David Thorpe ranks the rebuilds
How much sunshine is in your team’s forecast?
BY DAVID THORPE
Projecting the future of young players is forecasting the weather. It’s not hard to figure out what today looks like, but the conditions change without warning—in fact, that’s the only guarantee in forecasting. Ask the Pelicans and Grizzlies about it sometime.
Any team that finds itself up a competitive cul-de-sac might push the reset button and start rebuilding. When that happens, an organization is looking to stockpile young talent, draft assets, and underpaid players who can be moved for other future players and picks. Another key is financial flexibility, especially if your owner is loath to pay the luxury tax—because sooner or later some of that young talent will get expensive.
Rebuilds are hard and fizzle all the time. The Warriors, a dynastic franchise featuring some of the game’s best players over the last decade-plus, tried to balance a youth resurgence alongside Finals runs and failed. The prize of their most recent drafts, Jordan Poole helped the Dubs win another title, but he was a failure last season, and now he’s gone. (Poole’s new team, the Wizards—in the midst of their own major overhaul—have the potential to be the worst team in NBA history.) Nearly all their other young guys are gone, too.
But there is reason to be excited about several young cores this season—not in terms of talent accumulation, but how good that core could become going forward together. Though in different stages, each of these teams has the potential to be terrific in three years, depending on how the wind blows. None will contend anytime soon for a title, and that’s good news for their young guys. Of course, owners or execs may also want to trade the future for success today. Impulsiveness is impossible to forecast.
I took a look at rebuilding teams best positioned to climb the league’s ladder in two-to-three years. With teams ranked by best outlook, we begin in San Antonio, where the Spurs are hoping their new star will bring tons of sunshine into their forecast.
San Antonio Spurs
Victor Wembanyama – 19 years old
Jeremy Sochan – 20
Devin Vassell – 23
Keldon Johnson – 23
Tre Jones – 23
Malaki Branham – 20
Blake Wesley – 20
Dominick Barlow – 20
Victor Wembanyama projects to be the most impactful player of anyone in the league. He’ll be a focal point on offense and, as a rim protector, the linchpin of the defense. He seems to possess a nice balance of confidence and humility that indicates he’s built for stardom.
Rarely do I give franchises credit for what they’ve done in the past, but the Spurs are the same franchise they were then, still led by Gregg Popovich and RC Buford. The Spurs have enjoyed a good history helping similar players reach their fullest potential and to realize that winning matters most there: Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker head that list, but the Spurs also helped top draft picks like David Robinson and Tim Duncan reach their peak capabilities. All of these former players have chimed in already to help mentor Wembanyama. That tells me he has every shot to reach his fullest potential.
Victor isn’t the only Spur I love.