What would it take for the Spurs to help Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers?

Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs
Jakob Poeltl, San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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The San Antonio Spurs are at the hub of trade talks, mostly centered around Jakob Poeltl, Doug McDermott, and Josh Richardson. Poeltl is far and away the most in-demand player, and recent reports suggest that the Spurs are receiving “significant offers” for the 27-year-old center.

According to Marc Stein (subscription required), the Los Angeles Clippers are looking to “fortify their frontcourt” behind Ivica Zubac, who is having a solid season but is not as productive as Poeltl. 

Like Jakob, Zubac is totally devoid of a three-point shot, so running the two in the same lineup makes very little sense. That being said, having two solid centers is obviously a good thing, and the Clippers’ window of contention is rapidly closing. They added Paul George four seasons ago for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and up to seven first-round draft picks. Alongside Kawhi Leonard, all the Clippers have to show for it is a Western Conference Finals appearance. 

The Spurs and Clippers could make a deal, but would that enrage fans?

The Clippers need to bolster their roster fast with minimal future to look forward to. Between George, Kawhi Leonard, Luke Kennard, Norman Powell, Reggie Jackson, and Terance Mann, their backcourt and wings are in solid shape. However, Zubac is basically alone down low and is being tasked with more than he is capable of.

Enter Poeltl. To some degree, he makes sense for the Clippers. The only issue is that the Spurs are interested in picks, and the Clippers don’t have any, as the Thunder own their entire future. So what would a deal even look like? 

In order for the Spurs to budge on moving a piece that they may not be interested in moving, the 2029 first-round pick would need to be unprotected. By then, Leonard and George will be 37 and 38 years old, and neither one of them is known for staying healthy. By 2029, the Clippers should be at the bottom of the standings and the Spurs back on top, as the rebuild will be done by then. A single protected pick is not enough to move Poeltl, so the Clippers will need to offer real assets. 

Young player and pick: solid enough haul for Poeltl?

In addition to the pick, the Spurs also get 23-year-old rookie Jason Preston. Preston spent three seasons at the Univerity of Ohio before being selected 33rd overall in the 2022 NBA draft. Preston has seen limited playing time, only appearing in seven games, but he was quite the floor general in college. Before that, he even wrote for FanSided, so I have some clear bias in favor of him. 

At best, he would be a backup guard who does not turn the ball over and can hit the open shot. A second run at Joe Wieskamp, if you will. Preston posted 15.7 points per game in his third year at Ohio while shooting 39% from deep. He also dished 7.3 assists and used his 6’8” wingspan to grab 7.3 boards. He is not a stellar athlete, but his shot and defensive play, coupled with his elite pick-and-roll skills, make me think he could thrive next to Jeremy Sochan or Zach Collins in the second unit. 

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I know fans would be reluctant to make any deal that involves helping Kawhi Leonard and his team, but adding a potential lottery pick for Poeltl is perhaps the best-case scenario. His ceiling is limited, and the Spurs simply will not get multiple top-15 picks for him. Adding one and an exciting young talent should be good enough. Or, of course, the Spurs could always keep him.

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