Why the Spurs should not be afraid to trade away their 2020 draft pick
By Ethan Farina
There will be a lot of focus on the San Antonio Spurs in the 2020 draft. Even though they could be lottery-bound they shouldn’t be afraid to shake things up.
Throughout all of their struggles this year, we have frequently pointed to the draft lottery as the silver lining on the San Antonio Spurs tremendously frustrating season. Sure the record-tying run of consecutive postseason appearances may be ending but at least the team will get its highest draft pick since 1997. That has to be some consolation, right?
Not really. The last time the Spurs were in the draft lottery they ended up coming away with one of the best players ever to play the game. But Tim Duncan was the exception, not the rule. We can dream but it’s very unlikely that San Antonio walks away with another Hall of Famer in June.
As they approach a pivotal summer for the franchise, the Spurs leadership should have every option on the table. No player or asset should be considered untouchable, including their 2020 first-round pick.
The 2020 draft class simply isn’t as strong as classes of years past. It’s not that there aren’t any good players available, there are, but many lack certainty or play positions where San Antonio is relatively solid. Additionally, several of the top players are flawed, incredibly raw, or sitting out the remainder of their seasons for various reasons. All in all that first-round pick could be better used as a trade asset rather than to select a part of the future.
From top to bottom it’s a fairly guard-heavy draft. At the top of the draft, there are guys like LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony, and Anthony Edwards. Work your way down the board a bit and you’ll see Nico Mannion, Tre Jones, and RJ Hampton going in the 10-20 range. But San Antonio already has that position locked up for the foreseeable future.
Dejounte Murray just signed a four-year extension at the beginning of the season and Derrick White is still on his rookie deal for another year. However, Bryn Forbes and Marco Belinelli will both be unrestricted free agents, cross your fingers and hope neither one is back with the team next year. But whatever minutes are opened up by their departure should go to Lonnie Walker, not an unproven rookie.
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As it stands right now, the Spurs are projected to be picking 13th. If they’re looking at forwards that has them in the Obi Toppin/Isaac Okoro range. Both good players, but not really the prize that Spurs fans would want after enduring the most difficult season in over two decades.
Using the pick as a trade asset is a path worth exploring. It could be used as a springboard to jump up and draft a player the team is particularly excited about (looking at you Deni Avdija), be packaged with an aging but established veteran scorer in order to get young assets and picks in return, or be flipped for a slightly less valuable pick in next years draft.
Looking down the road to the 2021 draft could be the way to go. If they’re able to, packaging their 2020 first-round pick and with a few other things in order to get a young player and a 2021 first-rounder could end up being the best bet for San Antonio. Where the 2020 draft comes up short, the 2021 draft class shines.
Tanking is an ugly word, one that the Spurs as an organization have never embraced. But if you’re going to set yourself up to get a high draft pick it’s hard to find a better draft class than the 2021 group. Star-studded, with All-Star level talent extending to the back end of the lottery, and full of versatile athletes, the 2021 draft class is already being hyped as vastly superior to 2020’s.
The first step in this crucial summer for the San Antonio Spurs will be the NBA Draft in June. With their interesting combination of young players, picks, and veterans, the Silver and Black are in a great position to shake things up on draft night if they want.