SAN ANTONIO – Nothing washes away the stench of disappointment and underachieving better than hope.
Okay, winning does too. But first there must be hope.
The NBA Draft is the perfect example of what some would call “hope trafficking.”
Front office executives beam at the opportunity to sell fans hope.
They use every opportunity to tell fans that whoever was selected will be a vital part of the organization’s fabric.
That this player has the exact missing skill set needed to field a winner. That they will be coachable, work hard, and be part of a winning culture for years to come.
And frankly, those same smart (and not so smart) executives, don’t know any more than you.
The San Antonio Spurs continue their charade of contention under the cloak of rebuilding with the 2021 NBA Draft.
Another year in the lottery screams the current roster is inept. San Antonio’s history as a franchise though, says this is just a blip.
Selecting 12th overall gives the Spurs a myriad of options to execute or select from.
Trading up could signal a desire to accelerate the rebuild. Trading down could show that saving money in the draft would lead to an active free agency.
But what the 12th pick also gives the Spurs a chance at is rewriting history.
Mookie Blaylock was the last player drafted 12th overall to make an NBA All-Star game.
The last player to win an NBA Championship who was drafted 12th overall? Melvin Ely, who did not play a single minute for the Spurs in the 2007 NBA Playoffs.
Everyone knows the NBA Draft is a crapshoot. People think the higher your pick is to the top, the better the potential result.
But what it also is, is an easy opportunity to draft a bust from a larger pool of players than those teams drafting late.
Sure, Giannis Antetokounmpo was drafted 14th. Kobe Bryant was drafted 13th. Gems can be had anywhere in the draft, which the Spurs know better than most. But how do you think Kobe felt about Vitaly Potapenko getting selected before him?
Steven Adams was a solid 12th overall pick, but now Adams is about to be on his third team in three years. Meanwhile, Antetokounmpo is in need of a bigger trophy case to hold all his accolades.
Do you need an example that hits closer to home?
Utah selected Trey Lyles 12th overall in 2015. His Kentucky teammate, Devin Booker, was selected 13th.
Regardless of who San Antonio picks Thursday night, they’ll probably get applause for it. They’ve earned that inevitable praise through decades of success and consistency.
But there’s so much more uncertainty on the horizon with free agency looming, while fans and coaches alike await better results from their player development.
History says there’s a high chance this year’s selection will have San Antonio back in the lottery for 2022.
A winning season will satiate the growing angst from fans unaccustomed to this helpless feeling.
But until the winning comes, all we can do is hope.