Fans of rebuilding teams see every team as the enemy (sometimes even the one they root for.) Yet specific franchises receive even more ire, not because of some long standing rivalry, but future assets that are at stake.
When pick swaps, protected and unprotect picks are in the mix, sometimes it can feel like you not only want to beat an opponent, but crush their will. Sending them into a tailspin that lands them in the draft lottery, and another first round pick in your draft cache.
The San Antonio Spurs don’t have any unprotected picks or pick swaps coming from other teams in the 2024 draft. They should probably be focusing on their own development after getting the number one pick in the 2023 draft. Yet, there are still a few teams that will leave fans praying on their downfall. Franchises that are oh so close to the edge of disaster, and the Spurs could be there to benefit in the wake.
While it’s safe to say fans should always be rooting against the other team, here are some opponents that you should especially hope to fail in 2023-24.
The Milwaukee Bucks
Damian Lillard has highlighted this offseason as the marquee star looking for a change of scenery. A one-horse race to Miami seems to be the case in that situation, meaning that other teams are looking for the next whale to acquire via trade. Enter Giannis Antetokounmpo.
This summer Antetokounmpo appeared on the “48 minutes” podcast, where he said:
Does that sound like a player that plans to play out the three years left on his contract no matter what?
The Bucks are certain to be one of the teams contending for an NBA championship this season. Antetokounmpo’s greatness assures it. They’ve come up short two years in a row now, losing to the eighth seeded Miami Heat in the first round last season. After former Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer was replaced by Adrian Griffin, Milwaukee is officially on the “pre-agency” clock. The Spurs are in prime position to benefit from another failed Bucks season.
Of all the teams in the league, the Spurs may have the best package to acquire a player like Antetokounmpo. They have a treasure trove of draft assets, budding young players like Devin Vassell, Jeremy Sochan and Keldon Johnson, as well as a foundational piece in Victor Wembanyama. They can give up a lot, and still put a respectable team around Giannis, that would be coached by Gregg Popovich. All they need is for the Greek Freak to force his way out.
It’s obvious how dynamic the duo of Antetokounmpo and Wembanyama would be. Two athletic freaks playing inside and out. It would create one of the toughest matchups in NBA history. Add in some extra playmaking and shooting, and you are looking at a potential title contender. This is why stockpiling assets is so important. You have the ammunition to go after the big fish when they hook on the line.
It’s unlikely that Milwaukee will miss the playoffs. But an early exit, as well as some respectable games against San Antonio could have Antetokounpo considering making a change to the silver and black. At least that’s what Spurs fans should be hoping for next season.
The Atlanta Hawks
Alright I saved the slightly more obvious, and less exciting scenario for last. The Spurs own Atlanta’s 2025 unprotected first round pick, a 2026 pick swap and their 2027 unprotected first round pick as a result of the Dejounte Murray trade. It’s so rare to receive unprotected first these days, so it’s best to capitalize on them.
Atlanta had a rough go of it in their first year with Murray, firing their coach mid-season and finishing 7th in the Eastern Conference. With a relatively new front office featuring Landry Fields and Kyle Korver, as well as a new coach in Quinn Snyder, this is a new era of Hawks basketball. New front office are typically not keen on keeping things intact if the product on the floor is not worthy. Which makes this a big year for the future of the franchise.
The Hawks didn’t make a lot of noise this offseason. They traded John Collins to the Jazz, and drafted Kobe Bufkin from Michigan. Mostly they stood pat and counted on the internal development of players like Onyeka Okongwu, Jalen Johnson and De’Andre Hunter. Is this team marginally better than the one that struggled to avoid the play-in last season? Especially in an improved Eastern Conference, I’m not so sure.
If Atlanta underachieves, the new brass could be quick to make some moves that shake the roster up. Trae Young could be another star who potentially asks out if things go south. A doomsday scenario is not certain, but definitely possible, and would make San Antonio’s draft picks even more valuable.
The 2025 and 2026 drafts have the potential to be loaded with talent like Cooper Flagg and Cameron Boozer. A disaster season filled with turmoil could help load the Spurs pockets with draft capital down the line. Fans of the silver and black should hope for the sky to fall in Atlanta during the 2023-24 NBA season.