To Draft and Stash or Not to Draft and Stash

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Since 1999, the San Antonio Spurs have drafted an international player and kept him overseas for at least one season. Commonly known as the draft and stash, the Spurs have employed this tactic more routinely and arguably better than any other team in the league. It’s produced Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter and Ian Mahimni to name a few players who suited up for the Spurs. It also  infamously produced Luis Scola, who the Spurs never could bring into the fold and traded to Houston.* That’s one future Hall of Famer, a starter on a title team, a key contributor on a title team and a regular starter for a reoccurring playoff team. That’s pretty damn successful a group of guys who weren’t drafted higher than 28th in their respective drafts.

*For the purposes of this exercise, we’re not counting Tony Parker, Beno Udrih, Goran Dragic or Leandro Barbosa because while they are international players, they weren’t stashed. Still, this is a really impressive run. 

Since 2010, the Spurs have used the draft and stash card on four players. Two others are American players who are currently playing in Europe. So while the Spurs have had recent success drafting guys to join the team right away (Kawhi Leonard, Cory Joseph, DeJuan Blair), they’ve also taken advantage of their European scouting. With three picks in this year’s draft (30, 58 and 60), it’s tough to imagine them not drafting an international player if they hold on to all three picks. However, I want to look specifically at whether the Spurs should use their first round pick on a draft-and-stash player.

There’s an argument to be made on both sides and I don’t think there’s a wrong decision here. Right now, the Spurs have incredible depth even if they don’t re-sign Boris Diaw and Patty Mills. But for the moment, let’s assume Diaw, Mills and Matt Bonner are brought back. That’s between 12 and 14 roster spots depending on whether Austin Daye’s contract is picked up and Aron Baynes, a restricted free agent, is re-signed. If the Spurs are content to literally bring the entire team back plus adding one veteran, the Spurs have no choice but to trade the pick for future assets or draft and stash. Still, there are a couple of specific positions of need the Spurs could address at the back end of the first round. So let’s look at the pros and cons of draft and stash.

Pros: Depending on what international player is there, the talent could be better than any college prospect they could draft at 30. Despite signing a new deal with Turkish team Anadolu Efes, Dario Saric isn’t going to be there at 30. However, players like Clint Capela, Walter Tavares, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Damien Inglis, Vasilije Micic and Nikola Jokic could all be there at 30. That’s a really talented crop of players, albeit mostly raw talent. Micic and Bogdanovic are the two most NBA ready of that group. Drafting international would also free up a roster spot for the Spurs to sign a veteran more likely to have a more impactful contribution next season when they’re gunning for a repeat.

Cons: There’s no guarantee any of these players would ever come over the league in the first place. Robertas Javtokas, Sergei Karaulov, Giorgos Printezis, Ryan Richards all names the Spurs drafted in the past that have yet to be heard from (I’ve given up on Richards, which might be the biggest revelation of this piece). We’re likely never hearing from them. Hell, there was a time where we wondered whether Luis Scola and Tiago Splitter would come over because of their buyouts and the lucrative money they were being offered in Europe. Second, this draft is stacked, particularly on the wing, where the Spurs could use a defensive minded, athletic wing to back up Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Someone like Cleanthony Early or Glenn Robinson III, who both worked out with the Spurs during the Finals, could both provide immediate (limited) back up minutes and do have some long term potential as the Spurs reload in Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili’s waning years.

Again, there isn’t a wrong answer here. There’s merit and talent available whether you’re drafting someone out of college or going international. This year is probably the toughest to choose between the two options. Keep checking back with 48 Minutes of Hell all week as we’ll be breaking down the draft (and previous drafts).

  • Tyler

    The rookie salary scale also plays a big part in the equation too. Most foreign players drafted mid to late first can make more $ overseas. It essentially assures that any foreign player the Spurs take with the 30th pick will stay overseas for at least 3 years (salary scale no longer applies after 3 years). Oddly enough, if you are a foreign player, you would rather be drafted in the 2nd round (where there is no rookie scale) rather than late in the first.

    Lots of foreign talent this year (tons of talent overall really). I’d expect a major run on international guys mid to late in the first, which might cause a few American players to fall a bit…

  • Len

    Cleanthony Early is an absolute baller. Guy would be a friggin steal if he fell down to the Spurs.

  • DorieStreet

    Whittle down the list to just TWO for successful draft & stash player FOR the Spurs.
    Scola never suited up the for the Silver & Black.
    Mahimi played in only 32 games in three seasons under contract with the Spurs.

  • Graham

    Definitely. I’d be happy if we could get him, though I’d be ok if Glen Robinson III fell to us. Seems like a good project pick to turn into a good contrast for Danny Green, if things go right.

  • DorieStreet

    I understand the basketball economics involved with the method and all, but from this fan’s perspective, there really is no interest in a d&s player until he shows up at the Spurs practice facility during training camp in the fall.

  • Tyler

    And the alternative was what? Drafting an American player who comes into camp and then gets sent down to the Toros?

    I don’t see your point. It’s not as if SA was passing on guys that everyone considered better prospects at the time.

  • skeptic210

    One pick after scola, we draft randy holcomb from SD st. How did that work out?

    Chris Carrawell, James Gist, Jack McClinton, Romain Sato, Marcus WIlliams (career win share = negative), the list of american college players that amounted to nothing is extensive.

    Better to go with the foreigners.

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  • DorieStreet

    To Tyler & skeptic210:
    My reply to this article was that the author was inferring that the draft & stash is the backbone/foundation of the Spurs success over the last decade and a half.
    IT IS NOT.
    It is a significant contributor—but no more that the other two components/methods—
    DRAFT & FREE AGENCY.
    skeptic210: How many YEARS have Spurs fans been posting videos of Ryan Richards / waxing poetic about Betrans?
    And to Tyler —post all the stats about Henga, etc. in their careers OVERSEAS —
    It does not mean jack until they show up in Ol’ San Antone come late September /early October {you pick the year}.
    You two fans –and anybody else that falls under this charade—-stop making /putting the Spurs Penultimate Success as a Professional Sports Franchise owes it soul to the d&s.

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