The San Antonio Spurs will be picking 18th at this week’s 2018 NBA Draft, providing the franchise with a chance to nab a young stud who could become one of the team’s core players in the future. Picking at such a late juncture in the draft normally doesn’t give any team a potential star, but with a deep draft and the Spurs’ terrific scouting, we could see a future top player at that spot.
Now that the Spurs’ brass knows that Kawhi Leonard wants out of San Antonio, they could possibly select a player who could fill in at the small forward position that the Finals MVP will vacate once he is traded.
There are some intriguing prospects at number 18, those who have shown that they deserve a look at the upcoming draft after a strong showing at the NBA Draft Combine or a solid resume from their playing days as an amateur.
5. Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy – Point Guard / Shooting Guard
2016-17 High School averages: 23.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 steals
A dark horse pick for the Spurs could be combo guard Anfernee Simons who can be a combo guard in the league. He has the handles and the shooting touch to play both the point guard and the shooting guard positions fairly well. He will, however, be challenged at the NBA level by much taller, wider and quicker players than those he faced in high school a year ago.
A season of college hoops would have benefitted him, but Simons measured well at the Combine which could raise his stock among team executives.
According to Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated, Simons “measured at 6’3.25” in shoes with a 6’9.25” wingspan.”
That wingspan should translate well in the NBA as players with unusual arm length can play bigger that their actual size, most notably on the defensive end. It also helps offensively as they can shoot their jumpers higher and extend their arms longer to make a layup in traffic.
Though the Spurs prefer to pick a swingman at this spot, Simons is a talented enough prospect to consider should he be available when the team’s time to select comes in the NBA Draft.
4. Chandler Hutchison, Boise State – Small Forward
2017-18 Collegiate averages: 20.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.5 steals
The player who may already be mature enough to contribute to this Spurs team is Chandler Hutchison. The Bronco forward will be 22-years-old when he enters the draft. That four-year college tenure makes him one of the readiest players to contribute right away in the professional ranks.
He has good feel for the game, one that will surely impress coach Gregg Popovich. He’s a smart player, someone who can be relied on during crucial moments in the game to make the right decisions. He takes good shots and hits threes at a respectable rate of 35.9 percent. Whether he gets penciled in as a starter earlier or later, Hutchison can handle both roles effectively.
Playing for Pop should allow him the opportunity to play his game while learning from the best coach in the league. The Spurs value a player’s intelligence and Hutchison is going to fit well within the team’s system.
3. Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech – Shooting Guard / Small Forward
2017-18 Collegiate averages: 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.1 steals
Perhaps the most athletic wing in this draft, Zhaire Smith was signed to a shoe contract by Puma just days after the company signed Marvin Bagley earlier.
Rising 1st round Draft prospect Zhaire Smith has agreed to a multi-year footwear & apparel deal with PUMA.
— Nick DePaula (@NickDePaula) June 17, 2018
Smith’s high-flying game should wow his future teammates in the league not to mention the fans themselves. He needs a more consistent jump shot in order to be effective in Popovich’s system but his upside is huge.
Many players from college aren’t as polished with their jumpers when they enter the league but with time and patience, some of them turn out to be better than expected.
The Spurs, if they decide to take him in the NBA Draft, should hope that’s the case for Smith.
With his 6-foot-10 wingspan, he could be a key defensive cog for the Spurs right out of the gate. The team would do well to consider Smith if he is still available when their time comes. The Phoenix Suns are picking at number 16 and are projected to select him there unless they find someone else more appealing.
The Spurs should hope that if none of the two players below are available, Smith could be the next best from where they are selecting. With or without a jump shot, there is little not to like about Smith at the 18th pick.
2. Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State – Small Forward
2017-18 Collegiate averages: 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.6 blocks, 0.9 steals
Another four-year collegiate player who could be a very good pick for the Spurs at the 18 pick is Keita Bates-Diop. He has excellent shooting from all over the floor with terrific size despite his lack of athleticism. He’s a safe pick, a player who should be able to find a way to be part of Popovich’s rotation.
Though he is a tweener, that doesn’t appear to be a problem in today’s NBA where players can slide seamlessly from one position to the next during a game without much consequence.
He’s a good defensive player and one whose offensive game could be a bonus if he averages close to his college numbers. His 35.9 percent shooting from beyond the arc should be good enough for a forward who can provide instant scoring from the small forward position for the Spurs. With more work and experience, he could get that shooting up close to 40 percent the following year.
1. Kevin Huerter, Maryland – Shooting Guard
2017-18 Collegiate averages: 14.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists
Sophomore Kevin Huerter’s stock rose at the Combine. His shooting impressed scouts and many are sold on him as a solid pick in the middle of the first round. The Spurs could still take him at the 18th selection as a player who can develop further and take Danny Green’s spot in the starting lineup eventually.
Anyone who can shoot from three consistently well will undoubtedly be high on everyone’s radar especially when the position calls for scoring from long range. At 6-foot-7, he has excellent size and could play small forward depending on the matchup.
Huerter can put the call in the hole from various spots on the court and also take his man of the dribble. He shot above 50 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from outside the 3-point line, showing that he’s an efficient scorer and one who is not prone to taking bad shots to get his points.
He was the player whose stock rose the highest at the Combine while making scouts wonder why they didn’t think he’d be this good entering the draft. Huerter is probably the most natural shooter in the draft and could move higher on someone’s list depending on that team’s needs. The Spurs should hope not as they would be able to use the shooting guard right away while also ensuring that they have a player who can fill in at the small forward spot if they don’t get a quality veteran starter before the season begins.