These three players are who the San Antonio Spurs should have on their Christmas wish list. If only Santa could help make these deals work.
The NBA has a great tradition of taking centerstage around Christmas time. The slate of games on Christmas day is one of the most highly anticipated events of the entire season. The San Antonio Spurs are not one of the teams featured in this year’s Christmas showcase but that doesn’t mean they can’t make a splash during the holiday season.
The Spurs are at a crossroads. This season hasn’t gone nearly as well as they would have hoped but even with all their struggles, San Antonio is only one spot out of playoff contention. Their historic stretch of playoff berths can still be saved.
As nice as making the playoffs would be, is it really in the Spurs’ best interests? The 2020 NBA Draft looks like it’s going to be filled with studs. You could make the argument that it would be better for San Antonio to miss the playoffs rather than get stomped out of the first round by a top tier team.
The last place you want to be in the NBA is stuck in the middle, idling as other teams make decisive moves to improve or reset. That’s where it seems the Spurs are right now. They’ve got an interesting mix of veterans and young guys but it isn’t clear what direction this team is going in.
You can only get so far relying on a barrage of mid-range jumpers from LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. That might be good enough to win 45 games and make the playoffs but it won’t take the Spurs much further than that. Something needs to change.
The players on the Spurs Christmas wish list might not make a huge difference in the success of the team this year but they would help set up San Antonio for the next few years. Here are a few guys the Spurs should have on their eyes on.
Next: Starting a youth movement
Aaron Gordon and Mo Bamba
Rumors about the Orlando Magic’s interest in DeMar DeRozan have been floating around for a while now. The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor was one of the first to report that the Magic were looking for scoring help and had their eyes on DeRozan. There’s a deal to be made there that would help both teams.
After handing a hefty extension to Nikola Vucevic and seeming to commit to Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon looks like he could be the odd man out in a crowded Magic frontcourt. He might be better off as one of the focal points of the San Antonio Spurs’ future. A team with Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker, and Aaron Gordon would be able to push the pace in a way that hasn’t been seen in San Antonio before.
Gordon’s play has regressed a bit this year. His field goal and three-point percentages are at their lowest points since his rookie year and his overall scoring has taken a noticeable dip from last year. It’s not great for the Magic but it could play to the Spurs favor if they were to capitalize on a player who’s value seems to be on a downward slope.
He might be having an off year but Gordon is still a very promising player. He’s one of the best athletes in the NBA and has shown an ability to score from all areas of the floor at different points in his career. He might just need a change of scenery. He’s an NBA veteran but he’s only 24 years old, that’s much more in line with the Spurs timetable than DeRozan.
Mo Bamba hasn’t panned out the way that the Magic had hoped when they selected him with the 6th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. He’s still got terrific upside and could end up being one of the better rim protectors in the league with the right teammates and coaching around him. It’d be hard to find a better coach to bring out the defensive potential of a big man than Tim Duncan.
Next: A Team USA reunion
We’ve talked about how well Myles Turner would fit with the San Antonio Spurs before and we stand by that. With his special combination of rim protection and three-point shooting, Turner could be the kind of player that the Spurs build around for the future.
The Indiana Pacers are one of the toughest teams in the Eastern Conference and they still haven’t got Victor Oladipo back. His return, combined with the addition of Aldridge, could be the push that Indiana needs to move them into the upper echelon of teams out East.
Turner secured the bag in his time in Indiana but it’s becoming clear that Domantas Sabonis is the big man that the Pacers want to build around. It shouldn’t be tough to convince the Pacers to move on from Turner now, even if it means adding another big man back into the mix.
Jakob Poeltl has defended the rim well for the Spurs this year but his ceiling seems to be more in the Tiago Splitter range than a franchise cornerstone. Turner has a combination of offensive and defensive skills that make him a better prospect for San Antonio to build around.
He’s capable of popping out and knocking down a three out of pick and roll or rolling to the rim. He averages 1.11 points per possession as the roll man and could be a great compliment to Dejounte Murray and Derrick White in that area of the game.
Poeltl is already a good rim protector for the Spurs but adding Turner into the mix would ensure that San Antonio is able to lock down the paint at all times. The two are tied with each other in blocks per 36 minutes, with both big men sending back 2.8 shots per 36.
Finally, Turner’s previous working relationship with Gregg Popovich is another reason for San Antonio to go get him. Turner was on this summers FIBA World Cup team so Pop already knows his game, which could make integrating him into the team much easier than it would be for another player who’s unfamiliar with Pop’s unique personality.
Next: A playmaking forward
This is by far the most unlikely of these deals to happen but its an interesting prospect nonetheless. Bringing in Gordon Hayward wouldn’t drastically alter the ceiling of the San Antonio Spurs but it would open up the floor more for the guards and could lead to some very interesting lineup combinations.
After a horrible leg injury in his first year with the Celtics, Hayward had to miss a full season and spent much of the next year working his way back to the level he had previously been at. Now Hayward is playing at a near All-Star level right as the Celtics other two up and coming star forwards are coming into their own.
Boston gave a hefty extension to Jaylen Brown and they’ll surely do the same with Jayson Tatum. Consider the salary they gave to Kemba Walker and there’s not much left over to re-sign Hayward if he chooses to opt-out after this season. Swapping Hayward for DeRozan would add an additional offensive punch to and free up salary when DeRozan almost certainly opts out this summer.
Hayward would be a much better fit for San Antonio’s future than DeRozan. His combination of size, playmaking, and ability, and willingness, to shoot the deep ball would pair much better with the Spurs than DeRozan’s mid-range centric game.
Hayward could be the guy the Spurs need to help carry the team while Aldridge slows down and the young guys take on a larger role. He’s got a game that should age well, the only issue is his contract. He’s got a $34.2 million player option for next season and will be looking for a sizeable payday after that.
The San Antonio Spurs typically don’t go in for big mid-season trades but this year has been nothing if not atypical. It could be time for San Antonio to take matters into their own hands and bring in one of these guys to give themselves the gift of a new direction.