The possibility of the San Antonio Spurs drafting superstar prospect Victor Wembanyama is something that one NBA executive believes could instill new enthusiasm in Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
Gery Woelfel noted that the 74-year-old Popovich could conceivably retire, but may be encouraged to stay if the Spurs win Tuesday night’s NBA draft lottery.
“I think Pop wouldn’t mind coaching the French kid,’’ the executive said about Wembanyama.
“I think he (Wembanyama) would re-energize Pop. I think he’d really love to coach that guy.’’
After decades of success in leading the Spurs, which included five NBA championships, Popovich endured arguably his roughest season in the 2022-23 campaign. His team finished with a 22-60 record.
Given his age, it would be understandable if Popovich simply decided to walk away. His incredible legacy was established long ago, and the difficult task of a major rebuild of the franchise might no longer appeal to him.
However, Wembanyama is considered by most basketball observers to be a once-in-a-generation talent who could help transform a franchise. He doesn’t turn 20 until January and could serve as a potential lure for free agents.
Over the course of his coaching career, Popovich has managed to develop a number of talented players, including international talents such as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Both of those players ended up being elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
In addition, if the Spurs do manage to win Tuesday’s draft lottery, Popovich may end up having a flashback to 1997. That was the year in which the Spurs drafted Hall of Famer Tim Duncan with the top overall pick.
Like this past season, those Spurs were coming off a rough year, compiling a 20-62 record. Popovich had taken over the lead coaching duties for the Spurs during the 1996-97 campaign, with that season marred by an injury to David Robinson, who saw action in only six games.
The Spurs have a solid chance of emerging with the top pick on Tuesday night. The team has the same 14 percent chance of success as two other teams, the Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets.
Much like previous draft lotteries with incredibly talented players, the drama when it comes to determining who wins the process will be high.