The ping-pong balls rolled in the San Antonio Spurs’ favor on Tuesday night, with the franchise winning what many consider the most important NBA Draft Lottery in decades. The excitement was obvious for Spurs fans, including managing partner Peter Holt, who jumped out of his seat on stage when it was revealed that his team earned the top pick.
“I just jumped the gun when I saw Charlotte come out at No. 2,” Holt told reporters. “I lost it a little bit. It’s just so exciting.”
The Spurs, who’ve won five NBA titles with help from international stars, are poised to use their top pick in in next month’s NBA Draft on French prodigy Victor Wembanyama. The 7-foot-2-inch phenom is the most highly touted prospect to enter the NBA since LeBron James was drafted in 2003.
Just six years prior to that, the Spurs used their No. 1 overall pick on Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who helped orchestrate one of the most dominant runs in NBA history under coach Gregg Popovich, who has been at the helm for 27 years.
And Duncan did it with help from from French teammates Boris Diaw and Tony Parker, a six-time NBA All Star.
The Spurs, who finished 22-60 this past season, now hope having another Frenchman in the fold will lead to more success. The 19-year-old is expected to compete immediately alongside a young core that features forwards Keldon Johnson and Zach Collins.
“We got lucky tonight,” said Spurs general manager Brian Wright. “And hopefully we can build on this and put a team together that can really grow together over the next few years.”
Charlotte, Portland, Houston and Detroit rounded out the top five picks.
The Spurs, who welcomed Earnest Partners CEO Paul Viera as a limited partner on Tuesday, are set to open a new practice facility that's part of a larger $500 million commercial zone in August. The franchise was valued at $2.1 billion in Sportico’s latest NBA valuations.
Wembanyama's arrival should impact the Spurs’ team valuation immediately, since he has international appeal and will be playing for a team with possibly the highest concentration of French fans in the NBA. The Spurs were anticipating more than 2,000 deposits for 2023-24 season tickets on Tuesday night alone. But Holt downplayed the commercial juice that comes with drafting the two-time LNB Best Young Player winner.
“We’re not in this for the money,” he said. “We’re in this for the love of the game and the love of the city.”