1. The Spurs can make smaller deals to maximize return
If the Lakers-Nets deal falls through, the Spurs could look to make smaller trades to maximize their cap space. The first trade would likely involve Jakob Poeltl, with the Charlotte Hornets being a possible trade partner. A potential deal could send Poeltl and Romeo Langford to the Hornets for Gordon Hayward, Kai Jones, and a future first round pick.
For the Hornets, the deal would save them $17.9 million next season and give them an upgrade at center, providing them with plenty of incentive to do the trade. For the Spurs, they could absorb Hayward's contract, waive him, and be rewarded with Jones and a pick. Jones is an intriguing and athletic big who was selected 19th overall in the 2021 NBA Draft and is a good long-term prospect.
As for the pick, the Hornets already owe the Spurs a first that's top-16 protected in 2023 and top-15 protected in 2024 and 2025. However, the two teams could agree to alter those protections, with the pick becoming top-10 protected in '23 and '24. That would increase the chances of the Spurs receiving the Hornets draft pick next season while also allowing the future first to convey in '25 or '26.
Trades involving Richardson and McDermott may follow, with each possibly being dealt to playoff teams for first-round picks. The Spurs would also have about $17 million in remaining cap space and could use it to take back more salary if it encourages teams to come off a first-rounder. Ultimately, it's possible the Spurs can add at least three firsts by moving their three veterans in separate trades, and the team's excess cap space can help make that happen.
Overall, the Spurs' massive amount of remaining cap space can still be put to good use despite not going toward signing big-name free agents. Instead, they could use their excessive cap space by rolling it over to next summer, using it to complete a blockbuster deal, or divvying it up and using it to complete multiple trades.