NBA Trade Season: Spurs might need to be creative to upgrade

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

They won't be out to make any big splashes, but that doesn't mean the San Antonio Spurs couldn't use this volatile trade season to make an opportunistic move, should the chance present itself.

On December 15 the NBA trade window officially opened. For many teams this is the chance to start cashing out their chips and position themselves for next year's draft. For others, it's the opportunity to exploit a volatile situation and acquire a missing piece using (ideally) an expiring contract, redundant asset or draft pick.

Making this period even more interesting is another important date – Thursday, December 19. If a player is traded before then, he can then be moved again before the trade deadline (on February 20) if necessary. That means that now's a great time to look at the NBA landscape and see what might happen, how that could affect the Spurs and vice versa.

You're probably familiar with many of the names that have been thrown around so far – Omer Asik, Kyle Lowry, Iman Shumpert, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes are a few of the recurring ones – and while the Spurs may not be realistically eyeing these players, there might be a chance for them to pick up a peripheral piece as teams try to make salaries or trade values match.

In all likelihood this won't happen. The Spurs favor continuity so much that even a minor move would need to return an essential talent or offload an undesirable contract for it to be worth their while. But with Tuesday being SBNation's NBA Trade Season Day, I saw this as a chance to have some fun and look at what the Spurs could do if they wanted to be opportunistic this trade season.

Are the Spurs "buyers" or "sellers"?

If the NBA trade season were like the gossip circle of a high school, the Spurs would probably be that guy eating his home-packed lunch in the library, rarely lifting his head up from behind a textbook or MtG booster pack.

This perceived indifference is the product of a team that's consistently in good shape, as well as a front office that isn't pressured into making short-term, save-your-job kinds of moves.

The 2013-14 Spurs certainly aren't, philosophically, sellers. They're very much in win-now mode and have their sights set on that elusive fifth championship trophy. They won't be offering in trade any player that would disrupt their valued continuity, even if the returning asset represents a minor potential upgrade.

But are the Spurs buyers? It's hard to imagine them aggressively manning the phones, especially given that any players they would want to move won't garner too much interest back – at least not from ideal suitors.

That makes them a kind of speculative, opportunistic buyer, ready to do business if something intriguing presents itself.

Should the Spurs even bother?

If it wasn't clear earlier, I'll just restate it: I think the Spurs are fine. Nobody would fault them for standing pat and making another run with basically the same group of guys that nearly won it all last year. They're 19-5, good for third in the West, and many other numbers back their standing as one of the league's top teams.

Even after Monday night's blowout loss to the Clips, the Spurs lead the league with a net rating of 10.1 (NBA.com/Stats), thanks to an offense that's best in the league with a 1.70 AST/TO ratio and a defense that's rebounding and defending the pick-and-roll better than almost any other team.

That said, just because San Antonio isn't wont to seek out unnecessary trades doesn't mean they're not keeping their ears open this season. There are a number of teams looking to move both up and down the NBA ladder, and the Spurs could serve as either a trade partner with a club that's looking to offload a player that's not part of their future picture or as a facilitator in a bigger, three-team deal.

There are a number of players that have either fallen out of favor at their current teams or were never given a proper shot. MarShon Brooks, a young guy who has shown flashes of talent, is one name I'd look at, since the Celtics could be looking to trade and haven't, for whatever reason, taken a liking to him. If a team is willing to throw a promising, cheap player in as a kicker, San Antonio could use one of its redundant pieces to get him in return.

Where do they need help?

Despite the favorable numbers, this team is far from perfect. The rotation, specifically surrounding the fourth big, remains unsettled. Is Jeff Ayres the answer? Will Aron Baynes be counted upon in big games?

Health will also continue to be an issue – something that Tony Parker's injury last night against the Clippers reminded us of again once more.

Another problem is how the Spurs have struggled defending the long two. A while back, J. Gomez wrote a really good piece on this and, a month and a half later, it still rings true. The Spurs are 25th in the league in points allowed on spot-up shots. Part of that is by design, as they've always looked to force offenses into taking statistically poor shots. But there is also the notion that great teams are going to make difficult shots, and the Spurs have lost to the great teams so far this year, partially on account of this chink in the armor. Some more athleticism on the wing could make them an even better defensive team.

Who could be on the move?

Besides the Big Three, Matt Bonner is the longest-tenured Spur on the roster. That, combined with his personality and love of baby carrots would make the Mamba a difficult player for fans to say goodbye to. Still, Bonner's expiring contract - good for $3,945,000 - is obviously not indicative of the production he's providing on a nightly basis for the team. He plays sparingly, and seems to fit in less with the team's offensive philosophy.

Teams may not value expiring contracts as much as they used to, but when there are deals to be done, San Antonio could use Bonner to be a third party that facilitates a bigger deal.

Here's a three-team deal in which San Antonio could use Bonner to get an interesting piece back.

And here's an unrealistic one.

But what about Danny Green?

There are some people wondering if now might be the time to see what DG's market value is. This is largely to do with Icy Hot's drop in production, with his scoring average (7.3 points per game) and three-point percentage (41.1%) at their lowest since the 2010-2011 season, his first with the Spurs.

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Since he's not really a franchise building block, it would seem to me that the teams that would most value Green's skillset are likely title contenders who A) wouldn't be the type of teams San Antonio would like to help in any way and B) would have significantly less to offer the Spurs.

If we had to, though, here's a trade that could help San Antonio shore up its frontcourt depth.

Other pieces

Beyond the two aforementioned names, there really isn't much I can see San Antonio considering doing this season. Cory Joseph's contract is cheap if a team was looking for a decent buy-low backup PG, and Nando de Colo certainly isn't looking to be in the Spurs' long-term picture, but can either player net anything back besides a second-round pick? If not, I don't see PATFO bothering.

Still, that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Got an idea on what San Antonio could/should/must do? Share in the comments below or by tweeting it with the hashtag #nbatradeseason. Let's break the ESPN Trade Machine.

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