As the NBA trade deadline approaches, the San Antonio Spurs could break with tradition and actually make a trade. While it's likely to be a small one, possibly involving Thaddeus Young, they should aim higher.
Previously, San Antonio has avoided making big trades because of concerns about chemistry, but that needs to change. After all, they're currently in a rebuild, and playing it safe could result in it being extended indefinitely. Therefore, armed with plenty of assets, the Spurs should look to aggressively pursue a game-changer. With that in mind, here are two trade targets worth gambling the future for.
1. John Collins, Atlanta Hawks
Hawks power forward John Collins is rumored to be available after having been re-signed to a 5-year, $125 million deal this past offseason. That could be seen as a red flag that they're looking to move on from him so soon, but Atlanta likely brought him back to keep from losing him for nothing. Now the Hawks appear ready to trade him while also reportedly being interested in Derrick White.
That presents the Spurs with an opportunity to try and acquire Collins, who's currently averaging 16.7 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game while shooting 54% from the field and 10% from three. Collins was rumored to be an offseason target for San Antonio, but they likely pivoted when they realized that the Hawks were poised to re-sign him.
With Collins now available, they should look to be aggressive in hopes of acquiring him before the deadline. Additionally, the framework of a potential trade between the two teams could be fairly straightforward with White, Lonnie Walker, and a top-5 protected 2023 pick going to Atlanta in exchange for Collins.
For the Hawks, their interest in White makes sense. He's a great defender, a good playmaker, and a capable scorer, despite his offensive problems this season. As a result, pairing him with NBA All-Star Trae Young could make his life easier and their team better. As for Walker, he'd also need to be included to match salaries.
And while he likely doesn't have much trade value at the moment, Walker could benefit from a change in scenery. If he were to impress, they could easily re-sign him in restricted free agency or opt not to extend him a qualifying offer if he doesn't. In addition to White and Walker being shipped out in a hypothetical deal for Collins, picks would also need to be included.
The most obvious pick would be the Spurs' 2022 first-rounder, given that it's looking like it could be inside the top 10 and maybe even the top 5, depending on the actual NBA Draft Lottery. That said, that pick should be off-limits in a Collins-White deal. After all, Collins may be better than White but not so much so that the Spurs would have to toss in a top 10 pick to cover the difference.
Fortunately, San Antonio has other picks to offer instead, including their 2023 first, which they could lightly protect. If that isn't enough, they could throw in Detroit's 2022 2nd round pick (currently projected to be 32nd) to provide additional value.
So, how would Collins help the Spurs immediately?