After a hyper-competitive start to the year, the San Antonio Spurs are settling into the reality that this year's group is devoid of the talent necessary to be relevant in a postseason landscape. It’s a mismatched roster, meaning that San Antonio has too many viable guard options and not enough frontcourt players to fill the gaps.
The power forward position is particularly sparse outside of Doug McDermott—the Spurs’ starting four who would typically come off the bench for most teams. While Thaddeus Young is an intriguing player on a one-year deal, his timeline does not align with the Spurs’, making him the team’s No. 1 trade option this season.
Like most small-market teams with big-city ambitions, San Antonio will have a hard time drawing noteworthy talent without facilitating a trade or seriously overpaying in free agency. Concurrently, this core isn’t talented enough or quite ready to push their chips into the center of the table for a top-tier player.
Instead, it would be wise for the Spurs to survey the league and pinpoint a few power forwards who fit their timeline and goals. This team is in desperate need of a forward with the ability to embrace an unselfish style of play while spacing the floor and mucking up plays on defense. Even if they don’t get their star power forward in the middle of this season, San Antonio can certainly dangle some assets to take a swing on a longtime rotation piece.
Before we go any further, I have to make the following disclaimer: I’m simply mentioning players who make sense for the Spurs and might be ‘gettable’—a phrase that’s used very loosely. Only one of the three players being mentioned here is actually on the fringe of being dealt at this time. They're still worth discussing because you never know what someone is willing to pay a player or how much longer they're willing to invest in their development.
With that being said, Marvin Bagley III desperately needs a new home and the Spurs are in a position to extract the talent that made him the No. 2 pick in 2018.
1. Marvin Bagley
The Dark Horse of the 2018 NBA Draft Class, Marvin Bagley has been widely criticized during his time in Sacramento. A near-7-footer with a wide reach and great leaping ability, Bagley’s tumultuous relationship with the team that drafted him has been a public affair. Given the downward spiral of that pairing, it seems to be a matter of time before Bagley is traded away.
A ‘tweener’ whose natural power forward position is currently being occupied by former Spurs draftee Chimezie Metu, Bagley is in dire need of a change of scenery. He began the year with a full-time role on Sacramento’s bench and has played in just three games thus far in 2021. Though it hasn’t always been pretty, Bagley averaged an impressive 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds in his first three NBA seasons.
The draw for Bagley is his considerable upside at the Spurs’ greatest position of need. He’s active near the rim, using his length and bounce to generate second-chance looks by cleaning missed shots and tapping in putback opportunities at a high rate. Many players have a difficult time contesting him in the restricted area because of his nifty finishing with his dominant left hand.
In 43 games last year, Bagley graded in the 83rd percentile of finishing in the paint and the 87th percentile of offensive rebounders. His energy near the rim is palpable between an exceptional ability to track down rebounds and a knack for putting the ball in the basket from short range.
Bagley’s jump shot needs work, but there’s no better place than Chip Engelland’s domain to help a young player fix his shot mechanics. His feel for the game is clearly there, and he’s nothing but passionate about his craft, but Bagley is far from the player he could become. His effort has not always been what it could be, which is a likely byproduct of his current situation.
For many young players, it takes a second landing spot to rediscover that competitive fuel that empowers an individual to reach their potential. The Spurs are competing for the draft lottery right now, and while that may be a tough pill to swallow in terms of wins and losses, it would make for an excellent opportunity to get Bagley acclimated to Gregg Popovich’s offense.
Having ties to Phoenix, AZ, Bagley is no stranger to the Southwest. By trading for him, the Spurs would retain the right to match any offer for him in restricted free agency. He’d make for an excellent downhill pick-and-roll partner for any combination of the Spurs’ young guards—providing a lob threat that isn’t otherwise available to them with the current rotation.
Bagley feels like an obvious target for San Antonio; filling minutes at the team’s weakest position while adding a potential cornerstone to build upon for years to come. Given the public nature of his seemingly-impending breakup with the Kings, he won't cost what it might get to trade for another former No. 2 pick. It’s not often that such highly-touted draft prospects are available and the Spurs have all the assets they need to make a play for Bagley.