Rumors are flying about the Spurs potentially entertaining offers, if not outright shopping their veterans. LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan and even Patty Mills have been involved in reports about potential trades in recent days, and while nothing appears imminent, things could get serious in the near future.
The immediate reaction to seeing so much reported activity by the typically low profile Spurs is surprise. We are not used to seeing leaks, but more than anything, we are not used to seeing PATFO be this open to shaking things up. It’s a little disconcerting.
It’s also a very welcomed development that could finally get the Spurs out of limbo. For the past two seasons San Antonio has lacked a direction, and if the reports are true, that could all change soon.
The individual rumors that have recently emerged are exciting on their own, as we’ve covered elsewhere. An Aldridge trade to the Warriors could allow the Spurs to move up in the draft to secure a potential young cornerstone; a DeMar DeRozan to the Lakers for Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green transaction would bring home a (sometimes) beloved former Spur and an often overvalued but still intriguing young player in a position of need; even a Patty Mills for Josh Richardson swap could be interesting, because as hard as it would be to see Patty go, you can never have too many two-way guards. But the details of the rumors are not really what’s important here. What matters is that the Spurs seem finally willing to choose a path.
What all those rumors have in common is that they feature entrenched veterans that have had featured roles both on the court and off in recent years. The Spurs, it seems, are done tinkering. There won’t be anymore half measures like adding a veteran forward or an old shooter to round out a clearly flawed roster that has a first round exit ceiling, at best. After the DeMarre Carroll debacle and the disappointing season that followed, the front office appears to have realized that treading water might not be the move. It’s time to actually start trying to build something new again, instead of patching a foundation that was always destined to slowly fall apart anyway.
The moderate but still meaningful success the Spurs experienced when going young in the Orlando bubble probably prompted that realization, but it really doesn’t matter why the Spurs seem to have become more open to going all in with a true youth movement. What’s encouraging is that the front office is finally picking a direction. If the rumors instead involved the young guards getting moved for veteran stars things wouldn’t be as exciting, but even then it would have been hard to be too disheartened. It certainly would have been shortsighted to choose that path, but after two years of increasingly discomforting stasis, any hint of upcoming decisive action would have been welcomed. That the route that management has picked seems like the right one is almost a bonus.
The question now, of course, is whether actual moves will happen. There is a decent chance all the talks that are reportedly taking place die out and the Spurs start the season with essentially the same roster, which could result in some muted disappointment for many. The appearance of activity is nice, but if it yields no changes it would be hard not to resent it. And yet the mere fact that we get reports about how surprised other teams are at the Spurs unfamiliar willingness to shake things up arguably has value on its own. As long as it’s not all smoke and mirrors and PATFO is actually willing to make moves, nothing else matters. Because if that’s the case, change will come eventually.
Things have not been truly bad in San Antonio for literally decades, so it would be unfair to judge management or the fanbase for being reluctant to embrace uncertainty. There’s comfort in continuity, and it would be the height of NBA fandom privilege to demand a complete tear down after just one season without a playoff appearance. If the faithful have to root for a DeRozan and Aldridge-led team next season, they will. As they should.
But it’s hard to overstate how invigorating it is to see that there at least seems to be a plan in place to, eventually and when convenient, look for more than pleasant mediocrity. It might have taken the Spurs two years to recover from the whiplash caused by Kawhi Leonard forcing his way out, but it seems they are now ready to take risks again. Nothing could be more encouraging than that.