The draft lottery was held on Tuesday and the Minnesota Timberwolves got the first pick. The Lakers will select second after leapfrogging the Knicks and the 76ers held on to the third pick. Asides from New York falling there wasn't much movement. The Heat and Lakers kept their picks and the rest of the teams didn't move up or down. All in all, it was a pretty uneventful half hour that didn't involve the Spurs directly.
A short look back to the 2011 draft, however, provides a good reminder that it's impossible to tell which events will be meaningful. Had a lottery team selected Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs very likely wouldn't have that fifth banner hanging from the rafters. If a different team and not Indiana was the owner of that 15th pick, maybe they keep Leonard.
The draft order matters when thinking about potentials moves and with Gregg Popovich saying that the roster will be different next year, the Spurs making a trade on draft day is not out of the question.
So let's take a look at the landscape, now that we know which team owns which pick.
The Spurs have nothing to trade for a top five pick
Had one of the teams with a mediocre instead of abysmal records landed in the top three, the chance for trades would have opened up. If the Pacers or the Jazz make that leap thanks to the ping pong balls, maybe a combination of Tiago Splitter or Boris Diaw plus an unprotected future pick and Mills/Anderson for a contract they want to unload would have been enough to at least get them to answer the phone.
The Timberwolves, Lakers, 76ers, Knicks and Magic all need a star and the Spurs can't offer that. Even if for some reason the front office decided Tony Parker was on the block (and he surely isn't, so stop working the trade machine), his age makes him a bad fit in all but maybe the Knicks' roster. The other players under contract don't come close to matching the value of such a high pick so the dreams of D'Angelo Russell learning from Manu Ginobili before taking over will never come true.
Late lottery picks could probably be had but might not be worth it
Teams like the Suns and Jazz have established young cores and the Hornets, Heat and Pacers are looking to make the playoffs, so they might be willing to trade their picks for a veteran. The Spurs could dangle one of Splitter and Diaw, plus their own pick for a late lottery pick and those teams would likely listen. At worst, the Celtics at 16 could make a good trading partner if Splitter is on the table.
It's hard to see the Spurs falling in love with a prospect enough to pull the trigger on such a move unless Duncan and Ginobili are gone, though. If the idea is to contend next season, replacing veterans with rookies makes little sense. Kawhi is more the exception than the rule. The team that probably would have accepted a trade based on future assets would have been the 76ers but they didn't get the Heat's pick.
If the Spurs decide to punt the 2016 season, get younger and cuts costs, such a trade should be a possibility but that doesn't sound like them.
Mills could get the Spurs a few spots higher
Mills should definitely get the Spurs the chance to move up a few spots. He's on a good contract and his shooting could help teams like the Wizards and the Bucks. The difference between the players the Spurs can get at 19 and at 26 doesn't seem big enough to lose a veteran contributor over but maybe the front office has its eyes on a player rumored to be going earlier. Moving Mills might also be a good way to clear a potential logjam.
If the Spurs view Joseph as more valuable than Mills, they could deal him and sign Cory long term in restricted free agency. Nothing suggests that's the case but Joseph did play well when he had the chance and is just 23 years old. He could end up costing about the same as Mills when he's re-signed. If the Spurs feel they like someone who might not be available at their spot and prefer Joseph long term, dealing Patty might be a good way of killing two birds with one stone.
Expect the Spurs to stay put
The Spurs making a move is not out of the question but the most likely scenario by far is for them to stay put at 26 and select the best player available. They don't have anyone on a cheap salary with the value George Hill had in 2011, so it's hard to make trades work without taking in a lot of money. Mills won over the back up point guard slot back, so it's hard to see the front office being willing to deal him to move up a few spots. And again, I can't think of a scenario in which the Spurs trade Parker. It would be one of the most uncharacteristic moves the franchise could make.
That means the realistic targets are those at the end of the first round. If the Spurs want to preserve cap space they can select a foreign prospect willing to stay abroad. If they want cheap roster fillers they can go for someone who can be added immediately and hope he surprises and earns minutes his rookie year. They could even do something I think would be really smart and trade down for two second rounders. All those options are obviously more boring than trading up but at least at this point seem much more likely.