Season Preview

Hype is Real: Spurs remain in rebuild mode

Published September 30, 2022, 10:00 AMJon Carlos Rodriguez
Jon Carlos Rodriguez

The San Antonio Spurs may have a young roster, but they are still worth the watch.

Hype is Real is an NBA.com Philippines series that gives an optimistic view of every NBA team heading into the 2022-2023 season. This is our way of convincing people why they should support and watch a particular team.

Overview of their 2021-2022 season

The rebuild mode that the San Antonio Spurs are currently in is…still ongoing. Last season was a crucial step in the process, with Patty Mills–the last man standing from the championship team–moving to Brooklyn. All-Star Dejounte Murray was supposed to be THE guy, but then he’s gone off to Atlanta, leaving the team with another void.

That seems to be the Spurs’ M.O. since the departure of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili: a constant state of filling up the big void. Although the team has missed the playoffs for three straight years, they always seem to be on the cusp, just standing right outside the door of the postseason. They got close last season, barely missing the playoffs–no thanks to an unexpected run by an upstart New Orleans Pelicans team.

What’s new this season?

What’s new this season is that the Spurs are in Phase 3 (or is it 4?) of their rebuild. With Murray gone, everyone on the roster will have to move one level up to make up for his 21 points and nine assists per game All-Star contributions. Since replicating that won’t be easy, the Spurs will have to throw in three to four guys at the point guard spot to compensate. They got Tre Jones, Devin Vassell, Josh Richardson, Joshua Primo, and Blake Wesley. Wait, that’s five guys. The Spurs will have to throw in five guys at the point guard spot to replace Murray.

That’s what the Spurs would be busy with this season. It’s going to be a season-long shuffle of lineup rotation and combinations to try to unlock that eighth seed in the Western Conference. Either that or they completely head into the 2022-2023 season as some sort of workshop to prepare for the 2023-2024 season, where a new crop of talented rookies (including prized rookie Victor Wembanyama) would become available. After all, they got three first-round picks in 2023, 2025, and 2027 from the Murray deal.

THE guy

Vassell showed flashes of scoring brilliance last season and he’ll most likely get most of the shots that Murray was taking. But THE guy this season might just be Keldon Johnson. The 22-year-old Johnson was the Spurs’ second-leading scorer behind Murray last season, and he just signed a four-year extension with San Antonio. The Spurs are betting on him to break out before he turns 25, which looks to be a very logical bet based on what we saw from him last season.

Sneaky fun guy

The Spurs used their ninth pick in the 2022 draft to get 19-year-old Jeremy Sochan, a 6’9” versatile player who can hit 3s and defend at a high level. He won the Big 12's Sixth Man of the Year Award in his final year as a Baylor Bear. 

With the Spurs’ thin roster up front (only adding journeyman Gorgui Dieng), Sochan may be given Boris Diaw-like minutes off the bench, which—as history has proven—is a quintessential Popovich move.

Vibe check

Speaking of Pop, the Spurs’ season is still–and will always be–dependent on him. A legendary coach like Popovich gets to dictate the moves and the grooves; a vibe general with the highest honor. As long as Pop still has the energy and the patience to call the shots from the sidelines, the Spurs will always be competitive and will always be a threat–whether to fight for that elusive eighth spot or just to steal a slot in the Play-In Tournament.