Spurs The last pick in the first round, and 29th overall, belongs to the newly crowned NBA Champs - San Antonio Spurs.  Their Net GM is Tom Cunningham who selects:

Lee Nailon, PF, 6'9", TCU

Last year I drafted for the Atlanta Hawks, and figured they would have one of strongest front courts in the league. I took it on faith that both Christian Laetnerr and Alan Henderson would return to the team. That wasn't so.

The Spurs are in a delightful position. They have only one key free agent to sign (Malik Rose), but must resign Duncan - which will probably take every dollar in San Antonio's limited coffers. Since the Spurs are such a strong team, and may return to the finals, better to go with a "security pick" - someone who can make limited contributions right away. The biggest hole for the Spurs would be at the forward spot, should Rose decide to defect.

The experts think that the Spurs need perimeter help. Why? Does a team with Jaren Jackson, Steve Kerr, and Mario Elie really need help from the outside? The Spurs certainly don't need any help at center or power forward, and Avery Johnson and Antonio Daniels are solid at PG. The best ouside-shooting two guards (Richard Hamilton, Dion Glover, and Trajan Langdon) have all been drafted. While Rodney Buford and Roberto Bergerson are still available, neither impresses me enough to warrant a pick, especially since there is talent still available.

I don't feel that Nailon is even the best player left in the draft. I think Melvin Levett could be an NBA All-Star, but he hasn't been rated this high in anyone's mock draft that I've seen. Still, he's got better leaping skills than any other player in the draft, he's a decent free throw shooter, and he doesn't disappear in big games (25 points on 11-14 shooting over Duke). If I were drafting for pure upside, I'd pick Olumide Oyedeji. From all reports I've read, he could be the next Kevin Garnett. Oyedeji is somewhat of an unkown quantity, and the connection to the Russian mafia worries me, even if he has superstardom written all over him.

Nailon fits the bill for the Spurs well. He'll add scoring down low, which will further free Robinson to pursue defense, and possibly take some pressure off of Duncan. He'll be a role player for sure, but the Spurs (with the exception of Duncan) are all role players, and you can't expect much more with the 29th pick in the draft. Nailon is a good rebounder and a better scorer than Malik Rose.


What makes a good mock draft pick? Analysis of the team's needs? Foresight into what a team may actually do? Making the biggest "steal" - picking the player picked highest in the actual NBA draft with a lower mock draft pick?

Last year (as every year) the Hawks desperately needed a SF. The two I desired - Pat Garrity and Matt Harpring, only Harpring was available. Garrity was selected both in the mock draft and in the NBA draft before the Hawks picked.

Sweet revenge was mine though, as reality bore out my pick :

  • Harpring 50 Games, 22 started, .463 FG%, .400 3PT%, 4.3 RPG, .9 APG, 8.2 PPG
  • Mcleod 34 Games, 0 started, .380 FG%, .100 3PT%, 1.5 RPG, .4 APG, 4.8 PPG
  • Garrity 39 Games, 9 started, .500 FG%, .389 3PT%, 1.9 RPG, .5 APG, 5.6 PPG


The San Antonio Spurs advanced to the finals as the goliath of the West. At times they've looked utterly invincible, and at times they've relied on clutch play by Sean Elliott and Jaren Jackson to advance through the playoffs. The Spurs are the favorite to win the NBA championship, and have a young franchise player in Tim Duncan. From one point of view, it looks like the Spurs could be the next dynasty of the NBA.

However, it's not all roses in San Antonio. The Spurs new team owner, Peter Holt, has made the typical demand of a new arena with luxury suites and box. San Antonio has not embraced this idea. Will an NBA title bring support for this? Would Holt move the Spurs to Anaheim or Baltimore? If he did, would Robinson and Duncan stay with the team? Duncan, who has been billed as the league's best player for the past two months, has refused to sign a contract extension until the franchise's future has solidified. If Holt wants to threaten the city of San Antonio into submission, he risks losing the best frontcourt seen in the last decade.

The Spurs need no help on the inside, but need to maintain a consistent outside threat in order for Duncan and Robinson to dominate the paint. The remaining positions - point guard, shooting guard, and small forward, are all held by solid but unspectacular players. The Spurs have a good bench, some veteran leadership, and a few younger players that could break out and become starters. The Spurs don't seem to need anything, but since we need to make a pick, we'll pick the best available player at one of the positions where the Spurs don't have a Dream Teamer at.

III. Position Analysis

Center :

David Robinson has settled into his new role with the Spurs. No longer is Robinson the marquee player, no longer are twenty points a night needed from Robinson. The Admiral is still able to pour in thirty in a night if needed, but he's more suited to blocking shots (2.43 per game) and rebounding (10.0 per game). The addition of Duncan also allowed Robinson to rest - (31.7 minutes a night). Robinson scored 15.8 points per game in the past season, a career low. Look for his offensive contributions to scale back further in the coming seasons, with Duncan taking more and more of the load. Robinson does need to improve on his free throw shooting though. His career percentage is .740, and he only managed to shoot .658 from the line this season.

Will Perdue is a capable backup at Center. The Spurs don't need much - someone to give Robinson and Duncan a breather, and someone to eat up some fouls if necessary. Perdue not only can fill those roles, but he's got championship experience with the Bulls, and he's a solid offensive rebounder.

Tim Duncan is touted as the future of the NBA. He's proven to be unstoppable on the offensive end of the court this season. His 21.7 points per game were sixth in the NBA, and his 29.0 ppg against the Lakers proved that he can hold his own against any Center in the league - even Shaq. Duncan ranked among the league leaders in virtually every category (points per game, rebounds per game, field-goal percentage, blocks-per game, and minutes per game). Duncan should only continue to improve with playoff experience and another year. However, he has stated that he will not resign with the Spurs until the franchise can resolve where it wants to play - San Antonio or otherwise. Not resigning Duncan would be a colossal mistake.

Forwards :

Sean Elliott fits the Spurs' needs. At 6'8" and 220 pounds, he has the size to play inside a bit, but he also is a capable outside shooter (Elliott has shot over 40% from outside the three point line twice in his career). He's getting a bit older now, so the Spurs could use another another forward, preferrable one who can run with the faster forwards in the league, or one who can complement Robinson and Duncan with an outside shot. Most importantly to the Spurs, Elliott provides the club with yet another scoring threat. Look for Elliott to score in the double digits once again next year.

Malik Rose is a free agent next year. He provided the Spurs with some inside muscle. At 6'7" and 250 pounds, he is big enough to bang inside in the NBA. Rose averaged 3.9 rebounds in only 13 minutes a game - which is a pretty impressive stat. His 6.0 points weren't anything to sneeze at either. Since Rose is the only free agent on the Spurs this season, they should attempt to resign him, or look to the deep pool at forward (Barkley, Othella Harrington, etc).

Jerome Kersey provided the Spurs with limited minutes. He'll turn 38 next season, so don't look for that much of a contribution out of him.


Mario Elie is an exceptional scorer. He has a respectable three point shot, and always seems to average double digits in points, no matter how many minutes a game a club will give him. At 6'5" and 210 pounds, he's big enough to play most of the taller shooting guards in the NBA, and is seen as a clubhouse leader.

Jaren Jackson is the most underrated Spur. Jackson has good range (he led the club in three pointers this past season), good size at 6'6" and 215 pounds, and is an excellent free throw shooter.

Steve Kerr is the league's most dangerous three point shooter, even though his subpar percentage this season (31.3%) doesn't show it. He still can hit the big shot, and his mere presence on the perimeter opens up the middle. Kerr averaged 4.4 points per game.

While none of the above three shooting guards are Dream Teamers, the three combined are an effective rotation. Combine Elie, Jackson, and Kerr, and you have over twenty points a game.

Avery Johnson is a role player. He can score (9.7 ppg), but he chooses to pass the ball (7.4 apg). Johnson is a capable defender (1.0 spg), but has no range from the outside (1-12 for the season). Johnson could also improve upon his free throw percentage (56.8%).

Antonio Daniels is the future of the Spurs at point guard. Daniels was not ready to be the starting point guard in Vancouver, but he fits in perfectly in San Antonio, where the pressure of being the starter isn't on his shoulders. Daniels can use the situation in San Antonio to his advantage to learn the NBA game and improve his skills. Daniels was a late bloomer, not fully realizing his potential until his senior year of college, and became a lottery pick because of his outstanding final year. Daniels is the perfect backup because he has a great deal of talent and upside, he can perform the job required of him, and he could become an excellent NBA point guard one day.


Last time I did this, I traced the franchise's past few picks to try to gain some insight into what the franchise might do this year. What style of player do the Spurs like? Do they regard personality as an important trait in a pick? Are they willing to take a chance on younger players?
Year Round Pick Player
1998 2 52 Derrick Dial
1998 1 24 Felipe Lopez
1997 1 1 Tim Duncan
1995 1 29 Cory Alexander
1994 1 22 Bill Curley
1993 2 47 Chris Whitney
1992 2 44 Henry Williams
1991 2 49 Greg Sutton
1990 1 24 Dwayne Schintzius
1990 2 54 Sean Higgins

What do these results say? First of all, they show that the Spurs aren't big on drafting players. The Spurs have had a lottery pick only once in the last decade, due to David Robinson's injury, and had no pick in the bumper draft of 1996, which was considered to be one of the deepest drafts in recent memory. They've haven't had a pick between 2 and 24 in ten years. The Spurs also don't seem to have great success in developing players - what happened to Alexander, Curley, or Williams? With the exception of Duncan, who was as "can't miss" as you can get, the Spurs have not hit a home run with any of their draft picks. Draft picks like last year's pick of Felipe Lopez over Cuttino Mobley, Al Harrington, and Cory Carr make the Spurs look a bit foolish.

The last two picks for the Spurs - Lopez and Dial, were both shooting guards. The Spurs seem to have a hard on for replacing the aging Mario Elie and the reliable Jaren Jackson. Both of these players are signed for next year.

I don't believe drafting a guard will help the Spurs a great deal. Jackson and Elie have a great deal of experience between them, and both have shown the propensity to step up and hit dagger-in-the-heart game winners in big games. While neither is an All-Star, they provide a good tandem. Similarly, the Spurs seem set at point guard. The much-maligned Avery Johnson is a solid, dependable point guard who gets the ball to Duncan and Robinson. He knows his role. The Spurs don't need a point guard who will score between 15 and 20 a night - they need someone who plays good defense and can involve the shooters and Duncan in the offense. In addition, the Spurs have young blood at the point guard in the form of Antonio Daniels, who was a high pick a few years ago. Daniels has the talent to be one of the premier point guards in the league.

Drafting a forward would be a better strategy. The Spurs have Sean Elliott. Malik Rose will be a free agent at the end of the year, and the Spurs might need to replace his minutes. The Spurs could use a player with range at the forward position to groom to be Elliott's replacement. A player who also brought rebounding skills and a bit of interior passing would greatly benefit the Spurs.


Yegor Mescheriakov : Yegor is no Alexander Koul. Mescheriakov is a gifted offensive player, and is more athletic than most will give him credit for. He's a good passer, has good range, and has the size (6'9") to play inside in the NBA. The biggest worry about Mescheriakov is his defense - is it good enough to stop faster and stronger NBA forwards? I think he is, but judging from the mock drafts of others, no one else seems to agree. I don't want to fall prey to the failures of GW alumni in the pros - anyone remember Yinka Dare - so I'll pass on Mescheriakov for now.

A.J. Bramlett: Bramlett can play any of the forward positions, and possibly Center, due to his size (6'10"). Bramlett has championship experience, can run the floor, rebound, and play down low. Bramlett was taken by the Hawks though.

Melvin Levett: He's not a forward, but he's the one player in the draft at SG that offers the Spurs something they don't have - athleticism at the guard positions. Levett can absolutely leap out of the gym, and in addition to that, has a better outside shot than he is given credit for. I've been quite surprised at how low he's been ranked in the pre-draft reports that I've read, because Levett is an athletic wunderkind and has a unique skill set. If the Spurs are willing to take Felipe Lopez with a similar pick in last year's draft, why shouldn't they draft a player with similar skills and superior ability? I think that he'd be a good pick, but it's more likely that he'll go in the second round.

James Posey: Posey also offers the Spurs athleticism. I've heard people compare Posey to Scottie Pippen - but only in his ability to run the floor. Posey's 36.6% 3-point percentage and 2.3 assists do not come close to matching Pippen's contributions. Posey is a good defender, and could provide the Spurs good minutes in relief of Sean Elliott. However, Posey was taken. Another option eliminated.

Olumide Oyedeji: Everyone I've heard of has compared him to Kevin Garnett. For at least two or three of the past years, he's been a guy that colleges have been jumping head over heels to try to land. I've never seen him play though, and I'm not enough of a gambler to roll the dice and take a complete unknown.


Trajan Langdon or Rodney Buford. From how they drafted last year, I gather that the Spurs think they need help at shooting guard. They have an itch for another shooter, even though none of the available ones have a good enough game to replace any of the guys they currently have. Jaren Jackson, Mario Elie, and Steve Kerr combine for more that 20 points a game. Where's the need for more shooters, especially one who is unproven at the professional level? I believe the Spurs will draft a shooter, and I believe that drafting a shooter is a mistake. The Spurs need to possibly replace Rose inside, and need an athletic player to relieve Elliott.

The question I think that must be asked is - are these players better than what the Spurs currently have? Is Rodney Buford or Roberto Bergerson a better outside shooter than Jaren Jackson or Steve Kerr? Certainly not. I might give Louis Bullock the edge over Jackson, but Bullock's diminutive stature will force him into playing point guard in the pros, another victim of NBA geniuses who think they can remold a player at the age of 24. See Shammond Williams and Tony Delk for shining examples of why shooting guards should stay shooting guards, and why point guards should stay point guards. Similarly, I might have considered Vonteego Cummings, but the NBA braintrust has decided that he's a pro point guard. Cummings never played point guard in college.

None of the available shooting guards will improve the options the Spurs have at SG. I don't think Bergerson or Buford would break the Spurs rotation. However, I do believe that Nailon could replace Andrew Gaze, so I'm going to go against conventional wisdom here.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

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