The Spurs' 20th selection in Thursday night's NBA Draft was their highest since 1997, when they picked Tim Duncan first-overall.
Duncan and David Robinson remain the lone No. 1 picks in the last 20 years to win championships with the squads that drafted them. Since landing "The Big Fundamental," the Spurs have not tasted the lottery again, winning four titles, and winning 50-plus games in every season.
Small-market teams with annually low draft spots then need the right combination of meticulous scouting and luck.
San Antonio's front office unearthed international gems in Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, two potential Hall of Famers, picked at 26 and 58, respectively.
GM R.C. Buford and his staff snatched years of "get out of jail free" cards because the French speedster and Argentine slasher far exceeded expectations. After grabbing Parker in 2001, the Spurs' brass experienced a draft drought that spanned six or seven years.
Do the names Ian Mahinmi, Damir Markota, Jack McClinton, and Sergei Karaulov mean anything to you? Late picks-turned NBA superstars, right?
Even the smartest guys and the most successful bats strike out. The famine ended emphatically in 2008, when Buford swiped George Hill, a little-known combo guard from IUPUI. He emerged in his rookie year as a standout two-way contributor with above-average athleticism.
He erupted in his sophomore year, filling in admirably in the Spurs' toughest month of the season for the injured Parker, and finished as the runner-up in the Most Improved Player voting.
Pitt product DeJuan Blair, the best rebounder in college basketball, fell to the Spurs last year at 37.
If Tiago Splitter completes the NBA jump as expected (more on that in this slideshow), make that three straight A+ picks.
Given that string of smashing success, Buford faced pressure to produce an instant contributor. By most accounts, he did.
The Spurs selected Oklahoma State Cowboys star James Anderson, a dead-eye shooter with pro-level athleticism.
Buford also fetched British center Ryan Reynolds, an intriguing but raw prospect he can stash overseas for a few years.
Nothing betrayed the Spurs more in a thorny 50-win season than their once-murderous three-point shooting.
Several factors contributed to the suicidal, steep decline. A team built to take advantage of the perimeter must make more of its treys. The Spurs' percentage, at times, dipped into the low 30s.
Many of the deadliest, clutch shot-makers have either retired or been traded. Robert Horry and Michael Finley were not going to get younger. Opponents also resolved not to double Duncan as much as they might have in 2003, or even 2007.
More single coverage means less open looks for spot-up shooters. Anderson does not excel at creating his shot, but if his accuracy translates and improves on the NBA level (34 percent from three isn't great), he will provide a boost.
Roger Mason, the sharpshooter whose shot drowned in the Riverwalk in an injury-plagued season, is gone. Matt Bonner is too inconsistent to be a reliable option.
That should open up immediate minutes for Anderson, provided he shows he can cut it in the Summer League and training camp.
Then again, Hill misfired so much in his initial Vegas debut that the front office chiefs wondered if they had wasted a pick on a bricklaying scrub.
I have admitted more than once to waiting for an Ashton Kutcher appearance when the Spurs picked Hill, a two guard from the Summit League's IUPUI Jaguars at 26.
Hill Punk'd us all, in the best of ways. Only the Boston Celtics admitted to having him on their draft board close to that slot.
Anderson, by comparison, was projected as a first-rounder on most draft boards. He injured himself in a draft workout, a bit of misfortune that caused lottery teams to pass.
That amounts to good fortune for the Spurs. Anderson grabbed Big 12 Player of the Year honors, was named a first-team All-American, and averaged 24 points at Oklahoma State.
With Duncan's window closing, the Spurs need all the ready-to-play guys they can find.
Youngsters help but not if they require several years to develop. The Spurs need production not prospects. Lottery teams can snag all the prospects they want.
Anderson, who entered the draft after his junior season, could suit up for this championship contender on opening night. He has a ready-made NBA body and a touch that should improve with better looks.
Defenses forced the 6'6" Anderson to take a lot of bad shots, the kind he won't have to jack up with Parker, Ginobili, and Hill running the show.
The player the Spurs want most this summer was not on a draft board. He isn't part of the most-heralded free agent class in NBA history.
Tiago Splitter, the Brazilian big man Buford picked 27th in 2007, still resides in Europe. He just beat Ricky Rubio to win a championship in Spain.
A recent report suggested Splitter might finally want to join the Spurs. Anderson's selection offers another positive sign.
Would Buford tab a shooting guard if he wasn't confident the best center not in the U.S. would not make the jump?
This doesn't mean Splitter will come, but it makes that event more likely.
Trust me, Spurs fans: You do not want the front office to deal Parker. Listen to the rumormongers with great caution.
A list of the league's top point guards usually includes Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, and Steve Nash. How many championship rings do those elite floor generals share?
Hint: three less than Parker.
That's right, zero!
Too many analysts have undervalued Parker because of a season in which every injury imaginable–from food poisoning to plantar fasciitis—hindered his speed and productivity.
The Spurs will win four more games if they do nothing else this summer but get Parker back healthy for a full season. He saved a playoff game against the Mavericks with three straight clutch baskets in the last three minutes.
How many times must I reference his Game Seven-clincher in New Orleans? He represents an impossible matchup for a number of foes, and a tough one for the rest.
No trade partner will hand over something of equal value. Championship teams must pay the price when a certain player excels annually in the playoffs.
The Spurs have three of them in Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. Management already took care of Duncan and Ginobili. Now Peter Holt must bite the bullet and open his checkbook for Parker.
I don't care how much this handicaps the Spurs' ability to make roster improvements in a few years, and you shouldn't either.
The Duncan era should end with a bang, and Parker is a bang player.
The Spurs did not trade him Thursday night, despite rampant speculation they would, and that qualifies as a huge win.