9 Random Thoughts After the Spurs Win the Right to Draft Victor Wembanyama
What an amazing day to be a fan of the San Antonio Spurs. It was a day that won’t soon be forgotten in South Texas. The Spurs entered Tuesday with a 14% chance to land the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft and the right to draft French phenom Victor Wembanyama … and it happened. It actually happened.
I don’t know where this day ranks in the best days in Spurs history but it’s somewhere up there in the top ten. Wembanyama is a 7-foot-5 teenager with an 8-foot wingspan who is absurdly talented for a player his size. If he stays healthy, he’s going to be good — really good. And if San Antonio plays their cards right, they should be contenders within the next three or four seasons.
Wow. I still can’t believe it. As the reality of Wembanyama to the Spurs continues to sink in, here are nine random thoughts:
1) As exciting as it is that the Wembanyama dream came true, it’s probably wise to pump the brakes a bit on the early expectations. The kid doesn’t turn 20 until January, currently plays in a French league that has one game a week and obviously needs to add some weight to his frame.
In his rookie season, I think the smart thing to do would be to limit Wembanyama to somewhere between 25 and 30 minutes per game. Keeping him healthy is going to be the priority early in his career. As such, the Spurs need to smartly ease him into the rigors of the NBA.
There’s plenty of time. Tim Duncan and David Robinson both stayed in school four years and were grown men by the time they played their first game. Wembanyama is earlier in his developmental curve than Duncan and Robinson so this will be a totally different process.
Use Wembanyama’s rookie season to get his feet wet and build up his endurance. Ramp him up more in his second season. By his third season, as long as he’s still healthy, that’s when you let him loose.
2) Gregg Popovich is the perfect head coach to usher Wembanyama through the process of adjusting to the NBA. Popovich will see the big picture and won’t be too concerned about instant success. Once Wembanyama is ready to spread his wings and try to dominate, San Antonio’s head coach knows a thing or two about managing generational talents.
Popovich turns 75 shortly after Wembanyama turns 20. Personally, I hope that Popovich can stick around for at least another five years or so. That would be enough time to get Wembanyama on the right track.
In the meantime, this is a great opportunity to bring someone in to be a head-coach-in-waiting. Monty Williams or Mike Budenholzer are two no-brainer candidates.
3) What will the Spurs look like next season? Who will they start? The way I see it currently, I think we’ll see Zach Collins at center, Victor Wembanyama at power forward, Keldon Johnson at small forward, Devin Vassell at shooting guard and Jeremy Sochan at point guard.
Yeah, Sochan at point guard sounds a bit crazy but I think it makes a lot of sense. First of all, Sochan was basically the team’s point guard down the stretch last season. While he’s not a classic point guard, I think it’s worth a shot with Wembanyama on board. Sochan is lacking in playmaking skills for a point guard but that’d actually open the door to allow Wembanyama to be the team’s primary playmaker.
At his very best, Wembanyama is a go-to playmaker on the perimeter and on the inside. Next to Sochan, he’ll get all he can eat.
I also like the idea of keeping Collins at center and going with Wembanyama at power forward. Collins is coming off a strong season and his physicality and toughness in the middle will allow Wembanyama to roam and avoid the most physical matchups.
Ultimately, Wembanyama will be a center in the fourth quarters of important games — but, especially early in his career, you want to limit his center minutes to minimize the wear and tear on his body.
4) The Spurs will probably have something like $30 million in cap space this summer. When is the right time to start using that money to bring in free agents? It’s difficult to say.
On one hand, it’s tempting to surround Wembanyama with as much talent as possible as early as possible. You want to put him in a position to thrive and you want to avoid any glaring holes in the roster.
On the other hand, keeping cap space is hugely valuable if you have a superstar on your team. We saw that early in Duncan’s career. The Spurs went out of their way to keep avenues to cap space open so that they could lure stars to join Duncan in San Antonio.
If Wembanyama becomes a superstar, having the ability to bring in another star via free agency could be the difference between having a very good team and having a championship team.
5) San Antonio also has a lot of draft capital in the coming years. Should the Spurs stay patient and keep building through the draft or should they package that draft capital to get Wembanyama help sooner rather than later? That’s another tough question to answer.
I think the right answer is to remain patient. Let Wembanyama’s first season or two play out and then figure out the best way to use those assets. Eventually, I think the time will come that the Spurs will want to trade in that draft capital for readymade veteran help — but that time isn’t right now, I don’t think.
6) We Spurs fans have enjoyed a charmed existence. The Spurs seemingly either contend or take a quick detour to tank to get a generational talent. Easy peasy.
That Kawhi Leonard fiasco was painful but that’s all forgotten now. Leonard needed to leave for the Spurs to get to where they are today with Wembanyama. Like the 2014 championship erased the 2013 pain, the Wembanyama lottery win erases any negatives that happened since the 2014 championship.
It’s a new era. Anything that happened between 2014 and 2023 was just what needed to happen to get Wembanyama to the Spurs.
7) Man, that Dejounte Murray trade looks like one of the best trades in NBA history now. It already looked like a great trade prior to Wembanyama. After getting the first pick, the Murray trade looks like an all-time great deal.
Murray is good enough that he would have kept the Spurs from sinking to the bottom of the standings. By trading him away, the Spurs were able to enter the Wembanyama sweepstakes and get multiple first round draft picks from Atlanta. Epic foresight by the front office.
8) I still can’t believe this is real. To go from David Robinson to Tim Duncan to Victor Wembanyama is just too fortunate to be true.
Hell, you can even extend it. The Spurs went from George Gervin to David Robinson to Tim Duncan to Kawhi Leonard to Victor Wembanyama. That’s just unfathomably fortunate. Oh my goodness.
9) My ninth random thought, appropriately enough, is to send a special thank you out to Tony Parker. The Hall of Fame point guard paved the way from Paris to San Antonio. He turned France into a nation of Spurs fans to the point that Wembanyama and his family were openly rooting for the Silver and Black to get the first pick.
Seeing Wembanyama excited to land in San Antonio is awesome. And we can thank Tony Parker for that.