Spurs 2023 Draft Night Recap

victor wembanyama
Photo via Sarah Stier/Getty Images

SPURS HQ – “So it begins,” were the words of San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich Thursday. The Spurs begin their journey with the new face of the franchise Victor Wembanyama.

“We’re thrilled to bring Victor on board,” continued Popovich. When asked about the amount of attention Wembanyama is already receiving and if he can handle that type of pressure, Popovich said though he doesn’t know Wembanyama yet, he thinks he’ll be able to handle the pressure because Wembanyama’s parents have helped him along the way with his early professional career.

“From what I’ve seen, I don’t think he’s going to need a lot of help from me,” said Popovich of Wembanyama handling the hype and pressure. Popovich has spoken with Wembanyama a few times, but he’s already looking forward to building a relationship with him.

Popovich was asked about how he’ll coach Wembanyama, and he said, “I don’t know.” He said it was the same response he provided when he was asked how he would coach Tim Duncan in 1997. Popovich said he doesn’t want to use the same type of approach that other star players have had, he wants Wembanyama to feel comfortable while being able to be himself.

When asked about how the current Spurs players will fit alongside Wembanyama, Popovich said the current Spurs players have been working extra hard this offseason. “The guys that played with us last year, they’ve had a great summer,” said Popovich of what the coaches have told him regarding the work the players from last season have put in this offseason.

Lastly, Popovich said Wembanyama himself told Popovich he’s eager to get to know Spurs Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and David Robinson. “Victor’s already expressed interest in spending time with Tim and David,” said Popovich.

Spurs 2023 Draft Night Recap

Will Wemby play at Summer League and the FIBA World Cup?

“We’re talking about what he should be doing moving forward,” said Popovich of Wembanyama playing at Summer League. “He never stopped playing (in France). He will participate in the Summer League, to what degree, we’re not sure yet.”

On whether Wembanyama will play with the French National team in the FIBA World Cup later this summer, Popovich said a decision hasn’t been made yet.

Spurs Trade 33rd Pick to Minnesota

Later in the evening, just before the Spurs were set to draft at 33 in the second round, they agreed to trade the 33rd pick for two future second round picks with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The trade was made official by the end of the night. The Spurs drafted Leonard Miller at 33 and traded him to Minnesota. In exchange, the Spurs acquired a 2026 Utah second round pick (from Minnesota) and a 2028 Minnesota second round pick.

Let’s breakdown why each team made the trade:

Why did Minnesota make this trade?

For a playoff-level team that’s capped out like the Timberwolves, they were adding a second round pick who could be on a 3-4 year deal with the new CBA second round pick exception contract. For teams like Minnesota that are limited with salary resources. This gives those capped-out teams opportunities to develop young players while keeping most of their higher-salaried players on the team.

In the previous CBA, a second round pick could only be signed up to 2-years with a minimum salary.

Why did the Spurs make this trade in the 2023 NBA Draft?

For the Spurs, it looks like not only did they acquire future draft picks for a potential trade down the road, but they’re also running into roster space limits even before free agency begins.

The Spurs are entering July 1 with 11 players under guaranteed contracts. The most players a team can have on full season deals are 15 players on the roster. That would leave the Spurs with just 4 open roster spots to sign free agents or trade for players. San Antonio has multiple players entering free agency. Tre Jones, Keita Bates-Diop, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Gorgui Dieng, Dominick Barlow, and Julian Champagnie.

The new CBA also allows teams to have up to three players on two-way contracts, but the Spurs are facing some roster limits there as well. With the 44th pick, the Spurs selected Sidy Cissoko, who might get one of those two-way roster spots. Then after the draft, the Spurs reportedly agreed to sign undrafted player Sir’Jabari Rice to a two-way deal.

The Spurs can also make Barlow and Champagnie eligible for a two-way roster spot. They must tender a qualifying offer to either of those players before free agency. So that’s potentially four players trying to get three two-way spots. Had San Antonio drafted at 33, they’d be either facing roster limits on the full team roster or the two-way roster.

Updates on Tre Jones and Zach Collins

Following the draft, Spurs General Manager Brian Wright addressed the media. When asked about Tre Jones’ upcoming free agency, Wright said Jones will be a restricted free agent. Jones could go into free agency. This means the Spurs won’t agree to a contract extension with him before June 30. The Spurs will also tender Jones a qualifying offer before June 29 to make him a restricted free agent.

June 23 was the contract guarantee date for Zach Collins’ $7.7 million salary this coming season. Wright said Collins will be on the team this coming season, which means his deal will fully guarantee.

This wasn’t too much of a surprising move. Popovich had mentioned before the season ended that Collins would be back.

The Spurs now look toward free agency on June 30. They’ll have to spend potentially north of $20 million to meet the minimum team salary. This needs to be paid before the first game of the regular season. With the new CBA, there’s now a penalty for teams with cap space like the Spurs don’t spend some of that available money. The Spurs can either look to sign free agents or trade for players under contract.

Drop your Spurs 2023 NBA draft thoughts below.


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