Grade the Trade: Spurs' leap into three-team deal could solve two problems

Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans and Zach Collins, San Antonio Spurs
Jonas Valanciunas, New Orleans Pelicans and Zach Collins, San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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Would the Spurs say yes?

In the proposed deal, the Spurs make a couple of additions. First, they add Jonas Valanciunas to be their starting center. Secondly, they bring in Ricky Rubio to back up Tre Jones. In return they give up Zach Collins and around $13.8 million in cap room.

Valanciunas is a burly center who excels at crashing the offensive glass. He ranked seventh in the NBA last season in rebounds per game, averaging 10.2 to go along with his 14.1 points. Specifically, his 13 percent offensive rebounding percentage ranked eighth in the league, sixth among starting centers.

If the Spurs are looking for a double-double machine to come in and take on the opponent's largest player, Valanciunas is the right guy. He can eat up as many offensive touches as a team needs, will do the dirty work on the glass, and makes up for all of the areas that Wembenyama will need to grow in.

As for Ricky Rubio, he had something of a shaky season coming back from an ACL tear, but as recently as 2021-22 he was right there as the best backup point guard in the league. He is relatively inexpensive, is an excellent locker room presence, and still one of the league's better passers. He would be the ideal target to fill the next season or two before the Spurs upgrade more dramatically at the position (or hand the reigns to a developing player).

The loss of Collins is notable, since he is a true success story for the Spurs over the last couple of seasons, but he isn't a player to get in the way of a deal. The cap space could be used elsewhere, but this is a fine use of it, especially when they need to get to the salary floor anyways.

This isn't an earth-shattering trade, but the Spurs don't need one right now. They need to set up their young phenom to develop quickly and properly, and adding Valanciunas and Rubio is an excellent way to accomplish that.

Grade: A-


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