For a lot of teams drafting at the end of the first round year after year, the NBA Draft is nothing more than a trade chip (See: Lakers, Los Angeles), or a way to stock pile talent overseas (See: 2003-2007 Spurs), but since drafting George Hill in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft, the Spurs have tried to find players to contribute within the first year or two years. That has worked in varying levels between now and then between George Hill (borderline starter), Cory Joseph (borderline rotation end of rotation player) and James Anderson (showed promise before injury and Danny Green pushed him out of the rotation). I'm not counting Kawhi Leonard in this equation because he was a top five lottery talent who dropped in to the mid first round.
With as many as seven restricted or unrestricted free agents next summer, I think the Spurs are likely to follow this route with this summer's NBA Draft. Last month we took a look at some guys, all forwards, who will likely be available in that 25-35 range. As conference play starts for most of the country, here's an update on some of those players and a new addition.
-Gorgui Dieng, C, Louisville: The junior center missed the last month with a wrist injury, but returned against rival Kentucky last weekend and played well. Dieng played 20 minutes, scoring seven points, pulling down seven rebounds and adding two blocks against a front line that includes potential number one pick Nerlens Noel and likely top ten pick Alex Poythress. Dieng is ranked number 34 in Chad Ford's top 100 prospect list and 27th in Jonathan Givony's list. A strong Big East conference run could shoot him up in the top 20, but right now it looks like he'll be available somewhere near the Spurs' pick.
-Andre Roberson, F, Colorado: The San Antonio native is having a better year than last, but not by much. Somehow, that's translated in to him not being the first round lock he was in October before the season started. The Wagner High School graduate is averaging 12.1 points, 12.1 rebounds and 1.4 blocks a game. He's shooting 52 percent from the field and has gotten his three point percentage above 41 percent (though he's only taken 17 threes so far). At 6'7" Roberson is a possibly the best rebounder and one of the most versatile defenders in the country. He's not great at creating his own shot, but his jumper has improved and in the Spurs system he could become a very consistent outside shooter playing either forward position. Basically it'd be like having two Kawhi Leonard type players, and what team wouldn't want that? He had a big test against Arizona's deep frontline Thursday night, scoring nine points (2-3 from three) and pulling down 11 rebounds which playing in foul trouble for much of the game.
-Jamaal Franklin, G/F, San Diego St.: Speaking of a Kawhi, former teammate Jamaal Franklin is another player who is lower on both Ford (20th) and Givony's (25th) drafts boards then you might expect. The 6'5" guard is averaging 17.1 points and 9.8 rebounds a game. He can get to the rim and the free throw line, averaging nearly eight attempts per game. The knock on him is he lacks range on his jump shot (he's shooting 24 percent from the 3 and shooting four attempts per game), but again, the inconsistent shooters have a tendency to become more consistent once they're in the Spurs' system. I'd be stunned if Franklin is around when the Spurs pick, but if he is he'd be tough to pass despite the fact that it'd be adding another shooting guard.
-Patric Young, C, Florida: The Gators junior hasn't developed offensively like everyone was hoping he would, but he's turned himself in to one of the best defensive big men in the country. He's up to two blocks per game and one steal while his foul rate has dipped. His shooting percentage is still up around 60 percent, so it's not as if he lacks any offensive skill. He'll never be a franchise changing big man, but he'll be someone's third or fourth big for several years.
I'll be back next month with an update on these players and likely a few additions as conference play continues. Until then, let me hear who you'd like the Spurs to go after this June. A center, an athletic forward, another guard?
Photo: Daily Emerald