If you read my first article, you realize my thoughts about Victor Wembanyama, the French phenom the Spurs selected with the first pick of the NBA Draft on Thursday night. You also know my affinity for foreign players, and late 90s and early 2000s basketball. Keep those points in mind as we weave through this offering today.
Regardless of their draft haul of Wemby and Sidy Cissoko, Rome wasn't built in a day- especially in the NBA. The gap between the haves and the have nots in pro sports is usually wide. But in the NBA, that gap is about as wide as the Grand Canyon (no shot at the Suns there).
The Spurs need to tank again
With Wembanyama, who I expect to be great, but probably not right away, the Spurs will improve. Is it going to be enough growth to contend for a championship? Even the most faithful Spurs fans would probably say that’s highly unlikely. If San Antonio tacks on 15 more wins from a year ago -a drastic improvement from one season to another-, they would still finish 37-45. That won’t get them into the playoffs, and surely won’t provide the ability for their first round draft pick in 2024 to be as impactful as it will be this year.
There’s a lot of chatter about signing a point guard in free agency this offseason. Why bother signing an older veteran like Chris Paul, or another aging guy who seems to be trending downward in Fred VanVleet? And why would you commit so much of your salary cap to them when you can go draft a younger point guard with top tier talent next year? A kid like Isaiah Collier, who’s near the top of the 2024 draft projections, comes to mind.
How about a rangy European wing like Matas Buzelis? A 7-foot-5 center (Wembanyama) paired with a 6-foot-10 wing with sharpshooting prowess- those would immediately create matchup problems for any team. Pair those two with a point guard and it leads to success (look at the Nuggets).
It’s too early to project with any certainty how good the 2024 draft class will be, but don’t forget the boys in Silver and Black also will have as many as three first rounders next year. That’s a ton of draft capital and flexibility they can utilize to improve the team one way or another, whether that's using those picks or moving them. The Spurs' 2024 first-rounder might look a whole lot more enticing if they have another season like they experienced this year.
There’s likely a few of you by now who are asking yourself why the Spurs would do this all over again. Last season was a long one, and most fans aren’t overly patient. That’s entirely understandable. Think of it this way. Michael Jordan’s Bulls didn’t win overnight, but they turned out alright after a few years, didn’t they? The Spurs didn't win a title fresh off drafting the Big Fundamental with the first pick. Even the Warriors dynasty was built through the draft.
With a bright future ahead, tanking again is something the front office should strongly consider as they make their offseason blueprint. Based on the numerous possibilities already stated, as well as many others we didn't discuss here, enduring another losing season could benefit the Spurs.
Let’s do this thing right. Continue the rebuild, keep the young core together, and draft players that will make this team formidable for years to come. This strategy worked out well the last time San Antonio had a similar opportunity to add a superstar to a dynamic roster, and the Wembanyama era could rival the Spurs of old.