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Ranking the 2020 NBA Draft prospects for the San Antonio Spurs

This draft guide breaks down the players who San Antonio might draft at 11, or trade up for, from Killian Hayes and Aaron Nesmith to Deni Avdija and Onyeka Okongwu.

SAN ANTONIO — After missing the playoffs for the first time since 1997, the San Antonio Spurs will have their highest draft pick since Tim Duncan at number 11. 

The 2020 draft class isn’t loaded with can’t-miss talent, and there’s a lot of room for players to shift up and down the top 10 on the night of November 18. Even with all of the questions, there are still plenty of exciting prospects who might wind up in silver and black (and teal and pink and orange).

For the first time in a long time, we genuinely need to evaluate top talent in the draft for the Spurs. In addition to the uncertainty of where everyone might go, San Antonio might use their lottery pick and other assets to move up in the draft. There seems to be more smoke about the Spurs being aggressive this offseason than we ever hear, enough to assume that they're at least exploring trades.

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It may make sense for San Antonio to move up, and it sounds like they're interested in doing so as long as they don't have to part with any of their key young pieces.

This guide focuses on the top players in this draft, through the lens of how they would fit with the Spurs and how likely it is that they would be available at 11, or that the Spurs would trade up to get them.

Guards

There are quite a few intriguing guards who will almost certainly be selected in the first ten picks, though none jump off the screen as a clear-cut top guy. The Spurs seem to really like the guards they have, so trading up for one would be a seismic, franchise-altering trade, by San Antonio standards anyway.

That sort of deal seems highly unlikely. However, a few guards might be too good to pass up if they slip to 11. Here are those top-five guys, in an estimated order of how likely it is they'd be available. There are basically two tiers of guards in this draft for San Antonio: ones who they'd be reaching for at 11 and ones who they shouldn't trade up for.

Here are my top 5 guards for the Spurs in the 2020 draft:

5. Kira Lewis Jr.

Alabama sophomore

  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 165 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’6”
  • Age: 19
  • PPG: 18.5
  • FG%: 45.9%
  • 3P%: 36.6%
  • RPG: 4.8
  • APG: 5.2
  • SPG: 1.8
  • BPG: 0.6

Lewis is the smallest guard who could go in the top ten, but he’s a pesky on-ball defender at the point guard position. His 6’3” height doesn’t limit him too much on offense, as he aggressively uses an enticing combination of speed and touch to finish among the trees, especially with his floater.

His jumper isn’t the most efficient, but his form is gorgeous, balanced and repeatable. He’s good at slashing and getting open, and like most he’s a more accurate shooter off the catch. He’s grown substantially as a playmaker, and is about as well-rounded a player as one could be at 6’3”.

Lewis is a very good prospect, but doesn’t exactly move the needle for the Spurs in terms of what they need to add to the roster. If he’s the best guard available at 11, San Antonio would probably want to take the best wing available instead.

4. Killian Hayes

Ulm, France

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 210 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’8”
  • Age: 18
  • PPG: 12.8
  • FG%: 45.5%
  • 3P%: 39.0%
  • RPG: 2.3
  • APG: 6.2
  • SPG: 1.5
  • BPG: 0.2

Hayes is immediately intriguing to Spurs fans because he sounds very much like Tony Parker and looks very much like Manu Ginobili on the court. The crafty lefty throws crisp, smart, sometimes otherworldly passes on a dime, evoking Randy Johnson cocking back his left arm to throw the ball with enough force to explode an unsuspecting seagull into a cloud of feathers. Sometimes he’s a little overly ambitious with his passing, but overall he’s a brilliant decision maker for his age.

He’s shifty with the rock and his feet, finishes at all three levels, and hits stepback jumpers with ease. He possesses a full utility belt full of guard skills, and if he can continue to improve his shot and right-hand dribble he could become one of the better offensive players in the draft. He needs to clean up some attention to detail on defense, but has the body to be impactful if he commits to it.

Draft nerds love Hayes, but in mock drafts he’s often outside the top five picks and sometimes outside the top ten. If he falls to 11, the Spurs would have to take a serious look at him versus the rest of the board. There's some chatter that San Antonio likes him, but it's unclear how much.

3. Tyrese Haliburton

Iowa State sophomore

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 175 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’9”
  • Age: 20
  • PPG: 15.2
  • FG%: 50.4%
  • 3P%: 41.9%
  • RPG: 5.9
  • APG: 6.5
  • SPG: 2.5
  • BPG: 0.7

Haliburton is more seasoned and efficient than the other guards projected to go in the lottery, and will bring knockdown shooting, point-guard skills and leadership to whatever team drafts him. 

His deep shot is as weird and janky as it is effective. His body isn’t the biggest or strongest, but he uses it well. He isn’t the best man-to-man defender, but his tools, drive, and brain for the game make him a solid team defender with the potential to improve.

This is a guy who does a lot of different things at a high level, but it remains to be seen what he can do at an elite level at the next level. He’ll probably go in the top ten, but there’s a chance he winds up as clearly the best player left on the board at 11. If that’s the case, the Spurs could throw positional need to the wind and figure out the rest later.

2. Anthony Edwards

Georgia freshman

  • Height: 6’5”
  • Weight: 225 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’9”
  • Age: 18
  • PPG: 19.1
  • FG%: 40.2%
  • 3P%: 29.4%
  • RPG: 5.2
  • APG: 2.8
  • SPG: 1.3
  • BPG: 0.6

This long, strong guard is one of the players who could be taken at number one overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves, or any team they may trade down to. Not many human beings grow into bodies that are clearly ready for the NBA at age 18, but Edwards clearly has.

He averaged 19 points per game, but shot just 40% from the floor and 29% from the NCAA 3-point line on nearly 8 attempts per game. He’s a volume scorer and not the most natural facilitator at this point, turning it over about as much as he assisted teammates last year.

Edwards has close to the highest potential out of these lottery picks and could grow into a special all-around guard, but he still has a long way to go before fully realizing that potential on both ends. He’s almost Westbrookian in his shot selection, confidence, and (lack of) efficiency, but also in the tenacity with which he attacks the rim and any unfortunate soul in his way.

If he doesn’t have to do too much as a driver of the offense, it would free him to slash, spot up for three, and lock in on defense. His handle is advanced, and quick, and he should probably use that and his size to attack the rim more and settle for mid-range jumpers less. The point is he can grow quite a bit in every area of the game, even the one he’s best at.

There are plenty of teams with plenty of reasons to draft Edwards. It’s almost impossible that he slides to 11, and it would take a momentous, franchise-shifting, core-disrupting trade for San Antonio to trade up for a developmental piece. Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV are all guards who attack the rim, defend, and space the floor to an improving degree, and one of them would need to be traded to make a trade for Edwards feasible, and make it make sense on the court. It seems like it won’t happen.

1. LaMelo Ball

Illawarra Hawks, Australia

  • Height: 6’7”
  • Weight: 190 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’10”
  • Age: 18
  • PPG: 17.0
  • FG%: 37.5%
  • 3P%: 25.0%
  • RPG: 7.6
  • APG: 6.8
  • SPG: 1.6
  • BPG: 0.1

The youngest Ball brother could go very early in this draft because of his size and spectacular passing, or he could slide significantly due to questions about his shot and decision making. Either way, it seems unlikely that San Antonio will select him.

LaMelo Ball is a fascinating prospect because he looks so smart when he’s not playing so… well, not smart. His passing talent and feel for the game is almost as unteachable as his incredible length as a point guard, but in Australia he often seemed to treat the games as a showcase for his skills, which have yet to catch up with his confidence in them

He went viral as a kid when he pointed at the halfcourt line in a game, pulled up and drilled the shot, so it’s not shocking that he takes and sometimes makes absurd shots. He just hasn’t demonstrated that he can hit circus deep shots, or normal deep shots, or really any shots with an efficiency or consistency that would be considered good at the NBA level. He has the tools to defend multiple positions, but has not shown much interest in doing so over the course of his basketball career to this point.

Ball’s high ceiling is coupled with more question marks than almost any projected lottery pick in recent memory. Reporting has indicated that he hasn’t impressed teams in workouts and interviews, for whatever reason, but he still may go number one.

Putting one of Lavar Ball’s sons on Gregg Popovich’s team would be hilarious appointment television, which is the kind of thing San Antonio normally wouldn’t touch with a 39.5-foot pole. Ball might slip out of the top-five, but the odds that he’s available at 11 or the Spurs trade up to get him are slim to none.

Wings and Bigs

If the Spurs do decide to address an area of need and draft a wing or big man, they should have options. Since there's more interest here, both from fans and Spurs decision makers, there are more players and a few distinct tiers. We'll start with the players who should be available, then move to players who routinely project to be within a few picks of 11. Then, the gems.

The Spurs have reportedly met with the wing players who come in at number one and number two on this list, players who sometimes go in the top five and never fall out of the top ten in mock drafts. They'd need to trade up, and it seems possible.

Here are my top 10 wings and big men for the Spurs in the 2020 draft:

10. Jalen Smith

Maryland sophomore

  • Height: 6’10”
  • Weight: 225 pounds
  • Wingspan: 7’1.5”
  • Age: 20
  • PPG: 15.5
  • FG%: 53.8%
  • 3P%: 36.8%
  • RPG: 10.5
  • APG: 0.8
  • SPG: 0.7
  • BPG: 2.4

Jalen Smith is an intriguing big man who can rebound, block shots and shoot at a very high level for a player his size. He’s one of the better center prospects in this class, and RC Buford was caught on camera watching him play in person earlier this year. If it was Maryland’s win over Michigan, Smith put up 18 points, 11 boards and 4 blocks in the game, which is just a little better than what he averaged.

Smith is already a solid, well-rounded big, and if he continues to develop that shot and his perimeter game on both ends he'll be a good NBA player. Most mock drafts project him somewhere out of the lottery, so he'd be a bit of a reach at 11. If San Antonio doesn't like the board when it's their turn, they might try to trade back for him.

9. Aaron Nesmith

Vanderbilt sophomore

  • Height: 6’6”
  • Weight: 215 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’10”
  • Age: 20
  • PPG: 23.0
  • FG%: 53.8%
  • 3P%: 36.8%
  • RPG: 4.9
  • APG: 0.9
  • SPG: 1.4
  • BPG: 0.9

Nesmith is another solid 3-and-D prospect who shot an eye-popping 52% on from deep last year, but he only played 14 games. Certainly there will be some regression to the mean in terms of shooting, but how far?

He was the SEC’s leading scorer and the fifth-leading scorer in the country before the foot injury that ended his season, and did it with an efficient shot selection and minimal dribbling. He’s elusive and intelligent at reading defenses, his form is crisp and fluid, and he’s as comfortable on the move as he is automatic when open.

Nesmith can dribble once or twice to step backward or sideways to create his own shot, but his handle won’t take him much further right now. He’s a bit smaller, and has room to improve finishing at the rim. His playmaking ability is minimal at this stage.

He’s a willing and capable defender, both in isolation and helping his teammates. He’s mostly solid, sometimes special, sometimes flat-footed defensively. On both sides of the ball, he’s always hustling somewhere to do something impactful.

Nesmith has drawn comparisons to Danny Green and Klay Thompson, and if he stays healthy the Spurs would be happy to have a rookie somewhere between those two. His strengths compliment the ball-dominant young core in San Antonio, and his weakness as a playmaker isn’t a dealbreaker.

There are, however, reasons Nesmith would fall out of the lottery. Questions about his health and how much his shooting could fall back to earth are there for any team. For the Spurs, he isn’t much bigger than their young, long guard core.

He'll probably be available at 11, and he'll probably be a solid and impactful NBA player, but there are other wings who are bigger, have higher ceilings, and/or fit better with the Spurs.

8. Saddiq Bey

Villanova sophomore

  • Height: 6’8”
  • Weight: 215 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’10”
  • Age: 21
  • PPG: 16.1
  • FG%: 47.7%
  • 3P%: 45.1%
  • RPG: 4.7
  • APG: 2.4
  • SPG: 0.8
  • BPG: 0.4

Bey is among the most overlooked prospects this year, and everything about him says “Spurs” in a calm yet authoritative tone. He’s 6’8” with a plus wingspan, he shot over 40% on a decent volume of threes, and he does a little bit of everything on both ends. Villanova coach Jay Wright ran everything through him and had him guard the other team’s best player regardless of position, which speaks to his ability and the level of trust he earned. 

He’s a wildly smart player who hustles, communicates, and does all the little things. His shooting and defense will allow him to be an NBA rotation player his rookie year, and he’d fit seamlessly with the Spurs’ young core. He’ll probably be available at 11, and should go somewhere between 10 and 15. 

Some fans would say he’s too old at 21, or that he lacks explosiveness, or that he might not be a reliable shot creator at the next level, or that he has a bunch of skills but no clear “elite” skill. As Derrick White continues to blossom, and Brandon Clarke looks to build on an impressive and impactful rookie season, it’s important to remember that those picks can pan out too, and that 21-year-olds are only too old for the kids menu and cheaper movie tickets. 

If Bey is their guy and they take him at 11, resist the urge to call it a reach before you see him play at the NBA level, which would probably be fairly immediate. 

Bey is the last player on this list who I'm confident will be available at 11, as the next group has a fair amount of interest from teams in the top 10. Mock drafts consistently put them in the 7-13 range.

7. Isaac Okoro

Auburn Freshman

  • Height: 6’6”
  • Weight: 225 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’9”
  • Age: 19
  • PPG: 12.9
  • FG%: 51.4%
  • 3P%: 29.0%
  • RPG: 4.4
  • APG: 2.0
  • SPG: 0.9
  • BPG: 0.9

Okoro is a player with a claim to the title of Best Wing Defender in the class, and he showed it while guarding the other team’s best player, whether he was a guard or a wing. He’s a low-risk, rock-solid defender, and looks carved out of granite at 6’6” and 225 pounds. He isn’t the biggest wing in the class, but his strength and length will allow him to guard a lot of small-ball fours.

As far as offense goes, Okoro attacks the rim relentlessly, skillfully and powerfully. He’s an electrifying leaper, a dunk-contest dunker undeterred by contact. His handle is advanced, and his passing is decent, but his jump shot needs some serious work. If he can’t be at least a respectable outside shooter, it will allow defenses to sag off and clog the paint. He has potential there, but it will take time.

Okoro is a wonderful prospect and could go within the first few picks of this draft. He would probably be worth the pick if he’s still available at 11, but there’s a bit of size and skill overlap with him and the other young Spurs, who could use someone a bit bigger and better at shooting.

6. Patrick Williams

Florida State sophomore

  • Height: 6’8”
  • Weight: 225 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’11”
  • Age: 18
  • PPG: 9.2
  • FG%: 45.6%
  • 3P%: 32.0%
  • RPG: 4.0
  • APG: 1.0
  • SPG: 1.0
  • BPG: 1.0

Williams seems to go to the Spurs in every mock draft, and it seems that San Antonio is interested in the big, athletic young wing who came off the bench for FSU. His defense is springy and intense and intelligent, though he isn’t fast enough to stay in front of a lot of NBA guards. 

His shot is projectable, but reliability needs to improve. He has the body and handle to be effective in the NBA, but needs to work on his efficiency at every level to reach his potential. 

He’s a high upside pick with a decent floor because of his size and motor, and he makes smart decisions and does all the little things, which sounds very Spursy.

Jake Weingarten reports that the Spurs used one of their ten in-person workouts to evaluate him, and if he's on the board at 11 there are very few people in San Antonio who would be disappointed in that pick. 

However, the Spurs aren’t the only team with interest in Williams. There’s a decent chance he’s gone in the top-10 before San Antonio picks.

5. Devin Vassell

Florida State sophomore

  • Height: 6’7”
  • Weight: 195 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’10”
  • Age: 19
  • PPG: 12.7
  • FG%: 49.0%
  • 3P%: 41.5%
  • RPG: 5.1
  • APG: 1.6
  • SPG: 1.4
  • BPG: 1.0

Vassell is probably the best 3-and-D wing prospect in this draft, so much so that he could very well be off the board before the Spurs make their selection. Wherever he goes, he’ll fit in and contribute on day 1.

A troubling recent video showed him shooting a deep three like a 6’7” catapult, but his normal release point probably hasn’t shifted to behind his ears, so he should be fine. It’s worth noting that Vassell hit 41.5% in college, and while he did that over a full season, he only shot 3.5 attempts from deep per game.

Vassell’s size, finishing and playmaking ability give him the edge over Nesmith on most draft boards. He’s a legit lob threat who spaces the floor vertically and horizontally, always plays hard, and you would be hard pressed to find a better, peskier, more versatile wing defender in this class. He should bulk up a bit, but has the potential to be a special two-way player.

He would be a huge get for San Antonio at 11 if he hasn’t been taken somewhere between 6 and 10, though just as many mocks have him falling to the Spurs.

Now, however, we've reached the part of the program where San Antonio would almost certainly need to trade up. The next two big men would be key pieces, if the Spurs could move up for the right price. One is a grown man who was one of college basketball's best players last year, and the other is a teen who played three college games before declaring for the draft. Talent, and questions, abound for both.

4. Obi Toppin

Dayton redshirt sophomore

  • Height: 6’9”
  • Weight: 220 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’11”
  • Age: 22
  • PPG: 20.0
  • FG%: 63.3%
  • 3P%: 39.0%
  • RPG: 7.5
  • APG: 2.2
  • SPG: 1.0
  • BPG: 1.2

Offensively, Obi Toppin may be the best complimentary big man in this draft. He’s a nuclear-powered lob threat who soars to the rim and dunks with the raw power of a young Blake Griffin, and spaces the floor better than an older Blake Griffin ever has. 

He’s a smart player who scores with copious efficiency at every level, and will be loved by every guard who runs pick and roll/pop with him. He can handle well enough to take it and run in transition, and he’s a good passer for a big man.

So why isn’t this prototype big wing a guaranteed top-five pick? In addition to being 22, Toppin has not translated his athleticism and intelligence to defense, to the point that he’s a liability on that end of the floor. It looks like moon shoes on offense, concrete shoes on defense. He plays a bit hunched over and gets beat in a variety of ways. He could be truly special if he transforms his defense, but he’s a long way from doing that.

If he slides to 11 it would be surprising, but not shocking. If that happens, San Antonio may very well bet on their ability to get him to lock in defensively. Even if he can’t, he’d be an elite pick-and-roll partner for Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, DeMar DeRozan, and anybody else.

3. James Wiseman

Memphis freshman

  • Height: 7’1”
  • Weight: 235 pounds
  • Wingspan: 7’6”
  • Age: 19
  • PPG: 19.7
  • FG%: 76.9%
  • 3P%: 0.0%
  • RPG: 10.7
  • APG: 0.3
  • SPG: 0.3
  • BPG: 3.0

Wiseman is a talented, musclebound 7’1” center with a lot of question marks around him. His freakish body makes him immediately playable in the NBA, and any team that drafts him can expect immediate success as a rebounder and rim runner.

He only played three games at Memphis after he was ruled ineligible for violating NCAA rules. Despite that, and despite questions about his shot selection, lower-body strength, and ability to read the game, he could very well be a top-three pick in the draft. He could also slide a bit because of those concerns.

The talent and physical tools are enticing, but the Spurs would need to trade up to get him, maybe even at 2, unless he had a catastrophic night. Golden State's interest in swapping that pick for LaMarcus Aldridge, which was mentioned one time, would make sense for the Spurs if they really want Wiseman, but as of now there's no reported interest.

Wiseman recently said he's been watching film of David Robinson, and he projects somewhere between the Admiral and spicy Hassan Whiteside depending on how it goes for him.

The top two wings have met with the Spurs and are fantastic in their own special ways. One is a shot blocking, glass cleaning, rim running, wing defending big man who has the potential to be so much more. The other is a quick, brilliant point forward who can do a bit of everything, including running the break and shooting.

2. Onyeka Okongwu

USC freshman

  • Height: 6’9”
  • Weight: 245 pounds
  • Wingspan: 7’1”
  • Age: 19
  • PPG: 16.2
  • FG%: 61.6%
  • 3P%: 25.0%
  • RPG: 8.6
  • APG: 1.1
  • SPG: 1.2
  • BPG: 2.7

It’s easy to see Okongwu’s appeal as a studly, versatile wing. He’s a deft finisher and mobile defender at his substantial size. He’s one of those guys who does all the little things and always hustles, and in his body that makes a wonderful NBA player. If he can develop his jump shot to be even respectable, he’ll have a rare level of do-it-all skill at his size.

Perhaps Bam Adebayo’s impressive bubble run has teams searching for the next one, because Okongwu’s stock seems to continue to rise. There’s a slim chance he slips all the way to 11, but if the Spurs want him they’ll probably need to trade up into the 5-9 range. San Antonio’s young guards would probably love to play with this hulking beast of a screen setter, and the front office and coaching staff would love the opportunity to solve the problem of his jump shot.

Jonathan Wasserman reports that the Spurs recently met with the big man who averaged 16 points and almost 9 rebounds per game in his freshman year at USC. It's unclear based on that reporting if it was just an interview or a full workout.

1. Deni Avdija

Maccabi Tel Aviv, Israel

  • Height: 6’9”
  • Weight: 215 pounds
  • Wingspan: 6’9”
  • Age: 19
  • PPG: 7.7
  • FG%: 50.5%
  • 3P%: 33.3%
  • RPG: 4.1
  • APG: 2.0
  • SPG: 0.7
  • BPG: 0.7

Deni Avdija is a talented forward out of Israel who can stretch the floor, run the break, make outrageous passes and contribute to the team defense at a high level. Reviews are mixed on the teen, who some talent evaluators see as a uniquely skilled, high-IQ point forward while others question his consistency and whether his body is ready for the NBA.

It's worth noting, however, that Avdija added some bulk onto his frame and shot the three well in his most recent stretch of games in Israel. His form is smooth, he just needs some refinements and practice.

He's a player who can post up, iso in space, run pick and roll as the ballhandler or screener, score, facilitate, and make smart moves with and without the ball.

He isn't the strongest or longest defender, but he's pesky, smart, and not exactly small. He's a great helper and leaper, though he has some jumpy footwork and often gets beat by quicker perimeter players. Still, his overall defense is good and improving.

On November 2, Chris Grenham of Forbes.com reported that the Spurs worked him out in person in Atlanta the previous week. This is more than simple due diligence on behalf of the Spurs, who can only hold workouts with a maximum of ten prospects. If they're using one of their ten workouts on Deni, there has to be some interest in trading up for him.

Sam Amico reports that the Warriors also evaluated the 6'10" prospect, and liked what they saw. Golden State has the number 2 pick in the draft, and San Antonio would almost certainly need to trade into the top six to acquire Avdija.