Spurs: 3 Players who may not finish the season with the team
By Cal Durrett
The San Antonio Spurs will enter the 2021-22 season with several new players after a very busy offseason. Still, the team may not be done making over the roster and could possibly even make some trades during the season.
There are three players, in particular, who appear to be the most likely to be moved were San Antonio to go that route. Let’s take a look at the players that may not finish the season with the Spurs.
1. Lonnie Walker
Lonnie Walker is entering his fourth year with the Spurs and this season can be considered a make-or-break year for him. He'll need to prove whether he's worth being re-signed to a new, potentially lucrative contract. While there's a chance that he proves worthy of a big new deal, the idea of moving Walker ahead of restricted free agency might not be as far-fetched as it might sound
If Walker plays at the same level as he did last season or worse, San Antonio may consider moving him. In fact, they have already reportedly offered him to the 76ers in a Ben Simmons trade. The Spurs have already cut their losses with former first-round pick Luka Samanic, and they might also be willing to cut their losses yet again if Walker's performance doesn't improve.
Walker might still have value in that scenario, unlike Samanic, and could be moved for an asset ahead of the trade deadline. That would ensure San Antonio doesn't lose him in restricted free agency if another team offers him a decent contract that they don't feel comfortable matching. Also, with Josh Primo on the roster and the Spurs having a potentially high lottery pick, they would have at least two avenues to replace Walker.
All of this could be moot, of course, if Walker plays well. The Spurs could then match any offer in restricted free agency, which might keep other teams from even attempting to sign him to an offer sheet. All in all, the probability of Walker being moved is relatively low though not impossible, and will largely depend on how he plays.
2. Thaddeus Young
Despite being acquired via trade over the summer, Thaddeus Young appears to be the Spur most likely to be traded during the season. Young is now in his 15th season and has a unique skill set that can be useful to the Spurs or another team.
Phoenix has often been mentioned as a potential trade partner, with Jalen Smith, Dario Saric, and a second-round pick being the possible trade return. Another option may be a trade to the Boston Celtics where the Celtics can use their trade exception to absorb his contract in exchange for a future first-round pick.
Both trades are viable options, though San Antonio may wait to move him at least until the Spurs' young roster has had a chance to adjust to the new season. Still, I expect Young to eventually be shipped out, but the longer San Antonio waits, the more they risk his trade value decreasing.
3. Drew Eubanks
Drew Eubanks went undrafted in 2017 and, in just three seasons, managed to carve out a spot in the Spurs rotation. He has been effective in his role as backup center and still appears to be developing. Despite that, there’s at least a possibility that he doesn’t finish the season on the team. After all, Eubanks is in just the second season of a very friendly three-year contract.
That contract, while obviously a steal for San Antonio, could also be enticing to other teams. Additionally, it could be used as a part of a larger trade involving Young. For instance, were Young to be shipped to Phoenix in the aforementioned trade, San Antonio would have to include another player to keep from exceeding the 15-man roster limit.
Eubanks could make sense for Phoenix, providing them with added value and making it more likely that they include a first-rounder. Also, the Spurs have other options at backup center, including Zach Collins and Jock Landale, that could help them minimize his loss were he to be traded.
While Landale has never played in the NBA and Collins can't seem to stay healthy, they could still prove to be serviceable backups. If that's the case, then San Antonio could theoretically move Eubanks in a deal, though only if it helps them acquire another first-round pick.
Ultimately, the odds of the Spurs making an in-season trade appears much higher than in seasons past. However, we’ll have to wait and see which, if any, members of the Spurs are actually traded.