The San Antonio Spurs find themselves in a rare position this summer: they have too many picks.
Don’t get me wrong. That's a great problem to have, but it's still a problem nonetheless. While there’s an obvious fix like packaging at least two of those picks together to try and acquire a higher one, that's not as easy as it might seem.
One reason is that two teams, Oklahoma City and Houston, already have multiple firsts, and both select ahead of San Antonio in the lottery. That means they'd be less likely to trade back for additional picks. The same goes for other teams ahead of the Spurs that would probably prefer to keep their own rather than trade back and risk losing a chance at selecting a star.
Therefore, trading up into the top five seems unlikely, but there is the possibility of them packaging Toronto and Boston's firsts for a pick in the teens. While teams in that range may prefer to keep their higher pick instead of having two picks in the early to mid-twenties, it only takes one not to see a significant difference in talent outside of the lottery. That said, there's only a narrow window for a trade to make sense for the Spurs.
Why trading for a 2023 pick makes perfect sense
Shipping the 20th and 25th pick for the 18th pick would be a poor use of assets, whereas the 15th pick would be a wise consolidation. If San Antonio can't thread that needle, then there’s another option -- trading one of their 1st round selections for a 2023 first. For that, Boston's pick is the most likely candidate.
That makes sense for several reasons, one being that it saves the Spurs a roster spot, which is important due to the roster crunch. If the Spurs were to use all three first, and assuming they don’t foolishly do another draft and stash, they’d have a full roster, not including Lonnie Walker.
Trading back a year is a way of keeping a spot open for a player that can contribute next season, whether it be Walker or someone else. Additionally, adding another first-rounder in next year's draft prevents the Spurs from wasting a valuable asset just to trade up a few spots in this draft.
Two firsts in next year’s draft is obviously better than one, and by postponing an asset for a year, it gives San Antonio more time to figure out their roster. For instance, they could decide to move on from Zach Collins, Jock Landale, and Keita Bates-Diop, and that extra pick could be helpful in finding a replacement.
Though trading back could backfire, it's worth it
However, there is a downside to trading back into the 2023 Draft: uncertainty. The Spurs know that Boston’s pick is 25th, whereas they’d only have a general idea of where the pick that they trade for will ultimately end up.
Furthermore, teams interested in acquiring a late first-rounder are unlikely to have one, and playoff teams are often the ones to trade first-rounders, to begin with. Still, the 2023 Draft is rumored to be a better draft, and a pick in the 20s in 2023 may be better than a pick in the same range in this year's draft.
All in all, the Spurs should strongly consider trading one of their three 1st round picks to another team in exchange for a 1st round pick in 2023. This would allow San Antonio to defer one of their assets to a potentially better draft where they could make better use of that selection, especially with another season to evaluate their roster.
As for the draft on June 23, the Spurs would still have the 9th, 20th, and 38th pick and can use them to build upon an already impressive collection of young talent. Strongly considering a trade back makes a lot of sense.