The San Antonio Spurs' "French Connection" may just be expanding after the first round of Thursday's NBA Draft.
How will this work? Many sources have linked French combo forward Livio Jean-Charles to the San Antonio Spurs and their 28th pick of the first round, and that pairing just makes sense.
The Spurs' international scouts have always been some of the best (Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, anyone?), so you always have to consider that they might be going international with their pick. Jean-Charles will fit right in with the Spurs' need for athleticism and small forward depth, as well as their French trio, which makes him the perfect pick for the Spurs.
Jean-Charles would provide small forward depth
The first inkling that Jean-Charles might be linked to the Spurs came from Alex Kennedy, an NBA reporter for Hoopsworld. He tweeted the following:
This came nearly two months after the Spurs reportedly scouted Jean-Charles in France, according to Sportando Basket journalist Emiliano Carchia.
According to NBADraft.net, 19-year-old Jean-Charles is 6'9" and weighs 217 pounds. The site lauds him for being a "very agile player showing excellent speed in the open floor," and a "long (7'2" wingspan) and fluid athlete who plays with high intensity and energy." He is officially listed as a small forward/power forward, but will likely play more small forward with his slender build and quickness. Remind you of anyone you know? Sounds to me like a taller Kawhi Leonard.
Depth at the forward slots and athleticism are both needs for the Spurs, which makes Jean-Charles such a great prospect for them.
In the playoffs, Spurs small forward Leonard played 36.9 minutes per game, up from 31.2 minutes per game during the regular season. Now, starters do play more minutes during the playoffs, but that doesn't change the fact that was Leonard was the only player listed as a small forward on the Spurs after they waived Stephen Jackson in April.
Livio Jean-Charles, when he eventually comes over from France (which would probably be at least one more year, according to Project Spurs), could provide depth at small forward behind Leonard.
Jean-Charles would provide athleticism
We've already discussed Jean-Charles' athleticism, but we haven't established how badly the Spurs need athletes. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, while all fantastic players, are not explosive athletes at this point in their careers.
You could make the argument that Kawhi Leonard is the only Spur who has above-average athleticism for his position. In Game 7 of the NBA Finals against Miami, it showed. While both teams were exhausted from the wild Game 6, many of the Spurs looked like they were literally running in mud, while the Heat's athletes looked tired, but still energetic and relatively quick.
Despite this lack of athleticism, the Spurs are still a great fast break team due to their great passing and Tony Parker's finishing ability. As Parker's quickness wanes with his advancing age, it certainly wouldn't hurt to have someone besides Leonard that possesses the athleticism to go up for a high-flying dunk in transition.
Jean-Charles would connect with the Spurs' French players
The Spurs possess more French players than any other team in the NBA right now, with Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando de Colo all on the roster.
As a matter of fact, Tony Parker owns a small piece of ASVEL Villeubanne, the team that Jean-Charles has played for the past two seasons.
There is no question that Jean-Charles' transition to the NBA would be made much easier if he were surrounded by countrymen that can speak and joke with him in his first language and relate to his French background.
Jean-Charles would be a slam-dunk pick (pun absolutely intended) for the Spurs at No. 28. It's doubtful that he will become an All-Star type player, but he has great potential to be a starter in the NBA. If you are a Spurs fan, Jean-Charles is who you should be hoping for and looking for in the first round.
As for their second-round pick, gems are rarely found at pick No. 58. But remember, Manu Ginobili was drafted at No. 57 in 1999, before coming to the NBA in 2002.
If the Spurs are to get a player that ends up contributing for them in the future, Spurs fans should be hoping for a playmaking guard that can come off the bench. Ginobili plays that role currently, but he is on his last legs. Many of the other Spurs' guards off the bench (Gary Neal, Cory Joseph, Patty Mills) do not create well for others, so a proven floor general like Peyton Siva could be a good fit.
Make no mistake: the end of the Big Three era may be quickly approaching, but a good draft this year can help keep the Spurs in contention once Tim Duncan and Ginobili retire.