NBA Draft 2011: Davis Bertans the Next Dirk Nowitzki for San Antonio Spurs?

Evan SmithContributor IIJuly 5, 2011

San Antonio Spurs, it’s time to welcome Dirk Nowit…Sorry, I mean Davis Bertans.

OK, so it might be a little much to call the Spurs newly acquired forward the next Dirk Nowitzki, but this young Latvian sharpshooter definitely has potential to be something special. 

It is fair to assume that most people haven’t even heard of Davis Bertans.  It is also fair to assume that his comparisons to Austin Daye and Kyle Korver are a little more accurate at this point than those of Dirk Nowitzki. 

But it does have to spark ones attention that Rich Shoebrooks, the Nike International director, described Bertans as being the top shooter to play on the Hoop Summit International squad since Dirk Nowitzki. 

Shoebrooks is not going to throw those comparisons around about just some quality shooting prospect.

The kid is lights-out with extremely long range. 

Let’s look at what the scouts are saying his strengths and weaknesses are at this point in his development.

Bertans is said to be a tall (6’10") sharpshooting forward with excellent shooting mechanics, featuring an extremely high and quick release.  He also gets squared up to the basket in a flash with outstanding catch-and-shoot ability which makes him very dangerous coming off screens.

He also has great shooting range, which should make it very easy for him to transition to the NBA three-point line.  He is not exceptionally quick but he shows good mobility running the floor and is a good enough ball-handler to create his own shot.  Although he prefers just one or two quick dribbles before firing away.

He has very strong court vision and impressive passing ability.  Bertans actually went from 6’2" to 6’10" in the last two years and might still be growing.  He has been playing shooting guard most of his life, but due to his height has been moved to small forward.  So he is used to handling the ball which is a plus.

Due to this newly found height, he is a very active player who plays hard on both ends of the floor.  This height will also present an advantage playing the perimeter in the NBA.

No. 1 is that he is a solid character guy who works hard to improve.

He shows areas of weakness in that right now he is a little one-dimensional as a shooter and does not possess great run/jump athleticism.  This is one area that should not concern too many people though.  Dirk had the same weakness points said about him when he entered the NBA.

He also lacks foot speed and needs to add weight.  He currently weighs about 210 lbs which makes him quite thin for either forward position.  This also should not concern many people.  The kid is only 18 years old and grew eight inches in the last two years.  Give him a little time to add some muscle and weight, and his body will be NBA-ready in time.

Scouts say he does not stand out as a rebounder or defender.  He also is not much of a threat to drive to the rim off the dribble, though he does show solid finishing ability in transition.  At this point, scouts are worried that defenders are going to be able to crowd him and he is prone to forcing questionable shots.  I would say at least he is not hesitant.  He also has a rather average wingspan for a 6’10" forward.

With all of this said, we have to keep in mind this Bertans is only 18 years old and has a lot of room to improve.  It is safe to say he is going to spend the next couple of years developing in Europe, but what he has already shown is a lot to get excited about for Spurs fans.

Defense is certainly his biggest weakness at this point, but that is the case for most 18-year-olds.

Bertans did just sign a six-year contract with Olimpija that includes NBA buyouts after every season and European buyouts starting after the next season.  So it looks like it will be up to the Spurs scouts to decide when he is ready to wear a Spurs uniform.

Even at this point in his development he has an extreme amount of role playing potential for an NBA team. 

This kid has Spurs qualities written all over him.  He wants to get better and he wants people to teach him things outside the realm of what he can do now. 

He also is not scared to shoot the ball in big situations and is ready to take on any challenge thrown his way.  The point is this guy is always looking to get better and that is something hard to find in such a young prospect, and probably the reason why the Spurs drafted him.

In an interview with SLAM, he was asked what his reply was to scouts who think he is too slow to defend wings in the NBA and if he thinks he will be able to step in and hold his own on the defensive end.

His reply was:

“About defense, of course it’s a bit of a problem for me to move my long legs fast, but I’m working on that. Everything can be fixed with hard work, so every day I have to work even harder and I can become a good defensive player. And my height is definitely a bonus on defense because I don’t have to get too close to the offensive player and he still can’t shoot an open shot over my hands. Critics actually help me. I want to prove that they are wrong.”

This kid wants to get better and does not get on the defensive when criticized for his weaknesses. 

You can see from the scouting why he draws comparisons to Austin Daye, Kyle Korver and Dirk Nowitzki.

He has the same body and height of Austin Daye and a similar style.  He is much bigger than Korver, but shares his three-point range and quick release.  He also squares up very quickly to the basket and is good at coming off screens.  He is not the most athletic guy, much like Korver.

He resembles Dirk in that he has a very high release and high-arcing shot that splashes the bottom of the net.  He can also get his shot off almost anywhere on the floor, even with a defender in his face.  If he could learn some of those opposite leg, one-footed, fadeaways that Dirk has in his repertoire, then he will be scary.  Yes, I know, easier said than done.

For a young prospect who many NBA fans might not have heard of, he seems very impressive.  Most of the world might not know who Davis Bertans is for the next couple of years.

Even when he does make the jump to the NBA most people will just say think he is another one of those European players who the Spurs drafted a few years ago.  Does not mean he will amount to anything.

Not to mention that the Spurs are not the most talked-about team in major media outlets. 

It is also pretty safe bet to say that even when he does join the Spurs and starts to play, he won’t be talked about even if he is lighting up the league.

The media will be too concerned with whether it was Chris Bosh or LeBron James who cried after the Heat lost a game in December.  Or if Kobe Bryant is still the best shooting guard in the league or if it is time to pass the torch to Kevin Durant.

This is nothing new though.  The Spurs will continue to go about their business, draft quality prospects, develop them and quietly employ their hidden talent in a league dominated by showboating and flashy dunks.

The point is the Spurs organization knows this kid is going to be something special.  How many times have the Spurs missed on a young European prospect?

I can’t think of one.

When the youngster was asked by SLAMonline where he needed to be drafted in order to stay in the 2011 draft, he simply replied, “I need to be drafted in the first round, otherwise I’m not staying in this year’s draft and trying again some other year.”

I think Bertans knows his potential to be a very solid NBA player, and I think the Spurs knew they could not let this one slip away.