San Antonio Spurs: Three trade targets who could resurrect their careers in San Antonio
With an active trade market and a restructuring team, these three players could get a fresh start with the San Antonio Spurs organization.
Plenty of talented players get drafted into the wrong organizations to begin their careers, but the inverse is true of the San Antonio Spurs. Those who get selected by San Antonio’s front office usually are put in positions to reach their ceilings and fulfill their potential as players and people. Development is key and few teams execute it like the Spurs do, making them an intriguing landing spot for players on the trade block.
After missing out on the postseason, it’s obvious that San Antonio needs to pivot. The Orlando restart proved the value that the team’s young players provide to the lineup, finishing with a 5-3 record including impressive victories and close finishes on multiple occasions. There was a legitimate chance for them to reach the 2020 postseason via the eight seeding games.
This offseason, they could look to their next restoration project. In 2019, the team signed free-agent forward Trey Lyles and immediately helped him become a better version of himself. They helped Bryn Forbes go from undrafted to starting an entire season and held Rudy Gay’s hand in returning to NBA form after his devastating Achilles injury suffered in Sacramento.
Trading for someone with high upside would be an excellent way for San Antonio to make use of its assets. It’s not something they’re used to doing, but there are plenty of talented individuals waiting for the right fit to make the most of their skills. Not everyone can be saved from themselves, but the San Antonio Spurs will make an effort no matter what. These are the players who could shed their public perceptions and excel in silver and black.
Next: A center stuck in a peculiar situation
If anyone’s going to help Mo Bamba, it’s the San Antonio Spurs’ staff.
Part of blossoming as a player is being given the chance to operate and quite frankly, the Orlando Magic hasn’t provided that for center Mohamed Bamba. A former lottery pick with incredible physical attributes and a modern offensive playstyle, Bamba peaked when the Sheck Wes single named after him peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. Beyond that, he’s been wildly underutilized at 14.2 minutes per game in his most recent season.
Meanwhile, Bamba was one of the only six Magic players with at least 800 minutes to finish with a positive +/- per 100 possessions mark on the year. Furthermore, Bamba’s team was better by 3.5 points per 100 possessions when he was on the floor. A defensive menace with an incredible combination of instinct and length, Bamba could be a world-class rim protector in due time.
Mo Bamba, more life ? pic.twitter.com/2XY8JBntMq
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) September 26, 2020
Since the Magic are locked into a deal with Nikola Vucevic, they really have no need for Bamba these days. He’s a player who could easily be dangled in trade conversations as a sweetener for a team looking to trade back or give up a star talent. The San Antonio Spurs just so happen to be a franchise that could fit those criteria.
Meanwhile, adding Bamba alleviates the pressure to extend Jakob Poeltl on a team-friendly deal that stands in the way of other free-agent moves. If traded to the San Antonio Spurs, Bamba could become an incredible defensive pest with a seemingly reliable 3-point presence. One way or another, Bamba makes a lot of sense as a buy-low candidate.
Next: An impactful defender who forgot how to score
Apr 20, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris (14) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) in the 2019 NBA Playoffs at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
The San Antonio Spurs and Gary Harris build a mutually-beneficial relationship.
By no means was the 2019-20 season the best of Denver Nuggets swingman Gary Harris. The 26-year-old posted his worst marks in field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and points per game since his rookie season. This was the product of a decline that reared its ugly head in an injury-ridden 2018-19 season in which he started just 48 games.
However, now is a perfect time for the San Antonio Spurs to buy low on someone like Harris. A fighter on both sides of the floor, Harris is the type of player who doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be effective. When playing within the flow of team offense, Harris is a reliable spot-up shooter and hounding defender whose ability to poke the ball away and blockade opposing ball-handlers on their way to the rim is a feat to be admired.
Gary Harris is getting a ton of well-deserved love for his defense in these playoffs, but anyone who keeps up with the #Nuggets isn’t surprised, or had to be reminded of how important he is to this team on that end of the court. His shooting, in addition, will be essential.
— Chris Dempsey (@chrisadempsey) September 7, 2020
This was highlighted during the 2020 postseason, when Harris jumped into the heat of the playoffs and made an instant impact on defense. It’s a large part of why he ranked second on the team in defensive box plus/minus, only behind the team’s star in Nikola Jokic.
If a sign-and-trade scenario is in the cards between DeRozan, San Antonio and Denver, Harris is the most likely player to be included. Harris’ value is at its lowest since his first season and while the Nuggets push to make the NBA Finals after getting pummeled in the Western Conference Finals, Harris may be deemed expendable in favor of a reliable veteran contributor.
Having a defensive-minded wing to supplement some of San Antonio’s detrimental flaws in perimeter defense and floor-spacing would make a decent bit of sense ‚— Especially if DeRozan is gone. Regardless of his off-year, the Spurs could help Harris to rediscover some of the magic that made him a 17.5 point-per-game scorer and All-Defensive team candidate two seasons ago.
Next: Pretty much everyone on the Knicks
Picking one Knick for the San Antonio Spurs to aid was just too hard.
After years of picking in various spots in the NBA Draft lottery, the New York Knicks have acquired a ton of young players who never had a chance to reach their potential. Most of their selections were made without regard for others, equating to poor roster construction and a detrimental outcome to the development of players near and far.
Here’s the list of players not named R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, who I believe to be the untouchables, that would be better off with the San Antonio Spurs: Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Damyean Dotson and Maurice Harkless.
I promise that I legitimately tried to pick just one and stick with them, but when compiling this list, I found myself returning to this franchise over and over again. To align better with the prompt of my article, I’ll narrow it down to only three key players who’d make sense for the player himself and a fit with the San Antonio Spurs.
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I’ve been pining for Randle to land with the San Antonio Spurs for years now. He’s a whirlwind of untapped potential playing with a Knicks team that unequivocally fails to put him in positions to succeed. Instead, Randle is forced to find shots for himself and run an offense that was never designed to utilize his talents. If placed in the Spurs’ system, Randle gets a chance to play within the confines of a system that would utilize his underrated playmaking, offensive rebounding and ability as a pick-and-roll partner.
On the flip side, Portis is a bit of a known commodity. The 25-year-old big man can play either frontcourt position, fight on the glass, shoot the long-ball and score near the basket. Maybe he’s not going to be the catalyst in a major playoff run, but he’s the type of talent that could separate the Spurs from their competition for the bottom seeds of the West. Going from the Bulls to the Knicks never gave him a chance to play in a thoughtful, innovative pro basketball situation.
Last but certainly not least, Knox is pretty much an unknown. Selected with the ninth pick in 2018, Knox is still just 21-years-old without any guidance or consistency in his brief time as a pro. Getting shipped to San Antonio assures that Knox can develop within an established program that will extract his talent and hide his deficiencies. Naturally, people have written Knox off because he hasn’t done anything yet.
Like all of the players mentioned in this piece, Knox could become the player he dreamed he’d become if traded to the San Antonio Spurs.