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San Antonio Spurs: 3 needs before the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline

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SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMEBR 18: R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich and Manu Ginobili
SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMEBR 18: R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich and Manu Ginobili /
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SACRAMENTO, CA – FEBRUARY 27: A shot of the San Antonio Spurs logo during the game against the Sacramento Kings on February 27, 2015 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
SACRAMENTO, CA – FEBRUARY 27: A shot of the San Antonio Spurs logo during the game against the Sacramento Kings on February 27, 2015 at Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The San Antonio Spurs rarely make a move at the NBA Trade Deadline, but it does not mean they have needs to address.

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline will take place. It will hit at 3:00 p.m. ET. Will the San Antonio Spurs make a move? History says no, given their lack of trades at deadline day over the past two decades. Their last deal was not that long ago, as Nando De Colo went to the Toronto Raptors for Austin Daye. Not exactly a headline-grabbing move.

Will 2018 be different? Maybe not, but the Spurs are not a perfect team and could use an upgrade at a position or two. Let’s take a look at what can be addressed:

3. Backup center

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When the Spurs signed Joffrey Lauvergne in the 2017 offseason, he became their one and only depth piece at center and power forward. It was a change from having Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee, but the Spurs instead chose to sign Rudy Gay and deploy him as a stretch four.

Did these decisions work out? Gay had spurts of success, but remains sidelined with a right heel injury, something he suffered in late December. When healthy, though, he allowed San Antonio to spread the floor and give Pau Gasol or LaMarcus Aldridge an extra minute of bench rest. Lauvergne’s playing time has varied, resulting in 34 appearances for 3.8 points and 3 rebounds.

While the Spurs have lasted without above-average production at backup center, they can still use an upgrade.

A rim-protector acquisition fits as an upgrade over Lauvergne, who has blocked one shot in 2017-18. That can be Willy Hernangomez of the New York Knicks, a player long rumored to be available. Tyler Zeller of the Brooklyn Nets may be an option, too, given his deal will not be guaranteed for the 2018-19 season.

If the trade route fails, the Spurs can target Andrew Bogut. He remains without a team after the Los Angeles Lakers waived him.

Center can use an upgrade, whether the Spurs address it during the season or stay cautious and wait for the 2018-19 incarnation of the team.

Next: Wing depth

SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 18: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs smiles during the game against the LA Clippers on December 18, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 18: Rudy Gay #22 of the San Antonio Spurs smiles during the game against the LA Clippers on December 18, 2017 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photos by Mark Sobhani/NBAE via Getty Images) /

2. Wing depth

The San Antonio Spurs entered the 2017-18 season with Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gay and Kyle Anderson all available as a wing player. With a superstar player, a long-time starter and a solid backup, it seemed like the Spurs were set.

Nearly four months later, Leonard has barely played, Gay’s injuries hampered him and Anderson was forced into a starting role. Not the standard situation at all in the Alamo City.

Without the expected scoring from the wing spot, it put pressure on LaMarcus Aldridge to become the lead option (and succeed) and for Anderson to take more shots per game (6.1) than he ever did in his first three seasons. So, is it time to help these players out?

Gay may be back soon, sure, but his recent injury history can’t leave the Spurs at peace. Along with Leonard’s “return from injury management” on his quadriceps, it’s difficult to trust his health, too. That almost makes insurance necessary.

Stanley Johnson was the only wing player the Spurs were linked to, even with the Detroit Pistons acquiring Blake Griffin. Despite subpar numbers, Johnson’s still just a 21-year old and is on one of the best stretches of his career. Along with a reasonable salary for 2018-19 ($3.9 million), he can fit into the payroll as well.

San Antonio may rely on the players they do not have healthy, but something can still be done before the deadline. It can deepen the unit and provide some insurance for the everlasting injuries.

Next: Kawhi Leonard

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 02: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 2, 2018 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 100-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 02: (NEW YORK DAILIES OUT) Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs in action against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 2, 2018 in New York City. The Spurs defeated the Knicks 100-91. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

1. A healthy Kawhi Leonard

Yes, the San Antonio Spurs already have Kawhi Leonard’s rights, so there’s nothing to acquire here, right? Well, the team can use health from their star, something they only had for nine games this season. That’s with a total of 55 played through Feb. 5.

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Why is a healthy Leonard’s the team’s biggest need? He’s not someone that can be acquired at the deadline, but he’s a player that will change everything the Spurs do. From starting at small forward to pushing the necessary players down in the rotation to taking the pressure off LaMarcus Aldridge, the Silver and Black can use their 2016-17 MVP candidate to be the piece that pushes this team forward and helps them battle the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets of the NBA.

The “Klaw’s” return remains unguaranteed, however; his status has not been updated since the “return from injury management” shutdown in early January, leaving more questions than answers. Will the Spurs have him back before April? Will the Spurs even let him return before the playoffs start?

At some point, the organization may just shut him down for the season if they do not see progress. It would be a disappointment for Spurs fans and put a damper on the postseason, but this team still has the No. 3 spot in the Western Conference. Not bad for playing without one of the NBA’s best players, right?

Next: Top 25 players in Spurs history

Will the Spurs make a move at the deadline? Can they get their best player back?

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