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Spurs' future looks bright

By Daniel Strickland on January 20, 2006.

Four of the Spurs’ young players in Europe are showing that they might be important contributors to the Spurs’ success in the future:

Viktor Sanikidze, a Russian small forward who has been injured this season, has apparently made a full recovery. He hasn’t had an opportunity to really prove himself yet because of this injury (I think he’s still only 19), but he has shown enough to be compared to no less than Manu “The Latin Bitchslap” Ginobili. Considering that the Spurs’ front office doesn’t make comments like that often (and I believe it did come from one of them), I think we can expect this guy to help us.

Ian Mahinmi, the 19-year-old French forward/center drafted by the Spurs last summer, is already an All-Star in the French A League – the same league that Tony came out of. This guy is tall and long, and he has great raw athleticism that will be a nice complement to Tim and could help solve our rebounding problems. He’s already a great defender, and he’s made a lot of strides on offense this year, even though he apparently didn’t start playing basketball until he was 14. Eerily reminiscent of a couple of other Spurs big men, also drafted about a decade apart, eh?

Granted, it will probably be a couple of years before these guys come over, and even if they succeed it may take them a while to adjust to the NBA. But we have a couple of other players in the pipeline who could help us as soon as next year:

Luis Scola, the power forward from Argentina who was the second-best player on their Olympic championship team, has been his usual dominating self this season. He may never wear a Spurs uniform, but we might be able to trade his rights for another good player, without ever taking the risk of seeing whether his game will translate well to the NBA – and some observers think it might not.

Robertas Javtokas, the Lithuanian forward/center who recovered from a horrific motorcycle injury to play again at the highest level of European basketball (and even managed to recover much of his absolutely freakish athleticism), is playing dominating basketball. See this recent post on SpursReport (you have to be a member) for an update. Even though his offensive game is somewhat limited, he’s a big, monstrously strong athlete who plays hellacious defense, gobbles up rebounds, and executes pick-and-rolls brilliantly. He could definitely help us against a team like the Pistons. (Interestingly, his recent performances have led one European observer to call him “The Baltic Big Ben.”)

Look how high up he gets. And it looks effortless.

We gotta wear shades.

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