After the Spurs found Kawhi Leonard with the 15th pick, we fans have gotten greedy and want PATFO to get us another young stalwart. But to get that 15th pick the Spurs had to trade a still young and improving George Hill, so the price was steep. Is there any way the Spurs can get into the top half of the draft this year?
Getting in the top half means saying goodbye to Danny Green
The pick that seems to be most readily available is the Dallas Mavericks' at 13th. The Spurs would likely target a big man if they traded for the pick and guys like Steven Adams, who the Spurs were reportedly scouting, Cody Zeller, Mason Plumlee and Kelly Olynik could be available at that spot. With Splitter now a free agent, and DeJuan Blair almost certainly leaving, getting a young big to bolster the front court and learn the ropes from Timmy could certainly be a good move. Or the Spurs could address their lack of a backup small forward by picking Shabazz Muhamad, Giannis Adetokumbo or Sergei Karasev.
So the question becomes: can they get the pick, and is it worth what they'd have to give up?
The Mavs are trying to clear cap space and the only major contracts they have counting against the cap belong to Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion, who will make over $9 million next season. There's no way the Spurs can provide the Mavs with cap relief by absorbing Marion's contract -- so it's a no, there. The only trade that might make sense from Dallas' perspective would be Vince Carter and the 13th pick for Danny Green. They don't shed money, but don't add either (if we consider the contract for the draftee) and get a starting caliber shooting guard in the process. For the Spurs, cashing in on Green and getting the still useful Carter along with the pick might be a good option if they have their sights on someone. Other teams picking in the teens like the Thunder, Bucks and Hawks might be interested as well.
The best possible scenario, however, involves the Wolves, who might be tired enough of incompetent wing play and lack of outside shooting to be willing to surrender the 9th pick in return for Green and the 28th. The deal would likely involve either Luke Ridnour (meh) or J.J. Barea (no, please) but it would allow the Spurs to be in a great position to get Adams, Anthony Bennett or one of the other high upside prospects that inevitably falls.
Is it worth it?
Does it makes sense to trade Green in this draft for anything other than a top five pick? The big men likely to be available are either raw (Adams) or upperclassmen with a low ceiling (Olynik and Plumlee). Zeller could develop nicely behind Splitter and Duncan but there are questions about his defensive potential and jump shooting ability. I guess the Spurs could go with a wing, like Muhammad, Adetokumbo or Caldwell-Pope to replace Green or back up Leonard. But wouldn't that be a lateral move?
Other than the questions regarding the potential draftees, there is also the fact that Green, unlike George Hill two years ago, still has a couple of years left on his very affordable contract. And while his ceiling remains relatively low, he has made strides as a shooter and defender and is currently one of the best two-way shooting guards in the league. I just don't see the Spurs using Green to trade up and he's the only asset likely to get them in the lottery, but you never know. Outside of the lottery however, there are some intriguing possibilities.
Trading up a couple of spots might make sense
With Mills opting in, the Spurs now have four point guards and that's not counting Neal, who still might be re-signed. Parker is not going anywhere, of course, but how about one of the other three? Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills are not attractive enough on their own to get the Spurs much higher in the draft, but a team picking late that needs a point guard could make a swap. The Knicks, for example, might lose Prigioni to free agency and with Jason Kidd now a coach, would only have Felton at point. They might move down four spots while swapping James White for Cory Joseph.
The Cavs, in addition to the first pick, also have the 19th and are probably trying to maximize their cap space to go after a free agent. So the 19th pick might be up for grabs. They also need someone to spare Kyrie Irving for a few minutes and have two mediocre small forwards in C.J. Miles and Alonzo Gee. Swapping De Colo, Joseph and the cheaper 28th pick for Miles, the 19th and filler gives them guard depth and allows them to focus all their cap space into finding a starting caliber wing or big in free agency, depending on who they select with the first pick.
Is it worth it?
You may ask why would the Spurs shake things up just to move a few spots. Two words: Nicolas Batum. The Spurs were reportedly going to pick Batum before Kevin Pritchard swooped in and snatched him a pick before San Antonio in the 2005 draft. Sometimes a couple of picks up is all you need to go to grab the guy you want. If the Spurs are eyeing a player that fits a need, like Rudy Gobert or Reggie Bullock, and he starts to fall past the lottery, they should absolutely make a few phone calls to teams ahead of them offering any of their three back up point guards. Would that be enough to move up? Who knows. There are a lot of reports that claim teams in the 20s are receptive to trading their picks. Hopefully the steadiness of Joseph and those flashes of brilliance by De Colo pique someone's interest.
Could Matt Bonner's partially guaranteed contract come in handy?
The final possibility to trade up a few spots is to find some team looking to shed salary and send them Matt Bonner's partially guaranteed contract. The Pacers, for example, might want to save themselves some money and trade the disappointing Gerald Green to the Spurs even if it means giving up the 23rd pick. Similarly, the Bucks, who are picking 15th might be willing to part with the pick if someone rids them of Drew Gooden's terrible, terrible contract. Bonner's contract becomes fully guaranteed on June 29th, so a trade should happen sooner rather than later and Bonner might be involved in the trade talks about bringing in Thomas Robinson, so it's unlikely he is moved at the draft, but not impossible. Whether it is worth it or not to pull the trigger for the Spurs would be determined by how impressed they are with the current crop of potential draftees.
In conclusion, it seems the opportunities to move up might be there but pulling the trigger might be hard for PATFO to do. The draft always involves risk, and sending out one of the team's starters after being so close to a title seems like way too aggressive a move, and I don't see a way the Spurs trade into the top half without giving up Green.
As for moving a few spots up to secure the rights to someone they covet, that makes a lot more sense and if it only costs the team one of their extra point guards or the still effective but aging Matt Bonner, it might be worth exploring.