Could the San Antonio Spurs have traded Kawhi for Bam Adebayo years ago?
As a general rule of thumb, I don’t think people should put much thought into thinking about “what could’ve happened”. Like, how would things be different if I went to college in the south, or what would the legacy of the San Antonio Spurs look like if Ray Allen didn’t hit that corner three back in 2013. It doesn’t do much you much good to spend time thinking about what could’ve been.
But every so often something so intriguing comes across your radar that its hard not to think about how things would be different today. This most recent rumor involving the San Antonio Spurs is one of those rare occurrences.
The deal would’ve happened in the summer of 2018, just after Adebayo’s rookie year and shortly before Kawhi was eventually sent north to the Toronto Raptors in the deal that brought DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio.
How would the Spurs look differently with Bam Adebayo on their team today
Full disclosure, I have a massive basketball crush on Bam Adebayo. I love everything about how he plays the game, his versatility, his work ethic, and his low ego. I was already a fan of his but this incredible feature by Zach Lowe on his upbringing and competitiveness really sent me over the edge.
Spurs fans might categorize this next comparison as hyperbolic but Adebayo is almost Tim Duncan like in his approach to the game. Per the piece by Lowe, Adebayo is a hyper-competitive, no-frills guy who cares for little outside of his close circle and winning basketball games. He’s not quite the player Duncan was, at least not yet, but his attitude seems similar.
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From a basketball and cultural standpoint, Adebayo would fit in perfectly with the San Antonio Spurs. He’s great in pick and roll, he’d be a wonderful partner for Dejounte Murray and Derrick White in those kinds of sets. And he also brings so much versatility and physicality on the defensive end of the floor that it’s hard not to think about how potent the Spurs defense could’ve been with the trio of White, Murray, and Adebayo leading the way.
But, if the Spurs had traded Kawhi to Maimi for Bam, they never would’ve gotten that 29th overall pick in the 2019 draft. And they never would’ve gotten Keldon Johnson. Now, Bam is significantly better than Johnson is right now. Bam wasn’t an All-Star after his rookie season, but just like Keldon, you could see the outline of the player that he would become.
Johnson tore up the bubble, is putting in hours upon hours of gym work this summer, and looks like he could be something truly special. Can we say for sure that the Spurs would’ve been better off making the deal for Adebayo knowing how things shook out? I don’t think you can say so with 100 percent certainty.
Playing “What If” can be fun but at the end of the day you have to make your peace with what is. San Antonio Spurs fans should have no problem making their peace with the fact that the team passed up a chance for trading for Bam Adebayo. With the young stars this team has, it might not even matter in a few years.