• October 31, 2014

Analysis Spurs’ mysterious moves backed by two decades of excellence

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Posted: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 12:25 am

For an instant, Killeen fans were on top of the world.

After waiting all night to hear former Kangaroos standout Cory Jefferson’s name announced by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, the moment arrived.

With the final pick of the 2014 NBA draft, the defending champion San Antonio Spurs selected the senior power forward from Baylor.

Instantly, numerous members of Kangaroos supporters began researching the distance between Killeen and San Antonio’s AT&T Center.

Then, almost as quickly as the pick was made, Jefferson’s rights were traded away to Brooklyn.

Although it broke the hearts of fans hoping to see their hometown hero compete within driving distance, it is difficult to argue against a decision made by the Spurs’ front office.

Just like they did in 1999 with Manu Ginobili, 2001 with Tony Parker and 2007 with Tiago Splitter, the Spurs walked away from the draft with an unknown commodity, acquiring Serbian forward Nemanja Dangubic from Philadelphia in exchange for Tennessee guard Jordan McRae, while Jefferson went to the Nets as part of the three-team trade.

As usual, little is known about the foreign prospect, who was selected with the 54th overall pick by the 76ers before San Antonio dealt the 58th and 60th picks to get him. The 21-year-old averaged 9.5 points and 3.5 rebounds last season for Mega Vizura in the Adriatic League and was the MVP of a recent EuroCamp in Italy.

If recent history is any indication, Dangubic will not be seen on an NBA court anytime soon.

The Spurs’ selection with the 30th pick, however, is a different story.

UCLA swingman Kyle Anderson is considered by some to be the best passer in the draft, and despite a lack of raw athleticism, his 6-foot-9 frame and overall understanding of the game could make him a fixture in Gregg Popovich’s lineup before long.

As a sophomore with the Bruins, Anderson averaged 14.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals, ranking among the top five in the Pac-12 in each category. Additionally, he can shoot the 3-pointer — a favorite weapon of the Spurs — making 48 percent of his attempts.

Houston Rockets

With only two picks in the draft, Houston was unable to acquire a game-changer capable of turning the Rockets into a title contender next season, but their future does look brighter.

Houston — the youngest team to reach the 2014 playoffs — added some more youth to their roster, selecting 20-year-old power forward Clint Capela, of France, in the first round.

Standing 6-10 and weighing 222 pounds, Capela’s body is ready for the NBA, while his athleticism and instincts are suppose to be excellent, but few foreign players make an immediate splash.

As the 25th overall selection, this was a potential pick.

The Rockets also drafted Arizona shooting guard Nick Johnson in the second round. He was the Pac-12 Player of the Year, averaging 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game while guiding the Wildcats to the Elite Eight.

Hard to say exactly how Johnson could fit into the Rockets’ plans. After all, they could be looking to make some major moves this offseason, possibly setting their sights on free agent superstars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.

Dallas Mavericks

The draft was inconsequential in Dallas, but the picks were not.

Thanks to a pre-draft trade with New York, the Mavericks acquired Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton in an eight-player deal sending both of Dallas’ picks to the Knicks.

In addition to picks No. 34 (Cleanthony Early, F, Wichita State) and No. 51(Thanasis Antetokounmpo, F, Greece/D-League), New York received Jose Calderon, Wayne Ellington, Shane Larkin and Samuel Dalembert in the trade.

Rapidly fading from relevance, the Mavericks’ latest acquisitions will prove far more valuable than any potential draft picks as they look to construct a team capable of making another run at a title.

Chandler’s defensive presence was instrumental in helping Dallas win its first championship in 2011, and Felton is a capable scorer, but is coming off a career-low 9.7 points per game average.

Neither is the player they used to be, but with each only having one year left on their contract, it is a gamble worth taking.

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