Spurs Should Caution Speed of Building With Wemby


It has to be asked: should the Spurs already be considered offseason winners? We haven’t even gotten to the draft and free agency yet. In fact, the madness has only just begun.

Yet, the Spurs lucked into a franchise cornerstone at this year’s draft lottery, just like it did in 1987 with David Robinson and 1997 with Tim Duncan. And now, here comes the Victor Wembanyama show.

San Antonio feels good heading into a busy offseason knowing it landed this year’s biggest draft prize in Wembanyama. The comparisons to all-time great like LeBron James are frequently common, as is the unthinkable ceiling Wembanyama possesses.

The promise feels real, and so does his chances of turning out into a franchise cornerstone for years.

However, the Spurs face another series of questions around how to build a team around a promising player like Wemby without anything set in stone. Wembanyama hasn’t even been drafted yet or dribbled on an NBA court. San Antonio owns a perfect trio of promising young players, ample cap space and a sizable war chest of draft picks heading into this offseason.

What should the Spurs do with it? What’s the best course of action for the franchise moving forward? What does NBA history say about all this? 

With all that said, here is how the Spurs should approach this summer with the Wembanyama era on the horizon.

Sneaky-good optionality

First, San Antonio enters this offseason with an ample amount of roster equity. Specifically, the Spurs boast the flexibility to put a legit team around Wemby, rather than a more-uncertain situation like, say, Houston (sorry, Rockets fans).

Let’s start with the draft capital. In addition to the first pick, San Antonio owns the 33rd and 44th picks in this year’s draft. And, thanks to the Dejounte Murray trade from last offseason, the Spurs netted three intriguing first rounders from Atlanta.

In addition, San Antonio also owns its first-round picks in both 2024 and 2025. So, in total, the Spurs possess the following war chest of draft picks in 2024 and 2025:

  • 2024: x3 first-round picks (Spurs; Hornets, lottery protected; Raptors, top-six protected) and x2 second round picks (Lakers and Pelicans)
  • 2025: x3 first-round picks (Spurs; Bulls, top-ten protected; Hawks, unprotected) and x3 second round picks (Spurs, Bulls and Raptors)

Plus, this isn’t including two additional, juicy first rounders the next two years: a 2026 first-round pick swap with Atlanta and an unprotected Hawks 2027 first-round selection courtesy of the Murray deal.

In short, the Spurs possess the draft assets to put into a trade to get a notable player on the open market. And, don’t forget the Spurs are entering the offseason with a mostly-clean cap sheet and approximately $37 million in cap space.

The Spurs own the luxury and flexibility to attempt to be relevant next season. In fact, it would be in the franchise’s best interest to field a competitive roster to see what Wembanyama specifically brings to the table.

The state of the roster

All of this leads the Spurs into its next question: where does Wembanyama fit into the context of this current team?

Fortunately, San Antonio managed to perform like its usual self by making under-the-radar but successful choices in recent drafts.

Keldon Johnson (22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game in 2022-2023) remains the most notable of the Spurs’ youngsters, flashing potential as a multi-position wing who can defend up and down the positional ladder while doing enough on offense to keep opponents honest. Other prospects like Devin Vassell (18.5 points per game in 2022-2023) and Jeremy Sochan (11.0 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2022-2023) offer some intrigue.

But outside of that, the Spurs are in need of some talent upgrades especially when it comes to defense. San Antonio ranked bottom-three or worse in the league in the following categories: opponent field-goal percentage (30th), opponent three-point field-goal percentage (30th), opponent two-point field-goal percentage (30th) and steals (28th). Spoiler alert, but there’s more to include on that list, too.

So, why does that all matter? Let’s get back to Wembanyama.

He’ll be a sure-fire starter at his absolute worst. A seven-foot-four center with an eight-foot wingspan can only be so ineffective. He covers so much ground defensively (think a super-human, taller version of Jaren Jackson Jr.), but with on-ball creation either in the post, in isolation or with the outside shot. He practically has few holes in his game.

Except, there’s two big concerns: durability and injury. The list of notable, incredibly tall players with immense upside while drafted high who eventually flamed out is legitimate, like Ralph Sampson, Kristaps Porzingis and Yao Ming to name a few. Wembanyama possesses all the talent in the world, but even a superhuman like himself can only do so much.

The Spurs should prioritize some of its capital to invest in quality players to lighten the load just a tad on Wembanyama. Ditto for managing his minutes early on. Simply put, give him the tools needed to maximize his skills without running him into the ground.

What should the Spurs do?

Ideally, the Spurs should look to use its cap space to add a few veterans who can compliment Wemby. San Antonio’s most notable priorities include addressing point guard and center. Basically, give Wembanyama a legitimate ball-handler to put him in good spots offensively as well as a big man to cover him defensively.

San Antonio’s other piece of advice heading into the offseason: embracing patience.

Again, Wemby remains a clear unknown, with lots of potential but no sample size. The comparisons within the franchise to greats like Duncan and Robinson are already rampent. Ditto for those to guys like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant and other high-end draft prospects.

The last thing the Spurs need to do is panic or, even worse, rush into contention too early. Look to short-sighted moves like the Murray trade. Or, scarier outcomes like those with Rudy Gobert to Minnesota, Porzingis to Dallas and Russell Westbrook to L.A. San Antonio shouldn’t want to end up in nightmare-ish situations like those teams, nor in no man’s land like in Chicago and Washington.

Opportunities to improve come sparsely. That shouldn’t mean the Spurs have to shoot themselves in the foot in the process.

Wembanyama possesses all the tools in the book to be a franchise cornerstone, even possibly something greater than that. And, the Spurs boast the treasure chest of assets needed to build around that.

San Antonio needs to take this one step at a time. After all, before you walk, you have to crawl.

David Robinson 1993 All-Star Bobblehead!

David Robinson San Antonio Spurs Bobblehead

30 years later, The Admiral is here to take command. Get your collection in ship-shape with the David Robinson San Antonio Spurs 1993 NBA All-Star Bobblehead.

About Dominic Chiappone

    Recommended for you

    Powered by