San Antonio Spurs: Three transactions to consider before the season begins
By Dylan Carter
We’re inching closer to an NBA return and the San Antonio Spurs have to take advantage of the transaction window before it closes.
On Wednesday, the San Antonio Spurs signed veteran center Tyler Zeller to a deal through the end of the season as a replacement for the injured LaMarcus Aldridge. It’s not likely that Zeller gets many minutes considering the team’s historical preference toward playing those who have experience within the system, but he’ll serve as a COVID-19 insurance policy for the roster.
Signing Zeller still leaves San Antonio with an open roster spot and the ability to make any multitude of moves in preparation for its return. Their two-way contracts could be converted and they can easily sign someone from the G League or limited free agent pool to vie for minutes in San Antonio’s eight games in Orlando.
Considering this team is likely to use their eight-game stint at Walt Disney World as a chance to develop players, signing another veteran doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Instead, the organization should look to grow from within and give those who they’ve developed in both San Antonio and Austin a shot at competing.
Most of these potential transactions are harmless. Nothing that they do now in the league’s designated transaction window is going to drastically change their season outlook, but a few minor adjustments could fare well for their future. More so than anything, it’ll give fans an insight into how general manager Brian Wright is operating under pressure.
These three transactions make sense for the Spurs in the short-term without dramatically changing how they’ll need to run their team in the offseason.
Next: Converting a two-way contract
Convert San Antonio Spurs center Drew Eubanks’ deal from a two-way to a legitimate NBA contract.
For the last two seasons, former Oregon State star Drew Eubanks has been working in the G-League on two-way contracts to become the best version of himself. It’s clear that head coach Gregg Popovich favors him over some of the other options since he started Eubanks in multiple games when his team dealt with frontcourt injuries.
Giving Eubanks an NBA deal ensures that one of their future roster spots is filled on a relatively cheap deal while instilling faith and confidence in the young big man. Though Eubanks didn’t do much during those limited minutes and unexpected starts, he flashed lots of heart and hustle, which are traits that San Antonio needs out of its frontcourt right now.
For a team without much cap space to toy with in the future, giving Eubanks his official rookie deal ensures that they have a quality player on the roster for years to come without having to pay him as much as they could if he really pops in Orlando or later on. It’s the kind of cap-saving deal that teams have to consider with the salary cap likely to plummet as a result of COVID-19 and the NBA’s tensions with China earlier in the season.
In 22 games with the Austin Spurs this year, Eubanks averaged 15.9 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game while leading the team in both true shooting percentage (69.4%) and Block Percentage (6.5%). There’s an argument to be made that he’s the best prospect on the team — though I’d suggest it’s sophomore big man Chimezie Metu — and now is the best chance they’ll get to ensure his future with the team without making any major risks.
Converting Eubanks’ two-way deal to a full-time contract would let the team sign someone else to a two-way deal in his place.
Next: Bring along one of Austin's best prospects
The transaction window could allow the San Antonio Spurs to make Dedric Lawson a two-way player for the foreseeable future.
After going undrafted in 2019, forward Dedric Lawson signed on to become a member of the Spurs organization. He played 42 games for the Austin Spurs this season, averaging 13.6 points, eight boards and a block per game on 53.6 percent shooting from the floor and 34.3 percent shooting from 3-point range. Lawson plays with his heart on his sleeve, sacrificing his body and giving his all to the team every time down the floor.
With that in mind, San Antonio should convert Eubanks’ deal and replace him with Lawson on the two-way contract. That way, the Spurs can reward Lawson for his progression with the organization and ensure that he’ll continue it in silver and black.
San Antonio needs wings pretty direly right now. Their small forward spot is primarily dominated by three players who are more natural fits at the shooting guard spot. A hybrid small/power forward with a long wingspan, underrated bounce and a 6-foot-7 frame will fill that gap in their frontcourt and help bring the Spurs into the modern NBA. Lawson is just 22-year-old with worlds of potential worthy of that final two-way deal.
For as much progress as we’ve seen from two-way guard Quinndary Weatherspoon as a rookie, Lawson is a better player and is probably more worthy of that two-way contract right now. However, it’s not likely that the team would make any changes to Weatherspoon’s deal, so naturalizing Eubanks to the roster is the best course of action.
Austin’s offensive rating this season was 115.6, which is the sixth-best in the G-League. With Lawson on the floor, that skyrocketed all the way to 126 as the defensive rating improved by 1.9 points per 100 possessions. He led the team in both offensive and defensive win shares this season, asserting himself wherever the Spurs needed him.
That man deserves his shot at a two-way contract at the very least.
Next: Catering to Dejounte by signing a veteran
Signing veteran two-guard Jamal Crawford to a deal would be a great way to cater to San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray.
This is a big pivot from the previously-mentioned possibilities, but it’s one that proves San Antonio’s commitment to point guard Dejounte Murray. As we recalled earlier in the week, former Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford played a major part in realizing Dejounte’s potential to become an NBA player and reuniting them on the same roster would mean a lot to them both.
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Crawford didn’t get signed this year, largely due to his physical decline and poor defense last season in Phoenix. However, the veteran dropped 51 points in his last game against the Dallas Mavericks, proving that he’s still and always will be a walking bucket. Athleticism declines and bodies break down, but handles and basketball IQ are forever.
Adding Crawford as an insurance policy like Zeller is a nice way to pay homage to Murray, who’s been at the heart of this team and the youth movement since being drafted in 2016. Giving them a chance to play together, even under the strangest of circumstances, would bring Dejounte’s story full-circle while providing an invaluable veteran presence to teach the young players. J-Crossover was a thorn in the Spurs’ side as Sixth Man for the LA Clippers during the Lob City era and was in the young players’ ears then, preaching the ways of the league.
Considering their similar shot-creation ability and flashy tendencies, Crawford would make an excellent mentor for Lonnie Walker IV in his second season. Jamal is a player who had to tone down his innate drive to get buckets for the betterment of his team and could turn it on or off whenever he needed to. Instilling similar values in Walker would bode well for the sophomore’s future in this league.
This isn’t a world-breaking adjustment, but it would mean a lot more than you may realize for DJ.