It should come as no surprise, then, that Popovich's explanation of his franchise's remarkable consistency over the past few decades can be contained within a single tweet. Per the San Antonio Express-News' Jeff McDonald:
Pop reveals secret to Spurs' lasting success: "Get the No. 1 pick in the draft every 10 years and make sure it's a franchise player."— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) April 8, 2014
The Spurs have indeed made good use of their two No. 1 overall picks. In 1987, they selected center David Robinson from the Naval Academy. All "The Admiral" did during his time in San Antonio was make 10 All-Star teams, win an MVP award (1994-95) and get himself elected to the Hall of Fame.
Ten years later, the Spurs hit it big in the lottery once more, drafting a kid out of Wake Forest named Tim Duncan. He, too, turned out alright, making 14 All-Star teams, winning two regular-season MVPs and three Finals MVPs.
Believe it or not, the Spurs have only drafted in the lottery one other time since 1987. And they made that pick count, as usual, by drafting two-time All-Star Sean Elliott.
But San Antonio doesn't need to draft in the lottery in order to mine talent. Just look at the mind-boggling list of players the Spurs have drafted since 1999, despite never picking higher than No. 20 overall:
- Manu Ginobili (No. 57 - 1999)
- Tony Parker (No. 28 - 2001)
- John Salmons (No. 26 - 2002)
- Luis Scola (No. 55 - 2002)
- Leandro Barbosa (No. 28 - 2003)
- Beno Udrih (No. 28 - 2004)
- Ian Mahinmi (No. 28 - 2005)
- Tiago Splitter (No. 28 - 2007)
- George Hill (No. 26 - 2008)
- Goran Dragic (No. 45 - 2008)
- DeJuan Blair (No. 37 - 2009)
- Nando DeColo (No. 53 - 2009)
And that doesn't even count forward Kawhi Leonard, whom they acquired on draft night for George Hill.
That pipeline of talent has allowed San Antonio to stay near the top of the league for the entirety of Popovich's tenure. This kind of consistent success is the reason that many basketball fans do not find the Spurs interesting, according to Grantland's Netw3rk:
The machine has flooded the marketplace of our attention with wins at such a rate as to devalue the very concept of a Spurs victory in our minds. And this is why the Spurs are perceived as boring.
Duncan, who will turn 38 years old in late April, will not be around forever. But the Spurs have always found a way to reload, and there's no reason to expect that to change any time soon.
All statistics are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless previously noted.