It might seem premature to start thinking about free agency--we're only just reaching the halfway point of the season, after all--but this whole season has been about building for the future. So what's the harm in looking ahead at who the San Antonio Spurs might go after in free agency?
There's no beating around the bush: the Spurs rarely sign big-name free agents. Market appeal aside, San Antonio has long preferred to build their team through drafting and developing talent. They're a player in free agency as all teams are, but they're rarely running for the big-name free agents.
That might have stung in years past, but given the lack of star power in this summer's free agency class Spurs fans shouldn't lose any sleep if San Antonio focuses on adding complementary players rather than aiming to get a player the franchise should build around. That's what the draft is for, and by all accounts, the 2023 NBA Draft will be a stacked one.
The Spurs will ideally use free agency to build around their new star rookie
The Spurs' free agency plans should largely be dictated by who they pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. If the season ended today, San Antonio would have about a 25 percent chance at a top-two pick and one of Scoot Henderson or Victor Wembanyama. And with Devin Vassell set to miss significant time recovering from knee surgery, those odds are likely to increase over the coming weeks.
So, let's say the Spurs end up with the second pick and select Scoot Henderson. The next step should be utilizing free agency to bring in a few more players to space the floor and create room for their explosive rookie to attack the rim. Bringing in shooters would make Scoots' life much easier by giving him more room to drive and providing him with more targets to hit with kick out's once he's collapsed the defense.
It would cost them a pretty penny, but San Antonio should make a run at Cameron Johnson by putting an offer in front of him that Phoenix is unwilling to match. An elite three-point shooter, Johnson hit on 46 percent of his long-range attempts last season, a mark that no one on the Spurs besides Josh Richardson and Doug McDermott - both of whom could very well be traded before the end of the season - came close to sniffing.
Selecting Henderson would also move Tre Jones back to the bench and make him the de facto captain of the second unit. Why not give him a co-captain by going after Caris LeVert? Given how well the Cavs have been playing this season LeVert will likely be tempted to stay in Cleveland but San Antonio should still see if they can bring him south. Working in tandem with Jones, LeVert could build on the Spurs' already deadly second unit and take them to new heights.
Alternatively, if the Spurs are lucky enough to get the first overall pick and Victor Wembanyama then their top priority should be re-signing Jakob Poeltl. The two could feasibly play together, Wembanyama is too light to go toe to toe with the likes of Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, and his floor spacing ability would allow Poeltl to stay in a role similar to the one he plays today. Deploying the two together, similar to how Cleveland uses Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen, is something the Spurs are already smartly considering.
If Poeltl signs somewhere else, the Spurs should still prioritize finding another big man to bring in who can take the physicality of playing the five from night to night while Wembanyama bulks up. With that in mind, a potentially dynamic duo of Myles Turner and Wembanyama is something that should excite all Spurs fans and worry fans of other teams.
To be frank, I think the likelihood of the Spurs getting Turner this summer is pretty slim. If I had to guess, he will either end up back with the Pacers or in a larger market like Los Angeles. But if the already-promising young Spurs group can add one of the most sought-after draft prospects in years, I find it hard to believe that wouldn't be enough to grab the attention of the Texas native and Longhorn alum.
If the Spurs miss on both Poeltl and Turner, either one of Robin or Brook Lopez would be serviceable enough to fill the starting center role while Wembanyama adds muscle. As a legitimate DPOY contender this year, Brook Lopez would be the more preferable of the two, but Robin has been a consistent center for years and would bring a breadth of experience to pass on to the young Spurs while also holding down the center position to start games. In either case, it would be a stop-gap contract. With the Lopez twins approaching 35 I don't think they or the Spurs would see this as a long-term arrangement, just one last contract to end their careers.
No matter how the rest of the season plays out, the Spurs would be wise to head into the summer with free agency strategies built around a number of players they could leave the 2023 NBA Draft with. If they prioritize adding complimentary players who can make their young players' lives easier and add veteran experience they could end up being one of the most interesting teams in the league next season.