With much of the Western Conference making power moves during the offseason, making a deal for Domantas Sabonis could help the Spurs remain competitive.
The Los Angeles Lakers added Anthony Davis. The Utah Jazz made a trade for Mike Conley and signed Bojan Bogdanovic. The Portland Trail Blazers added Hassan Whiteside to their dynamic backcourt duo. The Pelicans won the draft lottery, bringing them Zion Williamson as well as several other exciting pieces. Not to mention, Kawhi Leonard has yet to make his decision and he has his eyes on both L.A. teams as well as Toronto.
Bottom line, the Western Conference is as deep as it has been in years. The San Antonio Spurs were modest with the free agency signings, bringing back Rudy Gay for another two years as well as inking veteran DeMarre Carroll.
However, the Spurs’ best addition might not be a signing at all. The team expects to have a healthy Dejounte Murray back next season, who missed the entire 2018-19 campaign after suffering an ACL tear during the preseason.
With the reincorporation of Murray back into the lineup, the Spurs could also consider making an offseason trade to bolster their team and keep pace with the rest of the loaded conference.
— NBA (@NBA) March 24, 2019
It’s no secret that the Spurs’ frontcourt depth was lacking last season, shuffling between Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jakob Poeltl and Pau Gasol before his buyout. As such, an injection of an athletic and energetic big like Sabonis could be just what the Spurs need to complement their assortment of promising guards.
Yes, shipping White out after a breakout season will undoubtedly receive some blowback from the Silver and Black contingent, but this is a move well worth making. The Spurs have a logjam at the guard position with Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, White, Lonnie Walker IV and Patty Mills.
With the return of Murray, the emergence of Forbes last season in concert with the steady improvement of Walker over the offseason, minutes will become sparse for all of the guards. The logical solution would be to move one or more of them to enhance the roster in other areas.
This would be a win-win move for both parties. Sabonis prospered last season with a bench role, but will remain relegated to that position for the foreseeable future as long as Myles Turner is still the starter in Indiana. Further, the Pacers selecting Georgian center Goga Bitadze in this year’s draft could spell the end of Sabonis’ time with Indiana as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.
In terms of his fit on the Spurs, Sabonis would easily supplant the incumbent Poeltl at the center position, providing a superior offensive punch to the starting lineup playing alongside Aldridge. The third-year pro out of Gonzaga posted career-best numbers across the board in his second season with the Pacers.
Sabonis nearly averaged a double-double, tallying 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game, on an uber-efficient 59 percent shooting from the floor, which ranked 7th-best in the NBA, in just 24.8 minutes of action.
Although he’s not an elite shot blocker, Sabonis is far from a slouch on defense. He posted the 10th best defensive rating (103.9) in the league last season. His ability to utilize smart defensive stances and move his feet effectively allowed him to disturb opponents and alter shots.
In addition, Sabonis’ rebounding prowess will be a welcome sight for the Spurs, who ranked 21st in the league a season ago in rebounds per game. Sabonis is a persistent and engaged rebounder who’s adept at timing his jumps to secure defensive boards or to finish put-backs on the offensive glass.
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Last season, Sabonis ranked 18th in total rebounds, just four spots behind Aldridge, 8th in defensive rebound percentage (29.8) and 12th in offensive rebound percentage (11.5). With all of this efficient production coming with a limited allotment of minutes, it will be interesting to see if Sabonis could maintain and maybe even boost those numbers with starter’s minutes.
Sabonis, 23, is entering the final year of his rookie deal, which would mean he’d be up for a new deal after the 2019-2020 season. Assuming Sabonis is able to, at minimum, match his production from last season, locking up a young prospect, who’s actually two years younger than Derrick White, seems like a worthy investment for a Spurs team that is trending younger.
Making a deal to acquire Sabonis makes a lot of sense for the Spurs and checks off several boxes from both organizational and basketball perspectives. Sabonis is a low-maintenance, high-character team player who’s dedicated to improving any squad he’s on.
The Spurs don’t historically make splashy offseason moves, but if they intend to compete now, which all recent signs suggest, this move allows San Antonio to improve their roster while simultaneously setting the team up to contend in the long term.