San Antonio Spurs: The argument for trading Thaddeus Young
By Cal Durrett
Veteran forward Thaddeus Young was recently acquired by the San Antonio Spurs in the sign-and-trade that sent DeMar DeRozan to the Chicago Bulls. While his inclusion was necessary in addition to Al-Farouq Aminu and draft picks due to his salary, Young is also a valuable asset. The 14-year NBA veteran played well last season, providing the Bulls with both offensive and defensive versatility.
Furthermore, he averaged an impressive 12.1 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 4.3 assists, while shooting a blistering 55.9% from the field. He could bring that same versatility and production to the Spurs and quickly become a key rotation player. Even so, I feel that it actually makes more sense for the Spurs to trade him.
The Spurs appear to finally be in a full rebuild, and while having a veteran like Young can certainly help a young team win, it can also be counterproductive. San Antonio should look to focus on developing their young talent and less on wins this coming season. While they aren’t going to "tank" next season, winning fewer games would help the Spurs get a higher pick in next year's draft. Trading Young would be a quick way to accomplish both of these tasks.
By trading Young, the Spurs could gain more assets in addition to the three picks that were already acquired from the Bulls. Because San Antonio has decent depth at power forward and center already, Young may be more of a luxury than a necessity. Also, were Young to be traded, former first-round pick Luka Samanic could benefit by seeing more consistent minutes, which will ultimately be crucial for his development.
Several teams have reason to be interested in Thaddeus Young
Regarding the potential trade, several teams could be interested in acquiring Young. Boston could be the most realistic trade partner for the Spurs, though, given that they have a $17.1 million trade exception that could be used to absorb Young’s $14.1 million salary next season.
Additionally, they have both the need as well as the assets to acquire him. They have shaky depth at the power forward spot and could use a small-ball center, making Young a theoretically good fit. Therefore, I believe that the Spurs could trade Young for Boston’s 2022 first-round pick, giving the Spurs a second first-round pick in what is believed to be a very good draft.
Phoenix has also been rumored to have an interest in Young. Reports mention that they'd be willing to part with Dario Saric, 2020 lottery pick Jalen Smith, and possibly even an extra future first-round pick.
While it's certainly a possibility, it's complicated by the fact that the Spurs already have 17 players under contract and would net gain another in that potential trade. A three-team trade could be worked out where Saric is rerouted to the third team, though that could even further complicate things. Still, acquiring a recent lottery pick in Smith and a future first would be a great return for Young.
The Spurs have also reportedly pursued Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons, and Young could be a part of a potential trade package for him as well. San Antonio likely wouldn't gain any picks, unlike the other two possible trade scenarios, but trading Young to the Sixers as a part of a larger package would not only help match salaries but could help push the deal through.
Like with the Celtics, Philadelphia has poor frontcourt depth and Young would be an upgrade over their current backup options. Because the current "win-now" 76ers team may view him as an asset, Young could keep the Spurs from having to give up an additional pick in a Simmons trade. Furthermore, Young coincidentally began his NBA career in Philadelphia, spending his first seven seasons with the 76ers.
Any of these trades could theoretically take place before the start of next season. However, there's also the chance that San Antonio starts the season with Young. Doing so could allow the team the best of both worlds. He could help the Spurs on the court while also being used as an asset later, perhaps around the trade deadline.
That strategy doesn't come without drawbacks, however. San Antonio would run the risk of Young getting injured or him declining, either of which could affect his trade value. Additionally, even if he were to stay healthy and productive next season, his trade value could still be diminished by the deadline.
Teams would be trading for Young with only about one-third of the regular season and the playoffs remaining before he hits unrestricted free agency. As a result, the most the Spurs could realistically expect would be a couple of future second-round picks.
Ultimately, it may be in the team's best interest to move Young before the start of the season. Doing so should provide the team with additional picks which can be used later to further aid the rebuild. For that reason, I believe that trading Young would be the smarter long-term decision.