There are 10 teams ahead of the San Antonio Spurs in the 2020 NBA Draft and the eleventh pick is a good place to select from, opening trade possibilities.
After checking in on multiple prospects outside of their draft range, there’s rising confidence that the San Antonio Spurs will express interest in moving up in the 2020 NBA Draft. Recent reporting suggests the team has held in-person workouts with Israeli forward Deni Avdija and USC center Onyeka Okongwu — Two players expected to go between No. 2 and No. 8.
Beyond that, there are a handful of players just inside the top-10 of this draft class that possesses star potential. Should one of their favorite prospects slip into a plausible draft range, there’s no reason for them not to move up. San Antonio stands at a crossroads with its veteran’s contracts just one season away from expiration. Youth needs to be the priority with a handful of exceptional up-and-coming players prepared to increase their workload.
In a year with endless possibilities, the silver and black are finally hitting the reset button on their squad. They’re taking top-end prospects and lottery evaluation more seriously, which is critical to the possibility of moving up. If they do trade up for a pick greater than No. 11, they should have a better chance at landing a generational talent or at the very least the best prospect for them.
They have plenty of assets to move around, it’s just a matter of finding the right fit.
Next: No. 10 - Phoenix Suns
Jan 24, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (1) talks with San Antonio Spurs forward Trey Lyles (41) as they wait to enter the game in the first half at AT&T Center. (Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports)
Getting to No. 10 will be easy for the San Antonio Spurs.
Moving the No. 10 for the No. 11 pick is extremely situational. The only reason it’d make sense to do this is if Phoenix is prepared to select a player that San Antonio is dead-set on drafting. This would more likely than not be someone like Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell, or Deni Avdija. In a draft like this one that’s been scrutinized so heavily, it makes sense to invest in a player you truly believe in.
This is worth parting with power forward Trey Lyles, who fills a legitimate position of need for the Phoenix Suns. Lyles and Devin Booker were college teammates at Kentucky, where they were both highly touted and picked in the NBA Draft lottery. However, Lyles isn’t a huge name, so he’s not worth the difference between a franchise-changing player or an uninspired draft pick at 11.
Instead of walking away empty-handed to move up one spot, the Spurs also return a 2022 second-round NBA Draft pick. It doesn’t sound like much, but we mustn’t forget the San Antonio Spurs’ expert draft strategy that sees second-round talent developed into legitimate rotation players. For as well as Lyles performed in his first season in San Antonio, a mid-tier role player like himself could be replaced pretty easily with a second-round talent that’s been properly groomed within the Austin Spurs’ system.
That G League development funnel isn’t just for second-rounders — That future 2022 second-rounder will go through the same process the No. 10 pick will if the Spurs trade up for it.
Next: No. 9 - Washington Wizards
Nov 20, 2019; Washington, DC, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Dejounte Murray (5) dunks the ball in front of Washington Wizards forward Moritz Wagner (21) in the 4th at Capital One Arena. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)
The San Antonio Spurs go all-in on the No. 9 pick.
This could come off as hypocritical, but I’d just as easily trade a second-round pick as I would bring one back in a deal if it makes sense for the specific scenario. In this equation, the Spurs need to be mindful of the Washington Wizards’ cap situation while ensuring their best interests are upheld. Therefore, combining their two picks in 2020 to move up to No. 9 wouldn’t be a poor deal for either party, all things considered.
Beyond just making the right pick, the Washington Wizards need to bring in players who can make an impact as soon as this year. The clock is ticking and before you know it, Bradley Beal is going to ask out of Washington unless they get their act together. Adding a win-now prospect who can enter their rotation and help defensively would do dividends for their playoff hopes.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs continue building forward by entering the top-10 and picking the best prospect for them based on who remains through eight picks. Players who could easily go in this range include Onyeka Okongwu (A bit of a longshot), Vassell, Patrick Williams, Killian Hayes, Obi Toppin, or Tyrese Haliburton. Some are better fits for this Spurs team than others, but a best-player available mentality could do dividends for San Antonio.
By this point, we have to trust they’ll know what to do when they’re on the clock. We have no reason not to trust the San Antonio Spurs organization when making NBA Draft picks.
Next: No. 8 - New York Knicks
Oct 23, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; New York Knicks forward Bobby Portis (1) and San Antonio Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) battle for the opening tip-off at the AT&T Center. (Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports)
By trading for No. 8, the San Antonio Spurs shift their approach.
This is a bit more intriguing because it provides immediate flexibility in addition to a higher pick. By my estimation, power forward/center Bobby Portis is a solid piece who can stretch the floor or impact the game in the paint within his role. It’s highly unlikely that Portis could be the differentiator that gets San Antonio back into the postseason, but he could certainly develop here.
This means giving up LaMarcus Aldridge — A phenomenal player past his prime who’s evolving as he enters the final stages of his career. This would be a win-now move for the Knicks if they acquire a different win-now player they’ve been linked to like Gordon Hayward, Chris Paul, or Russell Westbrook. They’re getting a better player while moving back three places in the NBA Draft.
I’d also push to bring in one of Frank Ntilikina or Kevin Knox as they’re reminders of an old regime that failed terribly while running the show at Madison Square Garden. Likewise, Portis needs to officially opt into his deal using a player option to make him tradable. We don’t know when Portis plans to do so, like all players with options, but we’ll find out in the coming days. Expectations are that information will pour in over the next few days leading into the NBA Draft.
San Antonio could make a serious impact if it were to sneak up to No. 8 on draft day.
Next: No. 7 - Detroit Pistons
Dec 28, 2019; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Detroit Pistons guard Derrick Rose (25) drives to the basket as San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) defends in the 2nd half of the game at the AT&T Center. (Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports)
Detroit improves its culture in trading No. 7 to the San Antonio Spurs.
For some teams like the Detroit Pistons, there’s barely a thing to work with at this point. That team sorely lacks talent and even then, getting its players healthy and cohesive on the court is a struggle. However, the team trends older than one may think and the Pistons could focus on surging back to the postseason in pursuit of the money garnered by playoff games.
Trading for Patty Mills while moving back a few spots brings another adult to the room who knows that it takes to win. He fills in perfectly to the Langston Galloway role as a fiery guard that can get buckets or play off of his teammates while providing some championship pedigree to a group whose main stars are vets whose careers were derailed by injury.
Believe it or not, Patty could easily become a starter in Detroit if the scenario breaks right. It’s one way for the Pistons to ensure they’re getting maximum value out of this draft and stockpiling assets to maneuver players later down the road. If they’re not in love with any of the players available to them at No. 7, picking at No. 11 should give them a clearer indication of which direction to take. Plus, you never know what these teams are thinking.
In a draft with no consensus, we could easily see a team like Detroit moving back to pick a player like Tyrese Maxey or Cole Anthony at No. 11. Someone they believe in who’s slipping past the consensus ranking for a lottery selection. Phoenix unconventionally took Cam Johnson last draft and it worked out for them, so you never know what to expect from the NBA Draft.
Next: No. 6 - Atlanta Hawks
In parting with a respected leader, the San Antonio Spurs move up to No. 6.
Let’s first get one thing out of the way: The San Antonio Spurs shouldn’t be offering the No. 11 pick in this proposal. Instead, the team should be leveraging DeRozan to get a pick and a player in return — Especially if he intends to re-sign with the Hawks moving forward. However, it’d be acceptable to swap the No. 11 for No. 6 if push comes to shove.
This is a win-win for both sides as each team gets what they need. While Trae Young matures into a transformative offense player for the Hawks, they need to surround him with teammates who know what it takes to make it in the NBA. After all he’s been through, DeRozan is capable of stepping into Lloyd Pierce’s offense and taking a ton of pressure off of the fiery Young.
For the Spurs, the deal returns a physical specimen in Cam Reddish, who was one of the most highly touted wings in his NBA Draft class despite being overshadowed by Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. A player with his combination of raw talent, physicality, length and strength makes him a formidable pairing for the Spurs’ young core who can play at and theoretically defend multiple positions once developed and implemented.
If there’s any team that can make the most of Reddish, it’s the San Antonio Spurs. Plus, they get to pick sixth and choose the direction of their future.
Next: No. 5 - Cleveland Cavaliers
Mar 27, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love (0) shoots the ball over San Antonio Spurs power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) during the first half at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs land No. 5 as Cleveland shaves its tax bill.
Not every team has an easy path to making a fair trade and quite frankly, it’s hard to find a deal between these two teams that actually makes sense. I tried to work a Kevin Love/LaMarcus Aldridge swap into this section, but it’s not something I see as viable for the two parties right now. Plus, I’m not in the mood to quarrel with angry Cavaliers fans, so we had to extend outside of our comfort zone for this deal.
Generally, I view the young core as nearly untouchable, but the value of players and draft assets swapped changes when we talk about top-five picks. If the San Antonio Spurs find themselves incessant to jump into the top five, desperate measures have to be taken. In this equation, it means parting with last year’s No. 19 overall pick.
Being back in the lottery means it’s time for the San Antonio Spurs to capitalize on the talent being overlooked in this draft. If there’s any organization that knows draft value, it’s this one. No NBA Draft class has been scrutinized and overanalyzed as this one has. The teams picking at the top have spent months watching tape and getting to know their prospective team members of the future. If the San Antonio Spurs find themselves infatuated with a prospect and this is the best deal they can strike, then it must be done.
Forward Luka Samanic is one of the most unique in the league today because he’s a generally unknown commodity. He showed enough pizzazz internationally to catch the attention of scouts leaguewide for a unique blend of skills that’s largely untapped. Aiding Luka Samanic in becoming the best version of himself will take time and a bit of risk, so the Spurs could feel inclined to move on from him for the player they’re dead-set on.
Temper expectations — San Antonio isn’t likely to do business with Cleveland in this regard.
Next: No. 4 - Chicago Bulls
Chicago fills a position of need in moving the No. 4 pick to the San Antonio Spurs.
In conjunction with the previous trade, the San Antonio Spurs need to part with valuable pieces to jump into this top five and the stakes heighten with every pick. It’s why they’ll need to include an important young player in a deal that lands them the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
No one wants to trade Keldon Johnson, but that’s probably what it takes to get a trade done. It’s an improvement compared with the alternatives — Trading one of Lonnie Walker or Derrick White, who the San Antonio Spurs most likely view as foundational building blocks for the next generation of this team. Even with that being the case, letting go of Keldon isn’t an easy decision considering his legitimate All-Star potential, but we can’t promise he’ll ever get there.
So, the San Antonio Spurs attach last year’s No. 29 pick to this year’s No. 11 pick and all of the sudden, they’re cooking with gas. Expect Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball to be gone by this point, leaving San Antonio to choose from James Wiseman, Onyeka Okongwu, Isaac Okoro and Deni Avdija. Or they could pick someone else entirely, but the point remains that moving Keldon to jump into the top four solidifies that the organization lands the player it feels most strongly about.
Next: No. 3 - Charlotte Hornets
Mar 3, 2020; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Nicolas Batum (5) stands on the court before a game against the San Antonio Spurs at Spectrum Center. (Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs part with DeRozan, take a bad contract for the No. 2 pick.
Taking on a terrible contract and letting it expire is one of the best ways for the San Antonio Spurs to insert themselves into trade-up scenarios, but it only works if things play out very specifically over the next few days. For this trade with the Charlotte Hornets, the first step is already complete. As anyone with half of a brain would expect, forward Nic Batum opted into his $27 million player option for the 2020-21 season, putting his contract neck-and-neck with that of Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan.
If Charlotte wants to capitalize on what it has now, it can swap that No. 2 pick for a leader and go-to scorer in DeRozan. They’ll get off of Batum’s contract without having to take back another poor contract, helping Michael Jordan tor reestablish value in his franchise during troubling times. Beyond that, DeRozan is an old-school player who shares many of the same skills as Jordan did in his playing days.
The last time the Charlotte Hornets picked at the No. 2 spot, they drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrest. Obviously, that didn’t work out for them too well and while they may be more inclined to trust their current front office, sliding back and bringing in a veteran leader might be their best path back to relevancy.
Plus, they could make a push for one of the final playoff seeds. The expectation is that we’ll have another play-in tournament and Charlotte finished at the ninth seed in the East last season. Add DeRozan to the mix and they may just have enough to surge forward.
Next: No. 2 - Golden State Warriors
Nov 1, 2019; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) reacts after the Spurs made a basket against the Golden State Warriors in the fourth at the Chase Center. (Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports)
You’ve already heard the rumblings about the San Antonio Spurs getting No. 2.
Getting the No. 2 pick from Golden State is the most likely way for the San Antonio Spurs to jump into the top portion of the 2020 NBA Draft. Though it’s unusual for San Antonio to be this heavily involved in discussions like this one, the team just missed the postseason for the first time in over 20 years. That makes present-day the best time to evaluate options and find a different route back to the postseason instead of clinging onto old ways.
Aldridge fills a position of need for the Warriors with a fantastic vet who could easily finish his career there on a team-friendly deal. The cultures between Golden State and San Antonio from a team-building perspective are similar. They build their own teams from the ground up and do everything in their power to ensure the success of their players.
This was the plan with Wiggins, but plans change and getting a borderline All-Star in return for an albatross of a contract and a pick swap may be the best way for Golden State to push forward.
Likewise, San Antonio gets to capitalize on its best player by investing in a higher draft pick. It’s non-traditional, but this is one route for the team to improve significantly. Wiggins is generally disparaged by most NBA fans, but he’s actually getting a lot better. The jump shot still needs work and his basketball IQ rides peaks and valleys, but overall, he’s learning to play within team constructs and use his physical tools to impact the game without going overboard.
If any team is going to ensure Wiggins becomes the best version of himself, it’s the Spurs.
Next: No. 1 - Minnesota Timberwolves
Mar 17, 2018; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray (5) shoots the ball against Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs go all-in for the No. 1 pick from Minnesota.
Leveraging trade assets to buy in on the future is the only way the San Antonio Spurs can truly assert themselves in the conversation regarding the No. 1 pick. It’ll take a lot, but I don’t think it’d take everything. Assuming Minnesota is not interested in DeRozan or Aldridge, the San Antonio Spurs need to cater to the needs of their opponent and right now, Dejounte Murray makes the most sense for that team.
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He doesn’t need to take a high volume of shots to be effective and makes for a perfect backcourt running mate for D’Angelo Russell. While DLo is more of a volume scorer and high-upside facilitator, Murray can play off the ball while initiating offense from the pick-and-roll or as a secondary ballhandler, which still may be the most impactful way for him to play.
Beyond that, Minnesota gets back Rudy Gay coming off a scorching hot Orlando restart performance despite shooting woes earlier in his season. This is a veteran who can make an impact off the bench or in the starting five while playing off of the T-Wolves’ star players. A trade like this one makes Minnesota an instant playoff contender after failing to make its presence felt during a disappointing 2019-20 NBA season.
For the San Antonio Spurs, it’s a chance to take the NBA Draft by storm. They literally have their pick of the litter and could plausibly fill Murray’s guard position with someone like LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards. I’m more inclined to draft either James Wiseman or Onyeka Okongwu for their two-way upside and daring athleticism in the frontcourt, but it’s all a matter of preference.
In an NBA Draft unlike any other, making a move like this could help the San Antonio Spurs get back on top of the Western Conference in no time.