The San Antonio Spurs will select 12th in the 2021 NBA Draft, providing them with the opportunity to add young talent to an increasingly younger team. However, with two being better than one, the Spurs should look to acquire a second first-round pick in the deepest class in years.
The Spurs, with a projected $49 million in cap space, can seek to entice certain teams to trade their pick by offering up some of their cap space ahead of free agency. Several teams projected to be over the luxury tax could look to offload salary while San Antonio is positioned to acquire their unwanted contracts in exchange for a first-round pick.
As with most trades around the draft, they don't become official under the start of free agency. That said, the framework of a trade can be worked out where the Spurs agree to fully absorb an undesired contract into their pending cap space in exchange for another first.
Therefore, San Antonio would be able to select a player of their choosing, although unofficially, much like with the Kawhi Leonard trade in 2011.
Given their track record for drafting well, they could come away with two promising prospects. With that being said, here are three trades that could net the Spurs another first-round pick in this year's draft.
The Utah Jazz are expected to be significantly over the luxury tax line, likely making them the most expensive small market team next season. For that reason, Utah appears certain to offload salary in hopes of saving money, and Derrick Favors may end up being the odd man out. After all, Favors has two years and almost $20 million remaining on his contract (with the second season being a player option that he'd likely opt into).
While a solid contributor, Favors' contract when combined with Rudy Golbert's salary next season would mean the Jazz would have to pay more than $44 million to their starting and backup center. Compare this to the Spurs paying Jakob Poeltl, Drew Eubanks, and Gorgei Dieng a combined $10.7 million this season.
Luckily for Utah, the Spurs will be in a position to absorb Favors’ contract without having to send back matching salary due to their $49 million in cap space. Furthermore, Utah and San Antonio could agree to a deal where the Jazz sends Favors and the 30th pick to the Spurs in exchange for the 41st pick.
While giving up the 41st pick may seem counterintuitive for the Spurs, Favors' contract is small enough that another team with cap space could easily absorb his deal in exchange for a first-round pick. Therefore swapping the 41st pick for the 30th, in addition to acquiring Favors, would provide Utah with an incentive to trade with the Spurs.
For the Spurs part, the 30th pick is, of course, a better asset than the 41st pick, and trading up 11 spots would cost only about $9.7 million this season. With players such as Trey Murphy possibly available, the Spurs could find a solid young player in that range that wouldn't likely be available at 41.
San Antonio would be wise to add another first by tapping into their cap space early to secure a solid asset. After all, the Spurs are unlikely to be significant players in free agency, although taking on Favors doesn't entirely foreclose on that possibility. Also, Derrick's contract could be used later on to take on more salary in a trade for future assets.
After the jump, trade number two.