The San Antonio Spurs did not make a move at the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline. Let’s try to figure out why this was the case.
The 2018 NBA Trade Deadline came and went and did not feature a deal from the San Antonio Spurs. That’s despite the flurry of activity from the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz and others who made it a deadline day to remember.
By not doing anything, the Spurs stood pat, sticking to the roster that started the 2017-18 season and most recently played vs. the Phoenix Suns. Was this a surprise? What about a disappointment?
Either way, there are potential reasons behind this lack of movement at the 2018 NBA Trade Deadline. Let’s try to evaluate them:
3. It’s historically not in their DNA
We often documented the lack of activity around the San Antonio Spurs at the NBA Trade Deadline. That’s not just this year, either, as the team historically has done next to nothing on the league’s final day for trades, with the last move happening in 2014 (Nando De Colo for Austin Daye, anyone?).
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Why the lack of trades? Well, San Antonio has kept its spot near or at the top of the Western Conference for two decades, rarely needing a trade to put them over the top or to pass another team. Not with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and David Robinson in town. That’s along with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard on the modern-day teams. It’s no different this season, as the team sits at No. 3 in the Western Conference.
This conservative approach keeps the team’s chemistry intact and does not threaten movement in the rotation. Sure, the team disrupted things when Stephen Jackson arrived in 2012, but he stuck around in 2013 and played a part on the championship-contending roster.
The Spurs may eventually make a deal at the deadline, but only when the timing makes sense and it improves the team. This was not the case on Thursday, so things were kept status quo.
Next: Rumored trade targets fell through
2. Rumored targets either fell apart or were not worth it
Despite the San Antonio Spurs making zero moves, it did not mean the team was completely quiet, at least reportedly. There was an attempt to acquire Avery Bradley from the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Marc Stein of the New York Times. Danny Green and a first-round pick were thought to be the price for Bradley, which, of course, did not come to fruition on Thursday.
Before Bradley, the Spurs were linked to Willy Hernangomez. That did not happen, either.
Was Hernangomez worth it? Maybe, but the Spurs potentially would have traded future draft picks, something this organization rarely does. With a full roster, at least one player leave in a trade for the now Charlotte Hornets center, too, another thing the team maybe had no interest in.
As for Bradley, the situation could have looked like this: The Spurs get someone regarded for their perimeter defense but on an expiring contract, unlike Green’s player option for the 2018-19 season. That open cap space then contributes to salary-cap clearing efforts for the offseason, with an eye on a top-tier talent, pending another salary gets shed.
However, there’s the risk of Bradley not fitting in for the next two months, along with the departure of the first-round pick. Who knows? Green can always opt out this summer and leave San Antonio with its desired cap space. In the season, though, it just did not seem worthwhile to pull off, especially at a high spot in the West.
Next: Waiting game
1. The waiting game on injured players
No one was acquired at the deadline, but it does not mean the San Antonio Spurs will see a team shake-up. This will come in the form of injured players, Kawhi Leonard and Rudy Gay, whenever the organization chooses to bring them back from their quad and heel ailments, respectively.
The Spurs have missed Gay since the end of December. Before this, he was their leading scorer of the bench, providing a different element for an otherwise offensively-challenged team. He could play the stretch-four role next to LaMarcus Aldridge, spreading the floor to open the offense.
As for Leonard, his presence can’t be valued enough. Despite the top-three standing in the West, he’s still considered one of the NBA’s best two-way players, someone who was just an NBA MVP candidate in June. Whenever the Spurs get him back, if it’s this season, he will better than anything the team could have acquired at the NBA Trade Deadline, whether that’s in a week, a month, just before the playoffs or not until October.
Gay and Leonard will be the Spurs’ “acquisitions” after the trade deadline. When they do return, it will be the opportunity to see how this roster, fully healthy, clicks for more than just one or two games.