Spurs Draft History

The Spurs front office has developed a reputation as one of the best at assessing and finding players for the draft. This reputation, built on the astute selections of Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, allows them to receive a pass from the media come draft day when the Spurs select an unheard of player like Ian Mahinmi or George Hill. If any other team had took Mahinmi or Hill in the first round they probably would have been ridiculed left and right. However, is this reputation fair? Many fans express frustration that the Spurs haven’t brought in young talent over the past few years. Others contend that the Spurs struggle to develop the players they do draft. 
To take a closer look at how the Spurs have done in the draft, I’ve gone back through the last ten years and inspected their picks. All stats are taken from the wonderful basketball-reference.com. We’ll start at ten years ago and work our way to last year. Hopefully this will shed some light on how the Spurs have handled the draft and where their reputation, both good and bad, has come from.
Player (pick) – Pts/Reb/Ast/FG%/3%/FT%/Stl/Block/PER/ORtg/DRtg (Career)
Brief Analysis
Manu Ginobili (57) – 14.7/4.1/3.6/45.4%/37.6%/82.1%/1.5/0.3/21.5/114/98
Selecting Ginobili with the 57 pick was the Spurs shining moment as far as draft picks go. Not only has Ginobili become an integral part of the Spurs championship run, but he also defined the Spurs attitude towards the draft. Selected in 1999, the Spurs left Ginobili overseas until the 2002-2003 season with the draft-and-stash (DAS) approach. Other teams followed suit and it has changed how teams approach the draft.
Chris Carrawell (41) – N/A
Despite receiving the ACC Player of the Year award during his senior season at Duke, Carrawell, a 6’6” shooting guard, was waived by the Spurs before the start of the 2000 season. He never played in the NBA but has bounced around the European leagues. For some fans this might feel like the start of a reoccurring trend.
Tony Parker (28) – 16.7/3.4/6.1/49%/31.1%/72.6%/1.1/0.1/18.5/108/103
Parker is the Spurs other overwhelming draft success. At the time it was unheard of to draft a foreign point guard let alone give them the starting nod in their rookie season. It’s been well documented how Pop was reluctant to draft Parker at first but Sam Presti finally convinced him to. Now Parker is an All-Star and NBA Finals MVP. Not bad for the 28th pick.
Robertas Javtokas (55) – N/A
An athletic 6’11” center from Lithuania, Javtokas has never come to play for the Spurs, who still own his rights. Javtokas suffered a horrific motorcycle accident in 2002 that sidelined him until the 2003/2004 season.
Bryan Bracey (57) – N/A
Bracey was a first team All-Pac-10 but never played for the NBA.
John Salmons (26) – 8.8/3/2.4/44.8%/36.2%/79.9%/0.8/0.3/12.8/106/109
The Spurs immediately traded Salmons and Holcomb to the 76ers for Speedy Claxton, who was a key component of the 2003 championship team. Recently Salmons has emerged as good scorer and shooter, but for me it was worth trading him. Speedy was an important player in the finals and helped win a title.
Luis Scola (55) – 11.5/7.6/1.4/52.3%/0/71.6%/0.8/0.2/16.6/113/102
The Spurs could never settle Scola’s buyout, eventually trading him to the Houston Rockets for Vassilis Spanoulis, who never played for the Spurs. Losing Scola stings for Spurs fans. He is a very good defensive player, solid rebounder, good shooter and role player, pretty much exactly what the Spurs are missing at the power forward position. This is an example of where the DAS method failed. The Spurs identified the talent well but failed to make him a Spur.
Randy Holcomb (56) – Traded to the 76ers with Salmons, Holcomb eventually appeared in four games with the Chicago Bulls but that was the extent of his NBA career
Leandro Barbosa (28) – 12.9/3.4/3.8/47.1%/40.4%/82.4%/1.4/0.2/16.2/111/109
Like Salmons, the Spurs had no plans to keep Barbosa and traded him to the Suns for a future protected first round pick. In this case the Spurs were coming off a championship with a young team and were not in a situation to add another guaranteed contract. The future pick was eventually part of the trade for Nazr Mohammed, who was a starter on the 2005 Championship team. 
Beno Udrih (28) – 7.9/1.9/2.9/44.5%/32.5%/82.2%/0.6/0.1/12.9/103/110
Udrih showed promise that he could become a reliable back-up point guard, but eventually he couldn’t handle pressure on the court (Pistons’ full court press) and off the court (Pop’s demanding demeanor). Most fans were happy when Udrih was traded to the Timberwolves, who cut him, for a protected second round pick in 2008 (they basically gave him away). 
Romain Sato (52) – N/A
Sato never played for the Spurs and was waived in February 2005. Since then he has played in Italy and Spain.
Sergei Karaulev (57) – N/A
Karaulev is a center from Uzbekistan. That’s really all you need to know about him.
Ian Mahinmi (28) – 3.5/0.8/0.2/50%/-/100%/0/0.7/35.3/123/92
The ultimate out-of-nowhere pick, Mahinmi’s name was not even in the draft guide of over 100 players. He shows promise as an athletic big man who could back up Duncan but lately he has struggled with injury problems. He has only played a handful of games with the Spurs spending most of his time with the Austin Toros.
Damir Markota (59) – 1.7/1/0.2/36.5%/37.5%/63.6%/0.1/-/5/83/113
Markota was immediately traded to the Bucks for the higher of their two second round picks in 2007. Essentially the Spurs traded the 59th pick for the 33rd pick in the next year’s draft.
Tiago Splitter (28) – N/A
One of the elite young big men overseas, Splitter’s buyout scared teams away from drafting him sooner. The Spurs have yet to bring him over leading some to compare the situation to the Luis Scola fiasco. Splitter would immediately help the Spurs rotation if he ever comes overseas.
Marcus Williams (33) – 1.1/0.6/0.2/31.8%/-/-/0.9/0.9/10.4/78/106
Williams spent most of last year with the Austin Toros and became one of the better players in the NBDL. He has improved his shot and developed a reputation as a point-forward. He is also a good defender and has a chance to stick with the Spurs over the next few years.
Giorgos Printezis (58) – N/A
A 6’9” forward, Printezis was immediately traded to the Raptors for their second round pick in 2008, once again moving up in the second round.
George Hill (26) – 5.7/2.1/1.8/40.3%/32.9%/78.1%/0.6/0.3/11.6/101/104
Another late first round surprise pick, Hill made the move from shooting guard to point guard in his rookie season. Blessed with long arms, Hill proved a tenacious defender throughout the season. He also stepped in nicely when Tony Parker went down with injury. Pop struggled to find the best way to use Hill but it’s apparent that he is a key component of the Spurs backcourt for the next season.
Goran Dragic (45) – 4.5/1.9/2/39.3%/37%/76.9%/0.5/0.1/9.8/96/113
Dragic was traded to the Suns, who viewed him as their potential future point guard, for Malik Hairston.
James Gist (57) – N/A
Gist possesses the tantalizing combination of athleticism and size (6’9”) that the Spurs so desp
erately need at the small fo
rward position. Gist won over fans in the preseason with his energy but he spent the past year playing in Italy. However, the Spurs still own his draft rights, adding a new wrinkle to the DAS method.
What does all this tell us? The Spurs were successful during the first part of the decade in finding foreign talent late in the draft. However, they have not been successful in recent years in finding new talent. Of the picks above only Parker, Ginobili, Udrih and Hill have seen significant playing time for the Spurs. That’s four picks out of 20. Mahinmi, Splitter, Williams and Gist still have a chance to be added to that list. 
The Spurs have three draft picks this year, all in the second round. Based on the past decade, they are likely to take a domestic player with the 37 pick, someone who has a chance at immediately contributing or spending a year with the Toros. Then with the 51 and 53 picks they are likely to draft a foreign player to keep overseas or trade the picks for a higher pick.