It's an unsettling time to be a fan of the San Antonio Spurs -- at least if you're a fan of winning a ton of games.
After trading off their All-Star for a wealth of future assets, the team is in a place they haven't been since David Robinson's injury-plagued 1996-97 season. Only this time, they don't have a proven star to build around. Last month's surprising trade effectively guaranteed the Spurs will finish in the bottom five and potentially the bottom two or three in the league next season.
This isn't to be pessimistic or discredit this current roster, but it's a fact that just about every other team in the league has more proven talent as currently constructed. It's a spot in which the Spurs haven't been in decades, and some fans are about to be in for something they've never experienced in 2022-23.
With all of that said, every franchise has these dark periods, and for 22 years, the Spurs were able to avoid it -- which was remarkable. But with the dreaded rebuild now finally hitting the Alamo City, everyone is wondering where they go from here. During a recent Spurs' Summer League game, GM Brian Wright was asked about the bigger picture for his squad.
Brian Wright talks about the Spurs' long-term plans
"There's a lot of youth but a lot of opportunity for growth," said Wright. "We started four 19-year-olds on the Summer League roster and they all have tremendous upside. We have a roster that's very versatile and that's what we're looking to build -- size, versatility, and knowing how to play."
The most important thing Wright touched on with his answer is how the Spurs have multiple paths to rebuild efficiently.
"With cap flexibility and the draft picks that we've acquired over the last year, there's a lot of excitement around that and watching this group grow together over the next few years."
What does the future hold for the Spurs?
Given that San Antonio is a small-market team that almost never attracts big-name free agents, the Spurs have essentially no choice but to build through the draft and trades. Their decision to move on from Murray was a tough but necessary one to ensure the Spurs get as many shots as possible at the draft route in the near future.
The good news is San Antonio is now loaded with draft picks that'll help them find that next star. The bad news is it could take a while for them to find and develop him. Tim Duncan was a once-in-a-generation talent, so it's probably best not to have your hopes up that another one will come along.
But as they did in 1997, the Spurs will have to rely on the development of their promising talent and the addition of a special player or two to get back to where they want to be. Call me an optimist, but I've seen this organization do that before, and I have no reason to believe they can't do it again.
I also happen to agree with the idea that this team needs to be trending toward being more versatile across all positions, especially with their frontcourt. The NBA is a different beast now, and The Big Three are no longer around to cover up for roster deficiencies.
It's going to take at least a full season and probably more, but the plan has all the ingredients it needs to work. We just have to trust that it will someday.