Spurs hope Argentina can provide again with Patricio Garino and Nicolas Laprovittola
The San Antonio Spurs have a history with Argentina. Most memorably, they drafted Manu Ginobili with the 57th overall pick in the 1999 NBA Draft, and helped him develop into the greatest Argentinian basketball player ever, while he has helped them win four titles in his 14-year career. However, their history with scouting in Argentina goes far beyond Ginobili. The Spurs were also responsible for drafting Luis Scola with the 55th pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, and they signed a 29-year old Argentinian center named Fabricio Oberto in August of 2005. Scola has enjoyed a productive nine-year career, and Oberto became a part-time starter for the Spurs’ 2007 title team.
Argentinian basketball and the Spurs have been closely linked throughout the 2000’s, and the relationship has been mutually beneficial. The Spurs obviously have reaped the benefits of having Ginobili and Oberto on their roster, getting a Hall of Fame career from Ginobili and four productive years from Oberto. Meanwhile, the presence of the Spurs scouting the region helped open up opportunities for guys like Scola, Pablo Prigioni, and Andres Nocioni to break into the NBA.The Spurs’ work to develop Ginobili was also a likely factor in his growth as a player and leader, and surely contributed to his ascension as leader of Argentina’s golden generation. And now that the golden generation is beginning to phase out of Olympic basketball, the Spurs are trying to replicate that magic again. San Antonio made a pair of under the radar moves this summer for Argentinians, signing rookie Patricio Garino in July, and adding Nicolas Laprovittola on a training camp deal over the weekend.
Both Garino and Laprovittola played significant roles for Argentina in the 2016 Rio Olympics, helping to add some youthful spark behind the golden generation on Argentina’s quarterfinal team. The 26-year old Laprovittola averaged 8.2 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 2.7 assists over the squad’s six games, while the 23-year old Garino was arguably more impressive, shooting 53.6 percent from the field to average 6.3 points and 3.2 rebounds, including a 15-point outburst in Argentina’s win against Nigeria. Both guards were mediocre from outside, hitting 33.3 percent apiece, but both showed promise as potential bridges into whatever is next in Argentina’s post-Ginobili future. Now, they’ll try to do the same for the Spurs, as they head into a post-Tim Duncan future.
Laprovittola is probably the better player of the two at this point, which is not a surprise. He has been playing competitively at the top eschelon of international basketball since 2011. After breaking into Argentina’s Liga A with Lanus, he made his presence better known with Flamengo in Brazil in 2013/14. Laprovittola scored 14.8 points per game for the NBB and Americas League champions. After following that up with 17/4/7 averages in the 2015 Americas League, Europe came calling, and he landed at Rytas in Lithuania. There, he was able to play on the Eurocup stage, and performed well, averaging 12.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 5.5 assists per game. He headed to Spain to play for Estudiantes after Rytas was eliminated, and averaged 13.8 points and 4.4 assists per game while playing with 2016 1st rounder Juan Hernangomez.
Laprovittola plays as a point guard primarily, and he’s most talented in the pick-and-roll. He has an excellent handle and good court vision, and a nice floater that helps him finish well despite his smaller frame.
He did shoot just 41.9 percent from the field for this past season, but his eFG% of 51.1 percent was promising. Laprovittola has always been a decent finisher, but his lack of outside shooting consistency has been a problem. He’s a career 40 percent three-point shooter, but he’s prone to running hot and cold from outside, thanks to a rather inconsistent release that sees him split his legs and almost push the shot out on the release:
He takes a high volume of threes consistently, and hits at a high rate. However, due to that release, I wonder if he’ll have the same success from the NBA three-point line against longer and more athletic defenders.
Laprovittola also competes defensively, and at 6-4, has solid length. He had a steal rate of 2.98 percent last season, and was one of the better off-ball defenders in Spain last season. He’s probably a step slow to be a guy you can truly rely on to defend opposing point guards, but he’s a smart enough player to be able to fit into San Antonio’s defensive scheme.
Garino is younger than Laprovittola, and he’s also probably more well-known in the U.S. He spent the last four years playing at George Washington University, where he became a senior leader on last year’s NIT championship team. A four-year starter for the Colonials, Garino developed into a lethal secondary scoring option, averaging 17.6 points per 40 minutes on 51 percent shooting from the field and 43 percent from beyond the arc.
Garino’s game can best be described as a “power guard.” At his best, Garino is relying on his strong upper body, putting his head down, and charging into the lane to finish a lay-in over and around an opponent.
Garino’s strength is his biggest asset, as he uses that to compensate for lack of quickness off the dribble, and he’s an effective offensive rebounder. But he also has developed nicely as a shooter. He branched out in his senior season, sacrificing driving opportunities in order to receive more spot-up three-pointers. As a result, he hit 43 percent of 135 attempts as a senior, after hitting just 44 of 145 (30.3 percent) in his first three college seasons.
Garino projects to be an off-ball threat in the NBA because of these two traits. If he can hit at the same clip and transform that raw scoring ability into being a baseline slasher, there’s an obvious role for him as the 4th or 5th option in a lineup. He’s also a fluid passer who rarely turns the ball over, which helps that projection.
Defensively, Garino is more of a work in progress. He struggles with on-ball defense, as his footwork is poor for a wing defender. He often will be a second slow reading opponents when they begin to drive, and he looks uncoordinated when he’s closing out. However, he has a high IQ on the defensive end, and he can be a havoc-creator when defending off the ball. He averaged 1.0 blocks and 2.3 steals per 40 minutes for his career at GW, and he’s athletic enough that those talents should translate.
Can Laprovittola and Garino Make the Spurs?
Both Argentinians signed to training camp contracts with San Antonio, but neither is a sure bet to make the team. While Laprovittola and Garino both offer solid scoring and role-player potential in the backcourt, Laprovittola’s shooting and Garino’s defense may limit their ability to be effective at an NBA level.
Garino is probably the safer bet of the two to make the team. He’s still 23-years old, and there’s time for him to develop some with the Austin Spurs, where he could get one-on-one footwork tutoring and further develop his three-point shot. For Laprovittola, the D-League probably isn’t a good option. At 26, Laprovittola already has experience at a high level in the European leagues. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him land back there if he doesn’t make it. His best shot is if he impresses early in training camp, and Tony Parker continues to show signs of age, or Dejounte Murray proves to not be ready for NBA minutes. If either happens, keeping Laprovittola as a gap-bridging point guard might be a good call.
If both Garino and Laprovittola make the Spurs, it could be a victory for both sides. The Spurs will add depth in their backcourt, with two interesting players who seem like good fits to pound the rock. On the other side, Argentina’s National Team can rest easy, knowing that two of their prized future building blocks are learning and developing under the guidance of the system that helped Manu reach the peak of his powers.
The Spurs finding Ginobili might have been a once-in-a-generation lightning strike of good fortune for both San Antonio and Argentina. But in Patricio Garino and Nicolas Laprovittola, the Spurs seem ready to give it another shot.