The trade deadline is just around the corner and while the Spurs rarely make big splashes mid-season, there's always a chance, however small it may be, that this is the year in which they'll make a move. Even if that doesn't happen, this hectic period can have an impact on their chances to repeat, as other teams could bolster their rosters. So here's everything you need to know about the trade deadline.
What is the trade deadline and why does it matter?
The trade deadline represents the last day teams can make trades, obviously. This year the deadline is set for 2 p.m. CST on Feb. 19. As mentioned, even though the Spurs won't likely make a trade, what happens between now and then could impact their chances. It's possible teams go on fire sales and good players find their way to other Western Conference contenders. There's also a chance the Spurs make a small trade -- like last season's Nando De Colo for Austin Daye move -- that could bring in someone who could be with the team next season. It likely won't be as eventful for Spurs fans as it is for fans of other teams but it's an important date nonetheless.
Do the Spurs need to make a trade? What are their biggest needs?
It doesn't seem like the Spurs need a trade. Some players have been underperforming but most have showed their value as recently as last playoffs, so a big shakeup is not something the Spurs should pursue. Obviously that doesn't mean they should avoid doing their due diligence altogether. If an opportunity presents itself and it doesn't involve any of the core players or represents a clear upgrade, they would be foolish not to pounce on it.
As for needs, it would be hard to upgrade the guard and center positions, as the emergence of Cory Joseph and Aron Baynes have added valuable depth behind the key cogs. The Spurs are thinner at small forward and power forward, although far from desperately in need of reinforcements. Kawhi Leonard has been fantastic and if he plays over 30 minutes a game the Spurs can get away with Danny Green or Manu Ginobili at the three spot against benches. Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner have not played up to their level yet but with Splitter slated to guard some power forwards anyway in the postseason, the Spurs can wait to see if they regain their level. Those two spots, however, remain the ones that could use some new blood.
Who could be traded? What are the Spurs' assets?
Obviously to bring someone in not on a minimum contract via trade the Spurs will have to send someone out. The most redundant of the players currently under contract is Jeff Ayres. With Baynes solidifying his spot on the rotation, Ayres has been on the outside looking in and with no real chance to turn things around. He won't be the centerpiece of any trade but his contract is small and it expires this offseason, which means it's perfect to help make salaries match without forcing the other team to take on long term salary.
Other than Ayres, the Spurs could look to move either Marco Belinelli or one of the back up point guards. Belinelli hasn't been as good on offense this season and he doesn't have the tools to make up for it on defense. If the Spurs are going to continue using dual point guard lineups, the minutes won't be there for Marco in the postseason. He's on an expiring contract and can sop up minutes for a different team, which makes him a decent trade piece.
The most interesting scenario involves trading one of Patty Mills or Cory Joseph. Mills is not yet back to last season's form but he continues to provide offense off the bench, which is something any team could use. Joseph is young and has made strides. He's in the last year of his contract but he will be a restricted free agent, so any team that is interested in him would have to overpay so that the Spurs don't match their offer next offseason. Either in a trade by themselves for a young frontcourt player or packaged with Belinelli or Ayres for a veteran, those two represent the best shot the Spurs have to make a real upgrade through a trade.
The Spurs also have all of their future first round picks as well as stashed prospects Davis Bertans and Livio Jean-Charles, who could interest a rebuilding team.
Are the Spurs targeting anyone?
The Spurs have remained as tight-lipped as ever, not appearing in many trade rumors as of yet, but reportedly expressed interest in free agent Amar'e Stoudemire. Stoudemire, who was recently waived by the Knicks, would have been a good option to have off the bench when scoring was needed. Alas, it seems he chose the Mavericks, which is not surprising considering the bigger role he will have in Dallas.
As for players that are reportedly on the block, it's hard to find a good fit or someone who the Spurs could realistically trade for. Brook Lopez and Lance Stephenson are being aggressively shopped but both have large contracts and wouldn't represent big upgrades. Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler would be great fits but the Nuggets are allegedly asking a lot for them and many other teams are interested. David West would be a great addition but his contract is high and the Pacers are leaning towards keeping him. The other names being thrown around just don't make a lot of sense. Things could change quickly but at this point there are no obvious targets for the Spurs.
What are the best and worst case scenarios for the Spurs during this period?
The best case scenario is landing a rotation-level forward without surrendering any of the core players. That can be accomplished via trade or free agency, after a buy out. It's more likely the Spurs are monitoring the waiver wire more intently than they are aggressively pursuing trades, not only because that's how they have proceeded in the past but also because of the reports about Stoudemire.
The worst case scenario would be seeing the rest of the West get better while the Spurs don't make a move. There are not a lot of names out there that would actually move the needle significantly but Arron Afflalo joining the Clippers or Brook Lopez taking Kendrick Perkins' minutes could make the minefield that is going to be the West playoff bracket harder to navigate.
The trade deadline is set for Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. CST.