Hypothetically, if the San Antonio Spurs decided to trade Kawhi Leonard before or during the 2018 NBA Draft, they can select these players at the following landing spots.
So far there’s no reason to believe that the San Antonio Spurs will trade Kawhi Leonard before or at the 2018 NBA Draft. However, Leonard’s desire to leave is public knowledge, so it’s potentially just a matter of when a transaction happens this summer.
Hypothetically, if the Spurs find a proper trade partner before or at the draft, it shakes up their offseason and roster for the 2018-19 season. That’s if a 2018 first-round pick goes back to them. Teams with lottery selections have been connected to the Silver and Black, so what if they actually acquire one of those picks?
There are five spots the Spurs can move into in these hypothetical scenarios. Who would they take at each pick? Let’s take a look, with the use of our latest mock draft as a guide for this.
Well, this one is easy. If the San Antonio Spurs worked out a trade with the Phoenix Suns — there were disputing reports over their interest — the pick becomes Deandre Ayton, the highly touted center from Arizona. Maybe Luka Doncic receives consideration, but for a franchise that selected two dominant big men in years past, at the No. 1 overall pick, will it be a trifecta?
The selection of Ayton solidifies the Spurs as a big-man team. LaMarcus Aldridge is already in place at power forward, so these two can bring on “old school” basketball, as in how the NBA was played less than 10 years ago, when center-power forward combos that patrolled the paint and mid-range were a thing.
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How successful would this be? Aldridge has the ability to stretch the floor, but the mid-range jump shot is a trademark of his game and where he seems most comfortable. Ideally, it would be to pair a stretch four next to the six-time all-star and adjust to the modern-day style, so going against the grain, especially with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets around, can present issues.
However, in this post-Kawhi Leonard world, Aldridge will not last forever. He has three years left on a newly minted extension, but that timespan can disappear fast and eventually leave Ayton as super insurance for this, as the long term big man that San Antonio builds around.
Ayton brings back star potential to the Spurs in a Leonard package and keeps some momentum around the organization. It’s a matter of Phoenix paying for one year of Leonard, however, which complicates this.
Next: No. 8 overall
The No. 8 pick of the 2018 NBA Draft belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were rumored to have called the San Antonio Spurs about Kawhi Leonard. Ridiculous salary-cap situation or not, this pick seems, like, the only guaranteed piece in a trade.
Without Leonard and Rudy Gay (declined his player option), the Spurs need scorers with size, that can play shooting guard or small forward. At No. 8, Villanova’s Mikal Bridges is still available and makes sense for the Spurs.
Bridges at least steps in as a “3-and-D” player off the bench, as he can stretch the floor and take over a perimeter defensive role from anyone the Spurs lose to free agency this summer. He helps even more if Danny Green chooses to opt out of his contract and seek a new deal elsewhere, with the chance to start from Opening Night and on.
Is there star potential in Bridges? Maybe not, but he has the chance to develop into a consistent scorer, maybe the No. 4 option, and add the 3-point shooting San Antonio lacked for much of the 2017-18 season. He can work outside of LaMarcus Aldridge, with passes outside the post (as it stands, it’s easy to think Aldridge receives more double teams next season if there’s a depleted roster around him) to find Bridges for spot-up shots.
Next: No. 10 overall
Zhaire Smith is a popular pick among the Air Alamo staff, which broke down the San Antonio Spurs’ draft situation in a recent roundtable. If he’s available at No. 10, a spot held by the Philadelphia 76ers who reportedly have interest in Kawhi Leonard, it’s a pick that makes sense to join the Silver and Black’s backcourt.
Smith fits into the same potentially-depleted shooting guard/small forward area with Mikal Bridges. However, the former is a project on the offensive end, despite the elite athleticism and defensive skills he brings to the table. Even though there were flashes of this, he’s without a consistent 3-point shot and has trouble creating his own scoring chances.
The Spurs can groom Smith in time, but it may not happen overnight. Though, they at least have a defensive presence to fit into the rotation and replace what Danny Green might leave.
No. 10 is slightly high for the Texas Tech product, but most mock drafts have projected him in the late lottery or just beyond that. If the Spurs wait until No. 18, though, he might not be available.
It’s guard-heavy around the end of the lottery, but the Spurs can still target someone to fill another position in this range. That’s brings this to the next player option.
Next: No. 12 overall
Miles Bridges does not fit the typical San Antonio Spurs mold, as he’s without a solid outside shot and is considered an undersized forward. The team showed interest in him, however, with a pre-draft workout this spring.
No. 12 overall is the Clippers, that other Los Angeles team in the mix for Kawhi Leonard. Even if the Lakers are the preference.
UPDATE: Gregg Popovich met with Kawhi Leonard Tuesday in Southern California, after trying for weeks to set up a meeting. https://t.co/4CrK5zQI71
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) June 20, 2018
As an undersized power forward who seemingly belongs in the NBA as a three, Bridges might fit better than ever in the league. He’s an athletic player that does not fit at one position, something that would have been a problem five years ago. Now, teams can insert him in different lineups and on defense, not against the opposition’s tallest player, but their second biggest.
Bridges stands at 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, so that potentially removes him from the undersized-center conversation. His rebounding ability, though, can place him next to the five.
If the Michigan State product can find a consistent outside shot, he has the chance to be a solid player for years to come. That would make his versatility even more important for the team, if it’s the Spurs, who can use him to back up multiple positions in the short term and find a starting spot if these need-to-be-improved skills come around.
Next: No. 25 overall
The San Antonio Spurs, unless they find a Kawhi Leonard trade in the top five, will miss out on this draft’s top big men. Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson could go in between and not be available at No. 25, the Los Angeles Lakers’ first pick.
The Lakers have become the team most-often connected to Leonard, who’s from the Southern California area. It’s seemingly his ideal destination, whether it’s this offseason or 2019 free agency, so a matter of when, not if, this connection happens.
Spellman fits in as the young big-man depth the Spurs do not have. LaMarcus Aldridge will be 33 and Pau Gasol is steps away from 40. There’s no long term option behind them, whether or not the Villanova standout becomes that, but a fresh body provides more intrigue than another low-cost big man that provides little at both ends of the floor.
Spellman is not the most athletic big man, but he owns a decent outside shot that will help spread the floor, as well as the ability to protect the rim and grab rebounds at a solid rate (11.4 per 40 minutes). This paints him, for now, as someone to fill a bench role for a few years, unless his athleticism translates better than expected in the NBA and cleans up the “silly mistakes,” as NBADraft.net noted.
The Spurs have options after a potential blockbuster trade at the draft. Do not bet on anything happening, but if a team presents an offer they can’t refuse (The Godfather™), could this become a night to remember in the Alamo City?