As I'm sure most Spurs fans are feeling right now, I'm gutted with news of Leonard's injury. I was at the game, and the moment I saw Leonard walking back to the locker room, I knew we were in trouble. It was especially painful trying to watch poor Belinelli and Joseph try to guard Durant. Granted, nobody can really guard Durant, but it proved something I had been saying for a while now (mostly to my wife, since she's the only person who will listen to me), we don't have a true backup for Leonard. Ok, so Green can play the SF position, but as luck would have it, he, too, is injured with the same injury as Leonard. I agree non-season ending injuries should not cause a team, especially a team like the Spurs, to go into panic mode. The problem is I have felt a gap in the Spurs rotation long before the injury bug spread through our team. We are overloaded at the 1 and 4 positions, and are stretched thin at the 3 and 5 (though Duncan can of course play the 5 when needed).
Before I get into my proposals, let me quantify this by bringing to attention the recent rumors that the Spurs have been 'unusually aggressive' in the trade market this year. Without these rumors, I would just be under the same impression I am every year at this time: that the Spurs will be extremely quiet before the trading deadline.
Let me first address the main issue; the SF position: I think we need to offload some of our young talent in fill in a couple glaring gaps. This trade is certainly not earth shattering, but let's be real, the Spurs would almost certainly NEVER do an earth shattering trade at this point in the season. Here is my first proposal:
Ok, I know what you're thinking. Why would either team want to make this trade? First, we are too deep at the PG position. I think Mills has emerged as a great backup to Parker, and we can use Ginobili at the PG spot when needed (that is essentially what happens any time Joseph is in the game). Yes, the Spurs would be losing some PGs with potential, but that is exactly what the Bulls need. The bulls all almost completely void of any point guards at the moment. Dunleavy has all sorts of trade rumors circulating the web right now, and I think the Spurs need to do what they can to get in that discussion. Maybe this trade scenario isn't perfect, but some variation of it could be beneficial for both teams and would fill in a huge void with the Spurs and get us that much closer to being legitimate title contenders once again (though many would argue we already are title contenders). Maybe Bonner could be included for some money, I'm not sure. Though the bulls have plenty of players at the 4 and 5 spots, they don't have a single stretch 4 player, and Bonner could easily fill that void (if the Bulls even care to have that void filled).
So why Dunleavy? He is a great shooter. This would complement Leonard very much in the playoffs. Another reason is his defense is a lot better than people give him credit for (especially if our alternative is Belinelli at the 3). I read an article recently that said Dunleavy held an opponents player efficiency rating to 10.6 at the 3 compared to Belinelli's 21.9. It doesn't take a mathematician to realize that would be a huge defensive upgrade at the 3. Speaking of Belinelli, the transition for Dunleavy would likely be rather smooth considering he would be able to lean on his former teammate Belinelli. I'm sure they have some chemistry together from last year, so it would be so awesome to see them together coming off the bench. Did I mention is contract is relatively cheap? Three million a year for the next two years is very doable for the Spurs.
So how about the 5 position? Do we even need another center? Not if you think Ayers is the answer to our prayers. I don't. I think we need more shot blocking and rebounding presence (though Ayers has definitely been improving on the latter). Look no further than Spenser Hawes. Wait, what? You want the Spurs to spend 17 million on their centers? Perhaps. I'm also slightly swayed by the fact I have heard several reports indicating the Spurs are "very interested" in Hawes. That's good enough for me. Besides, Hawes is a great passer, solid shot blocker and rebounder, and I would argue is better offensively than Splitter. So, how would this trade happen?
Besides the trade above, we would need to give up our first round draft pick next year. No problem, especially if we are looking to win now, as I know we are. All the 76ers seem to want are expiring contracts and/or young talent. Spurs have the former in Bonner or Joseph, and the latter in Ayers. Once again, this trade isn't set in stone, but I think it is close to something that the 76ers might be interested in (assuming the Lakers don't come in and sweet Hawes away, which it seems like they might).
So what would the Spurs look like come playoff time?
1 Parker, Mills, Ginobili
2 Green, Ginobili, Belinelli
3 Leonard, Dunleavy
4. Duncan, Diaw
5. Splitter, Hawes
That looks like a championship team to me. Thoughts?