Peter J. Holt could barely muster the words. Finding himself in the same position his father was in 26 years earlier, experiencing what I imagine was a similar sense of euphoria, the Spurs owner took time to recognize the entirety of his organization whose fortunes were about to change by winning the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery. He was also pretty sure he’d blacked out while on stage celebrating. A few minutes later, General Manager Brian Wright joked that they were still undecided about the first pick, but he seemed more serious about celebrating Tuesday night and enjoying the moment before getting (back) to work. One could assume Gregg Popovich was doing the same wherever he was.
It's not that this was a team overdue some good fortune, or one that's been down for a long time. The Spurs made the play-in in 2020 and only properly bottomed out in 2022 after trading away pieces like Derrick White, Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl. Still reeling from the Kawhi Leonard fall-out in 2018, PATFO became increasingly aware, and transparent, that high-level talent was the path to contention.
For as deliberate a tank as last season was for the Spurs, and as much as they maximized their odds for this very night, they’re right to be bowled over by their luck. This is, after all, the same organization that had not only won the overall pick twice in just a handful of lottery appearances, it timed those hits perfectly in two generational drafts. In 2023, with a 1 in 7 chance of doing so again, they come out laughing, again, with the right to select another big man with transcendent upside in Victor Wembanyama.
When chosen, the 19-year-old will bring his untold upside and forever wingspan to an ideal landing spot, flanked by young complementary pieces and, presumably, the greatest coach of all time. The organization’s French connections won’t hurt, either.
Wembanyama projects as an imposing, switchable cheat code on D who can score from anywhere on the other side of the floor. He’ll need help to eventually turn the Spurs back into a contender, but there are few players currently on the roster that won’t fit well next to him. In what way and how quickly Wright, Pop and Co. build around him, how they’ll mold and deploy his singular combination of size and skill, can all be unpacked and speculated in the weeks and months to come. Fans can set aside a dozen perfectly reasonable questions and bask in the only one that Tuesday night all but answered: Wembanyama will be a Spur.
He’ll join an organization that can appreciate its own luck and has a history of capitalizing on it. Four years ago, when Spurs past and present gathered to celebrate another French athlete, “serendipity” was a common thread. For Pop, that meant personal serendipity in simply being around and among the Big Three, as well as the special confluence of circumstances, talents and personalities that made that gilded age a reality. This isn’t to say that the much-hyped Wembanyama should inherit any of those expectations — he’s got plenty already — but Tuesday's lucky break graces the Spurs with that historically fundamental ingredient to team success, in San Antonio or anywhere: bona fide, ceiling-raising star power. And that’s a start.