Let's Grade San Antonio's Front Office, Pt. I
Spurs Twitter is in an uproar, do they have a point?
Playing GM on Twitter1 is interesting to me. I find it so brazen of the folks who blast front offices for trades, signings, and draft picks (usually with the benefit of hindsight on their side) that don’t pan out, while offering their expertise on what should have happened (again, with the benefit of hindsight).
Truly, I wish I had that confidence, however unfounded it may be. I’ll be the first to admit I have no idea how to properly evaluate a draft pick in a trade. I’d be laughed off the Internet if I was posting screenshots from the trade machine.
On the other hand, I find it absolutely terrifying when the reply guys and gals repeat the tired, old line: “This organization built the teams that won five titles from 1999-2014, you need to shut up and trust.” It’s a bit dogmatic for my taste.
There’s probably a middle ground. I firmly believe in being critical of an organization that’s put together a losing product. No, the front office won’t listen to your criticism, and it wouldn’t change their minds even if they did. But it feels good, yelling into the sky about how miserable it is to watch a shitty team play, no matter how much you love said team.
I am curious though, how confident should we be in San Antonio’s front office? This week we’ll look at how well the Spurs have drafted since Kawhi Leonard, and yes I know he wasn’t technically drafted by San Antonio but, c’mon, yes he was.
Next time, we’ll look at trades/free agency.
These grades are mostly based on my gut, but roughly:
A = player is a bonafide starter no matter what team he’s on
B = they definitely have a role, but probably wouldn’t start on a title contender
C = they could carve out a role on a title contender, but haven’t proved that yet
F = they don’t belong in the NBA
Oh god this is already the most painful thing I’ve written at Fiesta Shorts…
Pick 28, Livio Jean-Charles: F-
Yuck, just… Yuck.
Notable players drafted after him: Uhhh… honestly Mike Muscala (pick 44) is probably the only “good” player that was drafted after Jean-Charles, so this wasn’t the worst draft to completely fail. What’s more upsetting is the guy drafted immediately before Jean-Charles is Rudy Gobert.
Pick 30, Kyle Anderson, UCLA: B
VORP (Value over Replacement Player) is not a perfect stat (not that there is such a thing), but Kyle Anderson’s VORP is the fourth-best of the 2014 draft, trailing only Nikola Jokić, Joel Embiid, and Clint Capela.4 Anderson has never been a star, but he’s been a great value and plus defensive player his entire career. Not bad for the 30th overall pick.
Notable players drafted after him: Jokić. Never forget he was drafted during a Taco Bell commercial in the second round. Jerami Grant and Spencer Dinwiddie, Dwight Powell, and Jordan Clarkson are a few more well-known players taken in that second round. I’d probably rather have Anderson.
Another OOF year.
Pick 26, Nikola Milutinov: F
The Serbian Center has had some success in the Greek league, making a couple best-five and All-Star teams. That success has not led to a single appearance in NBA, G League, or Summer League games.
Notable players drafted after him: Larry Nance, Jr. was drafted immediately after Milutinov, and Montrezl Harrell was 32nd overall. Both have also played Center and stayed in the NBA for the last seven years. Shucks.
Pick 29, Dejounte Murray, Washington: A
It took a few years, but the Spurs finally added a future starter to the team with their only draft pick in 2016. At #29 overall,5 Murray was an absolute steal, and one of the best players in this draft. He may have taken a little longer to breakout than fellow draftees Ben Simmons (who maybe doesn’t even play basketball anymore), Domantis Sabonis, Jamal Murray, and Jaylen Brown, but the way he’s playing now, Dejounte could have easily gone in the top-10.
It’s a shame Leonard didn’t stick around, because he, Murray, and 2017 draft pick Derrick White would have made for one hell of a defensive unit, and scary 1-3 options on offense.
Pick 29, Derrick White, Colorado: B
Before this season, I would have given White a C because of bad luck with his health. The guy plays hard, takes a lot of contact, which is really cool! But it’s probably not sustainable. This feels weird to frame as success, given San Antonio’s 17-28 record this season, but White has been just as integral to the Spurs’ “success” as his backcourt mate, Murray.
For what it’s worth, White is tied for 7th best VORP with De’Aaron Fox in their draft class, at 4.9. Jayson Tatum leads the 2017 class at 11.6.
Pick 18, Lonnie Walker IV, Miami: C
Walker has shown some flashes of brilliance. When he’s hot, boy is he hot. He can leap out of pretty much any building if you give him an opening. But most importantly, he is not consistent. Not even a little bit.
Walker wasn’t drafted in the lottery zone, so expectations aren’t sky high. But man does it sting to watch what he can do, then go several games in a row watching frustrating decision after frustrating decision. If he was regularly making great decisions on defense, I think you could feel a little better about him when he goes cold on offense.
A C grade seems fair. He’s definitely an NBA player, but Walker leaves a lot to be desired.
Pick 19, Luka Šamanić: F
Sorry, dudes. Luka was a certified bust. As with Walker, he wasn’t a lottery pick, and nobody drafted after him has made the rest of the league look silly. Matisse Thybulle and Brendan Clarke, who were drafted right after Luka (and coveted by many Spurs fans), both have established roles on their respective teams, which does sting a little bit, but it’s hard to argue that either of those guys would have drastically changed San Antonio’s future at this point.
Pick 29, Keldon Johnson, Kentucky: B-
The Spurs really salvaged the 2019 draft by grabbing Johnson at the end of the first round. While Johnson made a reputation for playing and screaming like a bull in a china shop in his second year in the league, the third-year player and starting Small Forward for the Spurs has added reliable three to his offensive arsenal.
The guy is hitting on 44.1% of his threes, good for third in the league. I’m giving him a B- because I don’t think he’d be a starter for a title contender. I could be talked into a B, probably. Johnson can still grow a lot, both defensively and offensively. If he does, I think he’ll be really special in a couple years.
Thanks for reading, please be kind to each other out there.
This probably happens on Facebook but I’ll be dead before I log onto Facebook to see what people are saying about the Spurs.
I’m restricting this to first-round picks, because well, I started writing about the second round picks and none of them really did anything except for Chimezie Metu. (Spoiler alert, I’d give that draft choice a D. Less because I think he’s a bad player, and more because it just didn’t seem like he was a good fit for the Spurs.)
I feel like it’s too early to grade the 2020 and 2021 drafts. Let me get back to this in a couple years.
See what I mean about VORP being imperfect?
14 picks after his new teammate Juancho Hernangómez.