Recent young core rankings give Spurs respect they deserve

Dec 27, 2022; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) and San
Dec 27, 2022; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Jalen Williams (8) and San / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Beginning several offseasons ago with the tumultuous Kawhi Leonard drama, San Antonio Spurs fans undoubtedly experienced a bit of a rough patch in an otherwise long and successful timeline of San Antonio basketball. Fans experienced a period of good, but not quite good enough basketball led by the likes of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, an even shorter period when the team was led by two developmental success stories in Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, and after seeing all of them part ways with the team, a “tank” for the ages.

In those latter years, the Spurs quietly began building a team chock-full of young, highly-talented role players that have the chance to become something much more—both individually and collectively—if development is on their side. But the Spurs lacking a clear number-one option with the upside to be a number-one option on a championship-level team was evident, and that kept the young team mostly out of the “best young cores in the league” conversation while up-and-coming teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, and others were all frequently given the spotlight.

But after years of middling basketball, followed by a brutal 22-win season, it’s finally time to appreciate how far the team has come, as SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell recently ranked the Spurs as having the second-best young core in the league according to his criteria. Here’s a peek at what he had to say about the young squad:

"There are already some good supporting pieces in place. Devin Vassell could be in for an All-Star jump playing off Wembanyama as a tremendous off-ball defender who can shoot threes and has started to flesh out his shot creation ability. Jeremy Sochan is a super versatile defensive big man with intriguing passing chops who needs to learn to shoot. Keldon Johnson is a freight train going to the basket. Malaki Branham brings shooting, and Blake Wesley brings rim pressure to the backcourt."

Ricky O'Donnell, SB Nation

O’Donnell hits the nail on the head with his assessment of the players the Spurs already have at their disposal but also importantly notes that the team likely isn’t done forming their young core. The Spurs have an only-growing list of draft picks and intriguing young players that could all conceivably be used as trade pieces, will likely have a shot at another lottery prospect in the 2024 NBA Draft using their own pick, and could very well see one or several of the team’s current young players make a significant jump.

In the grand scheme of NBA young cores, being placed only behind the Oklahoma City Thunder, who have a laundry list of highly-talented young players in Chet Holmgren, Jalen Williams, Josh Giddey, and others next to an already-established All-NBA First Team selection in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, is exactly where the Spurs want and deserve to be. This serves as yet another reminder that good and perhaps even great basketball is on the horizon for San Antonio and that fans will have fun rivalries to look forward to once again.