|The first pick in the 1997 Usenet draft belongs to
the San Antonio Spurs and their GM:
With the first pick, the Spurs select:
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 campaign. The individual positions: A. CENTER 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. B. POWER FORWARD 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. C. SMALL FORWARD 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). D. SHOOTING GUARD 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. E. POINT GUARD 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 $$ wise. 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 Duncan. 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 Maloney). 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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