San Antonio Spurs 2024 NBA offseason preview: Victor Wembanyama is the sole focus

2023-24 season: 22-60

Highlight of the season: Every minute played by Victor Wembanyama.

With dreams of more. The Wemby Show (patent pending) was worth 60-plus losses if only to cement him as the most exciting young star in the league. It did take a few months for Wembanyama to pop off, as he was hindered by odd decisions by the Spurs' coaching staff to start Jeremy Sochan at point guard, Zach Collins at center and flank the rookie with virtually no shooting to optimize spacing.

It wasn’t until point guard Tre Jones entered the starting lineup and Wembanyama moved to center that the rookie started playing very unlike a rookie. In 42 games starting with Jones, the 7-foot-4 sensation averaged 23.2 points, 11 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.9 blocks and 1.3 steals in just 29.8 minutes per game — one of the most stat-stuffing per-minute production lines of anyone in the league, let alone a 20-year-old who isn’t even allowed to buy a drink.

It wasn’t all roses, as the record might attest. Sochan’s impact was inconsistent, as was Keldon Johnson’s defense and decision-making. Jones, for all the credit he deserves for helping to unlock Wembanyama, remained a poor shooter and unaggressive scorer. The team relied far too much on players who wouldn’t crack a rotation on most teams, playing Julian Champagnie, Cedi Osman and Blake Wesley over 3,500 combined minutes.

As it stands, the Spurs really only have three keepers: Wembanyama, Devin Vassell — who played admirably all year, settling into a No. 2 role — and a 2025 unprotected first-round pick, courtesy of the Atlanta Hawks, which in theory could turn into star prospect Cooper Flagg if the Hawks have another disappointing season. It might seem cruel to value an unknown draft selection over 13 NBA players, but that should speak volumes about the level of talent on the Spurs.

With the Spurs in their offseason, it’s time for assessment. Johnson is on a terrific deal as he earns just $19 million next season and $17.5 million each of the next two years. That type of contract is attractive, particularly for expensive teams, and the Spurs should be willing to field calls, while maintaining a high asking price. Cheap and productive players are valuable, and if they can play the wing position, like Johnson, there’s an additional premium.

Going forward, the name of the game for San Antonio will be patience. Rushing to find an older complementary star player — even if the Spurs can afford it — would be unwise as their direction should be all about opening and maintaining the longest competitive window possible with Wembanyama at the helm. That doesn’t happen if they go out and sign a 28-year-old.

FILE - San Antonio Spurs center Victor Wembanyama (1) shoots in front of Memphis Grizzlies forward GG Jackson (45) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, April 9, 2024, in Memphis, Tenn. Wembanyama has been named NBA Rookie of the Year after a record-setting season. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)
Victor Wembanyama does indeed appear to be a generational talent. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)

The Spurs need two things specifically: shooting and playmaking. While it would be nice to add defense, it’s unlikely they find a player who delivers all three and fits their timeline. Floor spacing and the ability to pass are the two most crucial elements to put next to Wembanyama for the next decade.

The Spurs surprised everyone and snuck into the top five. It's clear the Spurs need a playmaker and facilitator to get Wembanyama more touches. Serbia's Nikola Topić averaged over six assists per game prior to his knee injury, which he just tweaked again, sidelining him until the draft. Kentucky freshmen Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham are also two options. — Krysten Peek

Draft picks: Nos. 4, 8, 35 and 48

The Spurs could be looking at over $30 million in cap space, and that’s after the extensions of Vassell and Collins kick in. Devonte’ Graham has only $2.8 million guaranteed out of $12.6 million, meaning they’re likely cutting him loose. Osman’s $6.7 million contract is also coming off the cap, which further allows the Spurs to become “restricted free agency trolls” during the summer.

San Antonio should almost immediately make life difficult for the Toronto Raptors by offering guard Immanuel Quickley a max or a near-max contract. Toronto has matching rights, but that’s a big contract to swallow and it will put a ton of money on its books for the long term. If the Raptors decide not to match, the Spurs will have a new point guard without relinquishing any trade assets. Should Quickley be retained, the Spurs should pivot to Tyus Jones, older brother of Tre, and offer him a substantial two-year contract, which won’t mess up their long-term cap sheet.

Whatever San Antonio ends up doing, it’s crucial it doesn't panic. The future is simply too important to take any major risks, especially this soon.

Key free agents: None

Significant progress. While other young teams are in no rush to get better due to the lack of a clear-cut star, the Spurs can expect a major level of internal improvement via Wembanyama and will need to flank him with a higher level of talent than they did this year. Remember, even if San Antonio improves a great deal, its pick from Atlanta won’t be impacted. So the Spurs could find themselves in a much better situation in the win column and still receive a high lottery pick in 2025. If that isn’t an optimal situation, what is?

It's time to find a true point guard to pair with Wembanyama. Tre Jones looks like a solid backup, but the Spurs need to accelerate the development timeline after Wemby's historic rookie year. And please, no more Sochan experiments from Gregg Popovich. Also, let's ramp up Wemby's minutes over the 30-minute threshold. In 30-plus minutes this season, he averaged 22 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and a ridiculous five stocks per game. — Dan Titus