As I'm sure you're aware, the trade rumors have been flying lately and there is a reason for that: after December 14, all the players that were signed this off-season become eligible to be traded. And anyone a team receives in a trade before December 19 can be flipped at the trade deadline. So we could see a lot of activity during this small window. The biggest names being thrown around right now are Kyle Lowry, Omer Asik and Evan Turner. There are surely more players on the block (hi there, Pau) but those three are enough to illustrate why he Spurs should hope for little movement.
The fewer the trades, the better for the Spurs
I've mentioned it before but it bears repeating: the Spurs should really hope for a slow trade season. As things stand right now, it's apparent San Antonio has one of the truly elite teams. The second-tier teams still have weaknesses and other contenders have not showed enough internal growth to really place themselves above the Spurs. Unfortunately a few clever trades could change that.
Let's talk about Lowry first. It's been reported the Nets and Knicks are interested. If Lowry stays in the East and the Raptors keep the players they receive in the trade, the move would not impact the Spurs in any way. But the players the Raptors would receive are in all likelihood going to be flipped. The rumors suggest a combination of Iman Shumpert, Metta World Peace, Raymond Felton (Knicks) or Mirza Teletovic, Tayshaun Taylor or even Jason Terry (Nets) could be packaged. Those are not scary names but could help teams that need rotation players, like the Mavs, Wolves, Clippers and Blazers, get deeper.
Then there's the possibility of the Warriors trading for Lowry. Recenlty Golden State has emerged as an alternative and, while they seem like a dark horse, they could put together a nice package. A trade centering around Marreese Speights (to make salaries work) and a combination of young players like Kent Bazemore, Draymond Green, Nemanja Nedovic or Festus Ezeli could be enticing for a Toronto team in the middle of a rebuild. Lowry would provide the Warriors with that consistent bench scoring they sorely miss, making them an even harder foe on the playoffs.
Evan Turner isn't as good as his per game stats of 20 points, six rebounds and four assists would have you believe, but he would be a great get for a lot of teams that need shot creation and wing depth. Portland, for example, would benefit greatly from his addition and could put together a package including Meyers Leonard, Victor Claver and Allen Crabbe or Will Barton that, combined with a pick, could be attractive enough for the tanktastic Sixers to bite. The Timberwolves need a second wing scorer, have a lot of young pieces Sam Hinkie might be interested in, and are in win-now mode -- which means including a pick might not be out of the question. If either of those two teams get Turner, they would be getting a significant upgrade.
Asik's fate will obviously have the biggest direct impact on the Spurs. Asik is a valuable player in the right team but he simply doesn't fit with the Rockets so on top of the return he'll demand, there could be addition by subtraction. There have been talks about a potential Asik-for-Varejao deal that could make sense for both teams. With Bynum on limited minutes and the team reeling, getting a rim protector makes sense for the Cavs while the Rockets would get a guy that might be OK coming off the bench and playing both power forward and center.
There was also a report about some potential interest from the Bucks that is unsurprisingly fizzling. It never made much sense to begin with, but the Bucks could still help facilitate a trade that would send Ilyasova to Houston and Asik to a third team. That trade would leave a hole at backup center for the Rockets, but they could ask the Bucks to include the redundant Udoh and address that. And I'm sure there are a lot more suitors for Asik -- Atlanta swapping Paul Millsap for Asik makes a lot of sense, for example.
The best case scenario for the Spurs involves Zach Lowe being right and the Rockets having a hard time trading Asik. If the rest of the valuable trade pieces out there are traded to fringe playoff teams, preferably from the Eastern Conference, that would be just perfect. But with most of the tanking teams being in the East and the West playoff picture so murky, it's hard to imagine a scenario in which no one in the West goes for an upgrade. All we can hope is that whoever makes a trade doesn't improve too much after it.
Can the Spurs get in on the fun?
The obvious follow-up question is: Can't the Spurs be that team that improves after a transaction? It seems really unlikely.
The Spurs simply don't have the pieces to pull off a trade for an impact player at this moment without including one of their key guys. And their nine-man rotation is so good already that anything but a slam-dunk move is not worth the risk.
What is more likely is a smaller trade aimed at reducing and balancing the roster. The Spurs do have a few interesting assets at their disposal in Matt Bonner's expiring contract and a bevy of youngish players on good value, short-term contracts. The best example might be Cory Joseph, who will be on a favorable rookie deal next season, is just 22 and has shown he can be a competent backup PG. By combining Bonner, Joseph and/or any of the other players not included in the top nine (and potentially a first-round pick of the rights to one of the stashed players), the Spurs could have the ammo to get a rotation caliber player back.
I doubt it will be anyone as exciting as the guys listed in the first part, but someone that could provide ten quality minutes while augmenting lineup flexibility could come in handy. With that in mind, the biggest need seems to be a long forward that can help in small-ball lineups. Off the top of my head, Marvin Williams and Jonas Jerebko could fit the bill. Bigger names like Wilson Chandler and Trevor Ariza could be in play if the Spurs are willing to throw in the pick and the rights to someone but it's unlikely their teams are motivated to move them. Other players that don't fit a need but seem attainable are Luke Ridnour, Glen Davis, Andre Miller and Jason Thompson.
It's hard to see the usually overly-cautious Spurs make moves mid-season, but I'm sure they will at least explore the market.
Could Danny Green be traded?
I've seen this pop up on occasion on Twitter and in the comments section. It makes sense that it did, considering Green's limitations are only made more glaring by the great early play of Marco Belinelli. Green has been more Icy than Hot lately, so I get that patience might be running thin among fans. But I have a hard time seeing the Spurs break up the starting lineup that worked so great last season while at the same time risking disrupting the chemistry from a second unit that is excelling so far this year.
Additionally, I'm skeptic Green would move the needle on the type of big trade that would be worth the risk of losing him. Every team would welcome a player like Green, who can hit three-pointers and play above-average on-ball defense, but would anyone really give up anything of importance for a trade package headlined by Green? Would his inclusion be enough to pry away Thaddeus Young from the Sixers, for example? I doubt it. So unless someone wants Green enough to demand he is included on a trade bringing in an impact player, I think Danny is here to stay.