With just under a month until the 2023-24 NBA season tips off, San Antonio Spurs fans are inching closer and closer to the most exciting season of basketball in nearly a decade. With respect to the title-contending teams of 2016 and 2017, this squad has gotten the fanbase quite as riled up more than any in recent memory.
Not all of the buzz around the Spurs' upcoming season is centered around rookie phenom Victor Wembanyama but the brunt of it is, and fairly so. Wemby is generational talent, something the Spurs haven't had in a rookie since 1997 when they brought in Tim Duncan.
Wemby is unique, but he's not the only rookie standout who should make waves across the league this season. From top to bottom, the first round of this year's draft was loaded with talent. Here's how we can expect this crop of rookies to stack up in year one.
Fringe players & occasional bench contributors
This is where a lot of rookies will end up. Regardless of talent, it's hard for most first-year players to crack the rotation, especially if they're on a contender. The pace of play and physicality of the highest level of basketball on the planet will take a toll on anyone, including players who aren't quite used to the slog of a full 82-game season.
Players like Kris Murray, Marcus Sasser, Jaime Jaquez, Brandin Podziemski, Jett Howard, Dariq Whitehead, Brice Sensabaugh, and Kobe Brown all fall into this category for a variety of reasons.
For guys like Whitehead (Brooklyn Nets), Podziemski (Golden State), Jaquez (Miami), and Brown (LA Clippers), they're facing an uphill climb against established veterans ahead of them. They might get playing time in the second night of a back-to-back but real minutes will be hard to come by as their coaches rightly prioritize playing vets as they look to establish themselves as title contenders.
Others like Howard and Sensabaugh, playing for Orlando and Utah respectively, will need to adapt their games and bodies to the rigors of the NBA before a coach fully trusts them. That will take time and they might start to log consistent minutes by the end of the season but right away the expectation should be that they're going to log a lot of "DNP - Coach's Decision" nights and bounce between the G-League and the NBA for the majority of their rookie seasons.