The San Antonio Spurs might be better off trading down in the 2020 NBA draft
After what was one of the longest and most difficult seasons in franchise history, the San Antonio Spurs finally got their prize on lottery night. The Spurs will be picking 11th in the 2020 NBA Draft. It’ll be their highest selection since they drafted Tim Duncan back in 1997.
It’s pretty unfortunate that the Spurs happen to have their best pick in over two decades in a draft class that is running terribly low on top-tier talent. This isn’t some loaded class like 2017 where you could find future All-Stars like Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo near the end of the lottery.
The 2020 draft class is light on potential stars but deep with solid players who should be able to have long careers as role players. Even as you approach the early 20s you can find plenty of players who look to have what it takes to contribute on an NBA team. They might not make an All-Star team at any point in their careers but every one of the guys in this draft has a skill that should keep them on an NBA roster for a long time.
The combined lack of star talent near the top of the draft and deep supply of role players could have a lot of teams looking to move back. The San Antonio Spurs should be among this group.
Sure, they could stick around at 11 and hope that someone like Obi Toppin or Devin Vassel is on the board, or they could trade down, pick up assets along the way, and settle for someone with a relatively comparable floor but less upside. It wouldn’t be a bad play. Here are three trades that just might make it worth it for San Antonio.
Next: LaMarcus heads home
San Antonio Spurs send LaMarcus Aldridge back to Portland Trail Blazers
In a recent deep dive into the Spurs plans for the rest of the offseason, CNBC’s Jabari Young noted that some agents around the NBA are talking about a potential reunion between LaMarcus Aldridge and his former team. Aldridge has expressed a willingness to return to the team that drafted him at some point before his career is over and Young did mention that he’s repaired his relationship with Damian Lillard.
This deal serves a few purposes, it helps the Blazers acquire another low post star to pair with Jusef Nurkic, reunites Lillard and Aldridge, helps the Spurs pick up some young talent, and still allows both teams to get a draft pick that they could use.
This deal isn’t without risk for the Spurs. The prizes are Zach Collins, a skilled albeit oft-injured big man, and Rodney Hood, who will be coming off of a torn Achilles. But every trade has its risk and if what we saw in the bubble is at all indicative of how the Spurs are going to play next year the argument could be made that they’d be better off without LaMarcus.
Focusing on the picks, the drop off between 11 and 16 isn’t huge. At 11 the Spurs could get someone like Vassell or Aaron Nesmith, at 16 they’ll likely be looking at Saddiq Bey or Patrick Williams, both of whom are still great picks for what San Antonio needs right now.
The bubble Blazers also figured out that they can find relative success without Hood, Collins, or Ariza. Losing them shouldn’t hurt too much, especially if it brings them LaMarcus to replace Hassan Whiteside. Add in a high lottery pick who can step in right away and you have the makings of a team that could be one of the most dangerous in the Western Conference next year.
Next: Another Orlando trade
We’re speaking Aaron Gordon to the San Antonio Spurs into existence
At this point, you’re probably asking yourself “how many times are these guys going to propose a trade that brings Aaron Gordon to the San Antonio Spurs?” As many times as it takes. I will be the last man on Aaron Gordan island before I stop.
There could be some hesitancy on the Magic’s side to do a deal like this. It was recently announced that they will be without Jonathan Isaac for all of next season after the star forward tore his ACL during the Orlando seeding games.
This is a gut-punch of a loss for Orlando. Isaac is one of the best and most versatile defenders in the league when he’s healthy but his career has been riddled with injuries so far. Knowing this, the Magic might want to keep Gordon around as an insurance policy in case Isaac doesn’t come back as the player that he was on track to be.
If not, if the Magic feeling like filling out a backcourt that has been severely lacking for years, while also adding a forward presence to serve as a stop-gap while Isaac recovers, then this trade makes sense.
In his time in San Antonio, DeMar DeRozan has proven that he can effectively function as a lead playmaker for a playoff team. He’s comfortable running through pick and roll sets and would be a dangerous duo with Nikola Vucevic.
With the 11th pick, the Magic could have their pick of the second tier of point guards. Anyone from Killian Hayes to Cole Anthony should still be on the board at that point. Hayes is all over the place on draft boards but could end up being the best player in this class. If the Magic can get him at 11 this trade is an absolute steal for them.
Next: DeRozan heads to South Beach
San Antonio Spurs send DeMar DeRozan to Miami Heat for Herro and others
Another point that Jabari Young mentioned in his piece for CNBC was the possibility of a trade that would send DeMar DeRozan to the Miami Heat to play alongside his friend Jimmy Butler. This trade makes that happen.
The obvious prize here is Tyler Herro. He’s not quite the outside shooter that his teammate Duncan Robinson is but Herro is still a great scorer who has also flashed impressive playmaking skills as a rookie. Reuniting him with his college teammate Keldon Johnson would give even more punch to a young and impressive San Antonio Spurs backcourt that would be well on it’s way to being one of the best in the league with Herro in the fold.
Adding Andre Igoudala doesn’t do much for San Antonio in the short term. In fact, it wouldn’t be incredibly surprising to see him pull the same stunt he did in Memphis and simply refuse to show up. At best the Spurs would get another strong perimeter defender and a wise veteran who, if he buys in, could pass on a lot of wisdom to the young guys on the team.
Olynyk isn’t going to be a difference-maker for the Spurs but he did hit on 40 percent of his three’s this year and we saw first hand the value that a floor-spacing big man can bring to the San Antonio offense when used correctly.
Finally, with the 20th pick, the Spurs would still be in a good position to pick up someone like Josh Green or Robert Woodard in the draft. Neither of these players projects as All-Stars down the road but both should be able to fit into a rotation as 3 & D wings on a guard-heavy Spurs team.
After slogging through a grueling season and finally getting such a high pick it would be hard to see the San Antonio Spurs trade it away. But if they’re able to get a trade package the three mentioned here it would definitely be worth it in the long term.