Ranking the Top Forward Prospects for the Spurs in the Back End of the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery

The San Antonio Spurs are a week away from the 2022 NBA Draft Lottery and learning whether the ping pong balls bounce their way and give them a shot at one of the best incoming prospects.

We broke down some of the top guards last week, and this time we’re back to dive into a collection of tantalizing forwards that might be on the board if the Silver and Black end up with the ninth overall pick as expected.

Keldon Johnson and Doug McDermott are valuable individual assets. But it didn’t take long for Gregg Popovich to find out the undersized forwards were a less than ideal frontcourt pairing next to Jakob Poeltl. That doesn’t necessarily mean general manager Brian Wright has to show the latter the door this summer. Regardless, there is undoubtedly room to upgrade this roster, so let’s look at some possible replacements.

3. Kendall Brown | Baylor | Freshman | Forward | 6’ 8” | 205 lbs

Kendall Brown began the season near the top of big boards but gradually saw his stock slide as his productivity declined after the calendar flipped to 2022. The 19-year-old possesses excellent physical tools and a terrific feel for the game, and front offices should be salivating at the opportunity to add an incredibly malleable prospect to their roster.

The six-eight forward will probably do most of his damage away from the ball, and he placed in the 94th percentile in the country as a cutter during his lone go-round with Baylor. He can burst off the hardwood quickly as a lob target in transition or half-court sets, and his timing for finding gaps in the defense is well beyond most players in his age group.

Brown flashed some coast-to-coast playmaking potential and chops as a supplementary facilitator off DHOs, offensive boards, and drives, but that likely won’t materialize right away in the NBA. And while the star freshman shot 81.5% inside the restricted area, his unwillingness and inaccuracy on the perimeter could severely limit his value to an offense.

Despite all the question marks surrounding Brown on the other side of the floor, he is one of the most promising defenders in this class. His size and footspeed should allow him the positional versatility to defend and switch 1 through 3 at the next level. And he can convert steals into thunderous fastbreak slams with his outstanding anticipation in the passing lanes.

The Minnesota native is adept at containing drives by sliding with his man and forcing them into kick-outs or difficult contested jumpers. He can get a bit too handsy at times, but Brown has the makings of a reliable stopper. If he bulks up enough to start holding his own in the post, he might reach his ceiling as a metaphorical swiss army knife.

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2. Tari Eason | LSU | Sophomore | Forward | 6’ 8” | 216 lbs

Tari Eason transformed from an afterthought as a freshman at Cincinnati into a lottery candidate after a fantastic sophomore season at LSU, where he earned SEC Sixth Man of the Year honors behind ridiculous per-minute production. Although he is the oldest member of this trio at 21 years old, there is still an abundance of untapped two-way potential.

The former Top 100 recruit is a devastating driver who finished 69% of his shots inside the restricted area while welcoming contact and earning 13.3 free throws per 100 possessions. He showed some wiggle off the bounce, but he was at his best catching the ball and getting downhill or operating as a play-finisher in transition with his above-the-rim athleticism.

Because Eason is a decent catch-and-shoot threat from beyond the arc (35.9%), he is the most likely of this batch to contribute a scoring punch from day one. Keeping that in mind, his stroke is off to the right side of his face, and he only has standstill utility. He is also woefully dominant-hand dependent and lacks the vision to consistently find open teammates.

Eason should cover both forward spots comfortably and owns the lateral mobility, length, and footspeed to switch onto guards in a pinch. Plus, his massive mitts made it possible for him to disrupt drivers with one or two-handed digs. A white-hot motor ensured he never gave up on a sequence no matter the situation, but it also made him quite foul prone.

The six-eight combo forward is the definition of a defensive event creator as he became the 13th player in NCAA history with a 4% steal percentage and a 6% block percentage. Eason is a menace on-ball and in the passing lanes, and he put his seven-one wingspan to good use to swat jump shots on closeouts or when helping from one man away.

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1. Jeremy Sochan | Baylor | Freshman | Forward | 6’ 9” | 230 lbs

Nobody saw Jeremy Sochan making a meteoric rise from third-best high school recruit for Baylor into their most fascinating draft prospect on the roster. But the gifted freshman steadily established himself as one of the most important players on a top-four team in the nation, which eventually earned him Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year and lottery consideration.

Much like his teammate Kendall Brown, Sochan has excellent timing away from the ball, ranking in the 93rd percentile as a cutter. He won’t be much of a vertical spacer in the NBA. Yet he is a superb finisher who shot 69.5% at the rim, using intelligent angles, pump fakes, ambidexterity, and length to convert in traffic, absorb contact, and get to the free-throw line.

Don’t let the low assist numbers fool you. Sochan processes the game as well as anyone in this class. He is a strong ball-handler for his height, and it isn’t tough envisioning him working out of PNRs, DHOs, or the high post as a secondary or tertiary playmaker. However, locating a perfect fit could be a challenge if he never develops any semblance of shooting touch.

While the offense is a work in progress, the Polish forward is arguably the second-best defensive talent in the 2022 NBA Draft after Chet Holmgren. Only a handful of players with his frame can defend all five positions with a confident degree of serviceability. Package that scheme versatility and switchability with his intellect, and you get a unique asset.

Sochan can be jumpy, commit foolish fouls, and close out too upright, but an NBA staff can work those habits out of a teenager. He routinely makes the correct rotations within the flow of a team defense, stifles drivers, and contests shots well on-ball. Directing traffic as an anchor for a successful high-major program only bolsters his impressive resume.

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