Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

International Prospect Set to be Next Piece of Spurs Rebuild

Gregg Popovich and Victor Wembanyama of the San Antonio Spurs

For a 15-55 team, this season hasn’t felt like a loss for the San Antonio Spurs. They saw either development or a plateau from their rotation players, which is always better than regression. Rookie big man Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, has played as well as anyone could have hoped.

Ahead of another major offseason, the San Antonio Spurs are projected to have the No. 3 pick in the 2024 NBA Draft. Subsequently, a franchise that may have the next face of the league has an opportunity to add a key piece to its young core. That said, while several options make sense for the Spurs with their lottery selection, one prospect fits them more than any other.

Nikola Topic Set to be Next Piece of Spurs Rebuild

Nikola Topic has been among the top-rated prospects all season. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 201 pounds, the Serbian point has displayed high-level on-court processing and playmaking abilities while playing for multiple EuroLeague teams.

Big Playmaker

On offense, Topic’s best skill is his passing.

Whether in the halfcourt or transition, he’ll make his teammates happy with how easily he finds them. This is the main reason he’s an ideal pick for the Spurs. Often discussed, Wembanyama benefits from San Antonio improving their point guard play. However, his teammates —many of whom don’t thrive one-on-one —will as well.

As a pick-and-roll ball-handler, Topic easily reads and manipulates the defense. He’ll be a perfect dance partner with Wembanyama and their other bigs because of his pace, awareness, timing, and feel. His ability to create 3s with his drive-and-kick ability also benefits Wembanyama. San Antonio needs to add more 3-point threats beyond him and Devin Vassell but it’s easier to build around a facilitator than to develop a passer.

NBA Comparisons

An effective jump passer, this skill gives Topic an NBA parallel in Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton.

Arguably the best facilitator in the league, Haliburton is like a quarterback for the Pacers, spreading the wealth as his teammates cash in off his passes. That Haliburton himself has been compared to Hall of Fame point guard Steve Nash doesn’t mean Topic should be. But all three are in the mold of the archetypal floor general. A classification shared by five-time assist champion Chris Paul, who ranks third all-time in career assists (11,816).

Like Haliburton, 6-foot-5, Topic’s height is also notable. At that size, he’ll consistently see over the tops of defenses. This will help him find all of his teammates in traffic but should aid in him delivering accurate passes to Wembanyama, in particular.

One-Dimensional Scorer?

As a scorer, Topic is largely refined to rim attacks in transition or the halfcourt. He does well in these circumstances, craftily cutting a rug through the lane or using his physique to ensure he gets to the tin. However, he’ll be a relatively one-dimensional scorer until he can consistently knock down a jumper.

With Wembanyama and Zach Collins’ ability to shoot from beyond the arc, Topic should still be effective even when defenses are set. Furthermore, Topic has NBA range even if the touch isn’t completely there. It doesn’t change scoring being his biggest concern at the next level though. Not in the least because he’s more quick than explosive and is an average ball-handler.

This season, Topic has averaged 16.4 points and 6.1 assists per game, shooting 49.8 percent from the floor. He also boasts a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, 120.5 offensive rating, and a 32.9 percent free-throw rate. These numbers help highlight his skillset, as he’s a high IQ prospect that relies on his ability to get to the rim to make a scoring impact.

Switch-Army Knife

Defensively, Topic’s length and anticipation could make him a successful individual and team defender. This is another area where his height is a difference-maker. To that point, Topic dwarfs Tre Jones, who is just 6-foot-1. The four-year pro’s lack of size lowers his defensive ceiling, especially with a team that prefers a switch-heavy scheme.

On the Clock

A point guard prospect like USC guard Isaiah Collier may have a higher upside. Collier’s effort and consistency have been questioned but he has elite two-way potential. However, Topic is more likely to play within himself and play a style that makes him a simpler fit within their young core.

Topic’s nationality will be another attractive aspect of this pick. The Spurs have had multiple foreign players on their roster during the Gregg Popovich era, including Wembanyama. With that said, Popovich himself is half-Croatian and half-Serbian. San Antonio’s selection of Topic gives them an even larger presence on the international stage.


More Posts