Spurs see rookies as future "supporting cast around franchise headliner"

Blake Wesley, Jeremy Sochan - Orlando Magic v San Antonio Spurs
Blake Wesley, Jeremy Sochan - Orlando Magic v San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

In a telling statement featured in a recent article from the San Antonio Express News' Tom Osborn, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich candidly explains the current state of the team:

"It’s a wonderful group of young guys... To be a championship program, you have to have a couple of superstars on your team. We have all known that for a long time. That doesn’t exist right now. And that’s not a knock on these players. It’s just a fact. And to avoid that fact seems kind of senseless to me."

Gregg Popovich

Popovich goes on to say that the team is composed of "a bunch of guys who can all be part of a championship team if the other pieces arrive at some point."

If on the first read you find this statement a bit jarring, I can't blame you. After all, it's understandably disheartening to hear that your favorite basketball team doesn't have any superstars, particularly when it's the team's head coach addressing saying it. Even with some chatter suggesting that Josh Primo could turn into a franchise player at some point in the future, very little is certain with this Spurs team. With that in mind though, like most other statments that come from the basketball mind of Gregg Popovich, it wouldn't be wise to take accept words at face value.

The Spurs may lack a superstar (and that's okay)

Many will see Popovich essentially calling the Spurs rookies complementary players as a bad thing, especially considering the team is now neck-deep in a rebuild, and some may even take it to mean that the Spurs don't think they'll develop into star-quality players. But when Popovich says they could be a part of a championship team if and when the other pieces arrive, I take that to mean that after a few years of developing, the Spurs could have some special players on their hands. As Popovich says, calling these players "supporting cast" isn't a knock on them.

Looking at the most recent championship-winning Golden State Warriors, for example, if Stephen Curry is the team's superstar and #1 option, that would make players like Klay Thompson and Draymond Green the team's longest-tenured supporting cast members. The most successful teams built through the draft, like this one, tend to draft players whose peaks coincide with one another. Curry, Thompson, and Green were drafted in 2009, 2011, and 2012 at ages 21, 22, and 22, respectively, and each began their peak around age 24-25. Curry was the highest of those picks at 7th overall.

If you define a championship team's "supporting cast" as players like Thompson and Green, then Coach Popovich saying so early on that this year's rookies could be championship pieces is quite encouraging. The Spurs, in comparison, selected the youngest player in the draft in 2021 in Josh Primo and followed that up this year by selecting three 19-year-olds in the 1st round of the draft. Contrary to the Warriors, however, the Spurs are poised to land their highest 1st round pick since Tim Duncan in the 2023 NBA Draft, meaning the Spurs could have a chance to land their "Steph Curry" having already selected one or more of the necessary complementary pieces with more to come.

Next. San Antonio Spurs 2022 NBA regular season schedule. dark

But even if Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and/or Blake Wesley don't quite pan out like the Spurs believe they can, the team owns all of their 1st round picks through 2030, two 1st round pick swaps (in 2026 and 2028), two unprotected 1st round picks (in 2025 and 2027), and as many as two protected 1st round picks (in 2023 and 2025) if they convey. This will give the Spurs tons of options moving forward both in the draft and the trade market.