San Antonio Spurs: Three potential trade candidates in 2018-19
By Rob Wolkenbrod
If the San Antonio Spurs choose to make a trade in the 2018-19, with potential circumstances that arise, who makes the most sense to move?
The San Antonio Spurs usually stay out of the trade market, but that changed in July, with the trade of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poeltl and a protected 2019 first-round pick. It became the latest change in a whirlwind offseason that featured the departures of Tony Parker and Kyle Anderson.
The 2018-19 season might lead to more unusual circumstances for San Antonio, however, including the chance of no playoff series for the first time since 1996-97. If so, does that open them up in the trade market?
Only a handful of trade candidates sit on the roster for the 2018-19 season. Who’s a potential candidate to move if the Spurs choose to make changes?
3. Dante Cunningham
Dante Cunningham only signed with the San Antonio Spurs in July, but it’s his contract that makes a trade possible when the Silver and Black become eligible to move him in the 2018-19 season.
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Cunningham agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract without a player or team option attached. That means anyone who takes his salary will see it disappear after the 2018-19 season, even post-playoff run, making it a low-risk acquisition.
If the Spurs sit in the playoff race by February’s trade deadline, Cunningham makes sense as a veteran role player to go behind LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol. Barring he does not struggle for the first half of the season, of course, and forces San Antonio to make a change.
If the Spurs are out of the postseason mix and decide to make the unusual trade-deadline deal, Cunningham can go elsewhere and bring a future second-round pick back. Even if they want to open a roster spot for a buyout player, a similar deal could be done this winter.
Cunningham still must take the floor as a Spur, but his low salary and placement on the roster increase the chance of a trade down the road.
Next: Patty Mills
2. Patty Mills
Patty Mills will enter the second of a four-year contract, signed in the 2017 offseason. It pays him $11.5 million in 2018-19, $12.4 million in 2019-20 and $13.2 million in 2020-21. While not an appealing future for potential trade candidates, his salary can match up with another expensive contract in a transaction.
Could the Spurs get creative, though, to open cap space for July 2019? As the payroll stands, they already have $108 million towards the projected $109 million salary cap. In a move that goes against this organization’s past, what if they package the protected first-round pick from the Toronto Raptors to shed Mills’ contract for minimal return? How about San Antonio’s own 2019 or 2020 selection?
If the San Antonio Spurs remain in the playoff mix, Mills stays as a veteran scorer off the bench and viable backup to Dejounte Murray. If not, the years remaining potentially keeps the Aussie guard on the roster through 2018-19.
The Spurs never make moves to give away assets and create cap space, but if 2018-19 does not go their way and they want to make changes in July, an eye-opening trade, like this, can follow. It develops them as an under-the-radar threat in free agency, with an eye on new faces to join LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and Murray in 2019-20.
Next: Rudy Gay
1. Rudy Gay
Rudy Gay only re-signed with the San Antonio Spurs in July. Like Dante Cunningham, it was on a one-year deal, but for a higher salary of $10 million. That placed future complications on making an in-season trade, but talent-wise, this should be a player that commands interest before the 2019 deadline.
At 6-foot-8 and the ability to shoot from mid-range and behind the arc, Gay can appeal as an extra scorer to contenders if the Spurs sit out of the playoff mix. Whether it’s a move to the Boston Celtics and their pool of draft picks, the Philadelphia 76ers and their cap space or a Western Conference team that sits near the top of the standings, someone with size and shooting ability make sense for any of them, providing mismatch opportunities in a stretch four role or bigger lineups.
Gay’s money may need to be partially absorbed, while the Spurs take back a contract, to make this work. If the 12-year veteran stays healthy after two years of injuries, interest should arise before the deadline, with a contender looking for a bench piece.
Do the Spurs move near the top of their roster, though? It’s a transaction they never make in-season, but if the circumstances warrant it and the proper package comes their way, it can mark the latest change in this organization’s unusual stretch.