Even with Victor Wembanyama, Spurs Still Expected to Struggle

The San Antonio Spurs were lucky enough to win the 2023 NBA Draft lottery and use the top overall selection to pick French phenom Victor Wembanyama. Despite the fact that Wembanyama is widely viewed as a generational talent, prognosticators don’t believe that the Spurs will be a contender this upcoming season. In fact, San Antonio is expected to stay near the bottom of the standings.

Last season, the Spurs finished the year with a 22-60 record. That was tied with the Houston Rockets for the second worst record in the league. Only the Detroit Pistons, with a record of 17-65, were worse during the 2022-23 campaign.

Next season, San Antonio is expected to be better — but not a whole lot better. If you look up what prognosticators expect on sportsbettingapp.com, you’ll see that the over/under on Spurs victories during Wembanyama’s rookie season is only 29.5 wins.

Only two teams in the NBA have a lower over/under for total number of wins next season: the Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards. Detroit’s over/under is at 28.5 wins, while Washington’s over/under is at 24.5 wins.

Why Aren’t the Spurs Expected to Win More Games?

The main reason why prognosticators aren’t predicting more wins for the Silver and Black is the fact that the Spurs are basically bringing back the same roster that won 22 games last season. Yes, San Antonio added Wembanyama, but the rest of the squad is basically the same. Despite having available salary cap space to spend over the offseason, the Spurs opted to keep things the same.

Spurs fans are hoping that internal improvements from players like Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Jeremy Sochan will result in more wins — especially when Wembanyama’s towering presence is added to the equation. Prognosticators aren’t buying that line of thinking yet, however.

If the Spurs had used their salary cap space to sign impact free agents, perhaps their over/under for total wins would be higher. That said, San Antonio decided to prioritize continuity and will wait to see how Wembanyama fits in the NBA before deciding how to spend their cap space.

Prognosticators Believe in Victor Wembanyama

Although prognosticators don’t believe much in San Antonio’s ability to tally wins next season, that’s not because Wembanyama is expected to fail. In fact, the 7-foot-3-and-change big man is the overwhelming favorite to win the 2023-24 NBA Rookie of the Year award.

Wembanyama basically has 1-to-1 odds of being named the league’s top rookie. The second best odds belong to Chet Holmgren, the second overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft who missed all of last season for the Oklahoma City Thunder due to injury. Holmgren’s odds are 3-to-1 to take home the top rookie honors.

The only other rookie who isn’t considered a long shot is Scoot Henderson. The third overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers has approximately 4-to-1 odds.

As for Wembanyama, unless he suffers an injury, there’s no doubt that he’ll enter the 2023-24 season as the heavy favorite to be the NBA Rookie of the Year.

Making the Case That the Spurs Will Be Better Than Expected

To make an argument that the Spurs will win 30 or more games, you have to start with Wembanyama. If the Frenchman is as good as advertised, he instantly becomes San Antonio’s go-to scorer and the centerpiece around which everything else is built.

With defenses focused on trying to slow Wembanyama, that would allow the rest of the roster to fall into better fitting roles. For example, Keldon Johnson struggled at times as a go-to scorer but he has the tools to be a high-quality complementary scorer. With less attention on him, Devin Vassell could also shine brighter than ever before.

While Jeremy Sochan and Tre Jones can struggle to score at times, that won’t be as big of a negative issue if Wembanyama is scoring early and often. Additionally, Zach Collins will likely continue to start at center and should be extra productive with so much attention being shown to San Antonio’s rather large rookie.

With Wembanyama now in the mix, head coach Gregg Popovich could very well go all out for wins. While notching victories wasn’t always the primary concern going into games last season, it’s likely that Popovich will want to start Wembanyama on a path of winning from the very beginning of his NBA career.

Making the Case That the Spurs Will Be Worse Than Expected

To believe that the Spurs will win less than 30 games, you have to believe that Wembanyama will face growing pains in his rookie season. That’s not impossible, especially considering he’s only 19 years old. It’s very difficult for teenagers to impact winning at the NBA level — so no one should be shocked if Wembanyama fails to turn the Spurs into winners on Day 1.

In Tim Duncan’s rookie season, the Spurs won 56 games. In David Robinson’s rookie season, the Spurs won 56 games. Despite what yesterday tells us about the two other No. 1 overall picks in franchise history, don’t expect history to repeat itself in San Antonio with regard to Wembanyama’s rookie season.

First of all, Duncan and Robinson were very mature players. Wembanyama, on the other hand, doesn’t turn 20 until January and is still growing into his body. Even in the best scenarios, he will need time to adjust to the league.

Secondly, both Duncan and Robinson entered the NBA with a cast of veteran supporting players. Duncan, specifically, joined a battle-tested squad that had already enjoyed playoff success together. Conversely, the supporting cast around Wembanyama knows little to nothing about winning or what it takes to be a successful team in the postseason.

What to Expect from the Spurs Next Season

If you’re going to bet on the over/under of 29.5 wins for the Spurs next season, my advice would be to take the over. Wembanyama should be a scoring force early in his career. Johnson, Vassell, Sochan and the rest of the supporting cast will slide into much more natural roles. Plus, it shouldn’t be overlooked that Popovich will be motivated to win as much as possible — and that should result in more than 29.5 victories.