With their ninth pick in the 2022 NBA draft, Spurs chose Baylor’s Jeremy Sochan. In doing so, they have taken a big step in regaining the reputation as a defense-oriented program that has eluded them since they parted ways with Kawhi Leonard.
For those unfamiliar with the 6’9-inch forward, he was arguably the best defensive prospect in the entire class. His numbers on that side were impressive, but what really stood out about his performance was his intensity and versatility. Despite him having prototypical size of the powerful attacker, the 19-year-old was able to stand with the guards on the perimeter on the rallies and fight with larger opponents. He is the kind of player who sets the tone at that point with his energy level and makes up for the weaknesses of others. While he probably won’t amass the kind of counting stats that turn heads at the NBA level, Sochan could have an impact from Day 1 and has the potential to truly be the leader of an elite defense someday.
The fit with the current core isn’t completely perfect, but it’s solid from both a positional and a personality perspective. Sochan, the son of a Polish mother and an American father, grew up in Europe but played college baseball in the United States, which means he was exposed to many different styles of development. He seems to have the right combination of trust and commitment to win that the franchise has always supported and that the current core possesses. He is also a great forward who should eventually position himself well alongside Keldon Johnson and could thrive in San Antonio’s heavy trading pattern. Fans who feared hearing Adam Silver call out another guard’s name when Spurs should have chosen should be happy with the selection.
The only reason to be a little hesitant about Sochan’s immediate impact is his offense. While he has shown flashes of potential in that regard, he is simply not an advanced scorer at this point. He’s shot less than 30 percent past the arc in college and has a slow, low release that he’s likely to have to remodel to become an outside threat in the NBA. If he’s paired with a radius center or plays the position himself in smaller formations, he won’t completely kill the spacing, but in units that include Jakob Poeltl, opponents should be able to pack paint without paying for it. If Sochan were a good self-creator, the lack of consistent jump shot wouldn’t be a big deal, but he was primarily a complementary scorer in college. It is a work in progress from this point of view.
The good news is that he is incredibly young and a hard worker by all accounts, so the shortcomings he has now may disappear over time as his strengths lead him to the ground in the beginning. His solid passes and smart cut should allow him to be productive on offense as his shot develops as his defense gains him minutes, likely in second unit alongside Zach Collins. For a franchise looking to find the balance between competing now and adding pieces that could allow them to actually compete in the future, a player like Sochan – who fulfills a need and has an edge – could be a godsend. .
The bottom half of the lottery can be a difficult place to choose, since prospects who have the tools to be traditional stars are all gone, so it’s refreshing to see the Spurs take on someone who could become a non-traditional one. Sochan has described himself as a mix between Draymond Green and Boris Diaw, and while it’s hard to see him reach the heights touched by one of those special players, it could realistically turn out to be a good amalgamation of their abilities.
There has been a lot of speculation leading to the draft as to which path the Spurs would take with their pick. Would they go for the best player available or would they try to fill in some noticeable holes in their roster? With Sochan, they could have done both, so it’s hard to be anything but excited about the future.