How a Spurs trade with the Nets can add more valuable picks to stockpile
By Cal Durrett
With the San Antonio Spurs' season over, they can now focus solely on the offseason. The results of the NBA Draft Lottery will largely determine their decision-making process and future success. However, they will also have significant cap space in free agency, allowing them to potentially improve the roster beyond adding a high draft pick.
They could sign marquee players or use their considerable cap space to take on long-term contracts and exchange them for picks. That leads to an intriguing trade proposal by Fanspo:
That is certainly an interesting trade scenario, and while it's far from perfect, it could serve as the basis for a better trade, a trade that could potentially work well for both teams, especially the Spurs. Now, let's look at how a deal with the Nets could add more valuable picks to the stockpile.
What should a Ben Simmons trade look like?
Ben Simmons was acquired by the Brooklyn Nets as part of the James Harden deal but missed all of last season and chunks of this season with various issues. When he did play, he looked nothing like a player who made the All-NBA team three seasons ago. That's a problem since he's being paid like an All-NBA player. That's where the Spurs come in. They have roughly $50 million in cap space, depending on where they draft and who they bring back, and they can afford to take on his contract. With two years remaining on his deal, however, the Spurs wouldn't be able to just acquire him and waive him.
San Antonio would be stuck with him. That is a potentially scary prospect given the drama surrounding Simmons, but perhaps getting away from Philadelphia and Brooklyn altogether and playing with lower stakes could be what he needs to regain some of his previous form. The earlier trade proposal is merely passable for the Spurs, but it could be much better. Trading Doug McDermott, who will be on an expiring contract next season, makes sense, especially in a deal for a player with much more talent.
Even so, McDermott is probably much closer to Simmons in terms of value at this point, and the Spurs probably could've dealt him for multiple second-round picks at the trade deadline. On the other hand, trading for Simmons may require parting with assets. Meanwhile, San Antonio acquired Khem Birch in the Jakob Poeltl trade but has yet to play for them and possibly never will.
Birch has a decent-sized expiring contract that is perfect for matching salaries in trades. Moving him in the offseason would allow the Spurs to make full use of that contract while freeing up a roster spot for a younger player. As for Devonte' Graham, San Antonio may prefer to keep him. After all, they don't need to include him to make the trade work. With McDermott and Birch's expiring contracts adding up to $20M, the team's available cap space would absorb the $19M difference.
Would both teams agree to a deal?
The Spurs could keep Graham as an insurance policy for Tre Jones if he signs elsewhere. That could happen, especially if the team drafts a point guard. Excluding Graham also makes sense because he is only 28, a good fit, and on a palatable contract for the next two years. Removing Graham from the deal is a start, but receiving just three second-round picks is a non-starter. Instead, the Spurs should ask for two future first-rounders in any trade for Simmons. Considering the Nets received five first-rounders in the Irving and Durant deals, they have enough to spare.
The Nets may be hesitant to trade two first-round picks, but few teams could or would touch Simmons' contract, and while San Antonio has the matching salaries and cap space, the Spurs will need an incentive. Gregg Popovich may figure out a way to best utilize him. After all, we've already seen several fringe NBA players like Keita Bates-Diop, Stanley Johnson, Charles Bassey, and Sandro Mamukelashvili play well in San Antonio; who's to say that Simmons wouldn't?
Ultimately, the Spurs make sense as trade partners for the Nets. But it's up to the Nets to decide whether they want to give up on Simmons and how much they'd be willing to pay to do so.