When it comes to model professional sports franchises, the San Antonio Spurs are usually one of the first ones that come to mind. After all, the team has won five NBA Championships since 1999 and have made six NBA Finals appearances. With a coach that has been around for two decades and players that rarely ever want to leave the culture created in San Antonio, they are doing things the right way.
A lot of that starts with the NBA Draft, where the Spurs have been very good. In the two times that they have had the top overall pick, the Spurs ended up with Hall of Fame talent in the form of David Robinson and Tim Duncan. They don’t get many chances at drafting that high, so it’s good for them to get it right when the opportunity arises.
After the top pick, though, not everything has gone totally right for the Spurs. There have been some hiccups in the franchise’s draft history, but it hasn’t crippled them. For those that don’t care for the Spurs, why don’t you have a look at the 15 times that the Spurs weren’t the perfect franchise, as here are the biggest mistakes they have made regarding the yearly NBA Draft.
15 The First Draft
1977 would end up being the first NBA Draft that the Spurs participated in. Before they could even make their first selection, the Spurs would end up trading their first round pick for 1977’s draft in November 1976. The Spurs acquired Mack Calvin from the Lakers, a five-time All Star before then. Calvin’s career in San Antonio would only last for 35 games, and he put up some poor numbers.
14 Passing on Bill Laimbeer
Back in 1979, there were 10 rounds in the NBA Draft (due to there being just 22 picks per round), meaning that you had plenty of available talent in the second and third round unlike today...since there isn’t even a third round. The Spurs had just two notable picks in the 1979 NBA Draft and they missed badly on both of them. Wiley Peck was the first round pick, while Sylvester Norris was their third round selection.
13 Skipping Stockton
The 1984 NBA Draft is regarded as one of the best of all-time. After all, Hakeem Olajuwon was the top overall pick, while Michael Jordan went third and Charles Barkley went fifth. The Spurs sat on the seventh pick in the draft and they picked up Alvin Robertson, a guard out of Arkansas. San Antonio doesn’t draft in the top 10 very often, and they typically don’t miss when they do. Even Robertson wouldn’t be considered a miss in most cases.
12 Hughes Mistake
Despite drafting Alvin Robertson in the first round of the legendary 1984 NBA Draft, the Spurs were in the market for another shooting guard. Perhaps they would have selected Karl Malone if he would have fallen that far, but the Jazz scooped him up just one selection before the Spurs could get a chance. Instead, they settled for Alfredrick Hughes out of Loyola Illinois.
11 Slick Willie
In 1987, the Spurs had the first overall selection and would end up hitting a home run when they drafted David Robinson out of Navy. Their pick would rise up to the 10th spot in the 1988 NBA Draft as a result, where some very good players were selected in front of their spot. There wasn’t much left on the board, but they passed up on Dan Majerle, the small forward from Central Michigan.
10 What a Mass
While this isn’t the biggest mistake on the list, you wonder what the Spurs could have done with some of the other names available in this situation. In the 1990 NBA Draft, the Spurs didn’t have a lot to work with. In the first round, they went with the unknown Dwayne Schintzius, but there wasn’t all that much available in the later part of the first round. The mistake here comes in the second round.
9 Not Joining the Fun
Prior to the 1996 NBA Draft, the Spurs made a couple of deals that would ensure that they didn’t have a single selection in the draft. The Spurs would wind up getting Dennis Rodman and the number 18 pick for Sean Elliott and David Wood. However, they turned around and packaged the pick with J.R. Reid and Brad Lohaus, sending them to the Knicks for both Charles Smith and Monty Williams.
8 Seeing Redd
The Spurs would wind up making some great moves to end the 1990s as they unsurprisingly took Tim Duncan with the top selection in 1997 and then snagged Manu Ginobili in the second round of the 1999 NBA Draft. 2000 was a different story, though, as they traded away their first round pick and had to wait until the 41st spot to select Chris Carrawell, a shooting guard out of Duke.
7 Speedy Delivery
It’s always nice to have some depth at point guard, though the Spurs went in a direction that might not have been the best idea. In the 2002 NBA Draft, San Antonio would trade John Salmons to the Philadelphia 76ers after selecting him 26th overall out of Miami. The Spurs also threw in a few extra pieces, all in the hopes of landing Speedy Claxton.
That wasn’t the only mistake that the Spurs made in the 2002 NBA Draft. The team would also end up drafting Luis Scola with the 56th overall selection from Spain after making a trade to acquire the pick from the Lakers. The Spurs waited until 2005 when they entered into contract negotiations with Scola. However, he was playing for Tau Ceramica, who requested $3 million in exchange for his contract.
5 Swap City
The 2004 NBA Draft had some solid names, but nothing compared to the 2003 version. However, the Spurs would miss out on an opportunity to take a solid small forward in the second round. The 42nd overall pick was all over the place. The Hawks received the pick from Orlando, who got it from Philadelphia, who got it from Golden State. The pick would be Viktor Sanikidze, who was then traded to San Antonio.
4 New York Miss
The Knicks would end up getting a solid player right under the Spurs nose for two years in a row, with this one coming in 2005. The Knicks ended up with the 30th overall pick after a three team deal that involved the Suns. The Spurs traded the pick that they acquired in a trade featuring Leandro Barbosa and they ended up getting Nazr Mohammed and Jamison Brewer in the deal.
3 Goran Gone
The Spurs would make a move in the 2008 NBA Draft’s second round, which included the 45th overall pick. The Spurs ended up making a great choice with the selection when they picked up Goran Dragic out of Slovenia, but he didn’t stick around. Instead, the Spurs decided to send him off to Phoenix in exchange for Malik Hairston, cash considerations and a second round pick in 2009.
2 Almost Perfect
In the 2011 NBA Draft, the Spurs had a chance to draft what might have been the greatest class of the past 25 years. With the 15th overall pick, San Antonio struck gold when they traded with the Pacers to acquire Kawhi Leonard, who is now an MVP candidate. Later in the first round, the Spurs had the 29th overall pick that they used on Cory Joseph, a guard out of Texas.
1 We’re Not Done Yet
The Spurs weren’t quite done just barely missing out on what definitely would have rounded it out to make their class the best of all-time. With the final two picks in the draft, it was down to San Antonio and Sacramento. The Spurs used the 59th overall pick to select Adam Hanga out of Hungary. Hanga would never play in an NBA game and is currently in Liga ACB where he has been alright.
Meanwhile, the 60th and final pick of the draft ended up being Isaiah Thomas. Thomas has been a revelation that is currently with the Celtics, who is coming off of a season where he scored 22.2 points with 3.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Just to think, the Spurs almost had a team that had Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler and Isaiah Thomas.
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