SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs have landed the first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, and after years of building a young core and acquiring draft picks, they have the assets and cap space to build around Victor Wembanyama in a variety of ways.
Spurs GM Brian Wright is operating with tremendous potential and flexibility, the roster and draft capital serving as a ball of clay that he can mold around the best prospect since LeBron in his rookie season.
That amount of flexibility means a lot of decisions need to be made. What else does the team do in the draft? Do they make a trade for another lottery pick this year? Do they put together an even bigger package for an established star? Who do they target in free agency and why?
Does Tre Jones stick around? How expensive is too expensive for his annual salary, and what is his role on the team next year? What does an extension for Devin Vassell look like?
After all of those decisions are made, who starts on opening night and what is the rotation coming off the bench? What combination of players and picks should the Spurs put on the trading block? What are they looking for in return?
The answers to all of those questions provide a wide range of possible outcomes and expectations in Wembanyama's first year. A more conservative approach would make immediate success less likely but maximize flexibility and a focus on development. An all-in push could accelerate the timeline dramatically, but compromise the ability to build for the future.
Put yourself in Brian Wright's shoes and call the shots. Define your goals and your timeline for achieving them, and consider the roster as it stands and the assets at your disposal before heading to the draft.
- Keldon Johnson: 4 years, $74 million. Front loaded.
- Devin Vassell: $5.9 million, last year of rookie contract. Extension eligible.
- Jeremy Sochan: 3 years, $18 million remaining on rookie contract.
- Zach Collins: 1 year, $7.7 million non-guaranteed, becomes fully guaranteed one day after draft.
- Malaki Branham: 3 years, $11 million left on rookie contract.
- Blake Wesley: 3 years, $10 million left on rookie contract.
- Charles Bassey: 3 years, $7.7 million left. Non-guaranteed beyond 2023-24.
- Doug McDermott: Expiring contract, $13.75 million.
- Khem Birch: Expiring contract, $7 million.
- Devonte' Graham: 2 years, 24.75 million left. Only $2.85 million guaranteed for 2024-25.
- Romeo Langford: $7.74 million qualifying offer.
- Tre Jones: $5.22 million qualifying offer.
- Sandro Mamukelashvili: $2.19 million qualifying offer.
- Dominick Barlow: $1.77 million qualifying offer (Two-way).
- Julian Champagnie: $1.77 million qualifying offer (Two-way).
Per ESPN's Bobby Marks, the Spurs can create up to $35 million in cap space if they release the cap holds of everyone except Tre Jones. They could make it $41 million if they waive Zach Collins before June 23, but that seems unlikely unless they're looking to spend a lot on a veteran center. That space can be used to sign free agents or absorb salary in a trade.
Future first-round picks:
- 2023 (Own, first overall)
- 2024 (Own)
- 2024 via Charlotte (lottery protected)
- 2024 via Toronto (top-six protected)
- 2025 (Own)
- 2025 via Atlanta (unprotected)
- 2025 via Chicago (1-10 protected in 2025, 1-8 protected in 2026, and 1-8 protected in 2027)
- 2026 optional pick swap with Atlanta
- 2027 (Own)
- 2027 via Atlanta (unprotected)
- 2028 optional pick swap with Boston
- 2029 (Own)
Future second-round picks:
- 2023 (Own, 33 overall)
- 2023 via Toronto (44 overall)
- 2024 via Lakers
- 2025 (Own)
- 2025 via Chicago
- 2025 via Toronto
- 2026 (Own)
- 2026 via Indiana or Miami
- 2027 (Own)
- 2027 (least favorable from OKC, Houston, Indiana, or Miami)
- 2028 (Own)
- 2028 via Denver (31-33 protected)
- 2028 via Miami
- 2029 (Own)
The 2023 NBA Draft:
The Spurs have the first pick, the 33rd pick and the 44th pick in the upcoming draft. Assume they select 7'4" French phenom Victor Wembanyama first overall.
Here's where the roster stands with 11 players:
- PG: Devonte' Graham, Blake Wesley
- SG: Devin Vassell, Malaki Branham
- SF: Keldon Johnson, Doug McDermott
- PF: Victor Wembanyama, Jeremy Sochan
- C: Zach Collins, Charles Bassey, Khem Birch
What is your next move to fill out the roster to 15 and two two-way guys?
You could make a pair of second-round picks and look to free agency, but draft night brings with it the potential for a variety of big trades.
33 and 44 could be packaged together, potentially with other picks, to move up into the late first round.
A splashier option is to trade up into the lottery or even higher. San Antonio has plenty of assets, but who would be willing to make that trade and who would it be for? The team reportedly seems interested in this possibility.
If you want to go into the top five to take either Amen Thompson or even Scoot Henderson, prepare to pay dearly for your point guard of the future.
Adding another talented rookie could give Wemby a solid or even elite running mate on the same timeline, but it comes with development risk, an up-front cost, and financial complications later on.
Another trade option is to go for a veteran who can provide production and leadership, a seasoned pro who can set Wemby up where he needs to be and drop knowledge for the youth. Expiring deals and draft picks could work for the right role player. If it's a star who can immediately make the Spurs competitive for a playoff spot, Keldon and his extremely valuable contract are almost certainly gone in the deal along with a ton of draft capital.
A trade like that doesn't have to happen on draft night, though. It could wait all the way until the trade deadline. San Antonio can also pursue veteran depth and leadership in free agency after the draft ends.
Speaking of the draft, it's time for your first real choice as GM. What are you going to do?
Play around with your options, think up some ideas, and join the conversation on Twitter.