2024 NBA Offseason Preview: San Antonio Spurs

In terms of NBA roster construction, the most difficult thing to acquire is a foundational star to build around. When the Spurs won the draft lottery in 2023 and landed the No. 1 overall pick, they found such a player in Victor Wembanyama.

The unanimous choice for Rookie of the Year, Wembanyama finished second in Defensive Player of the Year voting and on Tuesday became the first rookie in league history to be named to the All-Defensive First Team.

There has never been a player as tall and long as Wembanyama (he’s 7’4″ with a 8’0″ wingspan) who comes close to his unique blend of physical attributes and skills. While many seven-footers look stiff and awkward on the court due to their immense size, Wembanyama is agile, fluid and graceful, with excellent body control. He has a rare ability to precisely understand how his body can navigate a given space.

The French phenom handles the ball better than some guards, with advanced and elaborate dribble moves that mimic some of the game’s all-time scorers. He can spin both ways while finishing emphatically with either hand. Wembanyama is a skilled passer who certainly could have — and probably should have — averaged more than 3.9 assists per game. He has very deep shooting range and attempted 5.5 threes per game, one of the highest marks among all big men.

For all of Wembanyama’s offensive talent, he’s much more polished on the defensive end at this point in his career. Even if he gets beat one-on-one, he can recover quickly enough to still block a shot. He has a high basketball IQ, excellent hand-eye coordination and situational awareness. He doesn’t back down from physicality despite having a thin frame, and he fully utilizes his massive wingspan and glove-like hands.

Just how good was the 20-year-old’s rookie campaign? Despite playing just 29.7 minutes per game, Wembanyama averaged more steals (1.2) plus blocks (3.6) than every player in the 21st century except for one: four-time Defensive Player of the Year Ben Wallace. The scariest thing is that he only got better as the season wore on, averaging 23.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 4.6 blocks (!) over his last 24 games (32.1 MPG).

Despite Wembanyama’s individual success, the Spurs went just 22-60 in 2023/24, the exact same record they posted in ’22/23. The team’s underlying stats were marginally better (-6.4 net rating vs. a league worst -9.9 a year ago), but San Antonio was still dreadful.

Yes, the club was much better when Wembanyama played, with a defensive rating (111.2) that would have ranked fifth in the league. When Wembanyama was off the court, San Antonio’s had the equivalent of the NBA’s 24th-ranked defense (117.3).

However, the team actually fared slightly worse on offense when he was on the court than off. His .565 true shooting percentage was below league average (.580) and well below average for a big man. He also averaged 3.7 turnovers per game, and turnovers were a significant issue for the Spurs throughout the season. Being the No. 1 option on an inexperienced team with poor floor spacing has its downsides, and Wembanyama’s shot selection wasn’t always ideal either.

Part of that was due to the failed lineup experiments at the beginning of the season, when the Spurs ran Wembanyama at power forward, Zach Collins at center, and Jeremy Sochan at point guard. It definitely is not a coincidence that Wembanyama’s numbers rose across the board when Tre Jones, the team’s only true point guard, became a full-time starter on January 4. The Spurs were 5-28 at that point and were slightly more respectable (17-32) the rest of the way.

The Spurs’ Offseason Plan

While Jones is a solid all-around player, he profiles as more of a top-tier backup than a starter. That’s why the Spurs have been linked to All-Star names like Trae Young and Darius Garland. For what it’s worth, multiple reports have downplayed the team’s potential interest in Young.

Generally speaking, San Antonio needs more players who can create for themselves and others, shoot, and throw entry passes and lobs. If those players can also be at least average defensively, that would be a huge plus.

Aside from Wembanyama and Devin Vassell, who signed a five-year, $135MM rookie scale extension last offseason, I wouldn’t be shocked to see anyone else on the roster moved. I don’t expect that to happen with 2022 lottery pick Sochan, as the team likes his competitiveness and defensive versatility. Same for 2023 second-rounder Sidy Cissoko, who just turned 20 in April. Both players really need to develop their jump shots, however.

I would also be mildly surprised if Jones gets traded. In a vacuum, he isn’t irreplaceable by any means, but the team clearly needs the 24-year-old’s skill set. Jones is another player who isn’t known for his outside shooting ability though — his 33.5% three-point conversion rate last season was a career high, and he averaged just 2.5 attempts per game. Teams dare him and several others on the roster to shoot, which is another reason why Wembanyama attempted so many threes while only converting 32.5% of them.

2022 first-rounders Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley haven’t shown much in their first two seasons to think they’ll be part of the team’s long-term future, but they’re both just 21 years old and on relatively cheap contracts. The Spurs don’t have a roster crunch, so they can be patient and see if the two guards develop further in the offseason.

Cedi Osman is the only true unrestricted free agent on the roster. Assuming the price is right, the Spurs could re-sign him, but it probably won’t be a high priority. Devonte’ Graham seems highly likely to hit the open market as well — his $12.65MM salary is only partially guaranteed for $2.85MM, and I expect the Spurs to waive him, considering he only played 313 total minutes in ’24/25. There’s certainly an argument to be made Graham should have played more this past season, but San Antonio was more focused on experimenting and player development than giving veterans minutes.

If the Spurs accelerate their timeline by trading away some of their future first-rounders for upgrades, Keldon Johnson ($54MM over the next three seasons) and Zach Collins ($34.8MM over the next two) are the team’s most likely trade candidates. They are the only players on the roster who will make between $13-28MM in ’24/25, so their contracts are obvious salary-matching pieces.

A former late first-rounder, Johnson has been a productive scorer and slasher over the past handful of seasons. However, he was moved to the bench last season. The 24-year-old gets left in the dust too often defensively, particularly struggling with quicker players and lateral movement. If the Spurs view him more as a sixth man than a starter, he could certainly be expendable in the right deal.

Collins underwent surgery last month after tearing the labrum in his right shoulder (he’s expected to be ready for next season). The oft-injured former Gonzaga product didn’t mesh well alongside Wembanyama, with his three-point percentage dropping from 37.4% in ’22/23 to 32.0% in ’23/24. He’s a solid enough backup, but the two-year, $35MM extension he signed last October doesn’t exactly look team-friendly.

While the Spurs have plenty of options if they want to make deals, they could also simply keep all of their future first-round picks and take a wait-and-see approach to the offseason. Listening to offers while not proactively shopping for help might make the most sense, given that Collins could be the oldest player on the roster next season and he’s only 26.

San Antonio got lucky in the draft lottery once again, moving up to No. 4 overall after finishing with the NBA’s fifth-worst record. The Spurs also control the No. 8 overall pick after the Raptors slid down two spots — Toronto would have kept the selection if it had landed in the top six (San Antonio acquired the rights to the pick in last year’s Jakob Poeltl trade).

Controlling a pair of early-to-mid lottery picks would be a massive windfall in most years. It remains to be seen if it will have the same effect in 2024, as this year’s draft class is largely viewed as lacking in top-end talent.

That said, the Spurs also don’t need the players they select to be home runs. Having cost-controlled role players would be very helpful too, and there are players who fit that mold in this draft.

Having a pair of lottery picks will surely have rumors swirling about the Spurs potentially trying to move up or down in the draft. That’s just the nature of controlling multiple picks in that range. San Antonio also owns one second-rounder, No. 42 overall.

If they move up or he’s still available at No. 4, French 3-and-D forward Zaccharie Risacher seems like a natural target for the Spurs. If they focus on shooting, Kentucky guards Rob Dillingham and Reed Sheppard, Tennesee swingman Dalton Knecht, and French forward Tidjane Salaun are candidates to monitor. If they gravitate more toward best players available, Nikola Topic (Serbia), Stephon Castle (UConn), Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis (G League Ignite) could be options.

Getting lucky in the lottery also means the Spurs will have less projected cap room in free agency, which really isn’t a big deal for them — it’s a weak class and not many players fit what they’re looking for. If they keep both picks, waive Graham and Charles Bassey (non-guaranteed), and extend qualifying offers to Sandro Mamukelashvili and Dominick Barlow, they’d have have about $14-15MM in cap room, plus the $8MM room exception. Using that financial flexibility to take on an unwanted contract or two in order to add more draft assets is probably a likelier outcome than signing veterans.

Salary Cap Situation

Guaranteed Salary

Non-Guaranteed Salary

  • Devonte’ Graham ($9,800,000)
    • Partial guarantee. Rest of salary noted above. Graham’s salary will become guaranteed if he remains under contract through July 1.
  • Julian Champagnie ($3,000,000)
    • Champagnie’s salary will become guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1.
  • Charles Bassey ($2,500,000)
    • Bassey’s salary will become guaranteed if he remains under contract through August 1.
  • Jamaree Bouyea (two-way)
  • RaiQuan Gray (two-way)
  • Total: $15,300,000

Dead/Retained Salary

  • None

Player Options

  • None

Team Options

  • None

Restricted Free Agents

Two-Way Free Agents

Draft Picks

  • No. 4 overall pick ($9,131,760)
  • No. 8 overall pick ($6,281,280)
  • No. 35 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • No. 48 overall pick (no cap hold)
  • Total (cap holds): $15,413,040

Extension-Eligible Players

  • Devonte’ Graham (veteran)
  • Cedi Osman (veteran)
    • Extension-eligible until June 30.

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, these players are eligible for extensions beginning in July.

Unrestricted Free Agents

  • Cedi Osman ($12,765,800 cap hold): Bird rights
  • Total (cap holds): $12,765,800

Cap Exceptions Available

Note: The Spurs project to operate under the cap. If they were to operate over the cap, they’d lose the room exception and would have access to the mid-level exception ($12,859,000) and bi-annual exception ($4,681,000).

  • Room exception: $8,006,000

Luke Adams contributed to this post.

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