With the NBA trade deadline now only about two and a half weeks away, the rumor mill surrounding potential trades hasn't been slowing down one bit. The Spurs are among the teams in the league whose players have been in the most trade talks this past week, forcing many fans to consider the possibility that the team could look quite a bit different soon.
Doug McDermott, Jakob Poeltl, and Josh Richardson have been the usual suspects in the very large majority of these trade rumors and the team hasn't hesitated to let the cat out of the bag when it comes to what they're wanting in return. It has been long reported that the Spurs are seeking two 1st round picks for Poeltl and a single 1st round pick for Richardson. The trade value of other Spurs veterans like Zach Collins and Doug McDermott has remained a bit more ambiguous, but both were linked to the Heat by the Miami Herald recently.
Today, all in good fun, we're going to make some educated guesses about who will and won't be in a Spurs uniform by mid-February. Based on current trade value, the current market for the Spurs' veterans, and potential future value, here's how we think the trade deadline could play out.
The players staying: Zach Collins, Doug McDermott, and Jakob Poeltl
To be direct, I'm not buying that the Spurs will be quite as active at the trade deadline as many are suggesting they will be. But I don't think the reasons the team may decide to keep Collins, McDermott, and Poeltl on the roster would be quite the same.
If you read my in-depth explanation of the Jakob Poeltl trade conundrum from earlier this season, you'll know that I've been drifting toward the "don't trade him" camp now for some time, and I still find myself there today. He would be playable even with Victor Wembanyama on the court (were the Spurs to land him in the draft), his screen-setting is an underrated component of the young core's development, and he could still hold value as a trade piece even after an extension. There are lots of reasons why the Spurs would like Poeltl enough to hold onto him long-term.
But beyond the reasons the Spurs may want Poeltl in silver and black, what leads me to believe he may end up in San Antonio is his price point--both as a trade candidate right now and as a free agent in the near future. Even if there is a team out there that is willing to part two 1st round picks--which is possible, albeit unlikely--how many teams are there that would part with those two picks and are confident enough that they can retain Poeltl for roughly $20 million per year after the season ends? Spending that kind of draft capital on a roughly five-month rental would be a big risk, to say the least.
Concerning the Spurs' other trade candidates, McDermott's size and movement shooting will likely make him the more valuable asset at the trade deadline, but even so, his underwhelming defense may limit him to teams with established defensive infrastructure to place around him. In this way, the Miami Heat makes a bit of sense as a trade deadline destination for him, and perhaps the Brooklyn Nets as well. A team could also take a flier on Zach Collins if they like what they've seen from him when healthy, but his proneness to over-fouling and injury will likely remain a concern for said teams.
Luckily for the Spurs, both Collins and McDermott still have a full season left under contract before they become unrestricted free agents in the 2024 offseason. So, if the Spurs think Collins' offensive versatility and McDermott's floor spacing will maintain their value going into the 2024 trade deadline and/or will help in the young core's development like Poeltl, I could easily see the team keeping both players. But with both Collins and McDermott, things could just as easily swing in the other direction if the Spurs aren't confident they'll stand out in a more crowded 2024 free-agent class.
The player going: Josh Richardson
If there's any current Spurs player who I'm highly confident will be traded by this season's deadline, it's Josh Richardson. Looking at his current trade value, the potential value of his next contract, and what he would bring to a team on the court, I would argue that Richardson is far and away the Spurs' most tradeable asset and someone that will almost certainly garner attention at the deadline.
Looking at him purely from a basketball perspective, there's a lot to like about Richardson. He's a good athlete, can shoot the ball from distance, plays hard-nosed defense, can handle the ball a bit in a secondary or tertiary role, and can get hot quickly. That kind of two-way versatility is what competitive teams tend to look for around the deadline to round out their rotations, and in that way, Richardson should draw interest from several parties.
The Spurs likely feel a bit more urgency to trade Richardson as opposed to Collins, McDermott, and even Poeltl, however. Like Poeltl, Richardson will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason as opposed to the 2024 offseason like Collins and McDermott. But on top of that, trading Richardson would open up more minutes, ball-handling reps, and shot attempts for both Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley. Being that the Spurs own several 1st round picks over the next several seasons (with more potentially on the way), it would be in the team's best interest to give Branham and Wesley as many opportunities early in their careers as possible.
If a single 1st round pick is truly the Spurs' asking price for Richardson, expect several teams to come knocking at the door soon. While the Spurs could conceivably trade as many as four players by the February 9 deadline, expect trading Richardson to be the Spurs' top priority over the next couple of weeks.