The first pick in the 1997 Usenet draft belongs to the San Antonio Spurs and their GM:
Jordan Greenhall

With the first pick, the Spurs select:
Tim Duncan

Free Agents:    

Dominique Wilkins.

I. Team Needs/History

The Spurs have been a top playoff contender for the past 8 years,
barring last season.  The 96-97 season was a story of just how bad a
team can be hurt by injury -- at one point, all 5 of their starters
were injured and they spent most of the year without the strongest part
of their team (Robinson, Elliot).  

Through the grace of fortune, this year's debacle turned honey sweet
when the Spurs beat the odds to get the first pick in the NBA draft. 
This is a double bonus for the Spurs, who are miles above the cap and
can look only to the rookie exemption for redemption from a dismal

The individual positions:


  Whenever Robinson comes back, the Spurs are set at center.  The
Admiral is indubitably one of the top 3 centers in the league who can
carry the entire team on both sides of the court.  Because of
Robinson's injuries this year, we saw a lot of Will Perdue and Greg
Anderson at center.  Neither is a starter, but big Will consistently
pulled down big boards and did a decent job on defense.  In short, with
a healthy admiral, the Spurs have no need at center.


  PF is a black hole for the Spurs.  We currently list 5 guys at PF:
Charles Smith, Greg Anderson, Carl Herrera, Monty Williams and (Rookie)
Jamie Feick.  Smith spent his customary time on the injured reserve,
putting in only 19 games and looks to be on the way out.  Out of the
remainder, Monty Williams showed some spark as a scorer, but at 225
pounds he is undersized and can't really do the job on the boards. 
Anderson, Herrera and Feick are capable backups.  With Smith an
apparent wash, PF is one of the Spurs biggest need positions.   	      


  Just as he was starting to show up for every game, Sean Elliot joined
the Spurs rotation of walking wounded.  If he can come back strong from
injury, and regain his all-Star form, Elliot's versatility should make
SF one of the Spurs' strongest positions.       

With Elliot out, old Dominique Wilkins came in to play at league
minimum and lead the Spurs in scoring.  The 'Nique *has* lost a step
(or two or three) but he can still come in and score in bunches.  I can
imagine Dominique fitting in very well as the go-to guy on the second
squad, but as he is a free agent and the Spurs are well above the cap,
unless he wants to play for a 20% raise over the league minimum, I
expect him to be gone quickly.  That given, Elliots backup becomes the
aging Chuck Person.  Slower than Elliot and without Sean's defensive
skills, Person can still can the '3'.  None-the-less, its not clear
that Person can be there consistently, so look for Monty Williams to be
moved over to SF, if his range can be extended (he tried only one-3
pointer last year).    


 Vinny Del Negro played his usual ball last year.  Clean, deliberate,
steady if unspectacular.  Vinny won't kill you, but he's a decent
work-a-day guy at the 2 slot.  None-the-less, SG is definately one of
the Spurs' most glaring weaknesses, particularly considering the fact
that Vinny is the only SG on the current roster with the non-signing of
Vernon Maxwell.   Cory Alexander showed some outside accuracy, coming
in to shoot .373 from outside the arc, but at 6-1 he might find life at
SG a little burdensome.  Look for the Spurs to try to do something in
the off-season to fill the 2 guard spot.  If not, I've heard some
rumors of trying to turn Monty Williams into a SG.  Worked with
LaPhonso Ellis, but I'd have to see it to believe it.



 The Spurs back-court woes continue at PG.  Avery Johnson is another
guy who plays gutsy and in control but is just not a solid starter. 
He's worked on his jump shot and can can a mid-range jumper to go with
his lefty drive, but is no threat from outside the arc and plays only
mediocre defense.  Cory Alexander got to see some starts while AJ was
injured and showed some serious flash.  Unfortunately, Cory has a
problem with turn-overs and is not the most adept assist artist.  If he
can hone these parts of his game, look for Cory to overtake Avery as
starter at PG.  Otherwise, you might see him splitting time rotating in
at SG and PG.

The real weakness of the Spurs backcourt is not the quality of the
players, but the depth.  They have only three guards on their roster.

II. Your Selection (and explanation)

My selection is a no-brainer.  Tim Duncan is heads and shoulders above
the rest of the draft and happens to fill a need.  I'd take him even if
the Spurs were stoked at big man.  A star center does not come along
that often and always elevates your team.  The real question is not who
to draft, but whether or not to trade.  Now, the Spurs troubles with
the salary cap rule out a lot of trades (as does, by the by, Mr.
Robinson's no-trade clause), but I've heard a few that might work out
-- Mitch Richmond and a PF for the pick and some Spurs dead-weight (C.
Smith, etc) or Boston's 3rd and 6th pick plus Dino Radja for the pick
and some Spurs dead-wieght.  Translate the 3rd and 6th into Mercer and
a PG, and both of these are tempting offers that might work out $$

None-the-less, I stay with Duncan whose work ethic, heart and skills
add a ton to a team now and in the future.  Look for Duncan and
Robinson to take their pick at C and PF, as Robinson (the incumbant) is
more comfortable facing the basket and Duncan (who is shorter) is more
comfortable with his back to the basket.  You might see either at
either position, a rotation, or a style of offense that makes the
difference moot.  Regardless, expect Coach Pop to make good use of
Duncan's passing skills and mobility.

III. Others considered (and why considered)

None.  Other than the trades, there is no choice besides Duncan that
makes any sense.


IV.  Who the team will probably take


V.  Other moves that the team should make

 Heres where things get tricky.  In the front court, I'm more than
satisfied.  Robinson - Duncan - Elliot (or Duncan - Robinson - Elliot)
is a trinity that should strike fear into even the most grizzled
veteran.  Will Perdue can do a decent job coming in at either of the
big positions and Hererra / Cadillac Anderson fill in for trash time. 
Chuck Person and perhaps Monty Williams should see some solid time at
SF and change up the mix a bit for that early second quarter, late 3rd
quarter stretch.

Where I get worried is in the back-court.  I'd like to see the Spurs go
to every effort to 

 lose Charles Smith and other salary cap drags (Smith is in at 3.6
million, Person at 2.1 mil, Hererra at 1.6) and use that money to sign
a shooting guard in the mold of Rex Chapman.  If we could sign Chapman,
I'd be pleased as punch.  Other FA names to look at: T Legler, T Mills,
B Phills.  Another guy coming up for free agency who is intriguing is
Robert Horry.  Horry just plain lit it up when he was in Houston and
I'd be intrigued to see his game at SG.  Unfortunately, I just don't
see much of this happening unless somebody is willing to play for
peanuts for a chance at a ring.

With that in mind, the Spurs would be well advised to go the route so
many clubs have taken -- go either old or young:  

1) look for a past-the-prime shooter who can come in and put points on
the board (a la Eddie Johnson).  I hear Mark Price is on the market. 
He may not be the all-star he once was, but he can still can the
outside shot. 

2) go into the CBA and hire a slew of minimum-wage guys who aren't the
total package but give a big threat from long range (a la Matt

With Robinson and Duncan in the paint, the Spurs could run a version of
the inside-outside game that could be flat-out deadly.  But in any
case, barring injury (knock on wood) look for the Spurs to very quickly
return to the top of the Western Conference class.

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