Spurs searching for another gem in draft
JUN 26, 2013 11:10p ET
The Spurs chug on with that singular focus that's delivered titles and annually kept them in the title mix. One of the reasons the Spurs are always right there, better yet the main reason, is their draft acumen.
Does anyone draft better than San Antonio?
Yes, start with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, each picked and homegrown in San Antonio. But the roster is also stacked with talent drafted by the Spurs. Starting center Tiago Splitter and soon-to-be free agent was taken in 2007 with the 28th overall selection – the same pick the Spurs own Thursday night.
One-time starting center DeJuan Blair and reserve guard Nando De Colo came via the second round in 2009. Backup point guard Cory Joseph was a late first-rounder two years back. George Hill, picked 26th in 2008, was a key contributor for the Spurs before being traded in the 2011 draft-day deal that delivered rising star Kawhi Leonard.
San Antonio's personnel department, led by general manager R.C. Buford, has done of masterful job of surrounding the aging but still effective Three Amigos with an infusion of youth through the draft and key free-agent signings.
That's got to continue. As Buford freely admits, the Spurs are facing some big changes in the near future. Duncan, 37, is under contract for two more years. Ginobili is without a contract – he's wants to return – but he'll be 36 when training camp rolls around.
"We've got a lot of glaring needs," Buford said. "The immediate needs may be more subtle, but we've got to recognize there is going to be a time when Tim and Manu aren't here. That's going to be a lot to replace."
The Spurs do want Ginobili back, which means the core that's spent a decade together is not ready to go to pasture. Timmy, Manu and Tony aren't what they once were, but they were good enough to lead San Antonio to the 2013 NBA Finals.
"We have a team that did really well this year and were a few seconds from having an incredibly successful season, and historically we've always been asked when is it time to break the team up," Buford said. "I don't know if it's a function of figuring out the time, it's a function of what are your alternatives.
"We'll evaluate the alternatives, but I think all of our hopes is Manu finishes his career in San Antonio. This group is not one you can say didn't have the opportunities to succeed. I guess we'll try to do what we can to put them in position to succeed."
Buford's group as identified a group of players that should be there at the end of the first round. Whether or not the Spurs find another youngster to plug into Gregg Popovich's rotation Thursday is the trick. Names such as Livio Jean-Charles, Lucas Nogueira and Rudy Gobert have been bandied around as possible picks.
"As you look at your roster, you're going to look at the opportunities that are there," Buford said. "If you feel there are guys there that can help you, then you're probably going to try to play them. If you feel there aren't guys there that can help you, then there's a good chance you'll take a different strategy.
"It's more in relation to an evaluation of the draft then a strategy saying we have to get guys that can play this year. If they're not available, you can't fit a square peg into a round hole."
As for the draft itself, Buford sees players that can contribute, but not that transcendent player that can reinvent a franchise like, say, a certain Wake Forest grad did for a South Texas franchise 16 years ago.
"There doesn't seem to be consensus at the top and that's often times an indicator that there is not an overall No. 1 Tim Duncan or whoever it might be," he said. "I think that there is potential depth, but I don't know how you compare it to other years. We'll find out."