Published June 28, 2013
SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs chose French forward Livio Jean-Charles with the No. 28 overall pick in the NBA draft Thursday night and then added Ohio State small forward Deshaun Thomas with the 58th selection overall.
Thomas famous refused to give the team his number during a pre-draft interview.
"I can't go around giving it out to everyone," Thomas said then. "Now if they want to draft me, I'd be happy to give it to them."
Now the Spurs have the 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward along with Jean-Charles. The 6-foot-9, 217-pound Jean-Charles played for Villeurbanne, which is co-owned by Spurs point guard Tony Parker.
"It's one of those Hollywood deals where your people talk to our people and Tony was their people and our people," San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford said.
The pick continues a trend for San Antonio, which has selected international players such as Parker, Manu Ginobili (Argentina) and Tiago Splitter (Brazil) in recent drafts.
Tim Duncan is 37 and Ginobili is a free agent who turns 36 next month, but both are expected back. The Spurs have reached the conference finals the past two seasons and no major roster changes are expected.
Jean-Charles, 19, had 27 points and 13 rebounds against the USA Junior National Select Team during the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit. Both of those totals rank among the top seven in the event's 16-year history.
A small forward in France, he is expected to play wing in the NBA.
"We like his size, we like his athleticism," Buford said. "We're hopeful he can play a couple of positions. We think it's a real good development opportunity."
Jean-Charles averaged 3.0 points and 2.4 rebounds in 12.9 minutes for Villeurbanne while shooting 39 percent from 3-point range. He is expected to continue playing overseas for some time, which is what Ginobili and Splitter did prior to joining the Spurs.
"That would be in my expectations that he is not here this year," Buford said. "I'm not going to try to predict his growth opportunity. When the time is right, we hope that it will be right for him and for us and for the team."
Thomas is expected to battle for a spot on the team's roster next season. A first-team all-Big Ten selection, Thomas averaged 19.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and shot 34 percent from 3-point range.
"He's the type of player that can play a couple of positions," Buford said. "At 58, you don't see that very often. He's a scorer. He makes outside shots, you can put him in the post (and) he can slash. I don't know if you try to say specifically, here's what he does, that you're going to be overwhelmed by anything, or he probably would have been drafted higher. But just the package is pretty good."
Thomas will likely get a chance to develop his game with the Spurs roster basically set.
San Antonio has established a culture of nurturing young talent with assistants Chip Engelland and Chad Forcier. In the case of players such as Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Aron Baynes, the Spurs also send them to their developmental league team to hone their talent.
The Spurs also had playoff success with castoffs Gary Neal and Danny Green, who set an NBA finals record with 27 3-pointers but faltered in the last two games as San Antonio bowed to the Heat in seven games.
It makes sense to add depth at Ginobili's position because the star from Argentina is well-worn through years of international competition, and might have shown it with several playoff games marred by poor shooting and too many turnovers.
Free agency could impact how San Antonio looks next season more than the draft.
Ginobili and DeJuan Blair are unrestricted free agents, Splitter is restricted and Boris Diaw is mulling a player option. All are expected to return except for Blair, whose playing time has dwindled the past two seasons.
Ginobili will probably see a pay cut from $14.1 million, and cost will be a consideration with Splitter, the 6-foot-11 post who made $3.9 million this season.
The Spurs have put salary-cap considerations ahead of sentimentality in the past. Two years ago, they traded fan favorite George Hill to Indiana for the rights to Kawhi Leonard, who was the 15th pick in the draft.