Interestingly, San Antonio’s 50th anniversary season arrives at a time when there won’t be much to celebrate in terms of the present. The organization spent the offseason finally diving deep into the waters of a complete rebuild. After finishing with a 34-48 record in 2021-22, which officially ended with a loss to New Orleans in the opening game of the Play-In Tournament, the Spurs blew open their offseason in late June by sending All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray to Atlanta. In exchange for Murray, San Antonio landed Danilo Gallinari (who was later waived), three first-round picks (2023, 2025, and 2027) and a 2026 pick swap. And earlier in 2022, San Antonio sent Derrick White to Boston in a February trade deadline deal for guards Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford, a protected 2022 first-round pick, and a conditional right to swap first-round picks in 2028 with the Celtics.
Those transactions signaled San Antonio’s willingness to finally tear down the roster to the studs and start fresh after more than two decades of dominance under the NBA’s winningest coach in Gregg Popovich.
The Spurs entered the 2022 NBA Draft armed with four picks, including three first-rounders and used them to select Jeremy Sochan (No. 9, the club’s highest pick since it drafted Hall of Famer Tim Duncan in 1997), Malaki Branham (20th), Blake Wesley (25th) and Kennedy Chandler (38th, later traded to Memphis). While none of Sochan, Branham or Wesley are expected to take on prominent roles as rookies, the construction of the roster should provide opportunities. San Antonio also rewarded 2019 first-round pick Keldon Johnson in July with a four-year, $80 million extension after a breakout campaign last season. However, the club found itself weakened from the developmental standpoint when longtime shooting coach Chip Engelland joined the Oklahoma City Thunder coaching staff after his San Antonio contract expired. Engelland is widely credited with the shooting development of former Spurs star Kawhi Leonard.
This will remain the largest looming question for the foreseeable future: how much longer will Popovich coach the Spurs? Popovich turns 74 in January, and he’ll likely finish 2022-23 with the fewest wins since his first season as coach (1996-97, when the Spurs went 17-47 on his watch). The future Hall of Fame coach has finished below .500 in each of the last three seasons. While it’s natural to believe the losses are trying his patience, Popovich contends it’s the opposite as he’s come to enjoy teaching the intricacies of the game to the young roster.
Undoubtedly, growth and development will be the focus for a San Antonio franchise accustomed to competing for championships. After running off a record streak of 22 straight postseason appearances, the Spurs will likely miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. The Spurs can stomach that as long as the young roster continues to develop at an adequate rate. Players such as Jones, Vassell, Johnson and Primo will be key in that, as well as the rookie class led by Sochan, Branham and Wesley. Projection: Draft Lottery.
1 KEY STAT TO KNOW
+10 — The Spurs outscored their opponents by 10 points last season, tying the 1976-77 Phoenix Suns (plus-60) for the worst record in NBA history (34-48) for a team with a positive point differential.
— John Schuhmann
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Tre Jones: The Spurs will debate internally between Jones and 19-year-old Joshua Primo, but the former is the safer, more steady option.
Devin Vassell: First player in franchise history to knock down 100 3-pointers or more (137) in his second season.
Doug McDermott: Steady vet provides pinpoint outside shooting, having connected on 40% or better from 3-point range in four of his last five seasons.
Keldon Johnson: San Antonio’s most dangerous offensive threat, Johnson upped his 3-point shooting by 6.7% in 2021-22 (39.8% on 3s) as he enjoyed a breakout 2021-22.
Jakob Poeltl: Intelligent defender blocked 118 shots last season after swatting a career-best 123 of them in 2020-21.
Joshua Primo: Enters second season at age 19 but remains one of the team’s most confident players.
Zach Collins: Skilled center, 24, finally appears back to full health after essentially two years of injury recovery.
Jeremy Sochan: Rookie defensive ace could fight his way into the rotation, but needs to gain more consistency with his shot.
LAST 5 SEASONS
How the Spurs have fared stats-wise over the last 5 seasons …
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
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Michael C. Wright is a senior writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.
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