The San Antonio Spurs went into the 2022 NBA Draft with relatively high hopes. The Spurs had three first-round picks, holding selections at number 9, number 20, and number 25. The team also nabbed a future second-round pick in a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies.
While drafting, San Antonio made it a priority to draft the best player available. The developmental coaches in San Antonio are some of the best in the league and should be able to help all three selections reach their full potential. San Antonio added 3 players who could all have lengthy NBA careers, and all three draftees offer their unique strengths.
Jeremy Sochan was drafted with the ninth overall pick. The 6’9 forward’s best skills are his defensive versatility and prowess on that side of the ball. Thus, Sochan has the potential and tools to be the best defender in this class. Sochan averaged 1.3 steals and nearly a block per game over the thirty games he played this season. Baylor also had a defensive rating of 89.8 while Sochan was on the court, which is absurdly low.
Sochan also crashed the defensive glass, as his 4.4 defensive rebounds a game were second-best on the team. Sochan’s steals per game and blocks per game were also second-most on the team. Sochan was a defensive anchor for Baylor’s defense that ranked top-20 in the nation, which should go without saying.
Going back to his versatility, Sochan can guard positions 1-5. He has no problem staying attached to smaller guards and holds his own in the post against taller bigs. He’s able to do so because of his superb lateral quickness and high defensive IQ. Sochan might struggle on the offensive side of the ball, shooting only 29.6 from three this season, but can contribute immediately on defense.
Excluding his shooting struggles, Sochan is still a willing playmaker and great off-ball mover, so he won’t be an offensive liability. Everything from the scouting report suggests that Sochan will be able to defend at a high level, and can become of the most complete players in the draft if his offense comes around.
Malaki Branham was drafted with the 20th overall pick. The 6’5 freshman winger from the Ohio State University went into the season relatively under the radar. However, Branham impressed as the season went on, and shot up draft boards. While Sochan provides the Spurs with some instant defense, Branham is an offensive threat. Branham averaged 13.7 points this season on excellent efficiency, shooting 50 percent from the field. He also shot 42 percent from three on almost 3 attempts per game, which should translate right away.
In addition to his smooth shot, Branham can also play make when asked to, and Ohio State relied on him heavily in March Madness in all offensive departments. As for his role, the winger should help San Antonio’s weak offense when All-Star Dejounte Murray is on the bench. The Spurs got great value with Branham at his draft position, and is one of the best offensive players in his class.
Branham will need to defend at a higher level if he wants to succeed at the next level, but has the physical tools to become a competent defender. The Spurs made a great choice with Branham at 20, and he should help fix the Spurs’ 18th-ranked middling offense.
Blake Wesley was drafted with the 25th overall pick. The Spurs received the extra pick in the Derrick White trade with the Boston Celtics, so Wesley will have some relatively high expectations. Lucky for San Antonio, Wesley has one of the highest ceilings in the draft. The 6’5 guard from Notre Dame turned heads this season, helping lead his school to an unlikely March Madness berth.
Wesley is only 19 years old and looks to be more of a project, unlike Sochan and Branham who are established in their respective strengths. It’s worth noting he isn’t proven on either side of the ball but has the skill set to flourish on offense and defense if he reaches his full potential. The signs of progression are already there.
The South Bend native averaged 1.3 steals per game this season, and he dropped 18 points in an upset win over 6th-seeded Alabama in the first round of March Madness earlier this season. The signs are encouraging, but Wesley will need to shoot better than 30 percent from three and 40 percent from the field to get where he needs to be on offense. He’ll also need to stay in front of his man better when guarding straight up. If Wesley can do both of those, he has a bright future ahead of him.
The Spurs already have a few young players looking to prove themselves, and adding three new eager draftees should only benefit San Antonio. San Antonio may not compete for a championship next season, but the pieces are now there for San Antonio to eventually make a run in the future.