Best strategies for the San Antonio Spurs at the trade deadline
By Ethan Farina
The San Antonio Spurs haven’t made any moves yet but following these key points will help them skillfully navigate the upcoming trade deadline.
It’s been a quiet trade season so far but with the trade deadline coming up this week things are sure to heat up soon. Other than slight rumors of possible interest in their two established stars there is little reason to believe that the San Antonio Spurs will shake things up at the deadline.
Despite staying away from making splashes at the deadline for most of their history, the Spurs can deviate from their past if the right opportunity presents itself. As a franchise they’re approaching a crossroads, do they continue to build around their veterans or make adding complementary players for the future a priority?
There are several other teams around the league who are having struggles similar to the Spurs. The Philadelphia 76ers have been struggling as of late and could be in the market to add a few pieces to their roster in order to get them back into the top tier of Eastern Conference playoff teams. Meanwhile, the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers are both surging up the standings and could be in the playoff picture soon. The Spurs could explore a deal that helps either one of those teams get into the playoffs but would almost certainly result in sending themselves to the lottery.
They’ve got valuable role players, established veterans, and promising youngsters, the San Antonio Spurs have a lot to offer and can handle the trade deadline any way they see fit. Following these key strategies will help them navigate the next week and set them up for success for the rest of this season and beyond.
Next: Move off bad deals
Free up space for younger players
It’s hard to come to a total consensus on just about anything in the NBA but we can all agree that the DeMarre Carroll experiment has been an abject disaster for the San Antonio Spurs. Carroll came in as a hard defender, knowledgeable veteran, and valuable floor spacer for the Spurs. But so far he has been unable to crack the rotation at all.
Carroll hasn’t stepped on the floor since January 8th when he played under two minutes. He’s getting paid $7milllion this year to do almost nothing for the team. That roster spot, and salary cap space, would be better utilized on acquiring another young prospect or making room for one of the Spurs rookies working on their game in Austin.
None of this is Carroll’s fault, and to his credit, he’s handled the numerous DNP’s with class and professionalism. But it’s foolish for the Spurs to keep him on the roster and keeping more valuable players from spending more time with the team.
Carroll’s gritty, defense-first mentality seems like it would fit well with the culture that Pat Riley and Jimmy Butler have built this year in Miami. Adding DeMarre’s defense and shooting ability to an already impressive Heat team could help Miami gear up for a playoff matchup with the 76ers or Milwaukee Bucks.
In any case, Brian Wright should be looking to move away from guys like Carroll and Marco Belinelli in order to free up playing time and salary cap room that will help San Antonio aggressively build for the future.
Next: Avoid "win now" deals
Avoid “win now” deals
For all of the struggles that the Spurs have had to endure this year, they’re still only a game and a half out of the playoffs. They can still preserve their historic run of postseason appearances but making the playoffs should not be the goal, but a byproduct of a larger strategy.
The last thing that San Antonio should do is make any sort of deal that improves their chances of making the playoffs this season but requires them to send off valuable draft picks or young players. A move like that offers no promise of making the postseason and would only serve to hurt the Spurs down the road.
Tanking has never been in the Spurs DNA and I’m not suggesting that they try to lose games, but under no circumstances should they go out and acquire another veteran to help them win now. They just did that this summer with Carroll and we all know how well that has worked out.
Retooling for another playoff run would be a very on-brand move for San Antonio but we should all be praying that they don’t choose that route again this year. Mortgaging the future in order to potentially slide into the playoffs only to get dragged by the Lakers in the first round would be utterly foolish. Avoid that path at all costs.
Next: Protect the young guys
Protect young assets
By signing Dejounte Murray to a four-year deal just before the regular season the San Antonio Spurs made a commitment to have Murray as their point guard for the foreseeable future. Murray got the bag but he’s not the only young asset that the Spurs will be building their future around.
None of Derrick White, Jakob Poeltl, and Lonnie Walker should be considered untouchable but every proposed deal that involves one of them should be viewed with a heavy dose of skepticism. We’ve already covered the rumors surrounding Poeltl but I’d be surprised if contending teams arent inquiring about White as well.
White would actually be a great complimentary piece and secondary playmaker for the Philadelphia 76ers. They’re struggling right now and desperately need permitter shooting and playmaking help. If they’re willing to pony up then there is a deal that could be made.
Matisse Thybulle will have to continue to develop his offensive game but he’s already one of the games premier perimeter defenders and would form one of the best defensive backcourts in the league if paired with Dejounte Murray. Josh Richardson is a perfect role player, a strong defender and three-point shooter. He’s dealing with a strained hamstring right now and can’t help Philly chase a better playoff seed. If they’re in a full “win now” mindset it might be time to bring in help.
The Spurs shouldn’t be turning away teams who ask about Poeltl or White but they need to get a proper return if they do decide to do a deal. Both are valuable players on small contracts who can help a contending team make a playoff run today, assets like that should command a great than equal return.
In all likelihood, the trade deadline will come and go without any movement from the San Antonio Spurs. But if they do decide to get in on the action, following these three strategies will ensure that they come out on the other side of the deadline as winners.