3 Roster-crunching decisions Spurs must make before the regular season

2023 NBA Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers - Julian Champagnie (left), Blake Wesley (center), Victor Wembanyama (right)
2023 NBA Summer League - San Antonio Spurs v Portland Trail Blazers - Julian Champagnie (left), Blake Wesley (center), Victor Wembanyama (right) / Ethan Miller/GettyImages
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Spurs need to address their stockpile of wings

The Spurs simply opting to waive the required number of players to cut the roster down to 17 is a very real—if not the most likely—possibility, but if the past few offseasons are any indicator, the front office will first try to extract as much value out of their roster as possible. In all likelihood, Khem Birch will be one of the players waived by the start of the regular season, but beyond him, I’d argue that most of the Spurs’ roster is tradable to some extent.

So, shifting the focus from where the Spurs have the most questionable depth to where they have the most depth, the team will almost surely look to trade one or more of their wealth of options at the small forward position. Assuming for now that Jeremy Sochan will inherit the starting SF role this coming season, he along with Keldon Johnson, Sidy Cissoko, Reggie Bullock, Julian Champagnie, Doug McDermott, and Cedi Osman all make up the Spurs’ depth chart at that position.

Determining which of these players will be put on the chopping block is a bit of a challenge, but I think we can make some easier inferences about who is likely to stay first. Sochan and Johnson are two of the Spurs’ mainstays and best players at this point—neither will be going anywhere anytime soon.

Sidy Cissoko, who was selected in the 2nd round of the 2023 draft after Wembanyama, is the youngest player on the team, can play multiple positions, and was (to the surprise of many) given a standard contract as opposed to a two-way, so he will almost surely be around for a while as well. And furthermore, giving him the space and reps to find a role with the team will be important.

Julian Champagnie recently signed a 4-year deal with the Spurs after a very impressive stretch of games in the Summer League. His new contract, which is structured similarly to that of Charles Bassey, is quite team-friendly and could preserve future flexibility in a big way if he continues playing well.

This leaves Reggie Bullock, Doug McDermott, and Cedi Osman left as trade possibilities and, assuming for this exercise that Birch will be waived, only two of the three would have to be traded or waived assuming the Spurs don’t make any other trades. And to be fully transparent, I think the Spurs trading both McDermott and Osman is the most likely of the trade scenarios we’ve outlined here.

Being that all three players are coming into the final year of their contracts, the choice to keep Bullock over McDermott and Osman (at least until the trade deadline) would likely come down to personnel, positional versatility, and current vs. future value. Bullock is likely the most consistent wing defender of the three players despite being a bit smaller, shoots the ball close to the same level as McDermott, has playoff experience, and is capable of playing spot minutes at the shooting guard position when needed as well.

McDermott is still one of the better shooters in the league and Osman has a bit of upside as a ball-handler and playmaker, meaning teams could very well be interested in bringing either player in as a last-minute roster addition. But because both are questionable defenders at best at this point in their careers, McDermott will be turning 32 this coming season, and Osman has been relatively inconsistent as a shooter over the course of his career, I would argue both players have more "bust" potential compared to Bullock and may peak in trade value right now.

We’re splitting hairs here, and ultimately, an argument can be made for keeping any of these three players. But Bullock is the most prototypical 3-and-D player of the three and I think stands the best chance of retaining or growing his current market value as the trade deadline approaches this coming winter. If we do see a trade involving one or both of McDermott and Osman before October 23, expect a smaller return of a 2nd round pick and/or cash.