After 34 games of the 2022-23 NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs have a record of 11-23. In the Western Conference, only the Houston Rockets (10-24) have a worse record. In the entire league, the Spurs have the fourth worst record. In addition to the Rockets, the Charlotte Hornets (9-26) and Detroit Pistons (9-28) in the Eastern Conference have worse records.
As it stands, the Spurs have a 12.5% chance of getting the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. That’s slightly worse odds than the Rockets, Hornets and Pistons, who all have a 14% chance of landing the top pick. If the Spurs stay at the fourth spot, they’d have a 36.6% chance of getting a top three pick. If, instead, San Antonio finishes with one of the three worst records in the league, they’d have a 40.1% chance of getting a top three selection.
Who Will Be the First Pick in the 2023 Draft?
While it’s theoretically possible for it to change, it looks highly, highly likely that Victor Wembanyama will be the top pick in the draft. In fact, the Spurs are already planning for what life would look like with Wembanyama on their team if they land the first pick.
Everywhere you look, prognosticators have Wembanyama as the heavy favorite to be top selection. In fact, it’d be wise to look at special offers like Ohio sports betting promos to get in on that action. That bet looks like money in the bank.
Where Will the Spurs Finish at the End of the Season?
With 48 games still left to play this season, it’s difficult to say where the Spurs will finish. You can make an argument that San Antonio’s record will get even worse as the season progresses. However, you can also make the case that the Spurs may climb in the standings between now and the end of the regular season.
The case for their record getting worse is a simple one: The Spurs have an average point differential of -9.3 points per game. That’s far and away the lowest mark in the entire association. The second lowest mark is the Pistons at -7.1 points.
To put that -9.3 number in perspective, no team in the NBA had a lower mark last season. The Rockets had the worst record last season at 20-62 and their average point differential was -8.5 points.
According to Basketball-Reference, the Spurs have had an expected win-loss record of 8-26. That means they are three wins ahead of their expected pace. While that could be a result of having a future Hall of Fame coach on the sidelines in Gregg Popovich, it could also just be that the Spurs have gotten lucky so far this season.
Going forward, that Basketball-Reference formula based on their average point differential predicts the Spurs will finish with a record of 19-63. Most seasons, that record is bad enough to be one of the three worst records in the league.
Another reason to be confident that the Spurs will lose a lot of games this season is the presence of assistant coach Brett Brown. As head coach of “The Process” era Philadelphia 76ers, his teams finished with 19 wins, 18 wins and 10 wins in his first three seasons, respectively. If there’s one person in the NBA world who knows how to strategically lose games in order to increase lottery odds, it’s Brown.
On the other hand, the reasons to believe the Spurs won’t finish with one of the very worst records in the league are compelling. First of all, after 53 games last season, the Spurs had a record of 19-34. However, instead of tanking to the bottom of the standings, San Antonio kept scrapping and finished the season with a record of 15-14 in their final 29 games.
That late season push allowed the Spurs to advance to the Play-In Tournament, where they were promptly defeated by the New Orleans Pelicans in the first game by a final score of 113-103.
While the Spurs were trying to win at the end of last season, teams around the league went into full-on tank mode. For example, the Rockets started 14-32 last season before finishing with the worst record in the league by losing 30 of their final 36 games.
At the end of the regular season, Popovich explained why he doesn’t believe in tanking.
“It’s just not who we are,” he explained. “It’s not who I am. I can’t operate like that, which might not be the most intelligent overall philosophy to have — and I get that. But we am who we am and we’re going to go ahead and compete.”
Hints That the Spurs Might Be Aiming to Tank This Season
Firstly, the hiring of Brett Brown in the offseason was a hint that the Spurs are resigned to the fact that they’ll need to rebuild through the draft.
Secondly, the Spurs still have more than $25 million in salary cap room. If they were looking to maximize wins, they could use that cap room right now to acquire better players to add to their rotation.
Thirdly and most notably, San Antonio has been sitting their players more than ever. It seems like there’s a new player with a new ailment sitting out every other game. Every player on the roster has missed at least one game this season. Furthermore, every player except for one (Tre Jones) has missed at least four games.
If the Spurs are serious about losing this season, the sign to look for will be more players missing games this season. An unmistakable sign will be if Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell or Jakob Poeltl get shut down for an extended period of time.
Other Teams That Could Tank This Season
The Pistons appear to be destined for one of the three worst records in the league. Their best player, Cade Cunningham, is out for the season. The Rockets appear to be a legitimately bad team that will struggle to win, which should land them near the bottom of the standings.
The Hornets are a bit of a wild card. LaMelo Ball is healthy again and they may actually try to win to help develop his game, especially since he is already viewed as the organization’s next franchise player.
The Orlando Magic are 13-23 this season but they’ve played a lot better recently and probably won’t tank. The Los Angeles Lakers are 14-21 but the Pelicans have their first round pick so they have no reason to tank.
Currently, it looks like the Pistons, Rockets and Spurs are the teams most capable of finishing with one of the three worst three records in the league. The Hornets could join that conversation depending on Ball’s health and the team’s goals.
Other teams, like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Washington Wizards, could go into super tank mode to improve their Wembanyama chances once it becomes clear that the playoffs are out of the question.