San Antonio Spurs: Grading 3 potential trade partners for Rudy Gay

Jan 22, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) drives past Dallas Mavericks forward James Johnson (16) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 22, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) drives past Dallas Mavericks forward James Johnson (16) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports /
San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs /

Jan 22, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) drives past Dallas Mavericks forward James Johnson (16) in the first half at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Trade talk is heating up around the San Antonio Spurs veteran forward

I’ve been writing about potential San Antonio Spurs trades for so long that I’m starting to feel like George R.R. Martin promising he’ll finally publish The Winds of Winter. Honestly, it’s starting to feel a bit disingenuous to continue writing about something I’m quite confident won’t happen. But there’s no rest in the blog game so let’s run it back one more time.

It might be hard for you to take me seriously after that but this could actually be the year the Spurs finally make a big move at the deadline. I’m not just saying that, there’s been more smoke floating around the team this year than there has in years past, and with good reason.

San Antonio is an excellent position to make a deadline deal if that’s the path they want to go down. They’ve got several veterans on expiring deals, all of whom could help a contender and could likely be had for the right price.

Either one of Rudy Gay or LaMarcus Aldridge could help a title-contending team. They’re both getting a bit long in the tooth but both have shown that they’ve got gas left in the tank and I’m sure they’d ramp their play up to the highest level if it could help them capture the championship that has so far eluded them.

He’s been an important part of the team for the past three seasons but Rudy’s time in San Antonio could be coming to an end. Here are the trade partners that would make the most sense for the San Antonio Spurs if they want to move the veteran forward.

New York Knicks swap a young player for more veteran help

One of the most surprising parts of the season has been the solid play of the New York Knicks. Led by their new head coach Tom Thibodeau and an All-Star level campaign from Julius Randel, the Knicks are very much in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference. If they want to solidify their chances, adding Rudy Gay could help.

In terms of tradeable assets, the Knicks don’t have too much to offer the Spurs. Or at least there doesn’t seem like there would be a lot that they’d be willing to give up. Immanuel Quickley, Mitchell Robinson, RJ Barrett, and the rest of their young core should be off the table and I don’t think you’re getting a first-round pick for Rudy at this point.

But the Knicks probably would be willing to give up Kevin Knox in exchange for a better chance at making the playoffs for the first time since 2013. They’ve all but given up on him at this point and it sounds like he’s available.

To be frank, Knox has been a disappointment so far. After being drafted 9th overall back in 2018, Knox has really had one solid season in New York – his rookie year. It’s been a pretty consistent backward slide since then.

Call it misplaced optimism if you want but I’m not ready to pass a verdict on an incredibly gifted young player who had the misfortune of starting his career in a pressure cooker of a media market while surrounded by disfunction at almost every level.

This move wouldn’t help the Spurs in the short term but if there is a team in the league that could help Knox reach the potential that scouts saw in him a few years ago it’s San Antonio. Given their situation, I think you’ve got a chance to swap a 34-year-old for a 21 year old full of untapped potential if you’re the Spurs.

If we’re being honest, San Antonio isn’t winning the title this year. And I wouldn’t mind kicking a return to the playoffs down the road a year if it means adding a former first-round pick to the group of young players the Spurs are developing. This certainly isn’t the best trade option out there for Gay, but it’s one that the Spurs should consider looking into.

Trade Grade: C+

Next: The Atlanta Hawks

(11) shoots the ball as San Antonio Spurs small forward Rudy Gay (22) defends during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Rudy Gay could help the San Antonio Spurs go after John Collins

In a recent article, I made it quite clear how I feel about the San Antonio Spurs trading for John Collins this season. But even if I’m personally not the biggest fan of this deal, it’s hard to deny that it does make some sense for both teams involved.

According to Sam Amick of The Athletic (subscription required), the Hawks are open to trading Collins. But given how much he means to them on the floor and how intent they are on making the playoffs, pulling Collins away from Atlanta is going to cost you a pretty penny.

Gay isn’t going to be able to replicate what Collins gives the Hawks on the floor but he would bring something to the team that very few others on the roster do – playoff experience. To be fair, Gay has only made the playoffs three times in his career but that’s three more than most of the guys Atlanta has right now.

The bigger question for any deal centered around Gay and Collins is what would the Spurs have to add in to make it work? Atlanta is going to want young players and/or picks, so how much would the Spurs be willing to give up for a chance to add a young forward with All-Star level potential?

If Collins can be had for a first-round pick, I think you have to pull the trigger. When you start adding in young players and multiple firsts is where I start to shy away from this deal. Collins is good, there’s no debating that, but don’t sell the farm to get him when you’ll have a shot during restricted free agency this summer.

This is a tricky one to gauge. Of the three proposed landing spots, this is the least likely to come to fruition. But if the Hawks are confident they’re going to lose Collins this summer they just might be willing to make a deal that still helps them contend for a playoff spot while also adding another pick for down the road.

Trade Grade: B

Next: The Miami Heat

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs /

Jan 15, 2020; Miami, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay (22) is guarded by Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler (22) at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Heat have their eyes on the San Antonio Spurs veteran

A rough inverse of the plucky Knicks, the Miami Heat just haven’t been able to capture the mojo that propelled them to the NBA Finals last year. They’re outside the playoffs looking in and it’s going to be decision time in South Beach soon enough. Will the Heat roll over and call this season a wrap, or will Pat Riley make moves to turn this thing around?

I don’t know a single person in the Heat organization on a personal level but tell me, do Jimmy Butler, Riley, and Bam Adebayo seem like the kind of people to give up when the going gets tough? Do the Heat seem like that kind of franchise? I don’t think so.

This makes the recent reports of the Heat’s interest in Rudy Gay all the more interesting. And if they’re really set on making a return to the Finals, do you think they’d be willing to take on Aldridge as well?

This trade helps the Heat on multiple fronts. It gives them more offensive help to turnaround their 25th ranked offense, adds two ring-hungry veterans who would fit well with the Heat culture, and clears the salaries of Meyers Leonard and Andre Iguodala from their books so they can be more flexible in free-agent dealings this summer. And it really only costs them Precious Achiuwa.

Olynyk and Igoudala would help the Spurs in their pursuit of the playoffs this year but neither one would remain in San Antonio long term. The prize of this trade is Achiuwa. This was a player some Spurs fans wanted in the draft this year but I don’t think anyone is going to complain about how that turned out for San Antonio. Adding him now would just be a sweet twist of fate.

If the Spurs decide to try to trade Rudy, the Heat look like the team that’s most likely to come calling. That they could offer the best deal of the three teams we’ve discussed here is just the icing on the cake.

Trade Grade: A-

Next. How Spurs stack up against the best teams in the West

As always, take rumors about the San Antonio Spurs being involved with trades with a grain of salt, but keep your ears open as well. Trade talks are only going to heat up as we get closer to the deadline and if there was ever a year for the Spurs to break from the norm it’s this year.