Analyzing the Spurs' 2018 draft day

In the 2018 NBA draft, the Spurs had the No. 18 and No. 49 overall picks. They ended up selecting Lonnie Walker IV and Chimezie Metu, and decided to forego making a Kawhi Leonard trade.

On Thursday, the Spurs selected Lonnie Walker IV with the No. 18 pick in the NBA draft.

The  19-year-old shooting guard was originally projected to go higher in the draft, so San Antonio was not expected to have a chance at him. Reportedly, the organization was so fascinated by Walker that they explored making a trade with the Charlotte Hornets to select him with the No. 11.

The complex interaction between Walker’s brand new Spurs hat and his hair made some serious waves on draft night. No, it’s not photoshopped.

Walker started off slow last year at Miami after undergoing surgery on his knee. However, he quickly made a name for himself with his tremendous athleticism and ability to score. While his low shooting efficiency is a definite concern, his confident, correct jump shot foreshadows improvement in that realm.

At Miami, Walker displayed promising defensive instincts. When combined with his natural athleticism, he showed flashes of excellent defense. However, he struggled to remain locked in and didn’t put forth the effort to be a high-level defender. Hopefully, with the help of the Spurs excellent coaching staff and culture, Walker will be able to reach his full defensive potential.

With Danny Green likely to return and Dejounte Murray continuing to improve, Walker will not be forced to take on a huge role in his rookie season. However, he still will play a pivotal role coming off the Spurs’ bench. Last year, the lack of scoring from San Antonio’s second unit was a major problem. As the end of  Manu Ginobili’s career looms nearer and Patty Mills’ inconsistencies abound, Walker could prove incredibly valuable coming off the bench. If Walker continues to develop, he and Murray could make a promising starting backcourt for the next generation of Spurs.

San Antonio also selected Chimezie Metu with the No. 49 overall pick. The big man from USC has displayed considerable talent in the pick and roll and was able to finish well at the rim. However, he is unimpressive in post-ups and struggles with offensive rebounding. His defense also leaves something to be desired, though he did display an aptitude for shot-blocking.

Metu will likely spend time in the G-League this season, as he does look ready to face NBA talent just yet.

As interesting as these young players are, it was the Spurs’ inaction, not their action, that was most important. Despite numerous rumors about potential Kawhi Leonard trades, San Antonio stood firm. After Shams Charania of Yahoo reported that Leonard “wants out” of San Antonio, it was widely speculated that the organization would try to trade him. However, it appears that the Spurs are not yet willing to give up on Leonard.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that although the Los Angeles Lakers reached out about the possibility of a trade, San Antonio was unwilling to start a dialogue.

After the NBA draft, Spurs GM R.C. Buford expressed the franchise’s desire to keep Leonard around.

"Kawhi and his family mean a lot to our organization and to the community," Buford said, per Michael C. Wright of ESPN. "While none of us would wish we are where we are, we're going to do what we can to build the best relationship we can with him, and we'll explore all of our options. But the first one would be to do what we can to keep Kawhi as a part of our group."

"Our goal is to keep him as a part of our program for a long time," Buford added.

This draft may have been a missed opportunity for San Antonio to get a good package for Leonard if he is indeed set on leaving the organization. It appears that the Spurs still have faith that they can repair their relationship with him. The potential reward is high if Leonard can return happy and healthy with the team, but the risk involved is equally great.

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