The NBA Draft made the San Antonio Spurs must-watch television over night. Gregg Popovich will now build his rotation around Victor Wembanyama, the most hyped prospect since LeBron James.
The San Antonio Spurs will look to No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama to lead them out of the NBA basement. Gregg Popovich signed a five-year extension, ensuring that Wembanyama will have the guidance of the most accomplished head coach in NBA history.
It’s too early to proclaim the Spurs as contenders — Wemby needs time to adjust to NBA physicality and the Spurs’ roster is still very young. San Antonio has the flexibility to swing a big move or two to land star teammates next to Wembanyama, but Popovich’s long-term extension suggests that San Antonio will take the patient approach. That is, ultimately, the correct approach.
The Spurs don’t want to move too quickly here. Make the wrong star trade and Wembanyama’s timeline is irrevocably damaged. That said, the Spurs have the personnel to start making immediate progress. Wemby isn’t the only notable prospect on the roster: Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson are proven 20-point scorers; Jeremy Sochan, last year’s lottery pick, is already a fan favorite.
San Antonio should be plenty exciting to watch. Let’s hash out Gregg Popovich’s likely rotation and what it means for the Spurs’ 2023-24 outlook.
San Antonio Spurs starting point guard: Tre Jones
The Spurs re-signed Tre Jones to a bargain two-year, $19 million contract over the summer. The younger brother of new Wizards lead guard Tyus Jones, Tre now enters his second year at the reins in San Antonio.
Jones’ numbers don’t leap off the page but he’s a remarkably steady hand. He averaged 6.6 assists to only 1.6 turnovers last season; he’s the rare 23-year-old who doesn’t make mistakes. There are concerns about Jones’ ability to score well enough to profile as a long-term starter, but he’s a suitable stopgap while the Spurs figure out their future plans around Wembanyama.
The Spurs need a table-setter like Jones to get the offense into motion and to find Wemby in his spots. Jones’ lack of 3-point shooting is his biggest red flag (28.5 percent last season), but the Spurs will generally surround him with four competent floor-spacers. Wembanyama can invert the offense and spend plenty of time on the perimeter, which gives Jones room to poke around the paint.
Jones is also a strong positional defender. He has a low ceiling perhaps, but Jones is too smart and too stable not to impact winning positively when he’s on the floor. For a young team with multiple scoring hubs in place, Jones doesn’t really need to finish plays. He simply needs to set them up.
Primary backup point guard: Cam Payne
The Spurs basically acquired Cam Payne as a salary dump from Phoenix. The Suns have been pretty smart with their maneuvering around the cap all summer, but giving a proven championship-level rotation piece the boot for next to nothing is certainly debatable.
Payne is a dynamic perimeter scorer who’s comfortable with or without the ball. His versatile 3-point shooting and ability to heat up quickly off the bench should make him a Popovich staple. There are a lot of exciting possibilities stemming from Payne-Wemby actions. Payne can scorch flummoxed defenses working out of dribble handoffs.