Now that the San Antonio Spurs are in a full rebuild, fans have focused their attention on the team’s new class of talented draft selections. While it may be early to think about the starting lineup for the season, it’s not unreasonable to think the ninth overall pick Jeremy Sochan is in the mix.
Out for precautionary reasons following a run-in with COVID-19, fans were unable to see Sochan in action during this year’s Summer League. That hasn’t stopped Spurs fans and European fans from anticipating his future and making comparisons.
The conversation around Sochan on message boards and social media is centered around what NBA player he closely resembles. It has come down to two players, both former Spurs: Dennis Rodman and Kawhi Leonard.
Being compared to two of the greatest players to ever don a Spurs uniform must be flattering for Sochan. The question remains, however, is there any validity to these Jeremy Sochan comparisons?
The Dennis Rodman / Jeremy Sochan Comparisons
This comparison seems superficial at first. Sochan will wear number 10, the same as Rodman’s Spurs jersey. They both are known for dying their hair frequently. For some fans, that’s where the comparison ends. Further examination, however, reveals that they both have similar playing styles. The Rodman comparisons started happening when Sochan played in this year’s NCAA Men’s March Madness tournament where spectators were saying he was doing a Rodman cosplay. British news publication The Sun dubbed Sochan “the British Dennis Rodman” after the Spurs drafted him.
Jeremy Sochan would make Dennis Rodman proud pic.twitter.com/PimpKvAykO— NBA Memes (@NBAMemes) June 25, 2022
If you compare highlight reels, the similarities are quite apparent. Both are defensive-minded players and lead their team in rebounds. Sochan obviously has a lot of work to live up to Rodman’s rebound game, but you can see glimpses of it. When Sochan guards someone he’s on them like glue. He gets in their face. If they’re going to take a shot against him it will be contested.
Charles Barkley once said the only way to get Rodman off of you was to punch him, so he punched him in the first five minutes of the game. It’s not a stretch to see how Sochan can get to Rodman’s level in guarding. He is a rookie, but it’s reasonable to see him with the number-one guarding assignment for the Spurs.
Rodman was legendary for trash talking and getting under his opponent’s skin. It something he even brought with him to San Antonio from Detroit’s Bad Boy era. Sochan loves to trash talk. During the Summer League, the Spurs rookie was mic’d up on the bench for the games against Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies where he did a fair amount of trash talking. “Hey,” he told the he told Houston’s Tari Eason, “you don’t got no bounce”. It was friendly, but you could see he enjoys trash talking his opponents.
The Kawhi Leonard / Jeremy Sochan Comparisons
Rodman may be among the best defensive players to ever play the game, but Leonard set the tone for the modern era. Not only will he chase his opponents down for blocks, but he can swipe the ball right out of their hands. Sochan also has a reputation for making steals and turning them into points on the other side of the court. The ways that he compares to Leonard go beyond a talent for getting steals though.
Is it a stretch to say Jeremy Sochan could be British Kawhi Leonard?— S.Q. Trinh (@sontrinh) June 24, 2022
It’s draft night and the optimism overflows.
The crux of the argument for the Leonard comparison is that their paths joining the Spurs organization are similar as well. Both were drafted to the team as players known for their defensive play. While Sochan needs to improve his shot, he may be better offensively than Leonard was entering the NBA. Don’t let the smooth three-point shots in the highlight reels fool you, however, Sochan’s shooting needs development. During his time at Baylor, he averaged just nine points a game.
The one thing Sochan has over Leonard is that he’s not afraid to take his shots. It’s hard to see a situation where head coach Gregg Popovich is pleading with him to stop passing the ball and take his shots. Sochan seems to be a player who knows he needs to improve his offense. For a player in his situation, you couldn’t ask for a better NBA team to develop with.
Paving His Own Path
While Sochan has similarities with both Rodman and Leonard, it’s truly a “best of both worlds” situation. The Spurs organization has proven time and time again they are capable of developing players shooting abilities. If the coaching staff can let Sochan be who he is on the court, the trash-talking, in-your-face player, and develop his shooting game, Sochan can be a force in the Western Conference.
Will Sochan be able to live up to the hype of the comparisons? Can Spurs fans finally get over Leonard if Sochan’s development matches his potential? Of San Antonio’s 2022 draft class, Sochan is the most likely to find his way into the starting lineup this year. By next season, the Spurs will want significant progress. Still, it should be fun to eye on him this season and see his progress from the beginning to the end of the season. If not the Spurs will have to go back to the drawing board to find their next key defensive player.