deemed as one of the most athletically gifted guards coming out of college and was known for his tenacious defense.

 The Spurs would draft him with the 41st pick, but he has been limited to playing time and has only seen a total of 36 minutes this season according to CTG.

Jones would get an opportunity to shine in the G-League Bubble and dominated along Samanic by averaging 18.1 points, 9.7 assists, and 5.3 rebounds in seven games.

However, Jones still possesses potential because of his ball-handling, defense, and outside shooting, and some have said they see him as Cory Joseph-type who served as a solid contributor for the Spurs.

6. Luka Samanic, PF, 21 years old

Some fans were quick to label Samanic as a bust as they grew frustrated with his early playing style and how hesitant and non-confident he was on the court. Samanic would get called out by Pop on how he needed to be more confident on the court, and he responded with a dominant showing in the G-League Bubble.  

In the five games he played, Samanic averaged 22.8 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 2 assists and the main takeaway that anyone could see was the emergence of confidence he had with shooting, rebounding, distributing, and slashing while on the court and even looked more comfortable in his skin.

 In the limited games he has played this season, he is shooting 45.3 percent from the field with averages of 3.7 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.5 assists. 

If he was to be given more run on the court, his per 36 minutes show him averaging 14.1 points, 9.0 rebounds, and 2.0 assists a game. 

The numbers may not seem credible to the naked eye to rank him at 6th, but he has the potential to guard the 1 through 5 and remain active on offense, as he showed when he was assigned the task of guarding All-Star Power Forward, Julius Randle. 

5. Devin Vassell, SF, 20 years old

There is an argument that Devin Vassell could be higher in these rankings, but he hasn’t got the consistent playing time.

He is averaging 5.0 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.9 assists in his limited runs, and he fell into the Spurs’ lap this past NBA draft that many people viewed as a steal. 

He brings a combination of perimeter shooting and versatile defense with his 6’10 wingspan that allows him to guard the 1 through 4. 

According to CTG, he is in the 70th percentile shooting 40 percent from 3-point range, and has shown flashes on the floor along playing the most minutes for a Spurs rookie in a while. 

Once he gets trusted more by Pop and the team he should be a solid 3 and D player with the potential to be a star.

4. Jakob Poeltl, C, 25 years old

According to BR, Jakob Poeltl is averaging 8.1 points, 8 rebounds, and 1.9 assists and on paper, his stats may not be the prettiest on paper compared to the other big men in the NBA, but Poeltl is doing the dirty work for the Spurs. 

Per BR, Poeltl has the highest on/off the court differential per 100 possessions (+11.8 points) for the Spurs and ranks in the 78th percentile allowing 109.4 points per possession compared to when he’s off the court the points per possession it goes up 5.2 points.

Poeltl may not have the flashiest offensive game nor a consistent jumper, but he is shooting an effective percentage of 61.9 percent and starting to finish better around the rim. 

His development has come a long way from his Toronto days and his willingness to screen, rebound and protect the rim allows the game to flow easier for his teammates. 

Poeltl is a monster, key defender for the Spurs and has shown the ability to guard perimeter players when needed, and has a very underrated defense IQ that will only get better with time. 

3. Lonnie Walker IV, SG, 22 years old

Lonnie Walker is a human highlight machine literally, from his mid-air switch finger roll to this last night’s poster dunk on Melli, he is oozing with potential. Walker has had some ups and downs this season and been hit with the injury bug. 

However, he has averaged 11.4 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists and shown flashes capable of taking over a game and bringing the energy to the floor.

Fans can remember his Houston Rocket game that he took over which helped them win in double overtime and he shows no fear of driving to the rim or pulling it from deep.

Walker can sometimes play the game a little too fast that causes him to lose his handle, but he is too much of a gifted athlete to doubt his potential and once he puts it all together, the sky’s the limit for him.

2. Keldon Johnson, SF, 21 years old

“Big Body” and “Mustang” are some nicknames Spurs fans use when they see Keldon Johnson step on the court. 

Johnson was drafted with the 29th pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, and has been exceeding expectations quickly that have fans wondering how he fell so low in the draft. 

Johnson’s relentless motor makes him dangerous for opposing teams, and last month he put on a Tim-Duncan-esque performance against the Cavaliers by scoring 23 points and grabbing 21 rebounds, and the craziest thing he’s only 6’5. 

According to BR, he is averaging 13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists and CTG ranks him in 37th percentile in Effective Field Goal Percentage at 52.3 percent. 

His shot selection shows him getting most of his points in the paint area and shooting the ball from deep at 33.9 percent.

His outside shooting percentage may be wary, but his offensive game will only improve with work from the Spurs shooting coach, Chip Engelland. 

Johnson is able to mask offensive flaws by bringing tenacious intensity on the rebounding and defensive areas and once he develops a better offensive game he will be a problem in the league. 

1.Dejounte Murray, PG, 24 years old.

Dejounte Murray comes in as my number one in the rankings as he has taken a big jump on his overall game this season and has proved a lot of naysayers wrong. 

Coming into the league, Murray looked raw and sometimes out of sorts, but Murray is proving to be the franchise point guard for the Spurs and is making plays on both sides of the court. 

According to BR, he is averaging 15.7 points, 6.9 total rebounds, 5.2 assists, and currently ranks 6th in the league with 75 steals. 

His rebounding, play-making, drive-and-finish, defense, and slashing have certainly improved since entering the league and he was the first player in Spurs franchise history with 200 points, 100 rebounds, and 70 assists through the first 14 games of a season. 

He plays a key part in contributing to the Spurs’ 11th-ranked team defense, according to the NBA, and still can add different skills to his game. 

Do you agree with the rankings? Let me know what your list would be and why. 

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