Editor's note: The San Antonio Spurs won the 2023 NBA draft lottery Tuesday and the right to select French super-prospect Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 overall pick. This story originally published on April 26.
The stakes were high for every franchise in the 2023 NBA draft lottery, but arguably no team had more riding on the pingpong balls than the San Antonio Spurs. After spending the past four years clearing cap space and collecting young prospects, San Antonio is searching for a true franchise player -- one that can vault the team back into perennial playoff contention.
After their third-worst win total and a four-year playoff drought (the longest in franchise history), the Spurs came into the lottery with top-three odds at 14% joining the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets.
After winning 48 games in 2018-19, marking a historic 22nd consecutive playoff berth, the Spurs changed course as Brian Wright took over as general manager and longtime decision-maker R.C. Buford moved into an overarching CEO position. San Antonio has methodically downshifted into a longer-term vision, stripping a veteran roster that lacked a championship ceiling, amassing prospects and draft capital and playing the lottery game.
Amid the losing, this season did bear some positives. Jeremy Sochan showed more scoring potential than many expected and looks like a key frontcourt building block. Forwards Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell (who missed a large chunk of time to injury) averaged career highs in points. San Antonio also saw flashes from 2022 first-rounders Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley -- the latter averaging 20.9 points per game in the G League.
The Spurs have a successful history of developing their young players, but this roster is still far from a finished product. It's missing a true centerpiece that can pull the parts together. San Antonio lost a draft tiebreaker to the Rockets and can draft no lower than seventh in any scenario. Jeremy Woo breaks down how winning the draft lottery and the chance to draft Wembanyama would impact the Spurs.