How one key Rockets decision stifled the entire Spurs rebuild

San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors
San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

The Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs have mirrored each other in recent years. Both teams have been forced to hit the restart button after trading away multiple All-NBA talents.

Both teams entered the 2022-23 season with hopes of landing the top overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, thus securing the ability to nab French big man Victor Wembanyama. The Spurs ultimately secured a victory in regards to the French sensation after being gifted the top overall pick in the draft lottery, while the Rockets acquired the fourth overall pick and selected Amen Thompson. 

But although the Spurs reeled in the higher-rated draft prospect, the Rockets may have stifled the Spurs' rebuild with the free-agent signing of former Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet. FanSided's Tyler Watts explained the reasoning in his recent piece titled 'Fred VanVleet and 4 free agent agents the Spurs might regret not signing'.

Houston Rockets GM Rafael Stone's recent decision could possibly be atop the San Antonio Spurs' list of regrets.

"Houston was the only team with more cap space than San Antonio. The Rockets were determined to improve their roster, so they splashed a three-year $128.5 million contract on FVV.

It is a hefty price to pay for a fringe All-Star, but VanVleet is an elite scorer and playmaker. He would have taken offensive pressure off Victor Wembanyama and ensured the 7’3 rookie got open looks. FVV may not be a superstar, but the 29-year-old is a massive upgrade over Tre Jones.

San Antonio will regret not getting in on the bidding for Fred VanVleet when their offense is struggling. The Spurs finished 29th in offensive rating last season and will see plenty of forced shots from their prized rookie. FVV could have solved those issues, but San Antonio was unwilling to put their cash on the table."

The Spurs had one of the better point guards in Dejounte Murray prior to dealing him to the Atlanta Hawks just a season ago and proved incapable of replacing him after trading him. The Rockets were in a similar situation just three seasons ago, as they had two-time assists leader James Harden prior to Harden's trade demand in 2020-21. 

The Rockets briefly allowed John Wall to facilitate the offense prior to converting Kevin Porter Jr. to the point guard position full-time. It'll be interesting to see what the Spurs do at the point guard spot but smart money says that they'll just allow Tre Jones to develop.

In that case, they may regret not landing VanVleet after all, proving Watts' point.