NBA 2023-2024 Preview: Wembanyama at the Heart of the San Antonio Spurs’ Vision

San antonio spurs NBA Preview 2023 2024

For one month, the editorial team delves into the 30 teams of the major American league. In this latest preview, we turn our focus to the Wembanyama Spurs – oops, I mean, the San Antonio Spurs.

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A successful tanking strategy last year

Although they had a promising start last season with five wins out of seven games, and with Devin Vassell lighting it up, the Spurs soon shifted their season’s goal to full-on tanking. Vassell’s injury and Jakob Poetl’s trade certainly aided Coach Gregg Popovich’s squad in losing as many games as possible, especially in a team lacking a clear leader on the court. In the end, the Spurs finished last in the Western Conference, holding the worst defensive rating in the League and the second-worst offensive rating. However, this gave them an opportunity to develop their young players, like Keldon Johnson – who emerged as the Spurs’ top player last season – Jeremy Sochan, Tre Jones, and Malaki Branham, all of whom received substantial playing time. Overall, despite their 15th place regular-season finish, it’s a somewhat positive outcome.

The 2023 Draft Lottery became the highlight of the San Antonio Spurs’ season, and they weren’t disappointed with securing the first pick. A fruitful strategy indeed for Brian Wright, the franchise’s GM, who didn’t hesitate for a second when deciding which top prospect to select first.

Offseason Moves

Departures:

Romeo Langford (free agent), Keita Bates-Diop (to Suns), Gorgui Dieng (free agent).

Extensions:

Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, Julian Champagnie, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Dominick Barlow (two-way contract).

New Additions:

Victor Wembanyama (1st pick of the 2023 Draft), Sidy Cissoko (44th pick of the 2023 Draft), Reggie Bullock (from Mavericks), Cedi Osman (from Cavaliers), Sir’Jabari Rice (undrafted, two-way contract).

San Antonio Spurs’ Starting Five:

Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Victor Wembanyama, Zach Collins.

Bench Rotation:

  • Point Guards: Devonte Graham, Blake Wesley, Sir’Jabari Rice (two-way contract).
  • Shooting Guards: Malaki Branham, Sidy Cissoko.
  • Small Forwards: Doug McDermott, Julian Champagnie, Reggie Bullock, Cedi Osman.
  • Power Forwards: Jeremy Sochan, Dominick Barlow (two-way contract).
  • Centers: Sandro Mamukelashvili, Charles Bassey, Khem Birch.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Weaknesses

The Spurs’ roster still leans heavily on youth, making it challenging to have serious title aspirations for the 2023-2024 season. Most players are still developing, evidenced by the inclusion of 2 rookies and 5 sophomores. Doug McDermott and Reggie Bullock are the only players in their thirties on the team. However, one might argue that this isn’t much of a concern since the San Antonio Spurs’ main objective this season isn’t to chase a championship, but rather to build a cohesive team around Victor Wembanyama. If they achieve great results, that’s a bonus; otherwise, the 2024 Draft will offer more opportunities to add complementary pieces around the young Frenchman.

Strengths

Having Gregg Popovich continue his journey with the Spurs is ideal for nurturing and molding the plethora of young talents on the team. There was already a significant potential to tap into last year; all that was missing was a dominant big man in the paint, a gap clearly filled with the draft pick of Victor Wembanyama. He instantly becomes the franchise player for the San Antonio Spurs and will undoubtedly draw attention from opposing defenses. This could open up space for his teammates, potentially allowing players like Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson to thrive offensively. Additionally, keep an eye on Sidy Cissoko’s development, who was a late draft pick but was initially projected as a first-rounder in the 2023 class.

Player to Watch: Victor Wembanyama

No, we won’t be discussing Devin Vassell for the third consecutive year in this segment, even though the writer of these lines is confident he’ll continue to shine this season. The logical choice for the spotlight is Victor Wembanyama, the prodigy that garnered much attention and desire last year. Interestingly, many NBA analysts don’t peg him as the frontrunner for the Rookie of the Year title, even though he is undeniably the most talented player of the 2023 class. Why? Perhaps there are doubts about his immediate adaptability to the physicality of NBA play or due to anticipated lackluster Spurs’ team results.

Undoubtedly, league followers are also curious to see who he’ll be paired with in the Spurs’ interior line-up. Will he play the center (5) role with Jeremy Sochan as the power forward (4) alongside him, or as a power forward (4) with Zach Collins at the center position? Gregg Popovich seems to favor the latter, but it’ll be intriguing to observe Wembanyama’s placement during his debut NBA season. Observers will also monitor his offensive and defensive efficiency, which might dip compared to his previous season in France. Will he continue to sink those improbable three-pointers? Will his impressive blocks still be as frequent? Can he effectively guard his opponents in the post? Many questions indeed, but above all, there’s immense excitement surrounding Victor. One thing’s for sure: the League Pass will be buzzing every time the San Antonio Spurs play.

End-of-Season Prediction: 15th in the West

As mentioned earlier in this preview, the goal for this season isn’t quantitative (i.e., the number of wins) but rather qualitative. The aim is to maximize the development of the young players on the roster and to build a team that can contend for the Playoffs in the upcoming years. With this perspective in mind, the final standing at the end of the season is less significant as long as there’s noticeable progress throughout the 2023-2024 campaign. Of course, particular attention will be given to our two French players, Victor Wembanyama and Sidy Cissoko, with hopes of seeing them develop in preparation for the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

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