After winning the Wembanyama sweepstakes earlier this month, the San Antonio Spurs reportedly aren't finished building through the 2023 NBA Draft. According to Rafael Barlowe of NBA Big Board, the Spurs are working the phones to acquire another first-round pick to address their point guard situation. With this news, what do we make of Brian Wright's plan for the future of this team?
Who to trade with?
The Spurs seem eager to acquire high-end talent to pair with the French phenom they will unquestionably select with the number one overall pick. Luckily for them, the top of this draft class is stacked with intriguing prospects. Additionally, there could be a lot of movement inside the top-15 as teams like Portland, picking third overall, are looking to bolster their lineup around Damian Lillard. In the same report from NBA Big Board, Charlotte is open to trading down from the second overall selection, opening the door for teams to add a player like Scoot Henderson.
There are also other opportunities with mid-lottery teams looking to make win-now roster upgrades. Organizations like the Pistons, Magic, and Mavericks have picks the Spurs could trade for in the coming weeks. They could be looking for a win-now player, future draft assets, or a salary dump to open cap space. The Spurs can provide all of those things, depending on what the potential trade partners value.
Who to deal?
This question is the part that will spark debates as everyone has a different view on the value of certain players and future picks within the Spurs' treasure trove. But let's start with who is off the table.
As if this wasn't apparent, the number one overall pick is not even remotely up for discussion. The Spurs tanked hard, and lady luck rewarded them with a generational talent. They aren't picking up the phone to discuss trading that pick. But what about current players? It's safe to assume that Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan are part of the long-term plans for Brian Wright as excellent teammate pairings for Wembanyama.
Sochan and Vassell are the Spurs' highest draft selections in decades, and playing next to Wembanyama could elevate their games. Vassell is a second option with three-level scoring potential and the ability to switch and defend. Sochan has defensive versatility and an offensive game that could go far if developed right. Sochan just turned 20, and Vassell will turn 23 over the summer. Both are young and on par with the current timeline.
You may be asking, "what about Keldon Johnson?" Some fans might not like this, but Johnson could be a player that nets the Spurs another first-rounder. Johnson averaged a career-high in points last season but operated in a higher usage role than he could handle. There's a reason the Spurs only won 22 games. Part of that was Johnson being their first option. While energetic, loveable, and a bull when driving down the lane, he has evident limitations as a scorer. His shooting was inconsistent with the higher volume, and defense was an issue.
However, there is reason to believe Keldon could thrive in a lesser role as the third or fourth option for the Spurs. Wembanyama's gravity could easily open up space for Johnson, maximizing his abilities. This space could help him drive against mismatches or afford him extra time to put up a shot behind the arc. There's no question Johnson is a good player, but his efficiency depends on what role he plays. With that said, contenders might see Johnson as someone that could push them over the hump. And if the Spurs want to move up in the draft, they must make sacrifices.
Well, what about the picks?
The Spurs have an abundance of draft capital at their disposal. They own 28 draft picks up to 2029, including six first-rounders in the next three years. Packaging any of these picks with a player like Johnson might move the needle for several teams to make a deal.
While the Spurs have two invaluable unprotected first-round picks from Atlanta that they acquired in the Dejounte Murray deal, they also have a 2024 first-rounder from the Raptors that they added at the deadline in the Jakob Poeltl trade. With only a top-six protection, it has quickly become one of the most attractive assets in their war chest. Compared to the lottery-protected 2024 Charlotte pick and the top-10 protected 2025 Chicago pick, the Toronto pick has the highest chance of converting into something useful.
Additionally, the Spurs own all their future first-round picks that they could send in deals with protections. It's doubtful San Antonio would trade their 2024 pick, but anything after 2025 could be fair game as they enter the Wembanyama era. The Spurs could also use future pick swaps with Atlanta and Boston as sweeteners for any possible deals they might initiate.
Who would the Spurs target?
While the Spurs have intriguing talents on the wing like Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Jeremy Sochan, their backcourt has more questions.
After going a handful of seasons with too many guards, they now lack depth at those positions after trading Murray and Derrick White. They also have a decision to make with Tre Jones entering restricted free agency this summer. The Spurs have a high chance of retaining the 23-year-old. But is Jones a long-term answer at starting point guard?
The Spurs have other guards on their roster, such as Blake Wesley, Devonte' Graham, and Malaki Branham, but do they have the skills to be primary ballhandlers? Branham might be the best option to try out, but he's more of a shooting guard than a facilitator. Wesley is still extremely raw and has lots to work on to become a viable starting option, and Graham isn't a long-term solution.
So if the Spurs find themselves with a second lottery selection, who are some players they might look at as their future point guard?
Scoot Henderson is an obvious choice if the Spurs miraculously land the second or third pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Brian Wright could get greedy and finagle a way to have two franchise players on the same team. However, the amount the Silver and Black would have to give up to make that move might be outside their comfort zone.
Two of the best remaining guard prospects are the Thompson twins. Amen and Ausar are lottery-projected players, with the former most likely falling within the top five. Both have insane athletic ability and experience running the point with Overtime Elite. The Spurs reportedly scheduled an interview with Amen at the NBA Draft Combine last week.
If you look later in the lottery around the 10th and 11th picks, the Spurs could invest in players like Cason Wallace, Anthony Black, and Keyonte George. These young prospects are smooth ballhandlers who could take the reigns. Wallace and Black are fascinating fits as defensive-minded guards that could help Wembanyama restore the Spurs' defensive identity.
What does this all entail?
This summer signals the start of a new era for the San Antonio Spurs, and their history of standing pat is long gone. From trading their best players for draft capital to creating massive amounts of cap space, Wright has shown the courage to take risks and make significant moves that have set the team up for a bright future.
The Spurs are in a position where they can reasonably land another first-round pick this offseason without jeopardizing their long-term plans. Though these moves might come with sacrifices, they could eventually pay off for San Antonio. And when you have a generational talent like Wembanyama joining your team as the franchise player, it's in your best interest to set him up for success.