Trade season is heating up and the San Antonio Spurs could be making a move soon. Here are some under the radar moves they could make.
As happy as San Antonio Spurs fans may be right now with the team’s performance in the recent win over the Houston Rockets there is still a lot of work to be done. There is plenty that San Antonio can build off of from that impressive win but the problems that have plagued the Spurs throughout the season aren’t disappearing overnight.
Lonnie Walker should receive meaningful minutes going forward. As solid as he was on defense, he alone cannot turn the Spurs perimeter defense into an above-average unit. Jakob Poeltl has been playing better but the Spurs are still terribly shallow at the center position.
San Antonio has typically avoided making any sort of franchise-altering trades mid-season. Generally speaking, they avoid making trades of any kind in the middle of the season. But this has been anything but a typical season for the Spurs.
The primary areas of need for the Spurs are on their perimeter, shoring up their leaky defense. Jakob Poeltl and LaMarcus Aldridge are both rejecting shots at a career-high rate but they shouldn’t have to be. Defenders are flying right through the Spurs perimeter defenders and getting straight to the rim. Which brings us to the next area of need for San Antonio.
The Spurs have great guard depth but are very shallow in the frontcourt. Other than Aldridge and Poeltl they’ve got limited options. Rudy Gay can fill in as a stretch four but can’t protect the rim as well as is necessary. The same can be said for Trey Lyles and Drew Eubanks.
Injuries happen and if something were to happen that to cause either Poeltl or Aldridge to miss extended time the Spurs would be in a world of trouble. They don’t need someone who can come in and take a major role but they do need a stronger insurance policy.
Here are three under the radar trade targets the Spurs could target to help fix these areas of weakness.
Next: A career resurgence
When he was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the fourth overall pick back in 2017 Josh Jackson projected as a strong, multi-positional defender. Inconsistency on the court and questionable judgment off of it cut his time with the Suns short. He was unceremoniously shipped to the Memphis Grizzlies this summer in what was essential a salary dump by Phoenix.
Rather than play him with their NBA team, Memphis elected to move Jackson to their G-League franchise, the Memphis Hustle. Jackson has been there ever since. He hasn’t played a single minute for the Grizzlies this year.
He’s been solid in his time with the Hustle. He’s averaging 22.1 points, 8.9 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.8 steals per game through nine games. He’s shooting the ball well, connecting on 49 percent of his field-goal attempts and hitting 47 percent of his three’s. Impressive numbers to be sure but the Spurs should be looking at his defense.
When he’s fully engaged, Jackson has the potential to guard point guards to some modern-day power forwards. Standing 6’8 with a 6’10 wingspan, Jackson has the size to play with wings and the foot speed to stay with guards. Add-in his out of the gym leaping ability and you have all the makings of an outstanding defender.
The concern with Jackson has always been the issues that have followed him off the court since he came into the league. But it sounds like those have subsided and he’s been nothing but a positive influence in his time with the Hustle.
The Spurs aren’t a team to shy away from taking a player with a checkered past into their organization. Let’s not forget they brought in both Dennis Rodman and Stephen Jackson during their careers. They’ve got the organizational structure to continue to help Jackson realize his potential and he could be exactly the kind of wing defender they need.
Next: A Spurs destroyer
Christian Wood has bounced around the league since he came out of UNLV back in 2015 but has found a stable spot with the Detroit Pistons this year. So stable that he was able to go off against the San Antonio Spurs for a career-high 28 points on Sunday. If you can’t beat them, trade for them.
Wood would perfectly fit in as the insurance policy that the Spurs need alongside Lyles, Aldridge, and Poeltl. He can play alongside any of those guys, as well as Rudy Gay. He’s 6’11 with a 7’3 wingspan and has consistently improved his outside game since coming into the league.
He prefers to get most of his buckets around the rim which makes perfect sense given his length but he’s also gradually increased the number of shots he’s taking from behind the arc. This year 26.5 percent of Wood’s field goal attempts are coming from deep. He’s connecting on an eye-popping 48 percent of them so far.
Now that number doesn’t seem sustainable and comes from a relatively small sample size of 27 attempted three-pointers but the point remains the same. Wood can play either inside or outside and would flow well between either frontcourt positions as necessary.
He’s not a terribly intimidating rim-protector but has the wingspan to contest quite a few shots and is sending back .9 per game on the season. Under the tutelage of Tim Duncan, that number would almost surely improve.
Wood’s been around the block and has gone back and forth between the NBA and the G-Leauge. He’s talented, he just needs to find the right situation to blossom in. That could be with the Spurs. As a final note, he’s also only 24 years old. He fits right in the time table with the rest of the Spurs young up and comers.
Next: A true rim protector
Since his strong rookie season with the Philadelphia 76ers back in 2014, Nerlens Noel‘s career has been on the way down. He spent some time with the Dallas Mavericks but didn’t really fit. He now finds himself with the Oklahoma City Thunder and is having his best season since 2016.
The one thing that has stuck with Noel, and was the main reason he was drafted with the 6th pick back in 2013, is his ability to protect the rim. He’s blocked 1.4 shots per game over the course of his career and is up to 1.7 on the season.
By himself, Noel accounts for 36 percent of the Thunder’s blocks on a nightly basis. He does have a tendency to chase blocks from time to time but that’s something that can be reigned in.
He’s also racking up the steals for Oklahoma City. He’s averaging .9 per night right now. He can really be a disruptive force on the defensive end. He’s got the quickness to come out and switch on to quicker players and the length to recover if he gets beat.
Expectations for what he could bring on the offensive end should be kept low. He’s never developed an outside shot but the Spurs wouldn’t be bringing him in to shoot the three. His presence around the rim and in pick and roll would make him an immediate fit in the second unit.
Playing around pass-happy point guards like Patty Mills and Derrick White, Noel would have plenty of opportunities to convert in pick and roll situations or slam home alley-oops. If that fails he can focus on cleaning up on the boards and feasting on put back’s.
The San Antonio Spurs still have a lot of work to do if they want to get back into the playoff picture. Dealing for one of the three aforementioned players could help shore up a weakness and get this group back to where they belong.