SAN ANTONIO — With the twelfth pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs surprised many fans by selecting Joshua Primo, an 18-year-old guard out of Alabama.
In his freshman season at Bama last year, he showcased his ability as a shooter and averaged 8.6 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three on about four attempts per game.
The kid has good positional size and a quick, high-release jumper that should be difficult to block at the next level. As an NBA player, Primo won't be relied upon to create with the ball in his hands. Instead, he will be asked to move around San Antonio's playmakers and provide the spacing and shot-making that this team lacked in 2020.
Primo was not projected as a lottery pick, but he's the youngest prospect in the draft. If the Spurs hang onto him, they're betting on his long-term development into more than just a 3-and-D guy. He's 6'6" with a 6'9" wingspan, and has shown flashes of playmaking to go with his off-ball ability.
He wasn't a guy who handled the ball a ton in college, but his shooting range means defenders can't go under the screen. He has a 37.5-inch max vertical leap, and what he lacks in power at the rim he makes up for with creativity and long arms.
That wingspan comes in handy on the defensive end of the floor as well, where he shows solid anticipation and footwork. He can guard multiple positions, stay in front of most guards and hold his own in the post. At just 18, he could even still be growing.
I was able to ask him what he thinks he'll bring to the NBA level immediately, and what he hopes to develop.
"The ability to guard multiple positions, I think I have a lot of size and length to be able to switch and guard one through three, sometimes even a four, and then shooting ability, coming in and being able to space the floor, make shots," he said. "Something I'm working on is being a better rebounder, my physical strength, and then just my playmaking ability."
Before last year’s selection of Devin Vassell at 11, San Antonio hadn’t made their own pick in the lottery since they took Tim Duncan in 1997. Vassell became the latest first rounder for the Spurs, joining Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson, and Luka Samanic.
Primo is raw, but could fit nicely into that group when he's ready to bring that shooting to the NBA level. As an 18-year-old behind several other guards and wings, he would likely spend some time with Austin in the G-League.
Even Primo himself wasn't expecting to go as high as 12, and said as much after he was selected. He said that he associates the Spurs with family, winning, and the mid-range, and he's always wanted to be a part of this San Antonio organization.
The Spurs will face questions about their asset management, and why they felt compelled to take Primo that early, especially with players like Alperen Sengun, Kai Jones, Jalen Johnson and others still on the board.
With the 41st pick, San Antonio selected Joe Wieskamp. The 6'6" junior out of Iowa hit an eye-popping 46.2% of his threes, attempting over 5 deep shots per game.
He can hit those shots on the move, off the dribble, and from a few feet behind the line. He's a solid cutter who can finish above the rim, and he's an unselfish passer, though he's not the most prolific. All of that makes him quite dangerous in transition, where he was an absolutely lethal finisher.
At the NBA Combine, he raised his stock with a 42-inch vertical, impressive speed and agility, and solid performances in the 5-on-5 games. That vert was top-five at the combine, his lane agility time was fourth, and his sprint was sixth. 4.1% body fat put him second at the combine.
At the end of the draft, San Antonio walked away with two 6'6" shooters. Three-point accuracy and volume were important needs for the Spurs to address, and heading into free agency the biggest hole on the roster remains in the frontcourt. Perhaps selecting two players on the shorter side is an indication that they're confident about their ability to bring in John Collins.
Spurs GM Brian Wright answered questions after the draft, and said that the team prioritized shooting, high ceiling, versatility, and acquiring the best possible player. He touched on the idea that intel on where guys might go often looks different than the mock drafts that fans see.