It’s been 193 days, or 4,632 hours since we last saw the San Antonio Spurs play in official NBA action. In that amount of time the Spurs won the draft lottery, selected Victor Wembanyama number one overall, extended Gregg Popovich and signed Devin Vassell to the biggest contract in franchise history. On Monday, we will begin to see the fruits of their labor.
Yes, it’s just a preseason game, but this feels different than last year. The excitement of seeing Wembanyama play NBA competition is palpable. Not only is this a must watch game for Spurs fans, but it may be one of the biggest events of the week for basketball fans, period. San Antonio played just four games on national TV last season. This game marks the first of 19 instances in which fans can see the team play for a national audience.
They will do so against an up-and-coming Oklahoma City Thunder team. The Wembanyama vs. Chet Holmgren matchup has been hyped, and while this game won’t matter in the long term, the two competitors will have a chance to set the tone for their rivalry. The Thunder have a bevy of young talent who will be vying for spots in the rotation. The preseason will mean something to them, even if the wins and losses don’t.
San Antonio has historically used the preseason to establish the rotation and strategy they will use going into the regular season. However, it will be interesting to see how the team operates, as Popovich has mentioned they are still feeling out the new roster.
San Antonio Spurs (0-0) vs. Oklahoma City Thunder (0-0)
October 9, 2023 | 7 P.M. CT
Watch: NBA TV/Bally | Listen: WOAI/KXTN
Spurs injuries: Khem Birch – Questionable (undisclosed), Jeremy Sochan – Out (general soreness), Keldon Johnson – Out (general soreness)
Thunder injuries: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – Questionable (rest), Vasilije Micic – Out (ankle), Aleksej Pokusevski – Out (arm),
What to watch for
Victor Wembanyama’s debut
What should fans expect from Wembanyama in his first preseason game? After a somewhat disappointing summer league debut, it’s possible that he gets off to a slow start. Holmgren matches up well with Wembanyama as a long, versatile player who has a bit of nasty to his game.
In the summer league and Spurs scrimmage, we saw Wemby’s impact as a defender both inside and out, and as a passer. Even if Wembanyama isn’t able to score the ball efficiently, his impact will be felt with his high basketball IQ and defensive ability. To set some expectation for Wembanyama this season... David Robinson holds the record for points scored by a Spurs rookie at 41 against the Golden State Warriors in March of 1990. Wembanyama will be chasing that and more records this season.
Who makes up the starting five?
Spurs fans have debated all summer about who will start games. With Wembanyama, Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Zach Collins, San Antonio has at least six starting caliber players. The team has not given any indication as to who will be in the first 5 yet. Monday night will be our first look at who the team prefers to start games with.
The Thunder are a large team. Josh Giddey is a legit 6-foot-8 guard, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a big guard and Jalen Williams is built more like a linebacker than an NBA forward. The Spurs may need to play a bigger lineup to match the Thunder’s size. Of note, two of the Spurs more versatile wings, Sochan and Johnson, did not suit up for the teams scrimmage on Saturday. It is not yet determined if they will suit up for this game.
(UPDATE: Sochan and Johnson are out with general soreness.)
Which young players will earn their keep?
The end of last season was all about figuring out which young Spurs will stick around with the team long term. Dominick Barlow, Julian Champagnie and Sandro Mamukelashvili all earned a spot on the roster this season. Which ones will be mainstays in the rotation? The preseason gives them all a chance to make their case for playing time.
On top of those three, newcomers like Sidy Cissoko and Cedi Osman will be fighting for a role over returners like Doug McDermott, Charles Bassey, Devonte’ Graham and Blake Wesley. With the Spurs still needing to cut one more player, there is plenty of motivation to earn a role. Despite finishing the season poorly last year, the Spurs find themselves in a position where they are deep with players who could be in the rotation. The preseason will be a chance to see who steps up.
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