The San Antonio Spurs entered the 2022 NBA Draft looking to grow on an improving roster. Last season, the Spurs took a leap forward, reaching the Play-In Tournament. They ultimately lost to another rising team in the West, the New Orleans Pelicans. Nevertheless, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich appears to have this franchise trending in the right direction.
San Antonio had three picks in the first round Thursday night. They held picks the number 9, 20 and 25 picks in the first round. They also held the number 38 pick, but drafted Kennedy Chandler and shipped him to the Memphis Grizzlies for a future second round pick.
But let's get to the picks the Spurs actually made, grading each one.
San Antonio Spurs 2022 NBA Draft Grades
9th Pick – Jeremy Sochan C Baylor
With the Spurs first selection in the draft, they took Baylor big man Jeremy Sochan. When the announcement was made, there was a buzz in the room as that was not the expected pick from San Antonio. But since when do the Spurs follow what other people expect of them. They have always had a tendency to draft foreign players and make it work when others couldn't. Well, they did it again. Sochan was the first British player drafted into the NBA since 2010.
Sochan is an extremely athletic power forward that moves his feet very well. He is 6′ 9”, 230 pounds with a seven-foot wingspan. He was named Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year last season at Baylor. But that shortchanges his ability. Sochan was among the more productive players in the country, including starters. His calling card is on the defensive end of the court.
Jay Bilas on Jeremy Sochan: "He played all 5 positions this season. He got better and better. If given some time to develop, he's going to be a real value pick for the San Antonio Spurs." pic.twitter.com/PKe0KIaWKs
— Josh Paredes (@Josh810) June 24, 2022
Sochan can guard all five positions. He has the foot speed and quickness to stay with most guards, but has the strength and balance to bang with the bigs in the NBA. Sochan should be able to make his presence felt right away in San Antonio.
However, his ability to score is a glaring weakness. He does not possess much of a jump shot and is not adept at finishing in traffic down low. That is clearly something he will need to work on as he adjusts to the NBA. He is however a very good and willing passer of the basketball, which should bode well in San Antonio.
There is still room for improvement from the Spurs latest pick. But one thing is for sure, between Sochan and Jakob Poeltl, good luck getting clean looks in the paint against San Antonio next season.
20th Pick – Malaki Branham SF Ohio State
It's possible that the Spurs got one of the best value picks in the draft Thursday night by landing Malaki Branham. The Ohio State wing player was initially projected to be a lottery pick, but fell into the lap of the Spurs after a few teams went for upside over fit.
Branham was named the Big 10 Freshman of the Year. He averaged 13.3 points per game in his only season in college, but after the Covid hiatus, posted 17 points per game. The young wing can really shoot, knocking down over 42 percent of his shots from beyond the arc last season. That's something the Spurs can use, especially when Dejounte Murray is not on the floor. San Antonio struggled offensively and Branham can create offense and move without the ball. There's a safe floor here with some upside. It's just not a home run type pick as Branham is not likely to turn into a superstar at the next level.
25th Pick – Blake Wesley G Notre Dame
With their first two selections, the Spurs opted for players who can contribute right away and have a relatively safe floor. But with their third pick in the first round, San Antonio decided to swing for the fences by drafted Blake Wesley. I have always been a fan of this strategy. To me, the later into the draft you go, the more upside I want. I don't care much about the weaknesses.
The Notre Dame guard certainly has some weaknesses. He is 6′ 4”, but just 185 pounds. There is a very good chance that Wesley struggles on both ends of the court facing physicality. But he shows a ton of effort, fighting over screens and has quick hands to get into passing lanes. Offensively, the Spurs landed a 19-year-old with great explosiveness. He likes to slash to the cup, but also possesses a smooth jump shot. He is likely going to be a boom or bust player in the NBA. That's exactly what I am for this late. I want someone capable of doing this.
— Overtime (@overtime) June 24, 2022