San Antonio Spurs: NBA Draft Preview

One week after a devastating Game 7 loss in the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs will be right back at it. With the 28th and 58th picks in tonight’s NBA Draft, the Spurs will be looking to add some youthful talent to an aging team on the precipice of undergoing rebuilding.

Despite Tim Duncan’s uncertain future and Manu Ginobili playing like a shell of his former self, the Spurs roster doesn’t have any obvious holes that need to be filled via the draft. Thus, it’s likely that their picks will be the best available players, regardless of position, that are available.

Who might those players be?

First Round

Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State

Predraft measurements: 22 years old, 6’0” (with shoes), 188lbs, 6’4.5” wingspan, 33” no step vertical and 40.5” max vertical

Alex Kennedy of HOOPSWORLD projects that with their 28th pick the Spurs might select Isaiah Canaan, point guard out of Murray State.

In his senior season at Murray State, Canaan averaged 22.4 points, 4.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 37.1 percent from behind the 3-point line and 42.9 percent from the field.

Canaan is an aggressive player and with his quickness is able to get past his defender, and to the rim, out of isolation as well as off the pick-and-roll. What he lacks in height, Canaan makes up for in strength, which allows him to finish at the rim even with contact.

However, Canaan’s preferred method of scoring, and where excels offensively, is perimeter scoring. Despite only shooting 37 percent from behind the arc his senior year, as a junior he shot 46. percent, or 46.3 percent per 40 minutes pace adjusted. In his 132 collegiate games, Canaan’s three-point percentage was 41.9 percent.

Not only can he shoot well from outside, but he’s a proficient scorer in the pick-and-roll with the ability to get to the rim, or pull up for a jump shot.

For the Spurs, whose offense often consists of running several picks to get their guards open, Canaan would be a nice addition to the system. Not only would he be given time to develop behind Tony Parker, but his ability to shoot from beyond 18 feet allows the Spurs to spread the floor even more when he is on the court.

One of Canaan’s downsides is that he’s not a great defender. His lack of height appears to be the most immediate issue, but against someone like Chris Paul or Mike Conley, he isn’t sacrificing too much here. However, Canaan lacks the lateral quickness necessary to effectively stay in front of his man, which could present some issues at the next level.

Furthermore, Canaan is one of the weaker facilitators in this draft class. He’s clearly a score-first style point guard and possesses the ability to get assists off of simple drive and kicks, but beyond that it’s uncertain how effective of a passer he will be in the NBA. His senior year, while averaging a modest 4.3 assists per game, Canaan also averaged an unremarkably high 3.3 turnovers.

According to Kyle Nelson at Draft Express, there are concerns about his score-first mentality and how that might carry over into his NBA game.

Given time to develop in the Spurs system, one that has shown a knack for developing players like Gary Neal and Danny Green, Canaan could potentially flower into a nice point guard for them in the future.

Jeff Withey, C, Kansas

Predraft measurements: 23 years old, 7’0.5” (with shoes), 222lbs, 7’2” wingspan, 26.5 no step vertical and 29” max vertical.

With Duncan on the way out, if not next season then in the next few seasons, the Spurs may opt to draft someone to fill his spot.

One player they might select to step in for Duncan is Jeff Withey, the senior center out of Kansas. Last season, Withey averaged 13.7 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks per game while shooting 58.2 percent from the field and 71.4 percent from the free throw line.

Withey isn’t a dominant, post-up big man, but his ability to finish in pick-and-roll situations makes him an attractive option for San Antonio. According to Draft Express, Withey was the No. 1 finisher in the NCAA last season in non-post up situations, where he converted 79.2 percent of his field goal attempts.

Name

Team

Finishing Attempts Per-Game

FG% Finishing Around the Basket

Jeff Withey Kansas 3.4 79.2%
D.J. Stephens Memphis 2.4 75.3%
Patric Young Florida 2.7 75%
Willie Cauley Kentucky 3.2 72.8%
Zeke Marshall Akron 3 71%
Kelly Olynyk Gonzaga 4.7 70%

Courtesy of Draftexpress.com

A downside that stems from his lack of aggression in the post, and one that the Spurs will certainly take into account given their deficiency in this area last season, is his ability to get offensive rebounds. Withey’s offensive rebounding numbers last season place him last among Draft Express’s top-100 centers in offensive rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted at a mere 2.6.

At Kansas, Withey didn’t appear to be all that comfortable on the offensive end of the ball, as evidenced by the fact that he only attempted a total of 14 jump shots in 37 games last season, but on the defensive end, he looks to be much more at home.

Not only was he an excellent shot blocker last season, averaging 4.9 blocks per 40 minutes, but also he always seemed to know where he needed to be defensively, especially when it came to help-side defense.

As the Spurs look to rebuild a once heralded defense, Withey, alongside Tiago Splitter, would give them two 7-footers down low who are also not completely incapable on the offensive side of the ball.

Second Round

With one of the last picks in the NBA draft, Matt Moore of CBS Sports predicts that the San Antonio Spurs will select D.J. Stephens, a small forward out of Memphis.

Predraft Measurements: 22 years old, 6’5.5” (with shoes), 194lbs, 7’0.25” wingspan, 40” no step vertical and 46” max vertical

The first thing that stands out here is that Stephens can really jump, or more appropriately, lift off.

To put that vertical into perspective, LeBron’s vertical is reported to be upwards of 40 inches, around 44, and Stephens’ vertical is the highest EVER recorded by the NBA.

 

 

Decapitation has to be at the top of the least of potential injury concerns for Stephens.

Why is a young player with so much raw athleticism falling this far in the draft? Well, the problem for Stephens is that aside from his ability to leap out of the building, he doesn’t have much to offer.

In 36 games last season, Stephens averaged 7.6 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game and per Draft Express, his 12.0 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted ranked him among the four worst scorers in their top 100.

The counter to that statistic is that Stephens had the second-lowest usage rate amongst prospects as he was used on only 6.1 percent of Memphis’ possessions.

However, this low usage rate is likely indicative of Stephens’s inability to produce scoring opportunities for himself by creating off the ball and while Stephens shot 62.9 percent from the field, he only attempted an average of 4.7 shots per game.

On defense, despite being built more like an NBA small forward, Stephens played significant minutes at the power forward position. However, even in this situation, he proved to be a very capable defender, with a lot of defensive upside.

He doesn’t just use his 46” vertical to dunk…

So. Much. Hangtime.

Stephens possesses the ability to stay in front of his man, disrupt shots with his long reach and vertical and is relatively adept at creating turnovers via steals, as well.

While his offensive game as a long way to go, for an aging team like the Spurs, the surge of athleticism they would receive from Stephens could make him a solid choice with the 58th overall pick.

Topics: Dj Stephens, First Round Draft, Isaiah Canaan, Jeff Withey, Nba Draft Picks, Nba Draft Projection, Nba Mock Draft, San Antonio Spurs, San Antonio Spurs Draft Projection, San Antonio Spurs Second Round, Second Round Draft

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