After winning the Victor Wembanyama contest, how quickly should Spurs rebuild?

CHICAGO — For an event that everyone admits is random luck with low probability, with no team having more than a 1 in 7 chance of winning, the NBA Draft Lottery certainly had a lot of superstitions. Virtually every team tried their own offers to the lottery gods, and some tried to double them. See Cleveland win twice in three years with lucky charm Nick Gilbert on the podium, or the Orlando Magic on Tuesday trying to repeat every detail of their lottery-winning night here in 2022.

Nevertheless, the NBA lottery did not reward superstitions like those of the San Antonio Spurs. Chairman Peter John Holt, the third generation of Holts to lead the team, brought a lucky golden key and 14% chance to the podium on Tuesday and emerged with a dominating big man that changes everything. He was so excited – and had such a good angle on the decisive envelope – that he let out a scream and a howl almost before Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum could squeeze the words “Charlotte Hornets” out of his mouth.

“I was lucky I had a line of sight where I could see Charlotte coming out of the envelope,” Holt said. “So I think I jumped the gun; apologies to Charlotte and Mark. I then apologized if any of my spit went all over the place.

Holt is now also the third generation of Holts to land a dominant big man via the coin toss, as San Antonio will likely take French big man Victor Wembanyama with the top pick in the June 22 draft. David Robinson came to Spurs in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997, and that combination was the cornerstone of the franchise’s five championships that followed.

Spurs being Spurs, they staunchly refused on Tuesday night to reveal who they would pick.

“We have six weeks and we have a lot of work to do,” general manager Brian Wright said when asked directly who they would pick.

“Lots of analysis,” added Holt.

Well, I wonder what they’ll do.

Needless to say, Wembanyama is a game-changer for Spurs, a team that won 22 games last season while boasting the league’s worst scoring margin, finishing 29th in attack and 30th in defence. Conveniently, Spurs moved center Jakob Poeltl for a first-round pick at the trade deadline; there was an 86% chance it wouldn’t look so prescient, but now it looks like absolute genius.

Wembanyama’s arrival also changes Spurs’ schedule. Amid what seemed like a long and painful rebuild since Kawhi Leonard’s departure, they can now pull themselves out of that nose dive and head back to the clouds.

Thankfully, Spurs have a clean slate to paint around Wembanyama with: nearly $40 million cap, depending on other offseason picks, and just one contract commitment beyond 2024 (value extension of forward Keldon Johnson until 2027). San Antonio is also sitting on a goldmine of draft assets — five first and nine seconds owed to them by 2029, plus two first-round pick trades. That includes Atlanta’s unprotected firsts in 2025 and 2027 following the Dejounte Murray trade last summer — the move that set the stage for this season’s reset, and has now paid off.

Beyond Johnson, 23, Spurs have other players on a similar development path to Wembanyama who stand a good chance of being in the game. In particular, 2022 lottery pick Jeremy Sochan looks like a good addition as a mobile and dynamic forward, and shooting guard Devin Vassell should fit like a glove as a 3-and-D role player. (An extension for Vasssell is likely a top agenda this offseason.) Rookie guards Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley also showed flashes.

Thus, the question will quickly pass from how to rebuild Spurs from their ashes at hHurry up they should try. Would they be better off trying to pick up their tunes for one more season, say, while 19-year-old Wembanyama learns the ropes? They could enter the summer of 2024 with capped room, three first-round picks (their own, a top-6 pick from the Poeltl Trade Raptors, and a more speculative pick from Charlotte’s top-14 protege), plus all of their best young players still stuck on value deals.

go further


Data visualization: Victor Wembanyama and the height of amazing hype

Wembanyama’s presence alone eliminates the most abject tanking scenarios, but dragging their heels on the rest of the rebuild could allow Spurs to play things up with the expiring contracts of Doug McDermott, Devonte’ Graham and Khem Birch. San Antonio could look for opportunistic trades when appropriate, and if not, let their deals fall into a sea of ​​cap space. Those future picks they’re sitting on could also be part of a package if the right player shows up. No law requires them to wait until 2027 or anything to cash out.

Either way, the most important short-term decision (after we’re done figuring out who to pick in 1) is to shore up the backcourt to give Wembanyama a partner who can still give him the ball. (One of the wonders of watching Wembanyama in France this season was seeing him play with a playmaker throughout the season, and all the money that came with that was sitting on the table in lobs or pick-and- -pops.)

San Antonio has a restricted free agent in Tre Jones, who held the position last season and has the mindset of a distributor, but he’s more of a guard there. It wouldn’t shock anyone to see Spurs seek a longer-term solution as a pick-and-roll partner. At the very least, devoting some of that wiggle room to adding extra ball dispensers would seem like money well spent.

The other immediate need is a strong post presence that can complement the 7-foot-4 Wembanyama against physical frontcourts. Such a player could also occasionally, uh, “restore order” if the opponents are too physical with Wembanyama. (Zach Collins, if healthy, could play a role here.)

Finally, I’ll note that San Antonio was an anomaly in this lottery in one important respect: Spurs actually keep the pick.

go further


Aldridge: Globetrotting Spurs are a perfect fit for the world Victor Wembanyama

While Wright said ‘We’ll sit tight’ when I asked how many trade offers he had received between the start of the draw and our press conference, most of the other lottery results sparked trade speculation. almost immediate:

  • Call it the curse of the big man’s lottery. Charlotte is probably very happy to pick second, but the other two drafts where she picked second were where Dwight Howard and Anthony Davis went first. The Hornets ended up with Emeka Okafor and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Good players and all, but not quite the same.

The Hornets will now have the most interesting choice on draft night: do they pair guard Scoot Henderson with current point guard LaMelo Ball and play the pedal to the medal, or could they opt for the striker’s cleaner cut of Alabama Brandon Miller?

And if so, would it make more sense for them to go third and select Miller, and let someone who could really use Henderson go 2 to select him? On the other hand, would anyone believe the Hornets if they bluffed and said they preferred Henderson?

Should a star player become available, Portland could potentially offer an Anfernee Simons and Jusuf Nurkic package as matching pay, plus the third pick. In particular, with the Blazers still ahead of their Sysyphean task of trying to build a winner around Damian Lillard, adding a guard like Henderson doesn’t seem to make much sense.

  • Similarly, Houston and Detroit entered the lottery with 1 in 7 hopes of landing at Wembanyama, but ultimately landed fourth and fifth respectively. With years of painful rebuilds for both teams and each following a coaching change, these picks also look likely to be available in the bargain. Maybe not as available as the Blazers’ pick, but the post-lottery scuttlebut is that each could be in play.

Finally, four other notable events occurred as a result of the lottery:

  • Chicago will owe the 11th pick to Orlando following the disastrous trade of Nikola Vucevic, a deal that also cost them Wendell Carter Jr, and the pick that became Franz Wagner in 2021. The Bulls would have kept the pick if he had landed in the top four.
  • Dallas’ shameless tanking late in the year to prevent its pick going to the Knicks was ‘rewarded’ when neither team in places 11-14 advanced, allowing the Mavs to retain 10th place . He would have left the Knicks had the lottery results pushed him to 11th or later.
  • Congratulations to the Indiana Pacers! They get the 32nd pick following San Antonio’s lottery win, which reversed the order of picks 32 and 33 between Houston and San Antonio and allowed the Pacers to retain a top-32 protected pick. This choice could have gone to Boston, which will choose the 35th instead.
  • Finally… Spurs also lost the lottery. Not really! In winning the first pick, San Antonio also knocked down its own second-round pick 15 spots, from 35 to 50. Spurs would have picked 35 if Houston had finished the lottery in a higher position, but instead, this choice was forwarded to Boston.

Related reading

Prospecting report: What San Antonio gets at Wembanyama
Hollinger: Top 2o prospects in the 2023 draft

(Photographic illustration: John Bradford / Athleticism; photos: Hector Vivas, Aurélien Meunier / Getty Images)

Leave a Comment