The San Antonio Spurs will be fighting in a very different Western Conference soon enough
On a good year, the Western Conference is an absolute warzone. You only need to look at the top to bottom strength of the conference’s teams to see that. Just look at what happened in the bubble, the San Antonio Spurs and three other teams could have conceivably made the playoffs.
The 2020-21 season is sure to be even more tightly contested. Just think about what’s about to transpire this summer. The New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies will get more time to gel their young cores, the same can be said for the San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns. Meanwhile, the Minnesota Timberwolves will add a number one overall pick to an offense that already has two All-Stars.
And the juggernaut of them all, the Golden State Warriors, will come into next season with a healthy Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson. Oh, and they’ll also have the second overall pick that they can either use on a top talent or as trade bait to bring another star to their already loaded team.
The rest of the West is going to have to find some way to respond to all of this. The free-agent class of 2021 might rearrange the balance of power across the league but right now let’s focus on three potential trades that could reshape the West before next season.
Next: Flip the #1 overall pick
Minnesota trades picks and players to Washington for Bradley Beal
Bradley Beal has been included in trade talks for years now but the Washington Wizards have been steadfast in their insistence to hold on to their superstar. Maybe they really believe that Beal is the future of their team or maybe they’re holding out for the right package. If it’s the latter, the Minnesota Timberwolves would like to have a talk.
The Wolves do have the number one overall pick but they have to be thinking about trading it away to acquire a star. They’ve really only got three years of D’Angelo Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns before Russell is an unrestricted free agent and Towns is approaching the final year of his deal. Towns has been losing since he got in the league, is Minnesota sure they want to bank on developing a rookie and rising to a contender in three years? Trading for a star would be so much easier.
With Bradley Beal, the Wolves would have the third star they need to instantly become one of the most dangerous offenses in the league. Russell is a scoring point guard and Beal is a shooting guard who can facilitate like a true point, combine those two with one of the most versatile big men in the history of the NBA and you’ll be able to give opposing defenses nightmares no matter how well they game plan for you.
New Timberwolves President, Gersson Rosas, cut his teeth as the Vice President of Basketball Operations for the Houston Rockets. In acquiring Beal he could be well on his way to building out a sort of Rockets of the North, but with, dare I say, a more potent offense.
Think that’s too much? KAT shot 41 percent from behind the arc on almost 8 attempts from deep, he can also ruin your favorite player down low. Combine that with Bradley Beal, who should receive All-NBA consideration this year but won’t, and the Wolves would truly be a threat in the West.
For Washington, this is a full reset. They get three first-round picks in this draft. They can use the first on Anthony Edwards, their own ninth on a point guard of their choice, and the 17th on a role player to fill out their roster. With Okogie and Culver, they’ve got two more wings to go with Troy Brown. They’d still have a lot of work to do but at least they’ll be headed in the right direction.
Next: For OKC, it was fun while it lasted
Oklahoma City sends CP3 east to help Giannis win his first title
When the Oklahoma City Thunder decided to smash the reset button on their franchise last year no one expected them to end this season where they did. They were projected as a lottery team at the beginning of the year and ended up taking the Houston Rockets to the edge of defeat in a thrilling seven-game series.
It was fun while it lasted but Chris Paul doesn’t fit with Oklahoma City long term. With their war chest of first-round picks and swaps, they’re looking to the future. Paul is looking to capture his first title before he retires. There’s a team out east that could use his help.
At the time of this writing, the Milwaukee Bucks are down 3-0 to the Miami Heat and it doesn’t look like they have a snowball’s chance in hell of mounting a comeback. The decision to pass on Malcolm Brogdon is looking like a mistake as Eric Bledsoe has been a noncontributor in the two games that he’s played in this series.
Every decision the Bucks make over the next year has to be solely framed through the lens of “will this lead to Giannis Antetokounmpo re-signing here?” The last two seasons have ended in disappointment for Giannis, free agency is coming, and there are 29 other teams out there who would love to make their pitch to one of the best players on the planet.
Earlier this week, a former San Antonio Spur who shall remain nameless compared Giannis to Scottie Pippen, rather than Michael Jordan. No, Giannis is like Mike, but CP3 can be his Scottie. The Bucks need someone who can make adjustments on the fly and help them win the second half of games. And because that’s clearly not going to come from their coach, maybe it could come from one of the brightest minds in the game.
Including Donte DiVencenzo and a first-round pick makes this deal more reasonable for the Thunder, and George Hill, Eric Bledsoe, and Robin Lopez can be used on the court or in future deals to help OKC continue to add to their boatload of picks.
Next: Big changes in San Antonio
San Antonio Spurs send out two key veterans for half a new roster
In an article taking a deep look at the San Antonio Spurs plans for their offseason, Jabari Young touched on how the team could look to trade one of their stars this summer.
Some fans would prefer that the team deal LaMarcus Aldridge, some want the Spurs to move on from DeMar DeRozan. I say why not both? This deal sends both of them out, while also bringing back a combination of players who can help the Spurs immediately and in the long term.
Gordon Hayward does have a hefty $34 million dollar player option that he can choose to pick up, and he likely will. He fits better with what the Spurs are trying to do now and will also be an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021 so he won’t eat into the nice chunk of cap space the Spurs will have to use on chasing free agents that summer.
San Antonio found success in the bubble by deploying DeMar as their power forward, pushing the pace, and running repetitive drive and kick attacks that wore defenses down until they either made a mistake or San Antonio found a clean look. Hayward can fit smoothly into the role that DeRozan had but with one key advantage – he actually shoots the three.
Hayward hit on 38 percent of his 3-point shots last year and would give San Antonio another strong option from behind the arc. He’s not the only player coming in on this deal who can stroke it from deep. Tyler Herro knocked down 39 percent of his deep attempts and Kelly Olynyk was canning 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc this year. Together the three would help give variety to a San Antonio Spurs attack that could use a stronger presence from behind the arc.
This deal doesn’t turn the Spurs into title contenders but it does set them up nicely for the future while also giving them a few players who can help them return to the playoffs next year. They’re going to need to either acquire a star in the summer of 2021 or hope that one of their guys can become an All-Star. Either way, making a trade like this would help kick-start the next run of success for the Spurs.