The case for Spurs to tank again next season

It’s almost a certainty that on June 22, Spurs will select Victor Wembanyama. Everything after that, however, is up in the air. While getting the first overall pick is clearly a blessing, it will force Spurs to make some serious decisions going forward.

The first reflex would be to naturally try to speed up the reconstruction. Get a solid starting point keeper using cap space, build depth up front and make a run for at least the play-in during Wemby’s rookie year to regain a winning mindset .

While it just makes sense to go with this plan, Spurs should seriously consider taking things slow, at least for another year, to ensure they build the right base. Here’s why.

Spurs still don’t know what they have

Wembanyama seems to be as close to a sure thing as possible, provided his health holds up, so the timeline shouldn’t affect him too much. Spurs have plenty of other young players who are still trying to find their place in the league and need more time to show their worth. The arrival of reinforcements could slow down this process.

Malaki Branham showed that his mid-range pull-up translated better than many expected in the pros, but he only had the freedom to become a weapon because the team lacked depth in the pros. guard points. If Josh Primo hadn’t been waived in the wake of his scandal, Branham wouldn’t have had so much playing time, and injuries to players like Romeo Langford have also helped him. Fellow rookie Blake Wesley wasn’t so lucky, as his own injuries sidelined him at the worst possible time, and minutes became hard to come by for him even when the squad had a lot of players. They both still need plenty of reps before they can establish themselves as showpieces.

Let’s say Spurs bring a veteran guard like Fred VanVleet into the fold while retaining Tre Jones, which would make sense if the idea is to win. Where does that leave Branham and Wesley? Jones, VanVleet (or any other veteran guard) and Devonte Graham would take minutes from the point guard and some remnants left over from Devin Vassell to the shooter. The game time for young rookies just won’t be there. Along the same lines, having more ball handlers could sideline Jeremy Sochan on offense, as he wouldn’t have the opportunity to unlock more of his playing ability. Letting young guys go through growing pains by getting a long leash and minutes can hurt in the short term but pay off down the road.

There probably isn’t a second star on the list yet

Assuming Wembanyama becomes a superstar or at least a perennial All-Star, do Spurs have a second star in place to help carry the load? If the answer is no, then getting another shot at a high draft pick is probably the best way to get one.

Trying to build a competitor around a single star is difficult. Even Tim Duncan needed help. There are outliers, like the Dirk Nowitzki Mavericks of 2011, but more often than not teams need more than above-average players around their centerpieces to win titles, and Spurs don’t. may not have one yet. Devin Vassell could prove to be a Khris Middleton-like second option, but he’s only played 38 games in that role so far. Keldon Johnson could be a 20-point-per-night scorer even on a good team if his outside shot returns, but the concerns on the other end are real. Sochan has shown a lot of promise as a potential Paskal Siakam guy, but it’s still too early to count on him to make it happen. As mentioned, Spurs don’t know what they have yet, even when it comes to their most heralded young lads.

The concern with ensuring there is a second star in place is that a team can spend years looking for one and never find it, making rebuilding too slow. The opposite is that, especially for a franchise that isn’t in a glamorous market, the draft is the best way to find top talent, and rookie contracts and restricted free agency allow for a certain level of coordination when it comes to building a list. Spurs will have Wembanyama locked on a cheap contract for four years and are almost guaranteed to keep him after that, but it could be on a short contract. The time to waste would be in the first two years of his rookie contract in order to find him a costar that will eventually lead to the type of victory that would make the French big man want to stay long term. A few early playoff appearances won’t mean as much as a solid core in place for the future.

Spurs could find a way to thread the needle, but it won’t be easy

Another tanking season may not be what Spurs want, so while they clearly understand the risks of opting for a winning approach now rather than a more patient approach, they could try to find some ground of agreement. Reports of San Antonio looking to get another first round would make sense in this scenario. Finding the right business partner can be tough, but there are a few teams like the Pacers and Pistons in the lottery that already have good young point guards in place and could potentially be interested in a young wing and draft compensation. If there’s someone in that lineup that Spurs think could be Robin’s Batman at Wemby, using a lot of their resources to get them wouldn’t be the worst idea.

When it comes to being good right away while having the potential to be great in the future, it would make sense to acquire a young veteran who will contribute right away while also having the opportunity to grow alongside Wembanyama. . Again, finding the right targets isn’t easy, but if the Trail Blazers decide they want a bigger backcourt or blow it out and are open to trading Anfernee Simons, it could be a good choice. It seems extremely unlikely that Tyrese Maxey will be available, but it’s another name that fits the bill. The key would be to target players who have already shown they can do well while having untapped potential, but it would be difficult to try to find teams that actually want to part ways with them.

There are ways Spurs can speed up the rebuild without jeopardizing the long-term team cap, but it won’t be easy to take those paths. The front office should absolutely explore all avenues, but if in the end they decide to go through another season of tanking, that might turn out to be the best option.

Learn more

Leave a Comment