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Draft Day Recap

By Daniel Strickland on June 29, 2007.

Draft day isn’t as big an event for fans in San Antonio as it consistently has been for sad NBA fans in lottery towns like Atlanta, Charlotte, Milwaukee and Portland. At least it hasn’t been since Timmy was picked #1 in 1997. Take a look at the guys Pop and R.C. have drafted in the last ten years: Damir Markota (2006); Ian Mahinmi (2005); Ben Udrih, Romain Sato, Sergei Karaulov (2004); Leandro Barbosa (2003); John Salmons, Luis Scola, Randy Holcomb (2002); Tony Parker, Robertas Javtokas, Bryan Bracey (2001); Chris Carrawell (2000); Manu Ginobili (1999); Felipe Lopez, Derrick Dial (1998). How many of these guys have actually played minutes in the NBA?

It must be difficult to do much with the low picks the Spurs always get. Such is the fate of the best franchise in professional sports. And yet they did manage to draft Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and Leandro Barbosa, who some might say has been productive in the league. Of course, Parker and Ginobili were both phenomenal picks in retrospect, but who knew they would turn out so well? Maybe the Spurs did.

I give all the credit to the Spurs for their scouting abilities and for creating and maintaining a system that brings the best out of players. As a result, on draft day the Spurs behave like classic buy-and-hold investors, while most other teams are daytraders, looking to make a quick buck, and usually failing miserably.

Leading up to the draft, sports pundits speculate and hypothesize, but I pay little attention. It’s little more than gossip and educated guesswork on their part. For example, I noticed that several “experts” thought the Spurs might pick one of the two Californian Small Forwards — Jared Dudley (Boston College via San Diego) or Arron Afflalo (UCLA via Compton). I never believed for a second that the Spurs would draft an American in the first round. And they didn’t.

Who guessed that they would pick Tiago Splitter?! Talk about a smart pick, and a steal at the 28th spot. No one scouts international talent like the Spurs.

DraftExpress: “Most NBA fans are probably tired of seeing Tiago Splitter declaring and withdrawing from the draft every year seemingly. … A favorable buyout had actually been negotiated for the 2003 draft, and Splitter came over for a workout, but no team in the top 20 was wise enough to see his potential and take advantage of the situation.”

Splitter is an outstanding defender with an NBA-ready body. His size and strength allow him to be an outstanding on-the-ball defender, yet he still does an excellent job rotating. Splitter is an excellent shot blocker for a European player and is a proven winner. He finishes well inside, often obtaining the vast majority of his points off of drop offs and offensive rebounds.”

MSNBC: “Tiago Splitter has been rated high in the draft before and dropped out because of the buyout provisions. He is a 6-foot-11 power forward and because it is the Spurs, Splitter figures to be a factor in the NBA. The club doesn’t miss much.”

So what if he has contract issues? He’s 22 years old and Tau Ceramica can’t hold on to him forever. And even if he is, say, 24 when he can play for the Spurs, he is still younger than every current Spur, except Jackie Butler. Patience is a virtue, and I vaguely recall previous draft picks whom the Spurs waited on with positive results … the Admiral … Manu Ginobili. Still waiting on Scola, though.

What about the other two picks? It’s late and I need to get some sleep. I’ll say this about them …

Marcus Williams should have stayed in school, especially after struggling at Arizona last year, but he has potential. Maybe Popovich Charm School will make him into a legitimate NBA player.

Giorgos Printezis has already been traded, like so many Spurs draft picks before him. Giorgos, we hardly knew ya.

If you want a pithy recap of the three picks made by Pop and R.C. today, check out Matthew Powell’s latest posts on PtR.

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