The San Antonio Spurs spent three seasons grooming Davis Bertans before shipping him to Washington, but was that the right choice?
If not for Knicks forward Marcus Morris reneging on his initial decision to sign a two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs, this topic of discussion would never arise, but free agents are more and more inclined to take control of their free agency in 2019 and the 29-year-old decided to follow the allure of Madison Square Garden instead.
In the process of reallocating their Mid-Level Exception toward Morris, the Spurs opted to move Latvian forward Davis Bertans to Washington in order to create a trade exception to acquire DeMarre Carroll. This allowed the Spurs to clear a roster spot and shift their funds in order to make the transactions work. Instead, San Antonio lost a homegrown product and added a fresh project in 23-year-old forward Trey Lyles.
While Lyles shows promise and could be a solid piece for San Antonio with time, Bertans was a crucial member of this team and was traded for essentially nothing. The second half of his 2018-19 campaign was rough as his shooting percentages declined and he became a liability on defense, but Bertans is a hard worker and surely would’ve put in the time necessary to adjust his game had he been kept by the Spurs.
Bertans finished the season averaged eight points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.3 assists on 45 percent shooting from the field and 42.9 percent from behind the arc. However, these numbers don’t reflect the entirety of his season. After the All-Star break, Bertans shot 37.8 percent from the field and only 33 percent from three-point land.
His chemistry with the second unit and star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan will certainly be missed, but the playoffs proved that Bertans was virtually unplayable against certain kinds of lineups. San Antonio is building for playoff success and Bertans is unable to competently stay on the floor through the postseason, so moving on makes sense.
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With that in mind, I don’t think that Lyles will be much better. His experience is little-to-none and he cannot provide the same level of floor spacing as Bertans without some drastic improvement. There’s a strong case to be made that this would be a better roster if San Antonio kept Bertans instead of making the moves that they did.
In addition, San Antonio gave Carroll an extra year on his contract to secure the sign-and-trade which could end up being a good thing in the long run, but it does leave a decent little chunk of allocated funds in a Summer that the Spurs were supposed to have full cap flexibility.
Bertans opened up about the trade and San Antonio’s professionalism in a recent interview with Latvian outlet Sporta Avize, where he said “I felt San Antonio was the team I was supposed to be playing on, but I realized that if something happened, it wouldn’t be a huge surprise. There was no hint from the Spurs management. I received a phone call about my trade from my agent just three hours before it was made public.”
In spite of his late=season meltdown, the Latvian Laser will be remembered for his dedication and professionalism in San Antonio.