Ranking the San Antonio Spurs’ top trading chips entering the offseason

SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 12: Cedi Osman #16 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives between Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs in the first half at AT&T Center on December 12, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. 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 Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 12: Cedi Osman #16 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives between Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs in the first half at AT&T Center on December 12, 2019 in San Antonio, Texas. 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 Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
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LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 03: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs is congratulated by Trey Lyles #41 after an and-one against the LA Clippers at Staples Center (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 03: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs is congratulated by Trey Lyles #41 after an and-one against the LA Clippers at Staples Center (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

For the first time in many years, the San Antonio Spurs have a chance to be major players on the trade market — These are their best pieces to move.

The most dynamic way for a team to improve rapidly in the modern league is via trade. Though the San Antonio Spurs were part of a blockbuster trade two seasons ago, it wasn’t one they’d want to have been a part of. Now in the 2020 offseason, they’ll have a chance to be on the receiving end of a superstar trade package.

If someone major asks out, the San Antonio Spurs have what it takes to make a move for them. On the flip side, they have certain players and trade chips that they can move off of to build for the future. They have a few different directions to choose from this offseason, now it’s a matter of figuring out how they’d like to proceed.

Either way, they have what it takes to pull off an interesting trade. Should a franchise-altering talent come into play, the San Antonio Spurs could wave any one of their many fancy pieces around to entice opposing general managers. Regardless of its top five trade assets, San Antonio has more expiring contracts than almost any other team. Considering the wealth of talent in the 2021 free-agent pool, those contracts could end up being worth more than anyone expected when the front office signed those deals.

Whether or not that was intentional is up to those working behind the scenes. No matter which direction they choose, these five trade assets are going to hold value in the open market.

Since we only saw limited action from the San Antonio Spurs’ rookies, they won’t be included in this. Plenty of teams would be interested in Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic, but it’s too early to tell how other teams might view them.

Next: Fifth best trade chip

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JANUARY 20: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates after a made shot against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JANUARY 20: LaMarcus Aldridge #12 of the San Antonio Spurs celebrates after a made shot against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

LaMarcus Aldridge is the San Antonio Spurs’ 5th best trade asset.

At one time, former All-NBA big man LaMarcus Aldridge would’ve been the best trade chip that the San Antonio Spurs had. Perhaps he’ll hold more value than anticipated, but the consensus is that teams aren’t as willing to go all-out for Aldridge as they have been in the past. He’s been linked with Portland and Miami over the last year, though neither of those organizations has assets that would appeal to San Antonio that they’d be willing to part with.

Aldridge is similar to former DPOY Marc Gasol when he was traded by the Memphis Grizzlies. This is an All-Star caliber player with great veteran leadership who’s reshaping the way teams and players look at him. They each underwent a 3-point renaissance late in their careers despite spending most of it pounding in the paint and the post for their buckets.

Gasol was traded to the Toronto Raptors on a similar contract to Aldridge for Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright, a second-round pick and cap filler. Wright left the Grizzlies after that season and Valanciunas broke out with the sly Grizzlies shortly after. This is more like the sort of deal I’d expect the Spurs to land for Aldridge due to his age and questions about his fit in the modern game.

However, his name still holds weight and true basketball purists know his worth. Aldridge is a surefire bucket every time down the floor and at this stage of his career, he could certainly contribute to a title run. I’d look at Golden State and the LA Clippers as trade suitors for Aldridge.

Next: Fourth best trade chip

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 05: Lonnie Walker IV #1 of the San Antonio Spurs drives against Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets during the second half at Visa Athletic Center. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 05: Lonnie Walker IV #1 of the San Antonio Spurs drives against Paul Millsap #4 of the Denver Nuggets during the second half at Visa Athletic Center. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)

Lonnie Walker IV is the San Antonio Spurs’ 4th best trade asset.

This was the trickiest player to gauge due to the nature of his playstyle and uprising. On one hand, San Antonio Spurs wing Lonnie Walker IV has the highest ceiling of any player on the team. He’s a one-man wrecking crew combining a widespread offensive skill-set with blistering quickness and high-flying athleticism. Still, he’s a work in progress who may never reach that All-Star potential.

I’d like to believe Walker is going to be the leading scorer of this Spurs team in the future. There’s a lot of signs that suggest his scoring potential is through the roof unlike any player in recent franchise history. Even with that being the case, his decision-making skills and basketball IQ fall short at times, leaving more questions than answers in regards to his fit in it all.

That lack of consistency is what’s going to scare opposing general managers away. His ceiling is infinite but his floor is the lowest of the Spurs’ young guards. From a business perspective, opposing general managers would point to things like his history of lower-body injuries, poor team defense and quizzically low field goal percentage at the rim. With time, the San Antonio Spurs can help Lonnie figure these things out and be the best version of himself.

That’s the best-case scenario for both parties, but if a team wants Lonnie in a trade that could alter the franchise, they just might get him.

Next: Third-best trade chip

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 11: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs dunks the ball in front of Jeff Green #32 of the Houston Rockets during the first half of a game. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 11: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs dunks the ball in front of Jeff Green #32 of the Houston Rockets during the first half of a game. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)

DeMar DeRozan is the San Antonio Spurs’ 3rd best trade asset.

There’s an interesting case to place DeMar DeRozan as the San Antonio Spurs’ No. 1 trade asset, but there’s also a stigma surrounding the team’s leader. His rocky past with disappointing playoff series and questionable performance in clutch scenarios put a dark cloud over his head from the perspective of the basketball work. However, DeRozan’s worked hard to shed those misconceptions and take his game to another level.

On the final year of his contract, should he pick up his $27.7 million player option, DeRozan would make a valuable one-year rental to a team hoping to compete for a championship next year. He’s a reliable scorer whose mastery of mid-range shooting and finishing is unmatched in today’s game. In addition to that, he’s hit his stride as a passer, reaching new heights in the Spurs’ system.

There are a handful of routes to proceed on for the San Antonio Spurs and DeRozan. A sign-and-trade isn’t outside the realm of possibility, ensuring that DeRozan gets his contract and the Spurs are compensated for facilitating the deal. There’s also the possibility that he opts in and the Spurs move him anyway to any number of interested teams. This is especially likely if San Antonio runs it back next year and finds themselves on the wrong side of the playoff picture.

DeRozan’s future with the Spurs is the hardest to predict, but it’s hard to picture a scenario in which DeRozan simply opts out and leaves the Spurs for nothing. It’s going to be a testy free-agent market with limited options and there’s distinctive respect between DeMar and the organization. He remains a coveted trade chip should he and the team decide it’s best to move on.

Next: Second-best trade chip

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 20: Keldon Johnson poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the 29th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs during the 2019 NBA Draft. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 20: Keldon Johnson poses with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver after being drafted with the 29th overall pick by the San Antonio Spurs during the 2019 NBA Draft. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The No. 11 NBA Draft pick is the San Antonio Spurs’ 2nd best trade asset.

Trading picks is becoming more common than ever in the modern league and now, the San Antonio Spurs have a serious chance to make a play in that market. Using their highest NBA Draft pick since 1997, the organization could opt to move up, move down, or simply trade out of this draft class to bring in talent that helps them compete now.

Last year, the Minnesota Timberwolves traded their No. 11 pick and Dario Saric to acquire the No. 6 overall pick, which turned into Jarrett Culver. The Atlanta Hawks traded up, the Celtics and Thunder traded back, and overall, teams found themselves swapping picks to ensure they got the players they felt the strongest about.

Recently, indications have shown that the San Antonio Spurs are interested in drafting a big man. If that’s the case, they could opt to move back, acquire another asset and draft, someone, they feel strongly about. There are also teams at the top of the draft, mainly Golden State, that may be interested in moving back for a handful of picks and veteran help.

Lastly, the Spurs could package this pick with other assets to trade for the next star to ask out from their organization. It’s become increasingly common, so the San Antonio Spurs could gear up for a draft night unlike anything they’ve experienced in many years.

Next: The San Antonio Spurs' trade chip

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 05: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs brings the ball up court against the Denver Nuggets during the second half at Visa Athletic Center. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)
LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – AUGUST 05: Derrick White #4 of the San Antonio Spurs brings the ball up court against the Denver Nuggets during the second half at Visa Athletic Center. (Photo by Kim Klement-Pool/Getty Images)

Derrick White is the San Antonio Spurs’ best trade asset.

The San Antonio Spurs’ No. 1 trade asset is combo guard Derrick White for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, White is due just $3,516,284 in the 2020-21 season, making him one of the most egregiously underpaid players in the entire sport. In due time, he’ll earn a contract extension from the Spurs that gives a fair understanding of his value moving forward, but that small sum of cash for one of the most intriguing two-way players in the sport is tremendous.

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On top of just how cheap the final year of his contract is, White is one of the best two-way athletes in the entire NBA. He proved it in the Orlando bubble, raining triples and racking up 20+ point scoring performances while clamping down on the opponent’s best player. He’s built to stack up in the modern NBA and on top of it all, he’s one of the single best pick-and-roll ball-handlers in the game today.

White isn’t just a player who can help a team now — He’s an investment in the future. If San Antonio were to enter trade talks with a team moving a big-name player, I expect that the first player they ask for is going to be White. He’s expected to earn a similar contract to Dejounte Murray, who got a $64 million extension with incentives for the next four years.

Even then, White’s value will blossom. Even though he came off the bench for most of the year in San Antonio, he’s a surefire starter in this league whose DNA and competitive spirit make him the type of player you can go to war with in a championship setting.

Ranking every Spurs draft pick since 2014. Next

Maybe his ceiling is lower than some of the other young players in San Antonio, but White is assuredly the best of the bunch at this juncture. For that, he ranks atop this list.

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