Latest Spurs Intel as the Victor Wembanyama Draft Approaches

The San Antonio Spurs are heading into a very busy few weeks. On June 22nd, the 2023 NBA Draft will take place. On June 30th, the free agency period starts. On July 3rd, the Spurs will play their first summer league game. We’ll be covering all of it extensively on SpursTalk. To kick things off, here’s the most recent Spurs intel: 

1) In a little over a week, the Spurs will draft Victor Wembanyama. Despite what you may have read on ESPN, San Antonio has no plans to entertain any trade offers. When I told a prominent Spurs source that the national media was busy concocting Wembanaya trade packages, he laughed at the thought.

“We’re not picking up that phone,” he told me when asked if teams have made offers for Wembanyama.

When I threw out names like Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo, he didn’t hesitate when responding.

“[Wembanyama] is a chance to reorient the entire franchise and build upon the experiences and successes of the last 30 years,” the Spurs source explained. “He’s that type of player and, more importantly, that type of person.”

2) Speaking of Jokic, multiple members of the Spurs organization are thrilled that the Nuggets won the 2023 NBA championship. First of all, there’s a special bond between the Spurs and the Nuggets due to both organizations being former ABA franchises. The Nuggets have now joined the Spurs as the only former ABA teams to win an NBA championship.

Secondly, many members of the organization are big fans of Jokic — including Tim Duncan. There have been many conversations behind the scenes about how these Nuggets are the closest thing the current NBA has to the dynasty Spurs teams built around Duncan.

Third, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone is quietly a branch of the Gregg Popovich coaching tree. As the story goes, Popovich was so impressed with Malone during a “Basketball Without Borders” clinic back in 2005 that he helped him get a job with Mike Brown’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Without Popovich helping him get his foot in the door, Malone would be the first to tell you he wouldn’t be where he is today.

3) While the Spurs are happy about the Nuggets winning the championship, the Miami Heat are another favorite of San Antonio’s front office. Even back when the Spurs and the Heat battled in the finals, the two franchises had a lot of respect for each other.

Interestingly, according to a Spurs source, Heat president Pat Riley was the first NBA executive to contact the head honchos of the Spurs to congratulate the franchise about winning the Wembanyama lottery.

4) While it’s not the NBA finals, Wembanyama is currently playing in the finals of the French league. Unfortunately, his Metropolitans 92 have lost their first two games to Monaco.

That said, it was always extremely unlikely that Wembanyama was going to be able to guide his team past Monaco. Even though the 19-year-old is unquestionably the best player in the French league, Monaco is a top tier Euroleague team that has a payroll that is reportedly six to seven times larger than the payroll of Metropolitans 92. It’s not exactly a fair fight.

I watched Monaco a couple times in person this year and they’re a talented, tough-minded team with a handful of players who have NBA level abilities. There’s no shame in losing to that bunch.

Wembanyama’s playoff run in the French league should already be considered a success due to beating ASVEL. Wembanyama played for ASVEL last season and he drew some criticism for leaving and joining what was regarded as a lesser team. To lead Metropolitans 92 over ASVEL was impressive — especially because ASVEL also had a much larger payroll. 

5) What’s the next step for Wembanyama? He will finish the finals against Monaco and then go put on a Spurs hat during the NBA draft after San Antonio makes it official. After that, he’ll be eligible to play for the Spurs in summer league. But, according to a Spurs source, that is unlikely to happen.

As of right now, the Spurs expect Wembanyama to sit out the summer league games. He may practice with the team but San Antonio wants him to rest after Metropolitans 92’s deep run in the postseason. Additionally, Wembanyama wants to play for the French national team this summer — so that makes it even more imperative for him to rest as much as possible during the month of July.

6) After selecting Wembanyama with the first pick in the draft, the Spurs won’t be done. They have two second round selections: the 33rd and 44th overall picks. 

Furthermore, two different league sources I’ve spoken to say the Spurs are one of the most active teams in trade talks heading into the draft. According to the league sources, the Spurs are telling teams their preference is to trade for another first round pick. If that’s unsuccessful, San Antonio has let it be known that they want to trade away at least one of their second round picks. 

If the Spurs get another selection in the first round, the names I’ve heard most often when discussing that possibility with NBA scouts are Anthony Black and Kobe Bufkin. 

7) It’s no surprise that the Spurs aren’t too enthused about the idea of adding two second rounders to their roster. With up to six first round picks in the next two drafts, San Antonio will need to think twice before investing a roster spot and multiple years of development on a second round pick.

Keeping pick No. 33 if someone the front office likes falls into their laps is a plausible outcome. But, from what I’ve heard, keeping 33 and 44 is unlikely.

8) Don’t expect an official announcement but the front office is operating as if Popovich will return to the sidelines for at least one more season. A couple sources I’ve discussed this with believe that the addition of Wembanyama could help convince the coaching legend to stick around for a while longer. 

Popovich’s latest contract expired after the 2023 season. According to a team source, if and when he officially decides to return, Popovich is expected to sign a three-year contract that will pay him in the neighborhood of $14 million per year. The contract will also allow him to opt out after either of the first two seasons. 

9) Though Popovich is hands-off these days when it comes to personnel moves, I’ve been told that he has stated a strong preference that the team re-signs Tre Jones. Since he’s a restricted free agent, the Spurs will be able to match any offer he receives in free agency.

Even if Jones isn’t a long-term solution as a starting point guard, Popovich is said to value what Jones brings to the locker room and views him as a fearless competitor who can positively impact winning.

10) When free agency opens, a scout for a Western Conference team believes the Spurs will make a hard push for either Chris Paul or Fred VanVleet. He posits that the opportunity to pair Wembanyama with an experienced playmaker at point guard will ultimately be impossible for San Antonio to pass up. 

It doesn’t end there: The scout believes that the Spurs will not only sign one of the two point guards, but will make the playoffs next season after doing so — with Wembanyama playing the starring role.