Mar 22, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts in the second half against the Charlotte Hornets at the AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports
Could the San Antonio Spurs make seismic moves at the trade deadline?
For a team that often moves in silence, the San Antonio Spurs have been heavily involved in trade talk leading up to tomorrow’s trade deadline. Candidly, I can’t recall the last time that the Spurs have been mentioned this often in trade rumors.
It all started when Gregg Popovich announced that the team was exploring trades to move LaMarcus Aldridge to a new team. But since then we’ve seen a gradual trickle of other rumors coming out of the quietest team in the NBA.
Yahoo’s Chris Haynes reported that the Spurs could look to move DeMar DeRozan if they’re unable to come to terms on an extension before the deadline, Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer added more gas to the fire when he noted that DeRozan is believed to have an eye on returning to the Eastern Conference while also mentioning that Trey Lyles was looking for a new team as well.
This could all be smoke without substance. With the Spurs, it’s best to be cautious with what you believe. They’re notoriously diligent about not allowing leaks out of their organization and unless you’re hearing it directly from Brian Wright or Gregg Popovich you should view any rumor with a heavy dose of skepticism.
But if these rumors are true and the Spurs are preparing to make seismic moves in the next 48 hours – and that’s an awfully big “if” – here are two deals they could do that would help set them up for the future.
Next: DeRozan goes to Disney World
Feb 23, 2021; Orlando, Florida, USA; Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier (10) dribbles the ball during warmups before the game against the Detroit Pistons at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs pick up Orlando Magic’s 1st in exchange for DeRozan
One of the possible trades that Fischer noted in his report was a possible deal with the Orlando Magic centered around DeRozan, Evan Fournier, and a first-round pick from Orlando. If the Spurs know for certain that DeRozan isn’t going to re-sign and Orlando is offering a solid wing player and a first-round pick I think the Spurs would be making a mistake not to take them up on it.
Ideally, it would be an unprotected or top-five protected pick this year. Orlando is projected to have a top-five pick but according to Tankathon, there is still a 44.7 percent chance that they will fall out of the top-five.
The top-five of the 2021 draft class is loaded with superstar caliber talent such as Cade Cunningham and Evan Mobley but you’ll still be able to pick a great player like Scottie Barnes or Jalen Johnson just outside of the top-five.
If the Magic are insistent on holding on to their pick in this year’s draft – and who could blame them if they are – the Spurs should angle for an unprotected pick in 2022 or 2023. That’s when Victor Wembanyama, Emoni Bates, and Chet Holmgren would be available and those are three players that every team in the NBA should be eyeing.
Fournier is no small prize either. He’d probably only be a rental through the end of the season but as far as rentals go he’s not a bad player to have. He’s a solid playmaker, a good shooter, and should fit in well with the Spurs as currently constructed. He’s a nice addition, but the first-round pick is the prize here.
Next: Spurs fill out their frontcourt
Mar 11, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (L) warms up before an NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Spurs move DeMar DeRozan to Chicago for Lauri Markkanen
Another player San Antonio Spurs fans have had their eyes on for a while now is the Chicago Bulls’ Lauri Markkanen. They could offer him a substantial deal when he is a restricted free agent. Or they could put themselves into the driver’s seat and trade for him before the deadline and match any offers he might get this summer.
The Bulls are rumored to have interest in DeRozan, with some in the organization believing that he could be the missing piece that pushes them back to the postseason for the first time since 2017.
Expanding on a deal centered around DeRozan and Markannen helps both teams here. Trey Lyles gets the new location he’s been looking for and LaMarcus Aldridge does as well. The Spurs get wing help from Garrett Temple and Otto Porter Jr. while also adding frontcourt depth with Cristiano Felicio.
Again, this only makes sense if the Spurs know for certain that DeMar DeRozan doesn’t want to play in San Antonio next season. If they believe they can re-sign him over the summer then they should absolutely wait this out and make Markkanen an offer in a few months.
I don’t expect the San Antonio Spurs to make any massive trade prior to the deadline. At this point, it seems more likely that they’ll buy out Aldridge and move through the rest of the season with the core they have. But it’s hard to know with a team as well run as the Spurs. We’ll probably only hear of a trade involving the Spurs when they make a typically bland announcement that catches the whole league by surprise.