Recent trade take misses the mark for Spurs team-building philosophy

Jeremy Sochan - San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors
Jeremy Sochan - San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

Since their two impressive, morale-boosting wins against the Phoenix Suns in late October and early November, the San Antonio Spurs have gone on a 12-game losing streak and are firmly in last place in the Western Conference. The losses, many of which came in the form of blown leads and sweeping blowouts, have understandably left some analysts wanting more from the Wembanyama-led squad and many fans feeling dismayed.

Regrettably, fans and analysts alike have turned to scapegoating as the losses have piled up, pinning much of the blame on the dreaded point Sochan experiment. While a significant portion of that blame is warranted, some critics of the experiment have begun pleading for the Spurs to make a move that would go against their team-building philosophy in a big way.

As you can see above, Sports Illustrated's Ben Stinar believes that replacing Sochan with Tre Jones in the starting lineup isn't enough. Instead, he thinks the Spurs trading for a superstar point guard would be the best path forward in their rebuild, stating that standing pat would be "wasting [Wembanyama's] first few years tanking."

It's only natural to want the best results as quickly as possible, particularly when a team has a young superstar like Wembanyama at their disposal. When organizations acquire such players through the NBA Draft or a blockbuster trade, expectations skyrocket. But allowing those raised expectations to rush the team-building process is not only a poor path forward--it's the worst route possible.

Patience is the key as the Spurs rebuild

Would playing a tried and true point guard help the Spurs win more games and make Wembanyama's life easier? Absolutely, and Tre Jones's on-off stats through the team's first 12 games seem to confirm that, albeit on a small sample size. San Antonio isn't blind to this, and there are other motives for their decision to roll with Sochan at point guard. Contrary to what Stinar seemingly implies, the purpose of their experiment isn't solely to lose games for lottery positioning.

Team building is just as much about timing as finding the right pieces of the puzzle. The Spurs have the requisite assets, both players and draft picks, to make a trade for a high-level or superstar point guard if one becomes available. But there are numerous examples of teams cashing in their chips only to find out they are not quite good enough to go the distance. Furthermore, in comparison to some of those teams --like the 2021 Chicago Bulls trading for DeMar DeRozan --the Spurs are far younger and less experienced.

The Spurs recognized early on, even after drafting one of the best prospects on the planet, that it's far too early to sacrifice assets for playoff-ready players. This season is about building the best possible infrastructure with the pieces the team has now before making critical roster moves. For Spurs brass, this means taking time to assess Wembanyama without over-coaching, giving Sochan freedom to grow as a decision-maker, and learning what they have in other youngsters like Malaki Branham, Charles Bassey, Blake Wesley, and Dominick Barlow.

For fans, enduring multiple losing seasons for the sake of winning later on is a tough ask, so their palpable frustration is understandable. But the Spurs recognize that they must teach their young players how to walk before the team can run, even at the cost of enduring growing pains and asking everyone for patience throughout the process.