Spurs Prospect Watch: Sagaba Konate

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The San Antonio Spurs have been playing a little better than expected considering they have no defensive guards available to them. They’re sitting on a 6-3 record and are looking like they could still be a playoff team. That means a low draft pick in the first round and another opportunity to get a steal there. The Spurs got Lonnie Walker in the last draft late in the first round so now, who will follow? Assuming the Spurs continue to play like a 44-win team, then they should end up with a pick in the 20s or just outside of it.

They will also have a second pick late in the first round barring a major collapse by the Toronto Raptors. That comes from the trade that sent Kawhi Leonard their way so now the Spurs will get two chances to find a diamond in the rough. One player that fits the bill is West Virginia’s Sagaba Konate. The 6-foot-8, 250-pound forward is a burly big man who blocks shots, jumps through the roof and boards the ball very well. To get a better idea of what he does, here are his stats from his sophomore year (last season):

  • 10.8 PPG, 3.2 BPG, 7.6 RPG
    • Per-40 minutes: 17 PPG, 5.1 BPG, 12 RPG
  • 51 FG%, 79 FT%
  • 116.8 ORtg, 93.4 DRtg, 23.8 PER

The Mountaineer junior is poised to have an even better season than he did last season as he will be the focus of this team and should be playing 30-plus minutes per game. Konate is a major defensive presence, which is something the Spurs could certainly use around the rim. He was third in the country last season in blocks per game and that was with the big man only playing about 25 minutes per game. He’s able to shut guys down at the rim thanks to his girth, but also his freakish jumping abilities. He’s got a great second jump and he’s got a quick first one for that matter. This has allowed him to gather so many blocks in his two years on campus and will undoubtedly lead to him being a top-five shot blocker again this season.

Some comparisons that Konate has received are that he plays similarly to Ben Wallace on defense — he isn’t as big as he looks but still does the job of a guy a few inches taller — and is like Dejuan Blair, but much more explosive. While his offensive game is limited, he has shown the potential to make some leaps there. He greatly improved his free throw shooting from under 64 percent to 79 percent last season, which could bode well for some extended range out to 15 feet rather than just putbacks and easy paint looks.

Konate does have several weaknesses like having no real handles, not having quite the size you want at the NBA level and he isn’t a good pick-and-roll player. However, two of those things are certainly controllable for the young man and he should get the chance this season to show that he has made strides in those areas. If he continues to shore up his strengths, then that can’t hurt him either.

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