Dejounte Murray trade stirs speculation about tanking for 'best prospect since LeBron'

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By , Audacy Sports

The San Antonio Spurs have shaken up the NBA offseason by trading All-Star guard Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for a boatload of draft picks.

And in the eyes of some basketball observers and fans, the Murray deal was a prelude to something -- and someone -- potentially much bigger.

By dealing Murray, the Spurs, who have fallen back to the pack since trading Kawhi Leonard several years ago, could be embracing a season of tanking in order to position themselves for better odds at the first overall pick in next year's draft, according to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports and others.

The grand prize for the team that ends up with that pick is projected to be Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, a 7-foot-3 prospect -- with a purported wingspan of 7-foot-9 -- who some are hailing as the best young player to come along in years -- two decades in fact.

The 18-year-old is "being touted as the best prospect since LeBron James," ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi proclaimed during a recent episode of SportsCenter.

NBA Draft insider Jonathan Givony then told Negandhi that Wembanyama is a combination of "Rudy Gobert and Kevin Durant. ... Blocks everything, dunks everything, range on his jumper, great feel for the game, polished footwork, mobility, fluidity, elegance, youth. Thoroughly outplayed Chet Holmgren in the 2021 FIBA U-19 World Championship in Riga, when he was two years younger than [Holmgren]."

For the Spurs, who have been one of the NBA's best franchises in recent decades, their run of dominance famously started by tanking in order to secure the first overall pick in the 1997 Draft, when they selected Wake Forest star Tim Duncan.

The Spurs won the NBA title in Duncan's third season, and they would go on to win four more before his career was over. Of course, they built great teams around him, led by Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili and six-time All-Star Tony Parker, and, later, Leonard.

But Duncan was the backbone of the league's best franchise for a decade and a half, and although no one likes tanking, it's hard to argue that the strategy didn't pay off.

If they do indeed pursue a similar strategy for the upcoming season, there seems to be little doubt that the man in their sights this time around is Wembanyama.

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