San Antonio Spurs should try to trade up for the Charlotte Hornets’ No. 3 draft pick

CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 21: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs and Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Charlotte Hornets react before a call during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - MARCH 21: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs and Frank Kaminsky #44 of the Charlotte Hornets react before a call during their game at Time Warner Cable Arena on March 21, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 01: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs is high fives by teammate LaMarcus Aldridge #12 after a basket during first half action at AT&T Center. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX – FEBRUARY 01: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs is high fives by teammate LaMarcus Aldridge #12 after a basket during first half action at AT&T Center. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

There are relationships established between these two organizations and the San Antonio Spurs can help the Charlotte Hornets jumpstart a win-now mindset.

Being a small-market team in this league means that the NBA Draft is more than just a chance at growing depth. For the San Antonio Spurs, its been the ticket to longterm success for years on end, bringing in franchise-altering talent that shaped a dynasty. Some teams are better at this than others and historically, the Charlotte Hornets could use some help.

Some recent NBA draft blunders by Charlotte include moving Shai Gilgeous-Alexander on draft night, picking Malik Monk 11th in 2017, selecting both Frank Kaminsky and Noah Vonleh at ninth overall in back-to-back seasons and using the No. 2 pick on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist with Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard on the board. However, their management has improved and recent additions have shaped a competitive core.

Charlotte is looked down upon in the pantheon of NBA teams, but its lineup is better than most teams that shuffle in and out of the lottery. Point guard Devonte’ Graham is growing into one of the finest marksmen in the league, former MSU forward Miles Bridges is a force to be reckoned with and rookie P.J. Washington, a Wildcat teammate of Spurs rookie Keldon Johnson, had an underrated rookie year.

Both the San Antonio Spurs and Charlotte Hornets are in transitionary periods, so they make sense as trade partners during these strange times.

Next: The state of the Charlotte Hornets

DENVER, COLORADO – JANUARY 5: Former San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker #9 and head coach James Borrego against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO – JANUARY 5: Former San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker #9 and head coach James Borrego against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

The San Antonio Spurs can provide the last piece of the puzzle for the Hornets.

Just two offseasons ago, the Hornets hired Spurs assistant James Borrego off of Gregg Popovich’s bench to run the ship for Michael Jordan’s franchise. Borrego took franchise point guard Tony Parker with him to instill some veteran leadership before ultimately retiring one year later. Charlotte not only has some Spurs values ingrained in that lineup, but in its team philosophy.

After the Washington Wizards’ terrible showing in the Orlando Bubble, Charlotte finished only 1.5 games back from the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference. Six games separate them from that final playoff spot, which is a feasible jump so long as they add some firepower during the offseason. This San Antonio Spurs group may have the weapons that the Hornets need to go from a perennial lottery team to a fiery eighth seed under a rising star of a coach.

GM Mitch Kupchak is very pleased with head coach James Borrego.#AllFly pic.twitter.com/iUE9IdcXYi

— Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) June 8, 2020

San Antonio isn’t officially scrapping this team for parts, but the Orlando restart gave a serious glimpse at the future of this franchise and it doesn’t look anything like what we saw before the hiatus. The Spurs’ go-to guy throughout the restart was combo guard Derrick White, who they’ll look to extend this offseason. Veterans found themselves deferring to the team’s youth and got better shots because of it. This resulted in a more fluent offense and a succinct defensive strategy.

An improved version of the Spurs showed up to the bubble without three starters in the lineup. If the option to move up from that No. 11 selection is in play, one would have to assume San Antonio would consider taking a leap of faith.

Next: Prospective trade offers

SALT LAKE CITY, UT – FEBRUARY 21: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – FEBRUARY 21: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs looks on during a game against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)

Hypothetical Trade: The San Antonio Spurs send LaMarcus Aldridge, Chimezie Metu and the No. 11 overall pick to Charlotte the No. 3 pick and Nicolas Batum.

From a player-for-player standpoint, the San Antonio Spurs are losing this trade. Starting center LaMarcus Aldridge is easily one of the most influential Spurs players of the decade.

However, the potential Hall of Famer doesn’t fit with this resurgent silver and black lineup. The Spurs organization has spent the better part of four years trying to cater to his game without great results. That, combined with the emergence of the young core, signals that its time for the Spurs to move on from LaMarcus.

Sending Aldridge along with Chimezie Metu gives the Hornets a surefire starter who knows Borrego’s coaching style along with a player full of potential. In exchange, they get to jump into the top-three of the NBA draft for only the fourth time in franchise history. They’d have their pick of a handful of great young players that can fit into their lineup with ease.

Player development is and always has been the Spurs’ best trait. Adding that third overall pick could result in a truly transformational aspect of San Antonio’s retooling.

While Nicolas Batum is a fraction of the player he once was, his expiring contract could help the Spurs in the long run. The 31-year-old forward has spent the last two of his five seasons in Charlotte wasting away on the bench as their youth movement prevails. His $27 million player option is worth more than he’d ever imagined making next season — The common expectation is that he picks it up. That would add to the mass of expiring contracts that San Antonio has in a loaded 2021 free agency pool.

Plus, the Spurs would be the team to extract what’s left of the former triple-double threat.

Next: What do the Spurs do with the pick?

MEMPHIS, TN – NOVEMBER 5: NBA Draft James Wiseman #32 of the Memphis Tigers boxes out for a rebound against the South Carolina State Bulldogs at FedExForum. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
MEMPHIS, TN – NOVEMBER 5: NBA Draft James Wiseman #32 of the Memphis Tigers boxes out for a rebound against the South Carolina State Bulldogs at FedExForum. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)

Who do the San Antonio Spurs consider with the third pick in the ’20 NBA Draft?

Picking third gives the San Antonio Spurs a ton of options in an NBA Draft class that draws tons of opinions. There’s a narrative floating around that this draft class is weaker than others in recent years, but that doesn’t apply to the Spurs. There are too many organizations that don’t know how to extract talent from their players.

There are a handful of options for the Spurs, a few of which are dependent on the decisions of the previous two selections. If projected No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards drops to three, they need to take a long look in his direction. However, a more likely outcome is Memphis center, James Wiseman. At only 19 years old, Wiseman is one of the most athletically gifted players in the class.

Listed at 7-foot-1, 237 lbs with a 7-foot-6 wingspan, Wiseman is a bit of a throwback player. His post prowess and strength making him a threat to score inside on every play. Still, his size doesn’t take away from exceptional speed, quickness and touch around the basket. Wiseman’s potential as a rim defender is off the charts and with time, he could easily grow into a high-level jump shooter at his position. That bodes well for one of the best rebounders in recent NBA Draft history.

The NBA Draft Lottery is tonight and this is the guy that most NBA Executives have told me that they would choose if they get the No. 1 pick. Here’s James Wiseman’s reaction: pic.twitter.com/2cs1JmATUT

— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanHoops) August 20, 2020

Another great option is forward Deni Avdija, whose playmaking and three-level scoring could transform the way this Spurs team operates. He can spot into multiple positions and defends well within team sets. If San Antonio is trading up, the front office needs to aim for a home-run of a draft pick. These two players are a bit risky compared with other options, but they have a greater upside than almost any prospect in the class.

Alternative NBA draft picks: Onyeka Okongwu, Killian Hayes, LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton.

Next: Ramifications of the deal

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – MARCH 03: Cody Martin #11 of the Charlotte Hornets is defended by Keldon Johnson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – MARCH 03: Cody Martin #11 of the Charlotte Hornets is defended by Keldon Johnson #3 of the San Antonio Spurs during the fourth quarter (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

Where does the trade leave the San Antonio Spurs & Charlotte Hornets?

Each side has to walk away from this trade feeling like there’s a clear direction for the coming season. For the Charlotte Hornets, it’s a path to the playoffs led by a solid blend of veteran leaders and high-usage young talent. With great coaching and a player who could sneak onto the Eastern Conference All-Star team in Aldridge, it’s a plausible goal.

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As for the San Antonio Spurs, buying into the youth movement is the way to go. The majority of the Spurs’ roster is rising talent looking for a chance in this league. Regardless of the hypothetical trade, they have a chance to select their highest NBA draft prospect since Tim Duncan himself. If this Orlando restart signaled anything about the silver and black, it’s that the future is now.

With both organizations at a crossroads, meeting in the middle and providing direction for each other puts a bow on the relationship between these teams. Like so many coaches before him, Borrego is drawing his knowledge from the Spurs dynasty and trying to build something for himself. He’s already well-versed in scheming for Aldridge and there’s a firm case that Metu is ready to play.

San Antonio has a chance to clear a lot of cap space and make a run at a true star in 2021. With unprecedented cap space and a pool dense with star power, they’re projected to be one of few teams that could throw large contracts at multiple players. Having this young, developing core in place makes the transition and financial ramifications of bringing someone like Giannis Antetokounmpo to town plausible for the silver and black next offseason.

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Only time would tell, but creating that infrastructure with the No. 3 pick would do dividends for San Antonio.

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