Darryl Watkins is one of several different players attempting to make the Spurs 2008 regular season roster. Like many others in Spurs camp, and in camps around the league, he’s not a familiar name, but his game and track record were considered worthy enough by Spurs coaches and management to warrant an invite. Who are we to disagree?
So for one day the Project Spurs blog will become Darryl Watkins central as we try to fill you in on the big man from Jersey.
Watkins measures a quarter inch over 6-10 and weighs in at a healthy 258 lbs. He also stretches out with an impressive 7’3 wingspan and a 9’2 standing reach. Suffice it to say, Watkins covers a lot of ground just standing there. His build would suggest the official stats on his weight are likely padded by five or six pounds as he seems more lean and light than packed in and sturdy. He moves well and is reasonably agile for someone of his height. Watkins is most well known for his shot blocking ability and defensive presence around the rim, naturally making use of his lengthy frame. His offensive abilities are below average, despite having the necessary tools for success. He’s shown the ability to move well on offense and demonstrated some flashes of finesse post moves, but nothing consistent.
Darryl Watkins is a New Jersey native and played his high school ball at Paterson Catholic High School (yes, same school as Tim Thomas). After being selected first-team all-state as a high school senior he went on to play for Syracuse. Watkins played four years for the Orange, two as their starting center. His numbers were average, with the exception of shot blocking where he ranked seventh in the nation his senior year at 3.4 blocks per game.
Professionally Watkins started last summer on the Sacramento King’s summer league squad showing relatively few bright spots, but enough to get signed to a contract to play with the team in the regular season. He only played in nine games and was waived by December 2007. Watkins went on to play in the D-League with the Iowa Energy and Los Angeles D-Fenders.
Will Darryl Watkins matter to the San Antonio Spurs in 2008? Probably not. That’s the issue that is of most concern to your average Spurs fan, and to answer their question, in all likelihood Watkins will either not make the roster, or end up stowed away behind the current rotation of big men, possibly as a project for down the road.
Watkins is talented, physically gifted, and he does have potential, but a few key factors will hinder his ability to make the roster, or get court time should he make the training camp cuts. First is his work ethic. While Watkins has potential, and is an undoubtedly gifted athlete, his enthusiasm (be careful to note that I said his enthusiasm, not just his intensity) has been questioned multiple times throughout his career. He could certainly benefit from the coaching of a Gregg Popovich, but just as likely he could be cut loose if he doesn’t adjust to the system. Second is that he is somewhat one dimensional, that may be a negligible point if the Spurs are willing to let him develop, as most big men need time to grow the different aspects of their game for a couple of seasons after college, but if the Spurs aren’t willing to invest in him as a project, he may be cut. Lastly, the Spurs have a set rotation of big men, and already have one big man project in development (read: Ian Mahinmi). Oberto, Kurt Thomas, and Matt Bonner round out the front court rotation along with Tim Duncan, plus there’s Ian Mahinmi to consider. Last season saw Mahinmi show some flashes of, dare I say, brilliance and I think the Spurs are interested in growing that potential. Through no fault of his own, Watkins has to overcome the fact that the Spurs roster is already filled with established veterans and future prospects – without an impressive showing in pre-season, I just don’t think he can do that.
Watkins has the kind of raw talent as a legit shot blocker that I’ve wanted to see next to Duncan on the front line, but without a couple more elements to his game and a burning desire to prove himself, I don’t think he’ll be sticking around past training camp.