2.) How does Keldon Johnson fit into the picture?
Despite leading the Spurs in scoring last season by averaging 22 points per game, Keldon Johnson is considered to be the third-best player on the team. While he did post that impressive scoring average on a team that went just 22-60, he still finished in the top 20 in the NBA in scoring, which is no small feat. In a bigger market, a 23-year-old putting up similar numbers would be considered a rising star and while Johnson may eventually turn out to be an All-Star, it's still unclear what his ceiling is as a player.
Some of that is due to inconsistency. Coming out of Kentucky, Johnson was seen as a potential 3 and d player but his three-point shooting has been all over the place. In 2021–22, he shot nearly 40% from three and over the first 15 games of last season, he shot 42% from deep. Despite that, he finished below league average after going ice cold in December and January of last season.
Still, he displayed growth in other areas, such as figuring out ways to attack the rim without being a bulldozer and improving as a finisher once he got there. With Wembanyama drawing all of the attention, Johnson may settle into the role of third-leading scorer. Or could he continue to build on a surprising career trajectory? The numbers he posted last season were identical to the ones he posted over the last 20 games of the 2021–22 season, implying that last year wasn't a fluke.
Despite that, it seems like a safe bet that Johnson won't average 22 points per game this season. But with the Spurs being more competitive, he could play big minutes, and if his shooting reverts back to its 2021–22 form, then he could still score 20 points per game.
With more than 40 players averaging at least 20 points last season, it's not as good of an indicator of who the best players in the NBA are any longer. But if he can be a top-40 player in the NBA, that would be a better-than-expected outcome for someone who is viewed as the Spurs' third-best player and was just ranked 85th on the Ringers' top 100 players. We'll see.
1.) When will Victor Wembanyama become a top-10 NBA player?
The arrival of Wembanyama was a basketball godsend for the Spurs, who had missed the playoffs four straight times before landing the number one pick in the draft. Lucking out completely changed the trajectory of the franchise and had they not been in a position to draft him, the longest drought in team history might have gone on with no end in sight. That is not to say that the Spurs will finally make it back to the playoffs this season but there is at least an outside chance.
San Antonio's chances of making the playoffs in the near future will rest on how good Wembanyama is right out of the gate and how soon he begins to realize his potential. The sooner that Wembanyama emerges as a top-10 NBA player, the sooner the Spurs rebuild officially ends.
While it was just the preseason, his stellar play proved that he will be better as a rookie than even the most optimistic fan could have expected. He led the team in scoring, averaging 19.3 points in just 21.9 minutes, and also threw in 2.8 blocks and 1 steal per game, showing off his elite defensive chops. Still, even the best prospects take a season or even two before they begin to hit their stride.
LeBron James didn't truly become LeBron until his second season, when his scoring jumped from 20.9 to 27.2 points per game. Wembanyama may take a little bit longer as he works to bulk up. But if everything goes right, he could be a top-10 player in his third season and the Spurs should be a playoff team again by then.