Why Spurs must resist urge to 'pull a Mavericks' after drafting Victor Wembanyama

San Antonio Spurs, Victor Wembanyama
San Antonio Spurs, Victor Wembanyama / Aurelien Meunier/GettyImages

The San Antonio Spurs had the lottery gods on their side again as they won the right to draft Victor Wembanyama. The 7’4 big man is the most hyped prospect since LeBron James, and some believe he will be the best player in the NBA by his third season. The 19-year-old French prodigy is a special talent, and the Spurs are eager to build a contender around him.

San Antonio has a plan. Rafael Barlowe of NBA Big Board notes the Spurs are looking (subscription required) to acquire a second first-round pick and add veterans to their roster. Wembanyama is a special talent, and they want to give him a chance to blossom as a rookie.

The Spurs cannot get too aggressive, though. They do not have to look far to see how that can quickly turn into a massive mistake. The Dallas Mavericks have stumbled in building around Luka Doncic in part because they went all-in during his rookie season and it backfired.

Why Spurs must resist the urge to 'pull a Mavericks' after drafting Victor Wembanyama

Doncic was the Mavs' best player from the moment they traded up to draft him in 2018. The EuroLeague MVP was the team’s best scorer, ball-handler, and playmaker when he arrived. Luka was a runaway winner of the Rookie of the Year, and it was clear from day one that he was special. Number 77 was so good they went virtually all-in to trade for Kristaps Porzingis during his rookie season.

It was the Mavericks' first chance to get Doncic a co-star, and the franchise jumped at it. They gave up three starters, including recent lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr., and two first-round picks to acquire The Unicorn from the Knicks. Coupled with the future first-rounder Dallas gave up to get Luka, they used virtually all of their draft capital.

Porzingis was recovering from a torn ACL when Dallas traded for him, and he never returned to his All-Star form. The knee injuries kept coming, and the Mavericks swapped him and a second-round pick for Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis Bertans at the 2022 trade deadline just before making their run to the conference finals.

The KP trade did not work out as planned, and it cost Dallas the opportunity to make several other moves. The Spurs have more draft capital than the Mavericks did, but San Antonio cannot waste it. They have to be certain they are getting a star if they part with a massive haul. Wembanyama is too special for San Antonio to go all-in at the first opportunity. The Spurs need to take their time and get it right. That is how they will build an annual championship contender around Wemby.

Dallas was impacted by not having their 2019 lottery pick to pair with Luka Doncic. They took Jalen Brunson in the second round in 2018, and he emerged as a star during their run to the conference finals in 2022, but the 6’1 point guard left in free agency. San Antonio cannot make those mistakes or they will be wondering when their star is going to ask for a trade. The Mavs feel those fears, and the Spurs certainly do not want to in a few years.

Can the San Antonio Spurs get it right when building a contender around Victor Wembanyama? Patience is important. The in-state rival Mavericks found out the hard way, and the Spurs do not want to make the same mistake. It will certainly be fascinating to watch how Gregg Popovich and company do things differently, so stay tuned.