Making sense of the San Antonio Spurs' NBA Draft Lottery results

Spurs’ Dejounte Murray (5) gets a steal against Los Angeles Lakers’ Stanley Johnson (14) at the AT&T Center on Monday, March 7, 2022.

Spurs’ Dejounte Murray (5) gets a steal against Los Angeles Lakers’ Stanley Johnson (14) at the AT&T Center on Monday, March 7, 2022.

Kin Man Hui, San Antonio Express-News / Staff photographer

The NBA Draft Lottery results were officially announced Tuesday evening, May 17, before Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The No. 1 overall pick went to the Orlando Magic for the first time since 2004. Maybe I reverse cursed them by mentioning their past lottery luck.

The Spurs landed the No. 9 overall pick, which was within the realm of the most probability. This is the first time San Antonio will pick in the top 10 since the 1997 draft, when they selected Tim Duncan first overall. That is if they do end up keeping the pick. There's a chance the Spurs either trade up or trade down. The organization historically has such little trade history that it’s impossible to make a guess.

Instead, let’s look at a rough overview of their options. 

Trading up

The Spurs have the 9th overall pick, but they also have the 20th and 25th picks, two late first rounders. It’s more than possible they can put a package together with either two or all three picks to make a jump into the top 3. That would mean dealing with Houston, Oklahoma City, or Orlando. All three organizations are in hard rebuilds. There’s a chance they like where they sit, but there is a world where they want more picks. 

This all depends on if the Spurs have a specific player in mind and how they feel the other teams are leaning. This is usually why dealing around the top of the draft is difficult. Teams are constantly sending out rumors that may or may not be true, it’s hard to tell what’s a smokescreen and what might be legitimate. 

On top of all that, a package like that still might not be enough to entice one of the top 3 teams, San Antonio would have to give up more to get a deal done. At that point it’s probably not worth giving up the assets. All this is why I deem this event to be the most unlikely. 

Trading Down

This is something I could honestly see the Spurs doing. It’s very, let’s say, economical, which is strange to say in a draft that’s only two rounds. The kicker for the Spurs here would be if another team really likes a player projected to go in the top 10. If San Antonio doesn’t feel that strongly about this draft, or has their eyes on a guy that will still be there late, why not make the deal? 

Still, this isn’t a very likely scenario either, but you never know. A team like the New York Knicks or Charlotte Hornets could really want to move up a few spots and the Spurs could trade down and get another asset like a late pick or something in future drafts. 

Staying Put

This is by far the least sexy option, but it’s the most likely. It's something very Spursian indeed. Picking in the middle makes trading sometimes difficult because other teams are either happy with their pick position and or don’t feel trading to the middle is worth it. 

However, that doesn’t mean this is a bad pick. On the contrary, Spurs center Jakob Poeltl, former Spur DeMar DeRozan, and Dallas Mavericks legend Dirk Nowitzki were all drafted 9th overall in their respective classes.

Granted there have been a fair share of busts. Frank Kaminsky (2015) and Dennis Smith Jr. (2017) are a pair of No. 9 picks from recent drafts. Kaminsky came into the NBA as the National College Player of the Year from Wisconsin; Smith was NBA All-Rookie Second Team with the Dallas Mavericks. Both are now free agents and out of the league.

But the point is that there is a real possibility to get someone great. 

Sam Vecenie of The Athletic projects the Spurs will pick Duke forward A.J. Griffin in his latest mock draft. Given how many young guards the Spurs already have, they need to add to their front court. Griffin averaged 10.4 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 assists per game at Duke. 

Drafting players is difficult. It’s easy to look back and critique teams for passing on legends, but those players weren’t legends yet. There are no guarantees in the league and luck and skill often play equal roles. The Spurs have drafted well in the past, No. 9 isn’t a bad place to be. We’ll have to wait and see how it all shakes out on June 23.