It has been all about scouting and shrewdness for the San Antonio Spurs for the last two decades. After all, the city of San Antonio isn’t exactly a hot destination for free agents. The franchise has had to rely upon the draft in order to stay relevant among the elite teams in the league. And the organization has had the pleasure of finding some diamond-on-the-rough players, as well as some can’t-miss once-in-a-generation players.
Here are the San Antonio Spurs' greatest draft picks in franchise history.
Feel free to gloss over this slide if you wish.
Scola is only on this list by default, so feel free to just skip over this slide.
Though he never played a game in the silver and black, he still has to be classified as one of the great draft picks the Spurs have made. The Spurs selected Scola in the second round in the 2002 NBA draft.
This Argentinian product is not the fastest player, nor does he have the highest vertical. His game centers around his grit and high basketball IQ.
The Spurs traded Scola's rights to the Houston Rockets in the summer of 2007. RC Buford and Gregg Popvich felt that the Spurs were already set in the frontcourt at the time, with Robert Horry, Fabricio Oberto, Francisco Elson and Matt Bonner.
Splitter was selected in the late first round in 2007, but did not come over until this year. And he didn't get regular playing time until this year. He showed plenty of positive signs in the limited minutes he received.
For starters, he has very quick feet for a big man. He has the ability to pick up perimeter players on switches and rival their speed. And his rebounding steadily improved as the season went on.
I imagine Splitter will play a much bigger role next season; he can be part of the solution to the Spurs’ undersized front-court.
But he will also be a free agent next year, and if Omer Asik can command a three-year, $25.1 million deal, I can only imagine what the market will look like for Splitter.
The Spurs surprised many when they took Hill with the 26th overall pick in the first round of the 2008 draft.
Hill was drafted for his NBA-ready defense and wingspan, which is that of a small forward. He was the starting point guard in last year's postseason and he was a big reason why the Spurs eliminated the Dallas Mavericks in the 2010 postseason.
In Game 4, he led the Spurs to a victory, scoring 29 points on a night when the Big Three were largely ineffective. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili shot a combined 9-for-34 from the field.
Though it became clear with Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili on the team, Hill was more of a luxury than a necessity.
On draft night of last year, the Spurs parted ways will Hill for the 15th pick in the NBA draft, which the Spurs used to draft San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard.
Hill exceeded the Spurs' expectations, but there was no way that they could pay him his market value.
Give RC Buford credit for realizing that last year.
Which leads us to....
"Finally got a legit SF prospect with real defensive potential."
Pretty sure that's what Gregg Popovich said after San Antonio grabbed Leonard in last year's draft.
Leonard more than lived up to the hype with his skill-set and a calm demeanor which rivals that of Tim Duncan.
Leonard's rookie season has been a gargantuan success.On defense, Leonard was pretty damn good. He kept his focus and challenged catches, dribbles and shots.
On top of that, he rebounded with force. In the big picture, it's still rather stunning that a 20-year-old rookie is able to play such a huge role in the postseason series without looking out of place.
Though he only played five seasons with the Spurs, Robinson certainly made his contributions, particularly on the defensive end. He possessed incredibly quick feet, and his fast hands made him dangerous in passing lanes. Robertson won Defensive Player of the Year in 1986 despite standing at only 6’3.
Off-court issues have overshadowed Robertson’s career accomplishments. However, his defensive prowess will always have a place in the hearts of many Spurs fans.
The Spurs selected Elliott with the third overall pick in 1989. He was a player who had the athleticism to guard a team’s best player, as well as create his own shot.
Elliott is best known for his contributions to the Spurs championship run in 1999. In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, Elliott buried a three-pointer over the outstretched arms of the 6’11 Rasheed Wallace while nearly stepping out of bounds.
The basket and the Game 2 win changed the whole complexion of the series. The shot is known as the “Memorial Day Miracle” because of the date on which the event happened.
But just how big was that shot?
Elliott’s shot set the stage for greatness in the following years for the Spurs. Many people forget that the Spurs teams in the early 90’s were like the Phoenix Suns today. Above-average teams that would ultimately be a stepping stone to someone else's championship run.
Year in and year out, players from other teams made big plays, while the Spurs didn’t. Examples can include plays such as Charles Barkely's last-second dagger in 1993 or Strickland's no-look pass in Game 7 of the 1990 playoffs.
Nowadays, you can catch Elliott doing play-by-play broadcasting for all of the Spurs games.
Parker was a relative unknown point guard out of France. In fact, in the draft many experts felt that Jamaal Tinsley was a better player than Parker. Now, Parker has become one of the NBA's most successful players, winning three championships.
Though many people often forget that Popovich didn't start out as Parker's biggest fan.
In fact, Popovich was ready to send him away after he was overwhelmed by Spurs scout Lance Blanks during the 2001 summer camp. Then, Sam Presti showed Pop a mix of Parker's highlights which changed his mind, and the franchise selected him with the 28th pick in the first round.
Players such as Parker helped changed the attitude of the league towards international prospects.
Oftentimes, San Antonio leans on Parker to attack defenses early with his blazing speed and to set the tone.
Parker has now become the most important player on the Spurs with age creeping up Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Even RC Buford and Gregg Popovich would tell you that they did not know what kind of player Ginobili would be in the future when he first joined the organization in summer of 2002.
The Spurs selected Ginobili with the 57th pick in the second round. At the time, he was a relatively unknown prospect. In fact, when he was selected, his name was mispronounced. But it did not take him long to establish himself in the league and as a fan favorite around the city.
Known for his ankle-breaking crossovers, unorthodox angles he takes to the basket and occasional flopping (sarcasm), this Argentinian has played a major role in three of the four Spurs' championship seasons.
Unfortunately for Ginobili, his reckless style of play has made him a victim of several nagging injuries over the last couple of seasons.
Robinson was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Spurs in 1987 after an abysmal 24-58 season. San Antonio had to wait two years for Robinson to play due to his two-year commitment with the United States Navy.
Robinson more than lived up to the hype when he joined the team during the 89-90 season, as the team won 56 games and it marked a beginning of an era in which the team would continue to be in the title hunt.
The league had never quite witnessed a center of Robinson’s physique at the time. And his combination of quickness, agility and ability to run the floor often left his defenders and opposing coaches in disarray.
Natives of San Antonio are certainly appreciative of The Admiral’s accolades on the court. However, it’s his charitable work in the community that has made him one of the city’s most popular figures. He donated $5 million to establish a college prep school and handed out a total of $100,000 in scholarships to 50 kids who graduated high school. The David Robinson foundation helps fund grants to other children’s charities.
It was a match made in heaven. Robinson epitomized San Antonio’s low-key and humble persona. Without him, the San Antonio Spurs may have became the St. Louis Bombers or the Louisville Colonels. And they embraced him from the moment he played his first game.
The culture of the organization changed with the Admiral on board, and San Antonio is forever grateful to him
The Spurs fell hard after their Western Conference Semifinals loss to the Utah Jazz.
Their franchise player, David Robinson, played only six games that season due to back injuries. Sean Elliot also spent much of the season injured. The Spurs' leading scorer that season was 37-YEAR OLD Dominique Wilkins. Let that sink in for a moment.
The lost season for San Antonio came to a merciful end, as it finished with a 20-62 record.
The injuries turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as it led to the drafting of Duncan with the No. 1 overall pick. He joined a group of veterans on their way to their first ever championship. The Spurs have never looked back since then—the organization won a total of four championships.
The Big Fundamental brought a winning tradition to a franchise that appeared destined to drown in mediocrity.
On the court, Duncan often outsmarts his opponents with his combination of excellent footwork and fundamentally sound offensive game. His quiet intensity is often hidden behind his even keel demeanor. No, he doesn’t pound his chest nor does he make scowling faces at his opponents, and this has caused many fans to label him “boring."
Trust me—if you have had the chance to listen to Duncan on the sidelines, you would know he is just as competitive as any other player in the league.
It is such a shame that Duncan is one of the most taken-for-granted superstars to ever play in the league. He is the greatest power forward to ever play the game, yet very few people watch him. His team-first approach is what we all desire out of all of our superstars, yet Duncan’s selflessness is often overlooked.
We ask that superstars possess generosity and good character, combined with polished skills on the court. But when that package came into the league in the form of Duncan, we pushed him away. Indeed, it is a vicious cycle that will continue to feast upon the basketball world. We will continue to wonder why there aren’t as many selfless stars while ignoring a player of Duncan’s persona.
The league will never see a once in a generation player as egoless as this 15-year veteran out of Wake Forest.