Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? Part 10: Comparing the Dynasty Spurs, the Raid Boss
GSW upset victory over the Spurs, the absolute gold standard for drafting late in the draft
We laid out the constraints and boundaries of this analysis in the series master post, Did The Warriors Ruin The Dynasty By Blowing The Draft? An In-Depth Series. This also has links to all the articles in the series.
For the rest of the series, we will look at how other dynasties drafted. All modern NBA dynasties face the same problems: they draft very late for several years in a row and they are constrained by the salary cap from trading for high draft picks. The whole salary cap and draft / lottery system is built to erode and destroy dynasties.
How well did the Dynasty Spurs draft?
Well folks, this is the Raid Boss of drafting teams. We all know the Spurs have crushed the draft despite many years of excellence and (therefore) late picks.
The only way to avoid them is to say they weren’t really a dynasty. This is not as silly as it sounds, because amazingly they never won back-to-back titles. In fact, they never even made back-to-back finals, until the famous Salty Runback of 2014. Before that, the Spurs had four Finals defenses, which resulted in a 1st round loss, two 2nd round losses, and a gentleman’s sweep in the WCF, so they’ve never even been remotely close to back-to-back. So by the common definitions of dynasty, the Spurs were not a dynasty.
Nonetheless, that is a coward’s way out, because we know they have been consistently excellent. Instead, let us face them head on, to see how the best drafters in NBA history drafted during their Dynasty years. (Indeed, I picked my looser definition of Dynasty partly in order to include the Spurs.)
From 2003-2007, SAS won the majority of finals. This is their only stretch of dense Finals activity, with SAS winning it all in 2003, 2005 and 2007, getting whacked in 2004 in the second round by LAL, and getting whacked again in 2006 in the second round by Dirk Nowitzki’s Mavs.
SAS was legendary for pioneering international scouting, and they found fantastic player after fantastic player deep in the draft. In the 2000s, international players were widely considered unathletic and soft in NBA circles and SAS really made bank for the whole decade off this ignorant prejudice. They also aggressively collected late draft picks and got the rights to boom-or-bust international players, the “draft-and-stash” maneuver. With this drafting advantage, they stole Goran Dragic, Tiago Splitter, Ian Mahinmi, Beno Udrih, Luis Scola, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. By the 2010s, other teams had caught on to this, and the Spurs have since looked elsewhere for their draft advantages.
So brace yourselves, and let’s see how The Raid Boss drafted during the 2003-2007 Dynasty.
#28. Traded to PHX for 2005 #30.
#58. Traded to DET for Mengke Bateer. Bateer played 46 minutes for SAS and none in the playoffs.
#28. Beno Udrih. A great choice. In his draft class, he ranked #15 in Win Shares and #18 in Value Over Replacement Player. However, notably, he did most of his damage in the league after leaving SAS. For SAS, he averaged 13.0 MPG in the regular season and was salary dumped to MIN after three seasons. He was waived and only exploded after going to SAC to be a steady starting PG.
For SAS though, he clocked in 308 Playoff Minutes in 56 games = 5.5 Playoff Minutes Per Game
#42. Viktor Sanikidze. Acquired from ATL for 2005 2nd and cash. Draft and stash that never reached the NBA.
#52. Romain Sato. Acquired from MEM for Gordan Giricek rights. Draft and stash that never reached the NBA.
#57. Sergei Karaulov. Draft and stash that never reached the NBA.
#28. Ian Mahinmi. This was a mega-draft-and-stash. Wikipedia says the pick “surprised many other teams and league officials because he wasn't among the 128 players listed in the league's draft guide. Mahinmi was considered a ‘project’ that would be a couple of years from competing in the NBA.” He eventually joined the team for the 2007-08 season for 23 minutes and 18 Playoff Minutes, but this was too late to qualify for time with the Dynasty. Indeed, he actually carved out a solid long NBA career! Just not for SAS.
#30. Traded to NYK with 2006 1st and Malik Rose for Nazr Mohammed and Jamison Brewer. Brewer was waived immediately. Mohammed was a big, bruising, sturdy bench player for SAS, playing 17.5 minutes per game across 103 games in 2 seasons. He played 622 Playoff Minutes for a very respectable 17.3 Playoff Minutes Per Game. However, SAS benched Mohammed for the end of the 2006 playoffs, and as a result, he turned down the Spurs contract extension and left to start for DET.
#59. Traded to ATL (see 2004 #42).
#29. Traded to NYK (see 2005 #30)
#59. Traded to MIL for 2007 2nd.
Well, what the heck happened? I honestly was expecting SAS to smack down the Warriors. Instead, in four drafts the Spurs drafted seven players: five didn’t make the NBA, Mahinmi did but after the Dynasty ended, and Udrih played spot minutes for 308 Playoff Minutes at 5.5 PMPG. Let’s generously count Mohammed as a result of a draft pick, and he contributes 622 Playoff Minutes at 17.3 PMPG. That’s a total of 930 Playoff Minutes drafted. They traded picks for Mohammed and two players who never played playoff minutes.
In four drafts, the Warriors got Kevon Looney, Damian Jones, Patrick McCaw, Jordan Bell and Jacob Evans for a total of 1353 Playoff Minutes, and made the sign-and-trade for Andre Iguodala (2851 Playoff Minutes) possible.
Kevon Looney (819 Playoff Minutes) contributed more than Nazr Mohammed, and they both were only available for two years. Udrih contributed an amount comparable to Jordan Bell (279 Playoff Minutes, 6.5 PMPG), and arguably Bell played higher leverage minutes. Then on top of that, the Warriors grabbed McCaw and Jones and made the Iguodala sign-and-trade.
Verdict: I can’t believe I’m writing this, but the Dynasty Warriors clearly drafted better than the Dynasty Spurs. I may need to go back and check my numbers. What is going on???
I guess the real lesson is that even if you are the best late pick drafters in history, it’s still a rough task to get dynasty playoff help from the draft.
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> I may need to go back and check my numbers. What is going on???
Players we associate with the Spurs' drafts around that period like Manu (#57), Parker (#28), Splitter (#28), and Scola (#56) either don't count (Manu and Parker were drafted after the first championship but before the 2003-07 window; Splitter was stashed until 2011), or the player didn't actually play for the Spurs like Scola who couldn't be bought out of his team overseas. They signed his fellow countryman instead, Oberto, who ended playing decent minutes. Scola went on to have a good career in HOU.
And then there are the other guys you listed like Udrih (#28) who had solid careers post-SAS or guys outside that window, like Geroge Hill (#26), who went on help SAS to get Kawhi.
Bertans (#42) was technically a draft-n-stash by IND that never made it into the NBA until he signed with SAS and played his rookie year with them.
There are also guys that were picked by SAS but traded immediately. Dragic, not sure why he was traded, ended up torching the Spurs just two years later in the playoffs. Barbosa was picked by SAS but traded away, probably in order to make room for Kidd, which obviously never materialized.
So while their drafting during that specific 2003-2007 period didn't quite make the impact that most of us would've predicted, they certainly have had an eye for late-draft-pick talent over the years.