With the 2023 NBA All-Star break in the rearview mirror, all the eyes are now in the final months of the 2022-23 regular season. While most of the teams are competing for a playoff spot, some organizations such as the San Antonio Spurs might already be thinking about the future.
This season marked the start of a new era in San Antonio. After missing the playoffs for three consecutive years, they entered a rebuilding mode by trading away All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for mostly first-round picks. Then, on the Feb. 9 trade deadline, sent starting center Jakob Poeltl to the Toronto Raptors.
The Spurs entered the break at 14-45 and No. 14 in the Western Conference. They currently have the second-worst record in the league, only better than the Houston Rockets at 13-45.
Although the record is not great, the team is showing some potential on the court. With that being said, here are three bold predictions for the Spurs following the 2023 NBA All-Star break.
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3. Devin Vassell returns for the final games of the season, shows potential
Even though the Spurs are having one of the worst seasons in franchise history, some players are making the most out of the situation. One of them is Devin Vassell, the team’s lottery pick in 2020.
The forward is averaging 19.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 3.6 assists plus 1.2 steals a night. He is shooting 44.5% from the field, 40.4% from the 3-point line, and 79.3% from the charity stripe. Most of those numbers represent the best marks of his career.
The problem is that Vassell suffered a knee injury in January, which has limited him to just 29 games this season. He last played on Jan. 2 before undergoing an arthroscopic procedure.
According to Noah Magaro-George of the Air Alamo, head coach Gregg Popovich said Vassell could return to the court sometime after the All-Star break.
The bold prediction is that he will return before the end of the season, playing a couple of games on limited minutes. Not only that but he will show flashes of his best form. He might struggle a bit due to his extended absence but he could make an impact right away.
2. Jeremy Sochan earns All-Rookie honors
Another young player from the Spurs who is gaining some attention in the NBA is Jeremy Sochan. After a slow start, the rookie bounced back with better efficiency, highlighted by his new one-handed free-throw form.
Sochan is putting up 10.0 points, 4.9 boards, and 2.5 assists. He is making 44.8% of his field goals, 26.2% of his 3-pointers and 69.3% of his free-throw attempts. Prior to his new one-handed form, Sochan was hitting only 45.8% of his shots from the foul line.
For his performances, the Polish-American was selected to the Rising Stars Challenge during the 2023 All-Star Weekend. Playing under two-time NBA All-Star Joakim Noah, Sochan recorded six points, an assist, and a steal in the team’s first game. They would end up finishing second in the tournament, losing to Team Pau Gasol with No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero in the final.
SOCHAN THE DESTROYER ‼️‼️‼️ pic.twitter.com/kjdP2jlmjJ
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 18, 2023
Should he continue playing at this level, Sochan could be rewarded by the end of the season. The bold prediction is that the power forward will earn All-Rookie honors. This would be the first time since a Spur made it to an All-Rookie Team since Kawhi Leonard was a First-Team member in 2012.
1. Spurs surpass 20 wins and finish with the second-worst record in the league
Even though the Spurs had their moments this season, they have seriously struggled for most of it. In November, they won just one out of their 15 games. Most recently, they are currently on a 14-game losing streak, with the last win coming on Jan. 17 against the Brooklyn Nets thanks to Keldon Johnson’s career-high with 36 points.
It is worth noting that the team has been without Vassell for a long time. Additionally, Sochan and starting point guard Tre Jones missed some time due to injuries. Plus, Poeltl’s departure at the trade deadline also affected the Spurs both on and off the court.
With Vassell potentially returning later this season, San Antonio could make a final good impression on the court in 2022-23.
The bold prediction is that the Spurs will surpass 20 wins this season. It should be a tough task as they have the No. 13 most difficult remaining schedule, according to Tankathon. Still, there is a chance they could surpass 20 wins, which would avoid them from setting a new negative record in the franchise’s history. San Antonio went 20-62 in the 1996-97 season.
But with Popovich on the sidelines and a healthier squad, the Spurs could avoid this situation. It should not be enough to climb the standings but will keep them away from having the worst record in the Western Conference.