Should the San Antonio Spurs fire up the trade machine like they’re playing 2K?
About a week ago, I wrote about 4 Trade Partners the San Antonio Spurs should consider dealing with, should the team decide to make a move ahead of the March 21st deadline.
I admittedly pointed out some ugly realities, like the fact that most of the Spurs players we want to hold on to all played in our log-jammed backcourt, and that in order to get the talent, short of another Manu Ginobili or Kawhi Leonard miracle draft-day move, the team is going to need to give up some talent in return.
And since last week, things have become even wilder. The Spurs’ recent COVID-19 scares have left the team undermanned, just as the second half of the NBA schedule has been released that has the Spurs playing 11 back-to-back games. And beyond that, the typically quiet Spurs team that deals behind closed doors have been linked to rumors shopping both DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge.
This week, I want to take things a step further and propose some actual trades, using the teams from last week’s piece, as well as a bonus team based largely on Air Alamo supporter feedback. And each of these trades has been run through NBA 2K21, a game which, despite its flaws, can be one of the better NBA trade simulators on the market.
Trades in 2K21 account for salaries, cap space, and trade rules, like many other online trade simulators. But unlike other trade machines, 2K also introduces NBA trade logic, giving trades at least some semblance of resistance from opposing teams to put checks in place on people trying to argue for trades that are clearly one-sided and would never go through just because the salaries match up.
As a caveat, I’m not necessarily advocating for all or any of these trades. More importantly, this is supposed to illustrate what kind of trades the Spurs might realistically be able to pull off. We’d love to hear in the comments whether or not we think any of these trades are worthwhile, or whether or not it would be better for the Spurs to just stay the course this season and try to move in free agency and the draft.
Next: Trade #1
Robert Williams Keldon Johnson Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs use Celtics to fill out their frontcourt of the future
As noted in my last piece, I think this year is different, given the Boston Celtics’ recent struggles. Their failed implementation of its big man rotation, lack of bench scoring, particularly at the forward position, and the unprecedented amount of responsibility Danny Ainge is taking for the team’s struggles. If there was ever a time to get a fair trade from Boston, it’s now.
This trade does just that. The trade preserves Boston’s big four of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Kemba Walker, and Marcus Smart while giving the team an efficient, two-way combo forward in Rudy Gay who can either fill the fourth option role Gordon Hayward made so dangerous for the C’s last year, or become the chief solution to the team’s bench woes.
The team would still have Daniel Theis, who they love and complements their other stars better than the other Celtics big men due to his offensive spacing. This deal also sees Boston also acquire Trey Lyles; another fairly young big man with shooting potential to fill in behind Theis.
Finally, the Celtics also get to keep Payton Pritchard, who the team is high on at point guard, and part with Jeff Teague, who has underwhelmed with his contributions for most of the season.
Aside from parting with Gay, the Spurs would be giving up a slew of picks, but most of these would be second-rounders, and the trade would entirely preserve the Spurs’ young core. The first pick the team gives up in 2021 would be made up with interest in 2023 when the Spurs acquire Boston’s top 3 protected pick.
Most importantly this trade solves the front-court defense and rebounding problems that have plagued the team all season. Tristan Thompson is a versatile enough defender to guard forwards alongside Jacob Poeltl when needed but could also play behind him as the backup center to maximize team spacing.
And the Spurs acquire Robert Williams, who shows glimpses of star potential, particularly on defense, and could create a terrorizing defensive unit alongside Dejounte Murray, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Jacob Poeltl for years to come.
Spacing sounds scary right now I know Spurs fans, but given shooting coach Chip Engelland’s work with Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker before him, the upside on this trade could be sky-high, should it go through.
Next: Trade #2
A three-team trade involving San Antonio Spurs, Cleveland, and Sacramento
The Spurs could probably make this work in real life without having to give up the second-round pick at all, given just how bad the Andre Drummond drama seems to have become. And as Ethan Farina already espoused in-depth, Andre Drummond is not what the Spurs need right now.
The Spurs can benefit more from facilitating a trade including Drummond than by trading for him directly. Larry Nance and Harrison Barnes are exactly the type of multi-positional defenders the Spurs need right now in the frontcourt, and possess the shooting, rebounding, and athleticism to compliment the rest of the Spurs young core.
Reuniting with Corey Joseph provides the Spurs with that same sort of lift in the backcourt, as well as returns more corporate knowledge to the Spurs that will help him mentor younger players like Dejounte Murray and Tre Jones through the remainder of his contract.
Perhaps most importantly, the Spurs get another quality rim protector in Hassan Whiteside that could start but would likely back up Jakob Poeltl, giving San Antonio some much-needed depth at that position. Best off, all of these players are on relatively cheap deals that decrease in value heading into next year, or expire at the end of this season.
Meanwhile, not only do the Cavaliers free themselves from Drummond and carve room for Jarrett Allen and Javale McGee, they instantly fill out their young team with young promising players like Hield and Walker, who could fill it up at the wing spots and are only going to get better.
Similarly, the Kings instantly rebuild around De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton and become a threat for playoff contention in the loaded Western Conference by adding DeRozan and Drummond in the frontcourt. And the team gets to complete this rebuild while parting with Harrison Barnes, Buddy Hield, and Hassan Whiteside, three guys the team may be looking to move on from anyway.
Next: Trade #3
Nov 23, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks forward Julius Randle (30) shoots over San Antonio Spurs center LaMarcus Aldridge (12) and guard Derrick White (4) during the 2nd half at Madison Square Garden. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs make a move to acquire an All-Star from New York
Cards fully on the table, this might be possible in 2K but I’m not sure this one goes through in real life. I received some great feedback during the last piece about how Julius Randle is the perfect fit for the Spurs in the frontcourt and at least offensively I agree.
Randle is one of the best passing bigs in the NBA, can play multiple positions defensively, shoot and make threes to space the floor for guards. And Noel is more than just some throw-in. Per 48 minutes Noel is one of the best defenders in the NBA and a solid inside threat.
The problem is, we’re not the only ones who know how good these two players are. The Knicks are not some rebuilding team this year. They currently sit in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt and with coach Tom Thibideau upfront and bringing his favorite veterans like Derrick Rose and Taj Gibson out of the woodwork, this is a team that wants to compete now. Newly anointed NBA All-Star Julius Randle is a big part of why.
There is good reason to believe that the Knicks see Randle as part of their core going forward but could they trade him for someone a bit better? DeMar DeRozan should’ve been an All-Star this year and adding him and Derrick White should help the Knicks continue what has been a solid rebuild.
Still, I’m not totally sold on this trade. The Spurs organization and its fans love Derrick White and it would likely take a lot more than Randle, Noel, and a second-round pick to pull him away from the team that drafted him.
Adding skilled frontcourt players like Randle would help the Spurs but might cost them too much on the trade market. Making a deal like this when someone like John Collins will be available this summer doesn’t seem like a smart move.
The San Antonio Spurs typically don’t make any big moves at the trade deadline but this could be the year they buck that trend. However, if these are the types of deals they’d be able to make, maybe they’d be better off sitting on the sidelines at the trade deadline and making moves in free agency this summer.