The San Antonio Spurs are looking at a few different options at the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline, and a three-way trade is probably the way to make it happen.
With many teams looking to offload huge deals and the teams with interest having a tough time facilitating them due to their own cap sheets, there could be a spike in three-team deals at the 2020 NBA Trade Deadline. The San Antonio Spurs just so happen to be one of those teams.
San Antonio ranks 18th in total cap allocated, making it a bit difficult to navigate the trade landscape without dumping some salary off to other teams in the process. Therefore, it’ll take creative maneuvering for them to get a win-now deal done that sees them keeping their top players without sacrificing their best young talent.
In a recent article for CNBC.com, former Spurs beat writer Jabari Young discussed the Spurs’ deadline-day deals and made a point to note that their sights are set on that coveted eighth seed. He even included a quote from a rivaling executive that stated: “They are 100% obsessed with getting that eighth seed.”
It’s not surprising to hear that the Spurs are dead-set on the playoffs as it’s in their team culture. If they were sure they weren’t going to make the playoffs, a deal would’ve been made by now to trend in that direction, but the ninth-seeded Spurs still believe in themselves, so any trades would more likely be to bolster a win-now mindset.
This is what brought me to Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari, whose name has been tossed around trade discussions since he landed in OKC as part of the Paul George trade with the LA Clippers. Gallo is a versatile scorer whose name has been just outside of the All-Star discussion at various moments throughout his career.
On an expiring deal without much fit for the Thunder’s long-term outlook, it would be wise of them to trade him before the deadline instead of allowing him to walk for nothing this offseason. San Antonio could use the 31-year-old’s services in their push to the postseason, and he could use a featured role by the Spurs to help grow his interest this summer.
Next: Why are the Knicks necessary in a deal?
Why are the Knicks necessary in a deal?
Technically, any team with a decent amount of cap space and assets could participate in this trade, but I think the Knicks make the most sense because they are the most desperate. Sitting at the 13th place in the Eastern Conference, New York hasn’t made much progress from last year despite employing a win-now mindset in the offseason.
New York signed four different players at the same position (power forward) in the offseason and now need to make up for that by making moves to balance their roster and get draft compensation for their efforts. They can take on some of the salary that Oklahoma City can’t in a deal with the Spurs while getting compensated decently.
To facilitate the deal, the Knicks need to part with some of their youth and one of their veterans. It’ll be tough for them to move on from two of the more intriguing players on their roster, in this case, forward Marcus Morris Sr. and center Mitchell Robinson.
In his lone season as a Knick, Morris has been one of the better players on their team, averaging a career-high 19.4 points on 44 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from beyond the arc. Granted this is easily the highest usage of his career (24.4 percent), Morris is still showing exceptional scoring ability in the largest role of his life.
Still, it’s hurting his defense – an area that he used to be great in – resulting in his lowest defensive win shares since the 2011-12 season and the worst defensive rating of his career.
As for Robinson, the 21-year-old shot-blocking center is playing very similarly to last season despite high expectations for the second-year player. After being one of the best shot blockers in the sport as a rookie, his block percentage, Value Over Replacement Player (VORP), win shares and box plus/minus are all down.
He’s a victim of his circumstances and helping the young big man flourish elsewhere could pay off for this Knicks team as they’d get a first-round draft pick for someone they took in the second round in 2018.
Next: Crafting a deal that works for all sides
Crafting a deal that works for all sides
This deal, in my opinion, gives everyone what they’re looking for. Both San Antonio and Oklahoma City get win-now pieces to help push the needle while the Knicks get a draft pick, a young player and a winning veteran to help guide their young players.
Although it may seem like the Spurs are giving up a lot here, they’re actually getting the best-case scenario. After signing a two-year deal to remain in San Antonio, veteran forward Rudy Gay‘s play has steadily declined as his shooting percentages are down and quite frankly, he seems a bit slower.
He’s a valued member of the team from a cultural standpoint, and he’d certainly be missed, but returning Gallinari in his place would be a noticeable upgrade for a team lacking talent at the small forward spot. This would also allow All-Star snub DeMar DeRozan to return to his natural shooting guard position in certain lineups.
San Antonio is actively trying to get off of Carroll’s contract, and both Chimezie Metu and Bryn Forbes would be sacrificed in that effort. By sending Metu to New York, it assures the Knicks a solid second-round big man to develop in place of Robinson. It would also give the Spurs an incredible athlete in Hamidou Diallo to replace Forbes’ roster spot, while Forbes’ expiring deal gives OKC an additional shooter for cheap to sweeten the deal.
By acquiring Robinson, the Spurs get assurance policy in case restricted free agent Jakob Poeltl gets a big offer sheet this offseason as well as a building block for the future. Pairing Robinson with Aldridge in the frontcourt assures that San Antonio’s paint defense gets vastly improved, as the two big men combine to average 3.6 blocks per game with keen instincts below the rim.
As for the Thunder, they’d get some kind of win-now return for Gallinari, who may very well move on in the offseason, while crafting some depth on the wing – their position of need. Morris can make up a lot of the shots that Gallo leaves behind while Forbes gives them a high-power offensive player to pair with their exceptional guard defenders in sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.
Lastly, Carroll secures that the Thunder have a gritty perimeter defender and three-point shooter to deploy as they fight their way through the playoffs.
Next: Long-term implications for the Spurs
Long-term implications for the Spurs
Trading off of Forbes in a contract year opens up more opportunity for the rest of the team – especially if they’re getting back wing players in return. The Spurs could lean on Gallinari to play both the three and the four, and guarantees a better starting player in return for Forbes.
He’d immediately space the floor out, and San Antonio’s motion-offense allows him to get loose for open shots more often than he might with the Thunder. Even though OKC has the better facilitators, the entire Spurs offense is dictated to create shots for each other, so he’d be able to flourish after getting acclimated.
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Gallo is also a solid rebounder at 6-foot-10 and can handle the ball for himself when he needs to. Adding a shifty player at this size makes the team much more formidable against teams with strong frontcourt combinations because his experience and improved physicality have helped him become a better team-defender – especially since playing for defensive-minded coaches with his previous two teams.
Adding Gallinari certainly helps the Spurs with their short-term outlook as they fight for a record-breaking 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, but it also wouldn’t have any long-term ramifications. He’s on an expiring deal, so he could walk in free agency, or even better yet, the could be part of a sign-and-trade with the Spurs so they get a return for him.
On top of the win-now move, it also secures that San Antonio has two exciting, young players out of the deal: Robinson and Diallo.
These are the kinds of players that the Spurs can use as building blocks for the future, yet they’re not developed enough for the Knicks or Thunder to freak out about holding onto. They’re full of potential and athleticism, matching the archetype of the young players brewing in the Alamo City.
Again, it may seem like the Spurs are giving up a lot with four players heading out in this deal, but they’d also get a strong return that fits the immediate goal of making the playoffs as well as the future landscape for the organization.