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San Antonio Spurs The current NBA Champs have the 28th (and next to last first round pick).  Their GM is Stanley Novak who typed this in while on vacation.  Thanks Stanley!.  The Spurs select:

Zoran Planinic, PG, 6'6", Croatia


There will be those who will say the 2003 NBA season was validation for the Spurs’ 1999 Championship and that there was an asterisk next to the '99 Championship.  This is a load. The 1999 Championship was valid, and the 2003 Championship is proof of just how good Tim Duncan is.


To say the Spurs had a good season in 2003 would be an understatement.  They had the best record in the regular season, Tim Duncan won the MVP George Popavich won coach of the year, they beat the Lakers in a best of seven playoff series, all leading to the championship.  This off-season will be just as big.  Championship teams usually only need to fill a whole or two.  San Antonio will have only four players under contract when the off-season signing period begins.



The last two years I played GM for the once proud Boston Celtics.  In all modesty, my picks were no worse than those made by Boston GM Chris Wallace.  I never would have traded for Vin Baker, though I must admit I did not expect him to be as bad as he turned out to be.  In last season’s Usenet draft I picked Luis Scola for the Celtics (Nanid Krstic may have been a better pick) and won the prize for the biggest reach picking Scola 24 places too early.  The Spurs brass feel Scola was worth a first round pick.  I did not get the Celtic GM this year, so I chose the Spurs since we agreed on Scola.  Also, in my report last season I suggested Kevin Willis would be a good off-season signing.  Willis, instead, signed with the Spurs and contributed in the regular season and the playoffs.  Therefore, I felt the Spurs and myself were a good match.


Coaching and Management


Coach George Popavich won coach of the year.  He beat Phil Jackson's Lakers in a seven game playoff series.   Popavich did a wonderful job in the finals substituting his players.  When Tony Parker struggled in came Speedy Claxton, when Stephen Jackson was missing shots, Popavich brought in Manu Ginoboli.  For the most part he kept his big men out of foul trouble. Grade A.


GM R.C. Buford brought in second round draft pick (in '99) Manu Ginoboli, brought in Free Agent Stephen Jackson and traded a late first round pick for Speedy Claxton.  At position #28 in the 2001 draft he picked starting point guard Tony Parker. Grade A.


Draft History

2002: John Solmons, Miami Fl. – Salmons was the 26th pick in the draft.  He was traded to the 76ers for Speedy Claxton.  Claxton was a quality backup point guard.  In the second round the Spurs nabbed Argentine power forward Luis Scola.  Scola remained in Europe to gain experience. Grade: A


2001: Tony Parker, Paris Basket Racing (France). – Parker quickly established himself as the starting point guard.  His shot is at times inconsistent and he gets benched in favor of Speedy Claxton.  There are also speculations that Jason Kidd will be brought in to replace him.  Tony played very well against Kidd in the finals.  Parker was the 28th overall pick; many teams wish they had taken him with an earlier pick.  In the second round with the 57th pick they took some guy named Bracey he did what most late second rounders do, nothing. Grade: A


2000: Cory Hightower, Community College – Cory Hightower was a highly touted player in the Community college ranks.  He was well worth the risk with the 54th pick overall. Grade: B


1999: Leon Smith, MM King High School (Chicago) – Smith turned out to be a knucklehead, but since he was traded to Dallas for the Mavericks second round pick Gordon Giricek and a future pick he was Don Nelson’s problem.  Giricek, although also since traded, has become a nice player. Grade: C


1998: Emmanuel Ginobeli, (Argentina) – Wow.  It took Manu four years to finally suit up for the Spurs, but the wait was well worth it.  He played great defense during the finals and hit many key shots.  All this from a rookie taken with the 57th overall pick.  Wow. Grade: A+


My (Usenet) Draft History

2002: Luis Scola, Argentina  The Celtics picked in the second round Darius Songlia not Scola.   Scola was taken a few picks later by the San Antonio Spurs.  The Spurs' GM commented that they considered Scola a potential first round pick. I will take his word over that of Chris Wallace any day.  Nanid Krstic was still available, so I should have taken him.  Grade: B (but it was easy)


2001: Shane Battier, Duke – If Shane had fallen to the Celtics, I envisioned Chris Wallace knocking over David Stern on his way to the podium to announce the Celtics selection of Battier.  Battier actually went #6 to Mem­phis and was a Rookie of the Year candidate.  Grade: A (but it was easy)

DeSagana Diop, Oak Hill High Like Battier, Diop was already off the board by the time the Celtics picked.  He went #8 to Cleveland and had a nothing season but what can you expect the first year from a high school center?  Plus he was injured much of the season.  Brendan Haywood was taken later and had a better season, but Diop still has a nice upside and I stand by the pick. Grade: Incomplete

Omar Cook, St. John’s Forte and Tinsly were already off the board in the Usenet draft.  So, I selected the next highest ranked point guard.  Tony Parker had not yet appeared on the scene when I had to make my selection.  Prior to the end of the season, the Celtics signed Cook to a ten-day contract to start next season.  In a way I got this pick right.  Gilbert Arenas, who I considered, would have been a better pick.  Grade: D


Salary Information

Player                         Salary             Signed Through

Tim Duncan                         13.3                                        2003-4 (Player Option ’03)

David Robinson                    10.5                                        2002-3 (Retiring)

Steve Smith                          9.9                                          2002-3 (Free Agent)

Danny Ferry                         4.5                                          2002-3 (Free Agent)

Malik Rose                           4.2                                          2003-4

Bruce Bowen                       3.4                                          2004-5

Steve Kerr                            2.6                                          2002-3 (Free Agent)

Emanuel Ginoboli                1.5                                          2003-4

Speedy Claxton                    1.1                                          2002-3 (Free Agent)

Kevin Willis                         1.0                                          2002-3 (Free Agent)

Tony Parker                        .8                                            2004-5

Stephen Jackson                 .6                                            2002-3 (Free Agent)

Mengke Bateer                   .5                                            2002-3 (Free Agent)

Anthony Goldware               .1                                            2002-3 (Free Agent)

Devin Brown                        .03                                          2002-3 (Free Agent)



Player                    Pos                GMs                MPG                FG%                FT%                3PT%                RPG                APG                SPG                BPG                PPG

Tim Duncan                PF                81                39.26                51.29                70.98                27.27                12.88                3.90                0.68                2.93                23.26

Tony Parker                PG                82                33.83                46.40                75.52                33.74                2.63                5.27                0.87                0.05                15.48

Stephen Jackson                SG                80                28.15                43.52                75.96                31.99                3.58                2.29                1.56                0.38                11.82

Malik Rose                PF                79                24.48                45.87                79.08                40.00                6.41                1.57                0.72                0.51                10.41

David Robinson                C                64                26.20                46.90                71.03                NA                7.94                0.95                0.81                1.73                8.53

Manu Ginobili                SG                69                20.75                43.83                73.68                34.46                2.33                2.00                1.39                0.25                7.61

Bruce Bowen                SF                82                31.30                46.56                40.45                44.10                2.91                1.38                0.80                0.51                7.11

Steve Smith                SG                53                19.47                38.83                83.33                33.05                1.87                1.32                0.53                0.17                6.79

Speedy Claxton                PG                30                15.70                46.21                68.42                0.00                1.87                2.50                0.73                0.23                5.77

Kevin Willis                C                71                11.85                47.86                61.45                0.00                3.18                0.34                0.28                0.28                4.18

Steve Kerr                SG                75                12.68                42.97                88.24                39.52                0.80                0.93                0.36                0.04                3.99

Danny Ferry                SF                64                9.38                35.48                76.92                35.00                1.17                0.33                0.11                0.14                1.86

Devin Brown                SG                7                3.14                50.00                100.00                NA                1.00                0.29                0.00                0.00                1.71

Menk Bateer                C                12                3.75                23.53                0.00                33.33                0.83                0.33                0.00                0.00                0.75




Team Needs


With the retirement of David Robinson the most glaring need is at Center.  The team could also use a Small Forward who is more of an offensive threat than Bruce Bowen.  It is unlikely the team will find their Center of the future in this draft and will save that need for free agency.  Small forward is the most likely position to be filled in this year’s draft.  Point guard is another possibility, if the team feels that Speedy Claxton will not resign.


Team and the Current Roster

Point Guard: Second year player Tony Parker initiates the offense.  Speedy Claxton is his very capable backup.  Both, although young, do their job quite well.  Before the finals there was a lot of talk of the Spurs luring Jason Kidd away from the Nets.  Did Parker do enough to secure his position with the team?  Speedy Claxton is a free agent so if he goes else where the team will need another point guard.


Shooting Guard: Like the point, primarily two people man the shooting guard position.  One is an Argentine rookie who spent the last five years playing in Europe.  The starter is a journeyman, Stephen Jackson who has been cut by nine different teams around the world, most notably the Nets.  He made them pay in the playoffs.  Jackson is a free agent.  I expect him to resign, but Ginobeli could take his starting spot next season.


Small Forward: Bruce Bowen has a reputation as a defensive stopper.  He is also the team’s best three-point shooter (and worst free throw shooter, go figure).  Bowen makes an already good defensive team even better.  The fact he can hit the open three is very valuable in the Spurs system.  Ginoboli and the ancient Danny Ferry backup Bowen.  Although Bowen is a nice complementary player the team could use more firepower from the position.


Power Forward: The league and championship series MVP is power forward Tim Duncan. He averaged 23 points and 13 rebounds and nearly four assists in the regular season.  He was two blocked shots short of a quadruple double in the sixth and decisive game of NBA finals.  Duncan can opt out of his contract.  If he does so it is only to get a little more money and a longer contract.  He is staying in San Antonio.  Malik Rose is his backup.


Center: The Admiral David Robinson is retiring after a wonderful career, culminating in a second Championship ring.  Forty year old Kevin Willis was his backup and plans to return for two additional seasons.  He is a good backup, but the team will need a Center.  Tim Duncan could see some time next season at Center, but is more comfortable and prefers to play the 4.




Free Agents

Free agency is the key to the Spurs off-season.  Tony Parker, Manu Ginobli, Malik rose and Bruce Bowen are the only players guaranteed to be returning next season.  Tim Duncan has a player’s option, but will surely be back next season.


David Robinson: The Admiral is retiring.  He leaves a big hole to fill.


Stephen Jackson: He was a great find.  He will be invited back, but will not be offered much more than the minimum.


Speedy Claxton: He is probably the most important Spurs free agent (Duncan excepted).  As a proven point guard he will be courted by many other teams.  If the Spurs land Kidd, Claxton will not be needed.  If not, they will try to retain Claxton's services.  If other teams offer Claxton the 4.5 million dollar exception do not expect him to be back with the Spurs as that salary would pay him twice what starter Tony Parker is making.


The selection – 

Zoran Planinic, PG, 6'6", Croatia

Zoran Planinic – Cibona (Croatia) – 6’ 6” Point Guard/Shooting Guard. Great size for a point guard.  He has good vision and a quick first step and mature decision making.  He is protection against defections by both Speedy Claxton and/or Stephen.  Tall point guards are always attractive.  If Jason Kidd does not sign with the Spurs, and a doubt he will, San Antonio will need someone to post up against tall point guards.


Others considered

Carlos Delfino - Argentina  - 6’ 7” Small Forward/Shooting Guard. Good defensive player.  This is the player I had targeted since receiving the San Antonio G.M.-ship, but he was off the board.


Marcus Banks - UNLV - 6' 0" Point Guard.  It looked like he was going to fall into my lap but he too was off the board.


Zaur Pachulia - Georgia - 6’ 11” Center.  Still raw, but moves well for a big man.  He is adept at blocking shots and rebounding.  Athletic big men are always attractive and he does fill a need.


Brian Cook – Illinois – 6’ 10” Power Forward.  He would have been the safe pick.  Every mock draft I have seen has him going before the 28th pick. He is a very solid player, who shows a lot of versatility, but he seems to be a bit of an underachiever.  After my poor performance last year I probably should have played it safe, but you don’t get anywhere playing it safe.


Travis Outlaw – Starkville, MS 6” 9” Small Forward.  Very, very athletic.  He is already a skilled shot blocker.  With his long arms he should be a great defender.  He is only a high school player so he will need time to develop.  Of course, the defending champs don’t need him to contribute immediately.  Playing for the champs would be justification for young Travis riding the pine as he learns the NBA game.  My pick really came down to Outlaw and Planinic.  Everyone expects the Spurs to go foreign, but they could surprise people.  If Outlaw develops he would certainly fill a need.  In the end it just does not seem to fit the Spurs style to draft a High School player.


Luke Walton – Arizona – 6’ 9” Small Forward.  I love him as a second round pick, but the injuries will prevent a first round selection.  Not really considered here just wanted to mention the name.


Who the team will take

Best player available, foreign or domestic, regardless of position.


Moves in the off-season

Although the Spurs have only five players signed for next season I believe this off-season will be a case of the more things change the more they stay the same.  Expect Stephen Jackson and Kevin Willis to return with reasonably priced contracts.  Steve Kerr and even Danny Ferry could return for the veteran minimum.  I would not even completely discount the idea of a return by Speedy Claxton.


Now the big question, where to spend the money?  Depending on what Duncan does, the Spurs will have between 18 and 30 million dollars of cap space to stock their roster. Assuming the lower figure of 18 million the team will be able to sign one player to a maximum length contract another for about 6 million and still have the mid-level exemption of 4.5 million to use on one player or a combination of two. 


Max. Contract Candidates


Unfortunately, for the Spurs their greatest need is at Center.  Of the free agents available, I do not think any is worth a max deal.  However, there are a couple power forwards that are worthy and could share Center duties with Tim Duncan.  Here is a look at the Candidates for a Max deal.


Elton Brand – Brand a former #1 overall draft pick has a very polished low post game.  However, playing for the Bulls and Clippers he has yet to play for a win or to elevate his team.


Jason Kidd - There has been a lot of speculation about Kidd moving to San Antonio.  Kidd is clearly the best point guard in the game today.  His, wife however, seems to like the celebrity status she gets in New York.  Also, Kidd has baggage.  The Spurs have built a team of high-class guys that Kidd real does not seem to fit in with.  Keep in mind both the Mavericks and Suns traded Kidd away.  Add that to the fact that the Spurs have a pretty good Point Guard in Tony Parker and I think the money can be better spent elsewhere.


Jermaine O’Neal – I think he is the man to pick.  With O’Neal and Duncan playing side by side the Spurs would be nearly unstoppable.  Neither he nor Duncan prefers to play Center but both can.  Teams would not be able to double team both Duncan and O’Neal without being lit up by the other.


6 Million Dollar Candidates


Alonzo Mourning – If he can regain his old form Mourning is worth a Max deal.  I believe a lot of teams will be offering him the mid-level exemption so by topping that the Spurs might be able to steal him.  Of course, there are the health concerns.  The Spurs have experience with the ailment so will they be more or less likely to take a risk on Mourning?


Michael Olwokandi – He is a very athletic big man and a true Center. I don’t think any teams will be offering the max.  So again the Spurs could be able to steal one.


Lamar Odom – Highly skilled Small Forward, but another knucklehead who I do not think fits in with the Spurs’ philosophy.


Mid-Level Candidates


Cory Maggette – This former Duke player is very talented and still young.  I think he would provide some good offense from the Small Forward position and he is not a bad defender.


The Plan


Sign O’Neal to the max, Mourning to a 6 million deal, and Maggette at the mid-level.  Plan B would have the Spurs not signing any max deals instead get Mourning and Olwakandi in the 6-9 range and maybe even Gary Payton at the same price.


Post Draft report

It is nice to be back in the positive.  I guess I could have done better by taking Troy Bell but I thought he would go in the second round.  I will not second-guess Jerry West. In the end San Antonio did take a point guard, Leandrinho Barbosa and the best player available.  Then, they traded him to Phoenix for a future first round pick.  I imagine San Antonio’s philosophy is two-fold, first they can use the cap space that would be spent on a draft pick on a free agent and second the Suns’ pick should be higher than their own.


It looks like Gary Payton is not returning to the Bucks, could he be coming to San Antonio?