Due to 22-straight seasons of playoff appearances from 1997-2019, San Antonio’s history in the draft lottery is small but holds massive weight in the reason why the franchise has become one of the most historically successful in American sports history.
It’s no secret which lottery selections helped change the trajectory of the Spurs. But let’s take a look at the franchise’s lottery history anyway.
Tim Duncan (left) and David Stern
1987 – No. 1 overall pick, David Robinson
The Spurs were coming off of a 28-54 season and were looking for a franchise-altering player in a draft that included NBA legends like Reggie Miller, Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Mark Jackson.
San Antonio entered the lottery with a 14.29 percent chance to land the No. 1 selection. So when the team won the lottery with a chance to snag David Robinson out of Navy, it was a no-brainer.
Robinson would on to become one of the best centers in NBA history. Along with being a 10-time All-Star, he won an MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and was a two-time champion. That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what the 7-footer accomplished during his 14-year playing career.
1989 – No. 3 overall pick, Sean Elliott
Sean Elliott carved out quite a career for himself after being the No. 3 overall pick in 1989. A two-time All-Star and NBA champion, Elliott is best known for his go-ahead 3-pointer in Game 2 of the 1999 Western Conference Finals against the Blazers, which helped vault San Antonio to the Finals where they would defeat the Knicks in five games for the first title in franchise history.
Nowadays, Elliott is the lead broadcast analyst for Spurs games on Bally Sports. He gets to take a look up at his No. 32 hanging in the AT&T Center rafters every time he’s on the sidelines.
1997 – No. 1 overall pick, Tim Duncan
One of the greatest players in NBA history, Tim Duncan immediately made his impact felt upon being drafted first overall out of Wake Forest in 1997.
After winning Rookie of the Year, Duncan wasted no time solidifying himself as one of the best players in the league in his second season. He and Robinson led the Spurs to the title in 1999, as Duncan won Finals MVP.
In what was his first of three Finals MVPs and five titles, Duncan also won two league MVP awards, was a 15-time All-Star, received eight selections to the All-Defensive First Team, and was a 10-time All-NBA First Team selection.
Undoubtedly the greatest player in Spurs’ history, Duncan altered the franchise’s trajectory and left an everlasting mark on the city of San Antonio.
2020 – No. 11 overall pick, Devin Vassell
Due to the success that Duncan brought, the Spurs wouldn’t have their next lottery selection until 23 years later.
Devin Vassell was a bit of an unknown coming out of Florida State but has blossomed into a smooth scorer that is only beginning to scratch the surface headed into his third season. He averaged 12.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.9 assists in 71 games this year.
2021 – No. 12 overall pick, Josh Primo
The Spurs shook up the draft last year by selecting Josh Primo at No. 12 overall. A young guard that proved elite catch-and-shoot ability during one season at Alabama, many Spurs fans were disappointed with the selection of Primo, as he was unproven and raw at just 18-years-old when general manager Brian Wright selected him.
But after a rookie season that saw him play in 50 games with 16 starts, Primo proved he belongs in the NBA. His stats (5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.6 assists) will only continue to grow as his role increases in the coming years.