The 2023-24 season figures to be an exciting one for fans of the San Antonio Spurs, for they will finally be able to witness their prized prospect, Victor Wembanyama, make his much-anticipated debut. Wembanyama, the first overall pick of the 2023 NBA Draft, should be a game-changing presence for a Spurs team in need of a foundational piece as they try to return the franchise to its former glory.
Moreover, the continued progression of Devin Vassell, fresh off a new contract extension, will be of interest to Spurs fans heading into training camp, while youngsters such as Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan, and Malaki Branham will look to take the next step into their respective careers.
In the end, however, the Spurs still have a long way to go, their team filled with fringey role players who don't project to stay with the team long-term. In fact, the Spurs have already begun trimming the fat on the roster, waiving Cameron Payne and Reggie Bullock in recent weeks to cut down the roster to 16 before training camp begins. To that end, they will need to cut one more player, perhaps via waivers or trade, to enter the season with the prescribed roster size of 15.
With that said, here are the four most likely players the Spurs could let go of before the season begins.
1. Doug McDermott
Doug McDermott's best asset to a team is his ability to space the floor, which the Spurs will need especially as they try to put together a cohesive offense around Victor Wembanyama. McDermott also thrives off of movement, shooting while curling off screens and essentially helping the team with the gravity he provides on the perimeter.
But McDermott struggles to contribute virtually everywhere else, and at 31 years old, fashioning a huge role for him may not exactly be a priority for a Spurs team that wants to give their youngsters live action reps. At the three, the Spurs will be focusing on giving minutes to Julian Champagnie, a player who showed out during Summer League, and at the four, Jeremy Sochan will be getting a ton of minutes, presumably behind Wembanyama since the team will be starting a supersized Zach Collins-Wemby frontcourt.
The 31-year old sharpshooter's contract is also expiring after the 2023-24 season, making him an even more likely candidate to change teams — perhaps even before training camp begins.
At the moment, the Spurs' biggest need appears to be a floor general who could help bring out the best in Victor Wembanyama, Devin Vassell, and Keldon Johnson. Tre Jones, as smart of a player as he is, isn't a lethal enough scorer to keep up with the demands of the position in today's NBA, while Devonte' Graham is not an efficient enough scorer to warrant some of the shots he tends to take.
With the team invested in Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley's developments as potential lead guards, Graham may end up taking a backseat anyway in the rotation. Thus, don't be too surprised if Graham ends up being shopped throughout the season; his contract could be enticing as well for teams looking to alleviate their future financial burden, since it's only guaranteed for $2.85 million next year.
3. Khem Birch
Given the Spurs' glut of big men (in addition to Wembanyama and Collins, the team also has Charles Bassey and Sandro Mamukelashvili, not to mention two-way youngster Dominick Barlow), Khem Birch figures to be the odd man out in the frontcourt rotation.
Birch is, by all accounts, a helpful presence in the locker room who could help teach the youngsters a thing or two about professionalism. But the team may be better served using this roster spot elsewhere. And as an expiring deal, it shouldn't be too difficult to find any willing takers for the 31-year old big man.
4. Cedi Osman
The player who's most likely to help out the Spurs next season, Cedi Osman is also the most likely to remain with the team among the players on this list. Osman is a gunslinger from deep who, from time to time, has shown the ability to be of help when it comes to defending on the perimeter. The Spurs don't have too many two-way presences on the wing, so the team may call upon the 28-year old Turkish international to shoulder the majority of backup minutes behind Vassell and Johnson.
But in that same vein, Osman is also the player who could help contending teams the most. Just last year, Osman played an important role for a Cleveland Cavaliers team that won 50 games. Like three of the players on this list, his contract is set to expire after the season, so it should not be too hard for the Spurs to find a prospective deal that makes sense for them.