The trade deadline is typically one of the most exciting parts of the NBA season. Rumors swirl like leaves as we all try to discern which contenders are most likely to bolster their rosters as they gear up for a title hunt and which bottom feeders might hit the reset button. This all while simultaneously smashing every possible combination of players and picks into the trade machine of our choosing, hoping naively that whatever Frankenstein's monster of a four-team trade we've created might make its' way to reality. At least that's the experience for most NBA fans.
For fans of the San Antonio Spurs, the trade deadline has looked all too similar for the past few seasons. The Spurs might be connected to a few players here and there, but more often than not, they're watching the trade deadline slip past while other teams get in on the action. And so far we've seen very little indication that this season will be any different.
San Antonio Spurs fans should prepare for another quiet trade deadline
There have been loose rumors here and there, but nothing overly substantial. Spurs fans on Twitter got riled up over a report that the Spurs had an interest in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis but that quickly subsided when many realized that the reporter behind the rumor lacked any semblance of credibility. A quick note to Spurs fans - putting "per source" before unsubstantiated claims doesn't make someone a reporter -- they're a click farmer and nothing more.
When the Spurs have been connected to rumors by credible sources, the rumors they're involved in seem unlikely to come to life. At one point the Spurs were said to be discussing a Thaddeus Young - Jalen Smith swap with the Phoenix Suns. But that looks increasingly unlikely as the trade interest in Young has cooled, according to Marc Stein (subscription required). Plus, the Suns recently signed Bismack Biyombo through the remainder of the season, making the potential addition of Young redundant.
No, the Spurs are probably going to do exactly what they have done in years past, which is pretty much nothing. We may see some slight tinkering similar to the deal that brought Marquese Chriss to San Antonio last season (Chriss would be waived just a few days later to make room for Gorgui Dieng) but don't hold your breath waiting for something earth-shattering to happen.
The Trend of buying out players is getting concerning
The inactivity is to be expected at this point but it does mark a mildly concerning trend in Brian Wright's tenure as the Spurs GM. If the Spurs make it past the deadline with Thad Young and then buy him out, it would be the third season in a row that they have done so. First came DeMarre Carroll, then LaMarcus Aldridge, and now potentially Thad Young. All veterans who could have feasibly been moved for something but were bought out, netting the Spurs almost nothing in return.
Of the three, it's the handling of Aldridge and Young that are the most concerning. Each one of them could have been moved earlier in their time in San Antonio and gotten the Spurs a prospect or second-round pick in return. I'm not going to get upset that Wright and the Spurs front office weren't able to turn an aging LaMarcus into a first-rounder, but I have a hard time believing that they couldn't have gotten anything for him. The same goes for Young.
This is a player who is a proven veteran, a versatile big man who could help any contender, and the Spurs are probably going to buy him out of the remainder of his contract. They've got no leverage and at some point, they should accept whatever deal they can get. But that's a concession that Wright has so far refused to make. His inability to accurately value expiring contracts or unwillingness to move them for a deal that he views as less than perfect has hurt the Spurs. To be fair, it probably hasn't hurt them all that much, but it has hurt them.
Maybe I'm overly pessimistic. Maybe the Spurs will find a way to turn Young's expiring deal into Jalen Smith or another promising project player. Maybe they'll get a few second-round picks instead. I would be thrilled to be proven wrong and have my expectations shattered. But so far I have no reason to think that's going to happen.
No, it's likely another season of the Brian Wright Special -- watch the trade deadline slip by and then buy out your veterans. It's a well-trodden path for the Spurs GM and one that I'm tired of seeing this team walk.