The San Antonio Spurs continued their bustling offseason with another bargain-bin transaction that landed them Cameron Payne, draft capital, and cash considerations from the Phoenix Suns. Though there are still a handful of missing details about the specifics of this deal since it has not been made official with the league office, this minor move looks like it could be a win-win for both organizations.
After acquiring Bradley Beal in a blockbuster late last month, the Suns receive much-needed financial flexibility. Phoenix will save $26.4 million in luxury taxes, create a $6.5 million trade exception, and free up the roster space to sign Bol Bol to a standard contract. As for the Silver and Black, they add a solid veteran presence who can provide leadership, floor spacing, and backcourt depth behind Tre Jones.
Gregg Popovich, Brian Wright, R.C. Buford, and the rest of the front office brain trust have repeatedly communicated their intention to use the upcoming season to evaluate how their young core meshes with Victor Wembanyama. The Spurs want to construct a roster around their teenage phenom that is capable of sustaining long-term success, but does this recent trade help them accomplish that goal?
How do the Spurs benefit from adding Payne to the fold?
Unlike their three-team trade with the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics from earlier this summer, this deal has a negligible impact on their immediate business dealings. San Antonio already reached the league-mandated salary floor when they picked up Reggie Bullock, and they have the cap space to outright absorb Payne into their payroll without triggering any inconvenient luxury tax penalties.
We still have no clue which second-rounders the Spurs and Suns are exchanging, though that part of the trade will probably be inconsequential. At best, San Antonio lucks into a selection inside the early to mid-30s because their longtime Western Conference foe takes a tumble in the standings. At worst, they fork over a middle-of-the-road pick, which hardly matters considering their store of draft assets.
With the non-basketball mintuae in the rearveiw mirror, there are numerous ways Payne will be able to contribute to the Spurs this season. Several reports claimed San Antonio was searching for solutions to their lack of point guard depth, and Cam could be the answer. He is a reliable floor general, a sound point-of-attack defender, and a floor spacer who can nail pull-up threes and make shots off the catch.
While Tre Jones is the favorite to hold onto his spot in the opening lineup, Payne showed he can more than hold his own when injuries left the Suns shorthanded. The 28-year-old averaged 14.5 points and 7.9 assists per game as a spot starter over the last two seasons, helping Phoenix go 18-9 when Chris Paul was hurt. That sort of securiy blanket should help the Spurs stay afloat regardless of personnel.
Payne might not be a part of San Antonio's long-term plans, but he can be the bandaid that shoulders backup duties until Blake Wesley or Sir'Jabari Rice prove they are prepared to assume that role. Being on an expiring contract also leaves the door open for the Spurs to send him to a desperate contender at the deadline for further draft compensation. This trade is a tremendous triumph from every angle.