No, the Spurs should not go in ‘win now’ mode

Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor

“With the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs select, Victor Wembanyama,” is what Adam Silver, the NBA’s commissioner, will announce on June 22 now that the Spurs’ nightmare of a season paid off.

With no guaranteed selection in the NBA draft, the Spurs finished the 2022-23 season with a 22-60 record, the franchise’s second-worst record of all time. The final record was tied with Houston for the second-worst record in the league, giving the Silver and Black tied for the best odds to get the top overall pick in the draft at 14 percent.

Receiving much pushback across the league and its fans wondering what would happen if the Spurs could not obtain the No. 1 overall pick came to a close on Tuesday evening when San Antonio was the last team called in the Draft Lottery.

Wembanyama, the 7-foot-2 Frenchman viewed as the best basketball prospect since LeBron James – and to some, the best ever – is the prize for the teams’ purposeful losing, and now has fans wondering how the Spurs should go about landing the next possible all-time great player.

San Antonio selected David Robinson with the top pick in the 1987 draft, then managed to add Tim Duncan in the 1997 draft after a franchise-worst 20-62 record that season. 

The Hall of Fame big men alongside coach Gregg Popovich launched a 22-year playoff run featuring six NBA Finals appearances and five world titles. Now missing out on four-straight postseasons, San Antonio is eager to get back to winning at the highest level.

Wembanyama told ESPN, “I’m trying to win a ring ASAP,” when asked about what the Spurs will be getting out of him.

With the hype across the league, many believe Wembanyama’s talent can make a night-and-day difference in the wins column. So, how does San Antonio want to go about this?

The modern trend in the NBA is if a team has a generational talent to go in “win now” mode, meaning to throw away the future to contend for championships in the window of the generational talent’s prime. 

There has been talk about trading for veteran players like Phoenix’s guard Chris Paul, or Portland’s star guard Damian Lillard. Questions about 74-year-old coach Pop’s long-term commitment have people wondering whether to go in a new coaching direction. 

The Spurs have done nothing but harp on the fact that they are building and developing players for the long run, not just throwing their talent away for aging players. 

Keldon Johnson (23), Devin Vassell (22) and Jeremy Sochan (19) are all young players who are ready to take the next step after stooping all the way to the bottom of the NBA. The last thing to expect a class act of an organization to do is to waste its time on development in Pop’s later years to just trade the pieces away and go in another direction.

After every 20, 30 and 40-point loss the Spurs suffered, the first thing the players and coach would say is there is a maturing and growth process in the NBA, and it would pay off in the long run. Giving up now before their young players hit age 25 would be a disappointment. 

The classy Spurs organization has spoiled their fans in the last two decades, making their supporters believe they need to urgently become one of the league’s top contenders immediately. 

The team should first look for improvement. Increasing its wins to 35+ and becoming a play-in contender would be a huge success. Western Conference contenders such as the Lakers, Warriors, Clippers and Nuggets are much older than the Spurs, giving San Antonio a couple of years to grow into a title contender while the current contenders may be on their last legs.

If Wembanyama is the can’t-miss, all-time player he is projected to be, the Spurs will be in good hands without having to make major alterations to their roster.