SAN ANTONIO — Disclaimer: This is one option for the San Antonio Spurs as they build the roster around Victor Wembanyama. Everything here is a hypothetical course of action the Spurs could consider. For the start of the full choose your own adventure game, click here.
You have decided to trade a huge package of picks and players to get a star.
Analysis: In the words of Bill Land, Oh Mama.
This is the nuclear option, the one that rips apart and rebuilds the current collection of players and picks in the most extreme way. Victor Wembanyama is coming, and you want to give him an All-Star teammate and push for playoff relevance right away.
Keldon Johnson is definitely gone, Devin Vassell probably went with him, and so did at least three valuable first-round picks. Expiring contracts and other players may be necessary, or the Spurs can use cap space to absorb the difference in salary.
It seems unlikely that the real-life Spurs will go for this option right away. It's an extreme choice, and one that would probably be better suited for later down the road. That would give San Antonio the opportunity to maintain flexibility while seeing how the young core fits around Wembanyama before making any rash decisions. It also gives stars around an opportunity to grow disgruntled with their teams, and gives teams an opportunity to grow impatient with their stars.
If Wembanyama breaks out as a rookie and it becomes clear that an available star would be great to pair with him, maybe something like this actually happens closer to the trade deadline.
You, however, are bold and tired of waiting. You throw caution and draft picks to the wind, along with last year's leading scorer and a beloved emotional leader on the team who would fit neatly next to Wembanyama.
This is the move if winning as much as possible immediately is the goal, but it brings with it several complications.
First and most obviously it sacrifices a great deal of assets and flexibility. Keldon Johnson is a good player on a contract that looks better with each passing day. The Spurs go from having a ton of first-round picks to having a pretty normal amount. They lose cap space, or veterans on expiring contracts, or both. That makes it harder to build in the short and long term. You'll need to grab vets on cheap deals and draft well. The move puts you in a corner, even though it's a very exciting corner to be in.
It tells Victor Wembanyama that he will not be brought along slowly, and expectations for team success are high out of the gate. The competitor in him surely wants that, but it's a lot of pressure. It tells the rest of the Spurs that this is a business, and right now we are in the business of winning around Victor Wembanyama.
So what did it get you in return?
Did you rescue Bradley Beal from Washington and take on his contract that pays him $50 million a year through 2027? Is Damian Lillard ready to leave Portland and join Pop and Wemby? Did the Celtics decide to move on from Jaylen Brown given impending changes to salary cap rules? Is Zach LaVine your guy? Somebody else?
In any case we're talking about adding an All-Star several times over, a veteran offensive threat who can take pressure off of Wembanyama and set him up well immediately. The Spurs go from the third-worst record in the league to fighting for a guaranteed playoff spot basically overnight.
If by some miracle Vassell is on the roster you'll probably want to extend him. Bringing back Tre Jones is likely going to be one of your cheaper options in terms of quality depth and corporate knowledge.
Build a 15-man roster with any remaining players from the list below and cheap free agents or second-round picks in this draft.
- PG: Devonte' Graham, Blake Wesley
- SG: Devin Vassell, Malaki Branham
- SF: Doug McDermott
- PF: Victor Wembanyama, Jeremy Sochan
- C: Zach Collins, Charles Bassey, Khem Birch
- Cap holds: Tre Jones, Keita Bates-Diop, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Romeo Langford, Dominick Barlow, Julian Champagnie
The Spurs are now out of cap space and looking at the luxury tax after this season. Let's hope the new owners are willing to pay a premium for performance, and let's hope that investment pays off with a title soon. If it doesn't, San Antonio may find themselves with limited options to try something different around Wembanyama.
To start over, click here.