The moment the San Antonio Spurs learned that they would select first overall in the 2023 NBA draft, their focus likely quickly shifted. Instead of continuing to slowly rebuild, the focus changed to building around their new franchise cornerstone with the goal of soon contending for a title.
Right now, the Spurs look pretty far from being a championship contender, considering they've lost by 40 points twice to start the season. Even still, Spurs legend and Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili believes that the talent is there for the Spurs to become a championship contender but it will take time.
"It's going to take three years at least. You know how hard it is to play for a championship. You need to build. Once people understand the potential, then you can add other pieces from free agency."- Manu Ginobili
Being at least three seasons away from contending may seem far away given the team's talented young core. Perhaps it is, though Wembanyama has arguably the highest ceiling of any player in the NBA and the sooner he reaches that potential, the sooner the Spurs will be back in title contention.
Can the Spurs beat Ginobili's timeline?
A lot of the Spurs' championship prospects rest on Wembanyama's shoulders and although he's shown flashes of superstardom, he will need to be more consistent. That isn't the forte of a rookie, even one as hyped as he is. He'll need more time to develop, and as he gets stronger, he'll be able to play more in the post and bully his way to the rim on drives.
The better and more consistent he becomes, the more attention he'll draw and the more players such as Devin Vassell can take advantage. Vassell is already having a strong season and looks like he can be the Spurs' second-best player going forward. He is closer to realizing his full potential and his continued development will only aid Wembayama's.
Then there is the question about who the third option will be. It could be Keldon Johnson or perhaps an upcoming lottery pick. The former might help the Spurs get better faster but the latter could mean a higher ceiling but take longer for the team to reach that peak. Then there's the fact that several contending teams, such as the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Miami Heat, and Milwaukee Bucks, could be fading a couple of seasons from now.
Ultimately, the Spurs will probably be a playoff team in the next three seasons, though their ceiling is tied to how quickly Wembanyama can fully come into his own. That could take until his third season at the earliest or his fourth year at the latest but if and when it happens, the Spurs will be contenders again.
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