This season has been rough. As much as I enjoy watching Jeremy Sochan and Malaki Branham develop, as much as I admire the drive and leadership Keldon Johnson has shown as an overmatched first option, and as much as I pine for Devin Vassell’s return, this season has made it tough for me to get motivated for a Spurs game every other night. I still tune in – that’s what a true fan does – but I’ve noticed a bit of nihilism in our game-to-game chances creep into my psyche. So, on the off chance that others are feeling the same way and, in an effort, to keep spirits up, here’s a fun thought:
If the Spurs get a top-2 pick in this year’s draft, which has roughly a 1 in 4 chance of happening, this is probably the worst year of the rebuild.
And here’s why:
The top two prospects in the draft this year are Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson. Wembanyama is the most exciting NBA prospect since Lebron James and everyone seems to agree that in most drafts, Scoot would be a consensus #1 pick. Additionally, it’s easy to see how either player would be the cornerstone for a core group that currently includes Johnson, Vassell, Sochan, Branham, and potentially, Blake Wesley. And if the Spurs finish with one of the worst three records in the NBA this season, which seems increasingly likely, they will have a 26.2% – 27.4% chance at a top-2 pick (If they are worst 2 it’s 27.4%, if they have the third worst record, it’s 26.2%).
But the bigger picture point is, is that if they draft either player, the Spurs have to start thinking about their timeline in a different way. It should no longer be about tanking for a top-end talent, but instead, about the idea that the Spurs have roughly seven years (four years on a rookie contract + a max rookie extension) to build a contender around their already acquired talent, in the same way Memphis, New Orleans, Cleveland, or Dallas have attempted to do (none of those teams have won anything yet, but you have to admit, they have exciting young talent and are just getting better). The name of the game becomes about development and increased competitiveness rather than stockpiling picks and long-term reclamation projects.
This doesn’t mean that they would be instantly competing for the playoffs and personally, I’d imagine their 2024 season would probably be like this year’s Orlando (better, but still a lottery bound team with an upward trajectory and a ROY candidate). And of course, little things like injuries could absolutely get in the way of this, and this trajectory could also be the case if they draft a great talent outside the top 2 (maybe Amen Thompson?). But an upward trajectory seems most likely if we get Wemby or Scoot. In such a scenario, we are probably still talking about what prospects we can get with our 2024 picks, but we are also probably talking about how we can use future picks (either our own or some of the ones we have from Atlanta, Chicago, and Charlotte) in trades for already-established talent.
Which would all be better than what we’ve had this year. Personally, that’s an exciting thought and a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay strong Pounders, and thanks for the camaraderie this year.