The San Antonio Spurs are projected to select Louisville center Chinanu Onuaku with the 29th pick in next week’s NBA Draft, according to ESPN insider Chad Ford.
In the newly released mock draft, Ford plays the role of GM and decides who “the team should take” rather than ranking players based on their talents. Ford reckons that the Spurs should pick Onuaku due to Tim Duncan’s imminent retirement.
“The Spurs got killed in the paint against Oklahoma City in the playoffs and could address that with Onuaku. Offensively he doesn’t give you much, but he’s a terrific rebounder and energy guy who plays hard and tough all the time,” Ford wrote in his Grade A insider mock draft.
Spurs giving up on Al Horford?
There is also the theory that San Antonio pursues free agent Al Horford to replace the aging Duncan. However, ESPN’s Mark Stein has reported that Kevin Durant and Mike Conley are the team’s top priorities heading into next month’s free agency period.
Boban Marjanovic and David West are unrestricted free agents. There’s no guarantee if Duncan would return for another season. In such a scenario, the Spurs have very limited options in the front court with only LaMarcus Aldridge and Boris Diaw certain to return next season.
Onuaku can become an elite rim protector
Onuaku is one of the top defensive big men in this year’s draft class. During the college season, Onuaku finished second in the country in Defensive Rating (84.9) and third in the conference with 2 blocks per game. Most scouts reckon that the 19-year-old could turn into an elite rim protector at the next level.
Needless to say that Tim Duncan is irreplaceable. But San Antonio, which features the league’s best defensive unit, would be the perfect place for Onuaku to enhance his defensive prowess.
Last month, Onuaku underwent a medical procedure to correct a heart rhythm issue detected during physicals conducted at the NBA combine. If not for the heart problem, Onuaku could easily be drafted in the 15-25 range. Spurs have a chance to steal him with the 29th pick.