San Antonio Spurs: Ten potential trades to make during the offseason
By Dylan Carter
Dec 13, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs small forward Rudy Gay (22) celebrates with DeMar DeRozan (10), and LaMarcus Aldridge (12) after a play against the LA Clippers at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
It’s time for the San Antonio Spurs to make some offseason changes.
Never in the history of sports has there been a season quite like this one — Especially since the conception of the National Basketball Association. Considering the lack of clarity regarding the league’s finances or the 2020-21 season as a whole, there’s not much to suggest it’ll be a strong offseason for free-agent signings. That bodes well for a team like the San Antonio Spurs with a ton of trade assets to toy with and boatloads of cap space in 2021.
Not every team has that luxury and the Spurs should have a chance to leverage their expiring contracts for some assets during the offseason. First and foremost, their best player, DeMar DeRozan, is a pending free agent who’s becoming increasingly likely to opt into his $27.7 million player option for next year. This is someone who could easily be traded if San Antonio’s front office maneuvers correctly.
Plenty of teams are looking to improve via trades this offseason. The free-agent pool, outside of DeRozan, doesn’t have many big names at the top. Except for Anthony Davis, who’s all but guaranteed to stay put in Los Angeles, DeRozan will end up as the top dog if he opts out. Contenders, pretenders and everyone in between are going to be eyeing his situation as it unfolds.
But that’s not all — The Spurs have a ton of talent that isn’t properly distributed. Therefore, we thought it might be wise to look back at our “One offseason trade with every team” series and pick out the 10 deals that are most interesting for the silver and black. Note that these are all hypothetical. Some are more realistic than others, but each of them has been checked to ensure the finances work one way or another.
Next: Trade No. 1
Nov 9, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (20) walks up the court in the first half of the game against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. (Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)
1. San Antonio Spurs make a deal with the Boston Celtics.
Obviously, running it back doesn’t seem to be enough for the Boston Celtics. A team comprised mostly of players who play the same three positions, they may benefit from adding a solid veteran who can fit into their system at the center spot. This is where the San Antonio Spurs come into the picture with potential Hall of Famer LaMarcus Aldridge.
First and foremost, everyone in this trade conversation is on an expiring deal, ensuring that the upside of expiring cap space goes both ways. However, Aldridge and Rudy Gay are both primed to compete for an NBA title and fill positions of need for the Celtics. As Aldridge automatically becomes the best rim protector and rebounder on the team, Gay slides into Hayward’s minutes and does about two-thirds of the job that Hayward did at a fraction of the price.
For the San Antonio Spurs, this allows center Jakob Poeltl to become the full-time starter with incredible rim presence and shot-blocking capabilities. Now two seasons removed from Hayward’s vicious injury in the 2017-18 season opener, Hayward is back to form. This season for Boston, he played 52 regular-season games and put up commendable stats.
Hayward shot 50 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from deep for the best true shooting percentage of his career. He provides a reliable stop-gap who can fill positions 2-through-4 and complements DeRozan and the young core well. He doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective but can take over when his team needs an extra push.
Plus, Boston doesn’t need all three of its first-rounders and Aldridge is a considerable upgrade at a position of need.
Next: Trade No. 2
Mar 3, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets forward Miles Bridges (0) shoots the ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) at Spectrum Center. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
2. San Antonio Spurs sign-and-trade DeMar DeRozan to Charlotte.
Now led by former Spurs assistant James Borrego, the Charlotte Hornets are in a position to be a winning team for the first time since Alonzo Mourning ran the show. With a plethora of young talent ready to go, they just need an alpha to help them put it all together. That’s where DeRozan can make an impact at the leader of the pack in a sign-and-trade deal this offseason.
DeRozan can facilitate with a perfect match in rising talent Devonte’ Graham at the point guard position. With DeMar slashing and Graham shooting, along with a talented, modern cast of players around them, this is a potential playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.
For San Antonio, the main reason to make this deal is Miles Bridges. The No. 12 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, Bridges has shown the upside of a leading player with a high defensive motor and a wide-reaching offensive skillset. Beyond that, Bridges makes a lot of sense for the young Spurs lineup as a starting small forward/power forward. Bridges detonated in two games against the Spurs, averaging 20 points and 6.5 rebounds in their two meetings. In that span, he went 6-for-14 shooting from the 3-point line.
Seeing his talent up-close and personal could be enticing for a San Antonio team looking to make that transition toward the future. This is especially prevalent if DeRozan tells the Spurs he wants a sign-and-trade for a max deal.
Next: Trade No. 3
Nov 22, 2019; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers forward Tobias Harris (12) and San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) chase a loose ball during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. (Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports)
3. San Antonio Spurs swap depth for a win-now approach with Philly.
Depth has been key to the San Antonio Spurs’ success over the years, but it’s not something they would struggle to manifest after trading some of it away. They use the draft, free agency and two-way contracts to extract talent from every inch of the NBA landscape. Therefore, they could potentially leverage their depth for a more impactful player and potential pieces.
Forward Tobias Harris struggled in the Philadelphia 76ers playoff series — Largely because he was asked to do too much against a Boston Celtics team that far outmatched them. Part of this was because they didn’t have the right pieces around their star player in Joel Embiid. The other aspect of it is that Ben Simmons was out due to injury, thrusting Harris into a role he wasn’t ready for.
Moving Rudy Gay, Patty Mills, Trey Lyles, their 2nd rounder and a lottery-protected first takes some of the assets that San Antonio has been stockpiling and swaps it for a reliable, high-upside player. On any given night, Tobias Harris could be their best player in a lineup with DeRozan, Aldridge and all of the youngsters.
Beyond that, the Spurs get to take a swing on two intriguing potential rotation players in former first-round pick Zhaire Smith and backup big man Norvel Pelle. In limited minutes, Pelle proved to be incredibly effective playing behind Embiid and in place of him when injured. Smith is someone that we suggested the Spurs look at before his draft and with this team’s medical and development staff on his side, Smith could be special for the silver and black.
Next: Trade No. 4
Nov 15, 2019; Orlando, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) passes the ball around Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon (00) during the second half at Amway Center. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
4. The San Antonio Spurs/Orlando Magic trade finally happens.
For years now, there’ve been suggestions that the San Antonio Spurs trade DeMar DeRozan to the Orlando Magic for Aaron Gordon. The specifics of this hypothetical have changed on various occasions, but the Magic have been linked to DeRozan in the past and these two teams could finally make it happen during this offseason.
Similarly to the Charlotte trade, this would have to be a sign-and-trade to get the deal done. Orlando doesn’t have the cap space to make it happen otherwise, which bodes in the favor of the San Antonio Spurs. This way, DeRozan can get his max contract and the Spurs can get something in return for him.
Gordon is an intriguing player with tremendous upside despite some streaky shooting. Late in the season, Gordon seemed to unlock new aspects of his game — Namely his defensive versatility and playmaking from the frontcourt. He’s a player whose scoring threat opens up opportunities for others due to his verticality and explosiveness near the rim. Beyond that, he’s a stat sheet stuffer who brings some defensive firepower to a San Antonio Spurs lineup that needs it.
Orlando also sends center Mo Bamba to San Antonio after years of it really not working out between the two parties. He’s a bit redundant with Jakob Poeltl, but the promise of this 22-year-old far outweighs the redundancy at the center position. In his future, Bamba can be a dominant rim protector in addition to a versatile modern offensive player with floor-spacing potential and solid finishing ability at the basket.
Next: Trade No. 5
Mar 8, 2020; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) grabs a rebound from San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) during the first half at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. (Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports)
5. The San Antonio Spurs swing for the fences with Kevin Love.
While some of these deals help the San Antonio Spurs move into the future, others assert more of a win-now mentality. The latter is the case when trading for Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love, a 32-year-old former All-Star whose talent and veteran experience far outweighs that of the current San Antonio Spurs lineup.
Earlier in the 2019-20 season, the Cavs traded for center Andre Drummond, giving up two expiring contracts and a second-round pick in the process. If this is what the market says about trading for bigs who are at the lowest point in their value, then the same should apply here with Love. Nevermind the fact that it puts a large sum of cash on the salary cap — Love is a valuable and smart player with championship experience.
The floor-spacing that he provides, in addition to all-world rebounding and veteran savvy, makes him a reliable player every time down the court. Love knows what it takes to win and came up big in the most crucial moments alongside LeBron in three NBA Finals runs. Love is in the best shape of his life and is primed for a chance at playing for something meaningful.
A starting five featuring Murray, White, DeRozan, Love and Aldridge is a playoff team if healthy.
Next: Trade No. 6
Mar 2, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner (33) shoots over San Antonio Spurs center Trey Lyles (41) in the second half at the AT&T Center. (Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)
6. The San Antonio Spurs swap bigs with the Pacers.
There’s always been some intrigue regarding a trade that brings Myles Turner to the San Antonio Spurs. Turner comes from a long line of centers who made a name for themselves as a Texas Longhorn. The big man who set this off way back when just so happens to be the player he’d be getting traded for now — LaMarcus Aldridge.
Clearly, head coach Gregg Popovich likes what he’s seen from Turner. Popovich decided to bring him along with the Team USA group that competed in the FIBA World Cup of Basketball. Turner beat out considerable competition including someone who’s front and center with a Miami Heat team competing for an NBA championship: Bam Adebayo.
Turner is an incredibly versatile fit for this team with a reliable 3-point stroke that could help space the floor for this Spurs group. Bringing Turner along gives the Spurs a chance to re-envision their frontcourt for the future with the lens of a team built to compete in 2020. Plus, they’d get to bring in wing Justin Holiday to help facilitate the move and add depth on the perimeter.
Letting Aldridge move onto the next stage of his career might be hard to swallow, but this is a move that helps push San Antonio forward. Unfortunately, unless the team decides to buy into a win-now mindset with trades and signings, that’s their only path back into the playoff picture. Plus, Turner’s game makes sense as the starting center of this young core as currently built.
Next: Trade No. 7
Nov 13, 2019; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) drives against San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) in the second half at Target Center. (Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports)
7. San Antonio Spurs go star hunting, bring back Karl-Anthony Towns.
Eventually, Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns is going to realize that being in the Twin Cities isn’t ideal for his professional basketball career. On the off chance that he already has, despite his team trading for Towns’ good friend D’Angelo Russell, this haul should be enough to do the trick. However, some San Antonio Spurs fans wouldn’t like all that it would take.
This is the only time in this article you’ll see Derrick White getting traded because quite frankly, most players aren’t worth giving up the rising star. However, Towns is already a top talent in the league and under the guidance of the San Antonio Spurs, he could reach superstar heights. Instead of posting monster stat lines in losses, he can learn the intricacies of being a winner in the NBA.
To fill the Timberwolves’ vacancy at center, they get another defensive-minded player who can be a great pick-and-roll partner for Russell in Jakob Poeltl. Rudy Gay’s salary is implemented to fill the gap since White is still on a rookie deal worth pennies compared to his actual value. Of every trade in this piece, this is probably the biggest crapshoot of the bunch, but it’s worth considering for now and the future when a disgruntled star wants out.
Towns in a San Antonio Spurs uniform would be a force to be reckoned with — Especially in a lineup featuring DeMar DeRozan as well.
Next: Trade No. 8
Dec 1, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) goes up for a shot against Detroit Pistons guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (19) during the fourth quarter at Little Caesars Arena. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
8. San Antonio Spurs open up cap space, bring back a shooter.
A relatively inconsequential trade, this is one way for the San Antonio Spurs to open up cap space to bring in another player in free agency this year. They have their mid-level exception to throw around if need be, but there’s not enough excess money to go out and get anyone that is going to make an immediate impact — Say a restricted free agent or someone who’s undervalued.
For as great as Gay was in the Orlando restart, he’s semi-expendable at this point with the third-highest salary on the roster. Sustaining that level of play he displayed through seven games isn’t likely to be sustainable during the course of an entire 82-game season next year. Instead, they can replace him with an underrated marksman in Svi Mykhailiuk.
Formerly of the Lakers, Svi is just 23-years-old with a ridiculous range and a great frame for a modern small forward. This is how the team can make up for letting go of Davis Bertans for essentially nothing a season ago. Adding a surefire sniper who immediately becomes the best shooter on the team will pay off in dividends when moving off of Bryn Forbes and maximizing whatever time DeRozan has left in silver and black.
Plus, it gives them the flexibility to maneuver a bit differently than they otherwise would’ve. That applies to both free agency and any follow-up trade in the lengthy offseason.
Next: Trade No. 9
Aug 9, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday (11) and Jakob Poeltl (25) go after a loose ball during the first half of a basketball game at The Field House. (Ashley Landis/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)
9. San Antonio Spurs bring in a familiar foe from New Orleans.
Perennially one of the most underrated players in the NBA, New Orleans Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday is amongst those most likely to be traded during the offseason. It’s obvious that New Orleans’ front office wants to trend young and Holiday doesn’t fit their mold any longer. However, they need some smart veterans to hold it down as Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram learn to fulfill their potential.
By trading for Holiday, the San Antonio Spurs take a step toward being the competitive team they envisioned they would be this year. It wasn’t an easy road and falling short of the NBA playoffs with a tremendous failure on the part of the front office. There’s an obvious youth movement budding, but the leaders of this team failed to recognize that it wasn’t quite the time yet.
Not only does Holiday fit the mold of a San Antonio Spurs point guard with an unselfish demeanor and physical approach to the game, but he pairs excellently with DeMar DeRozan. A defensive savant who can stretch the floor and create shots for himself or others, Holiday does a little bit of everything without demanding much attention. He’s an ideal fit with the current roster who can help transition into the future of this franchise.
That wasn’t the case with the Pelicans’ roster considering they way overspeculated on Zion’s health and Ingram‘s ability to lead the team. This way, they are expiring contracts that fit their team’s mold and add draft compensation down the line.
Next: Trade No. 10
Mar 6, 2020; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Caris LeVert (22) drives the ball around San Antonio Spurs point guard Derrick White (4) during the 4th quarter at Barclays Center. (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports)
10. San Antonio Spurs unload veteran stars for rising stars from Brooklyn.
You’ve seen DeRozan and Aldridge each get traded a few times throughout this piece, but this is the only trade where they both exit San Antonio together. Making this deal with the Brooklyn Nets establishes a clear identity for both parties — San Antonio looks to the future while Brooklyn capitalizes on the prime years of their two stars.
Every time he gets a chance, small forward Caris LeVert manages to grow his legend. One of the most talented shot creators in the NBA, LeVert has become underrated by this point. Forcing him to be confined into a reduced role behind Kyrie and KD won’t allow the rising talent to reach the limits of his own potential as a leader in this game.
For the San Antonio Spurs, this move provides the chance to swing a star player. LeVert’s game fits nicely with the infrastructure in place and his hardworking mentality should align with head coach Gregg Popovich’s strategy.
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The same can be said from guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who bloomed into a legitimate secondary option for his team. The other Spurs guards are defense-oriented, leaving room for Dinwiddie to launch 3-pointers and facilitate a decent portion of the offense as a sixth man.
Lastly, San Antonio gets a hometown product in Taurean Prince. Even though the early stages of his career haven’t panned out, Prince still has a ton of potential as a two-way athlete with strong defensive instincts. All he needs is a push in the right direction and proper guidance, which is exactly the Spurs can provide him.
Obviously, trading your two best players doesn’t bode well for the immediate playoff hopes of this team, but it defines a clear path toward the future.
One way or another, that’s what the San Antonio Spurs need to establish if they’re going to move on from DeRozan and Aldridge.