The San Antonio Spurs are going to enter the 2022-23 NBA season looking to tank in shameless, woeful, downright sad fashion. Sure, Keldon Johnson, Josh Primo, and the rest might make some highlight plays and keep each game interesting, but the end result of this upcoming season will be one of the worst ones in Spurs' history.
A shameless tank job is no reason for fans to be upset. I hate to break it to you, but you’re spoiled. Trust me, as a lifelong Spurs fan who entered the world in 2001, all I’ve ever known is excellent Spurs basketball. As a Detroiter who entered the world in 2001 (not that year matters), all I’ve known is bad Lions football. Trust me, you’ll be fine, and unlike the Motor City Kitties, the Spurs will grasp the light at the end of the tunnel.
San Antonio Spurs: Taking poor expectations a bit too far
One NBA analyst is usually pretty down-to-Earth and honest when it comes to his predictions and insights. In a media industry prone to hyperbole, having a voice of reason in Marc Stein is a blessing.
In his recent NBA power rankings (subscription required), the Spurs came in dead last, which could be the first time that has ever happened in any publication ever. Given the state of Alamo City ball, I think that’s fair. The Spurs have capable starters in Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, and hopefully Josh Primo, but other than that, they are an incomplete team. Adding a lottery pick like Victor Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, or Dariq Whitehead could immediately propel the Spurs up the standings if the solid young supporting cast stays intact.
This is where the weirdness of Stein’s rankings comes in. Yes, the Spurs will be near the bottom of the league, so I don’t disagree with being listed 30th. And yes, Popovich could retire after this season, there’s no doubting that.
The weirdness begins when Stein brings up Popovich’s first season. You know, the 1996 campaign that saw David Robinson sit out with injury before Duncan was drafted. Pop went 17-47, on pace for a 27-win season, as Stein points out.
That first season and the 2004 Olympics are the only blemishes on an otherwise perfect career for Popovich. The ‘04 Olympics were erased by finally winning gold in 2020, and the poor first season should have been forgotten about when Pop became the all-time wins leader. It’s worth noting that the top four winningest coaches ever, Pop, Don Nelson, Lenny Wilkins, and Jerry Sloan, all posted a losing record in their first season. So why that’s relevant is beyond me.
Stein also stokes fans’ fear by suggesting the Spurs won’t find a star in the 2023 NBA Draft. This is highly contradictory to his main point that the Spurs are the worst team in the league. The team with the most losses will almost always pick in the top four, and there will be a star there, even if it’s not Wembanyama. He deserves all the hype he’s been given, but there are other big names there too.
The preseason prediction goes a bit too far because Stein suggests that the Spurs are at the bottom and will stay there. That’s not true. Johnson is a legit starting forward, Vassell will soon be an elite wing and second option, Poeltl is still only 26, and Primo and Jones have both shown flashes of greatness.
All San Antonio needs is one more piece, and by the logic presented by Marc Stein, that guy is coming soon.