There was a time when Jaron Blossomgame might have expected to hear his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft. There was another time when he might not have expected to hear it called at all.
What actually happened split the difference, as the former Clemson forward was taken 59th overall in Thursday’s draft by the San Antonio Spurs. Of all the places he could have landed, there probably aren’t many better equipped to use him than the Spurs.
Blossomgame’s strengths and weaknesses are well defined by now. Some of those have ebbed and flowed over time as his role has shifted in college. The high motor that stood out early in his career was missing in scouting evaluations during the latter portion of his time in college. His perimeter shooting was a perceived cherry on top after his junior season, but it was a major thorn in his side a year later.
Not the least of his issues is a lack of a certain position in today’s NBA. Blossomgame stands around 6-7 and weighs less than 220 pounds—the dimensions of a wing player—but his game seems more similar to that of a stretch four. Players of his stature just can’t properly fill that role on an NBA court.
But the Spurs have a history of developing so-called “tweeners” into acceptable role players. Dejuan Blair was an undersized big man (albeit with a bit more bulk than Blossomgame) that the Spurs took in the second round back in 2009. He went on to overcome his lack of height and posted nice reserve numbers for five seasons in San Antonio and Dallas.
Blossomgame’s game mirrors Blair’s in terms of his motor and his knack for grabbing rebounds. As he became a primary offensive option for the Tigers, some of the defensive and rebounding strengths Blossomgame displayed in the past fell by the wayside. Now, as a complementary piece, those strengths should return and make Blossomgame a valuable commodity.
He was drafted into an established culture, something that very few picks can boast. San Antonio knows who it is. The Spurs have built a particular brand and style, and they draft with that in mind. Make no mistake: Blossomgame was selected with a role in mind that he can fill if he does his job well.
One additional concern is Blossomgame’s lack of consistent perimeter shooting. The players he would be primarily competing against for minutes—Danny Green, Jonathan Simmons, Kyle Anderson, and perhaps Manu Ginobili—are all good shooters. Of that foursome, only Anderson (.294) shot below 37.5 percent from downtown during the 2016-17 season.
In contrast, Blossomgame converted only 25.5 percent of his 3-point attempts as a senior. It was a far cry from the head-turning 44.1 percent conversion rate he posted as a junior. In the context of his entire college career, that number proved to be more of an exception than the rule, leading to fair speculation about Blossomgame’s ability to expand his scoring out to the NBA line.
NBA.com compares Blossomgame to K.J. McDaniels. Clemson fans may recoil at that comparison, and there are certainly distinctions to both players’ respective games. At the pro level, however, Blossomgame will need to impact the action much the same way McDaniels has—with athleticism, impact playmaking, and defensive intensity.
The Spurs likely recognize this. That’s why Blossomgame was their pick, and that’s why San Antonio might just be the perfect spot for him.