Dec 12, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) and San Antonio Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) battle for position in the second half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
This blockbuster deal shouldn’t be totally off the table for San Antonio Spurs
Writing about hypothetical trades is a fun thought exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good blockbuster deal as much as the next guy, but some of the ones being tossed around these days are venturing into the absurd. Especially when it comes to ones involving our San Antonio Spurs.
First and foremost, the Spurs have never been a team that’s relied heavily on the trade market to shake things up. They aren’t the Miami Heat or Houston Rockets who have been high rollers in the trade space for the past few years. No, San Antonio has relied on drafting and developing talent to help them improve.
Their historic preference to avoid splashy trades, especially ones that involve trading away young players, make a recently proposed blockbuster deal from the folks over at Bleacher Report all the more shocking.
It’s not the worst deal in the world but it certainly has its flaws. Let’s break down the pros and cons of this hypothetical deal that would cost the Spurs a fan favorite but would bring back an impressive and proven big man in return.
Next: Why San Antonio would consider the trade
Dec 12, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) dribbles the ball around San Antonio Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan (10) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Kevin Love gives San Antonio Spurs the star they need to attract free agents
There are two distinctly different ways that we can approach the fallout from this trade. One scenario involves signing DeMar DeRozan to an extension and rolling with him and Love as the stars of the team. The other sees the Spurs play out the last year of DeRozan’s contract during the ’20-21 season before letting him walk in the summer of 2021.
If the Spurs were to focus on building around the duo of DeRozan and Love there’s no doubt that they could come up with a pretty potent offense. We saw how dangerous DeMar was when Aldridge finally stepped out behind the arc and was knocking down three’s. Now just imagine what he could do with an even more dangerous long-range shooter in Love.
Love is one of the more accurate 3-point shooting big men in the NBA today. He’s coming off of a season in which he shot 37 percent from behind the arc and he’s proven time and time again that he can sustain that kind of accuracy while taking somewhere between six and seven attempts from deep per night.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2019/10/26/0021900030/279/7d840b6b-f492-2f46-ac34-62f0563f0c3b_1280x720.mp4
Adding a shooter of that caliber would not only open up additional room for DeRozan and the other Spurs slashers, it would also give San Antonio the flexibility to make some additional much-needed lineup adjustments even if they decide to move on from DeRozan in the summer of 2021.
With Love’s 3-point shooting in the lineup, there would be less of a need to deploy Bryn Forbes as a starter. The Spurs could maintain their floor spacing while swapping Forbes and Derrick White in the starting lineup, giving fans the Dejounte Murray – White backcourt we only just recently got to see in Orlando.
Trading away Aldridge would also open a hole in the middle that Jakob Poeltl could step into. Poeltl is a defensive monster but his offensive limitations made it difficult for the Spurs to play him with another big man.
Love’s the rare kind of big who’s proven that he’s comfortable playing with a paint protector like Tristan Thompson, Andre Drummond, or Poeltl. The two should have no problem sharing the floor.
Finally, if the Spurs choose to trade for Love but do not extend DeRozan, Love gives them the kind of star player that they’d need to attract other big-name free agents in the summer of 2021.
Very rarely do we see star free agents elect to come to a team where they’re going to be “the guy” if that team isn’t playing in a big market. Any stars who have the Spurs on their radar in the summer of 2021 are going to want to have the assurance that they’re not the only star who will be counted on to deliver a title. Having an established champion like Love on the roster would give the Spurs a player to point to as a running mate when they’re making their pitch to the free-agent class of 2021.
Trading for Kevin Love would certainly have its benefits but is the cost worth it?
Next: Why the Spurs wouldn't do the deal
Mar 10, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson (3) brings the ball up the court against the Dallas Mavericks in the first half at the AT&T Center. (Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs should not add Kevin Love if it costs them Keldon Johnson
The reasons not to do the deal come down to two things – it would eat into the Spurs cap space in 2021 and it would cost them Keldon Johnson.
San Antonio Spurs fans developed a full-blown obsession with Keldon Johnson this year, and how could they not? His attitude on the court is infectious, his smile will brighten anyone’s day, and he’s a damn good basketball player.
Like many Spurs rookies before him, Keldon spent most of his first season in the league with the Austin Spurs. He was starting to carve out a role in the lineup when the seasons was suspended and when the Spurs went to Orlando he broke out.
Over San Antonio’s final eight games, Keldon averaged 14.1 points, 5 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.1 steals per game on 63.8 percent shooting from the field and 64.7 percent shooting from behind the arc. They’re impressive numbers from a small sample size that should be taken with a grain of salt. There’s no way that level of outside shooting is sustainable but those final eight games did give us a glimpse of the kind of player that Johnson can become.
His on the court production was encouraging but it’s what fans don’t see that should excite us even more about his potential. From everything you hear about Keldon from his teammates and coaches, he’s an absolute delight to have on the team.
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He’s hard-working, humble, and truly wants to be great. DeMar DeRozan went so far as to call him one of his favorite rookies he’s ever played with. That sounds exactly like the kind of young man you want to have in your organization for a long, long time.
So yes, adding a player like Kevin Love would help the Spurs out in the short term. But if we’re thinking big picture does it really make sense to add a 32-year-old power forward at the cost of a 21-year-old wing who has shown tremendous potential? Probably not.
Another reason not to trade for Love is that it would eat into the absolute boatload of cap space that the Spurs will have in the summer of 2021. Right now, if they don’t re-sign any of their free agents that summer and don’t come to agreements on extensions with a few players, the Spurs are slated to have close to $100 million in practical cap space according to Spotrac. That’s enough to afford multiple max-contracts in a summer that’s going to have quite a few premier free agents hitting the open market.
The counterpoint to that would be that without a big name player like Love on the team the Spurs might not be an attractive enough destination to land a big-name free agent. But if you’re San Antonio I think that’s a risk that you have to take. Bet that the young core that you’ve built is enough to draw other players to your team and live with the consequences.
Trading for Kevin Love would certainly shake things up for the San Antonio Spurs but his contract and the proposed inclusion of Keldon Johnson are enough to make this deal too costly for our liking.