With more than half the season now in the books, it appears increasingly likely that the San Antonio Spurs will select in the top five of the 2023 NBA Draft. While the clear prize in this year's draft is Victor Wembanyama, there are a number of terrific options should they fail to land the number one pick.
But with the Spurs' starting lineup featuring its two best players, a recent top-10 pick, an improving point guard, and an above-average center, how would a player taken in the top-five factor in? Let's try and predict the Spurs’ starting lineups if they land a top-five pick.
Fifth pick: Ausar Thompson
Ausar Thompson, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, Jakob Poeltl
Ausar Thompson, half of the highly regarded Thompson twins, is known for his athleticism, defensive prowess, and playmaking ability. While his brother possesses many of the same abilities and is widely considered the better of the two, unlike his point guard brother, he projects to be a decent 3-point shooter.
Considering he's more of a wing, that will be crucial to his success in the NBA. Despite that, his hypothetical fit in the Spurs' starting lineup would be complicated since Vassell and Johnson are both wings and the team's two best players. The team could opt against drafting him as a result unless they believe he's the best player available.
Fourth pick: Brandon Miller
Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, Jakob Poeltl
Miller's fit in the Spurs' starting lineup is perhaps the most questionable of the players currently projected to go in the top five. At 6'9, Miller's role in the NBA will likely be as a power forward, where his outrageous shooting ability can be best utilized.
Of course, the Spurs already have Sochan starting at the four, and while he could technically play a Boris Diaw-esque role off the bench, Miller might start his rookie year on the second unit. Drafting Miller would likely be a "best player available" situation, and the Spurs could always take him and figure out the rest later. That would be wise, given his significant upside.
Third pick: Amen Thompson
Amen Thompson, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, Jakob Poeltl
There's a lot to like about Amen Thompson. He's a 6'7 point guard who is a fantastic athlete and terrific at attacking the basket, even in one-on-one situations, where his size, ball handling, and quickness come in handy. However, his jump shot is shaky and will require significant work even to be passable, which is a big downside.
Still, he'd start at point guard if the Spurs drafted him, and with Thompson at the point, it would give the Spurs a unique starting lineup that features five players who are all at least 6'6." That size could be advantageous, and with his physical tools, it would allow the Spurs to switch more on defense without sacrificing offensive ball handling and playmaking.
Second pick: Scoot Henderson
Scoot Henderson, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, Jakob Poeltl
While selecting second in this year's draft may be considered a letdown given the hype surrounding Wembanyama, it shouldn't be. The Spurs already have a solid foundation, particularly on the wings with Vassell and Johnson. Therefore, landing a potential superstar guard to pair them with would be huge for the team's rebuild.
Henderson has taken an unusual draft route that could ultimately benefit him in the long run. Unlike the Thompson twins, who are playing with Overtime Elite and against sketchy competition, Henderson is in his second season playing for the NBA G League Ignite and putting up huge numbers against more experienced competition.
Even then, he is the second-youngest player projected to go in the lottery on Tankathon's most recent mock draft, hinting that he's only scratching the surface of his potential. Henderson's selection would not significantly alter the starting lineup, as he would replace Jones. However, that could be a big upgrade in the long term, with Henderson's ceiling being much higher than Jones'.
First pick: Victor Wembanyama
Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, Victor Wembanyama
Why am I drooling? Oh, right, it's the thought of the Spurs drafting first overall and selecting Victor Wembanyama. Wembanyama would be a game-changer for the Spurs and speed up the rebuild by at least a couple of seasons, with the team actively trying to build around him. Fortunately, the Spurs have a solid starting lineup that could be immediately competitive if Wembanyama joined it.
Wembanyama would provide the Spurs with an offensive focal point, even if not an immediate number-one option. Opposing teams would focus so much on him that it would make it easier for Jones, Vassell, Johnson, and Sochan to score. That would, in turn, make it easier for him to score. Defensively, he has the tools needed to be an elite defensive anchor and a good one, even as a rookie. That would pair well with the other four starters.
Overall, the odds that the Spurs land a top-five pick in this year's draft are fairly high. However, the Spurs would obviously prefer to select first or second, given the talent upgrades that Wembanyama and Henderson would provide, as well as their seamless fit in the starting lineup.