We’ve covered some realistic additions the Spurs could potentially make in the offseason, and we’ll continue to do that soon. Now it’s time to have some fun by focusing on some definitely un-realistic options.
First, some rules. 1 - You can only pick players from teams that bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, but only players who were active. So no Ben Simmons, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, etc. 2 - No Luka Doncic either. He’s just too perfect a fit, so no fair. 3 - Contracts, positions and age should be taken into account, to an extent, so explain how your choice fits into the Spurs’ plan. That’s all.
If you could steal a player from any team that lost in the first round and place him in the Spurs’ roster without sending anyone back in return, who would you pick?
Mark Barrington: If I were going with my heart, I’d definitely pick Boban Marjanovic, who is the nicest and also the most charismatic player in the league. He would make viewing every game better even if he never gets to play. But if I use my head, I’d probably pick Donovan Mitchell from the Utah Jazz. Sure, the Spurs have plenty of guards already, but nobody on that level as a scorer and team leader. And with Mitchell, DeMar DeRozan becomes expendable, freeing up lots of salary room to sign up another free agent, but only for one year. Mitchell is on the last year of his rookie contract, so you’d want to lock him into a max extension as soon as you can.
But maybe I’ll just go back to my first choice, because seeing Boban just makes me happy, and seeing him 82 times in the regular season is a recipe for a lot of good times.
Marilyn Dubinski: Apparently both my heart (Boban) and basketball mind (Mitchell) work identically to Mark’s, and several of my other choices either advanced past the first round or were inactive for the playoffs (like Jonathon Issac). Based on who’s available for this criteria and the fact that I feel the Spurs really need a forward, I’ll go with Danilo Gallinari. If he can stay healthy, he brings a similar amount offense to the Spurs’ front court as LaMarcus Aldridge but with a much more proven (and deadly) three-point stroke, making him a better fit if the Spurs continue with their newly found pace-and-space offense from the Bubble. Although Gallinari is generally not a positive defender, he’s not a sieve either, and he would be a much better fit starting alongside Jakob Poeltl (should the Spurs retain him) as well as a good mentor for Luka Samanic.
He’s a free agent this offseason but will likely cost much more than the Spurs can offer straight up, and it’s not like they have the contender status to woo any free agent with the promise of the ring for near the minimum anymore, so it would be a tough signing. Probably the only way to make Gallinari work (assuming he would demand similar to what he made on his last contract) would be a sign-and-trade involving LaMarcus Aldridge and/or DeMar DeRozan to clear up the cap space, but it’s not impossible. If nothing else, his injury history is something they can work with at the negotiating table.
Bruno Passos: That this is a tough question to feel like you hit out of the park speaks to the weird makeup of this team’s present and future. Ideally I would love to plug the perfect 3/4 here, but it turns out a versatile big wing who addresses their two biggest needs (defense and primary playmaking) is hard to find—especially one who may fit into the young core’s window. Assuming the Grizzlies’ play-in game doesn’t count for this exercise (otherwise I’d be choosing Jaren Jackson Jr.), I’ll go with Orlando legend T.J. Warren, who can slot in at the starting 4 spot, anchor a decent amount of Spurs’ offensive possessions, play off DeRozan, and not force me into a bunch of imaginary trades to move Aldridge or clean up the logjam at the guard position.
Jesus Gomez: To make things even harder for myself I, want to pick someone who fits the roster the Spurs currently have, not the one I wish they did, which limits my options. If I take a star guard, like Damian Lillard, Donovan Mitchell, Victor Oladipo or CJ McCollum, I would have to trade away one of Derrick White or Dejounte Murray, which would take more hypothetical moves. Rudy Gobert and especially Joel Embiid are tempting options, as they can anchor an elite defense and, in Embiid’s case, provide elite offense as well. But neither would slot well next to LaMarcus Aldridge, forcing me again to plot other moves.
So I have no choice but to go with a forward, The only eligible one who would represent a big enough upgrade is Tobias Harris, so I’m going with him despite his horrendous contract. Harris would play power forward in San Antonio instead of being pushed to the perimeter and would be a secondary option on offense, which is the perfect role for him. He’s also a) athletic enough to run with the young guys, b) in the middle of his prime, and b) can shoot well enough to play next to DeRozan and Aldridge. My pick absolutely destroys the Spurs’ salary cap for the next few seasons, but a better chance at the playoffs next year and a long-term piece who fits with the young core might be worth it.
J.R. Wilco: How can a fun wish-fulfillment roundtable like this turn into a cesspool of doubt and hand-wringing? Lemme show you! I’m usually on the optimistic side of things, but I’m going dark today.
If we assume that the Spurs will lose Jakob Poeltl this offseason (like they lost Kyle Anderson, Jonathon Simmons and Boban Marjanovic before him) because another team decides he’s worth more than San Antonio will pay, then I’ll take Jusuf Nurkic, to fill in. He’s practically the same player: he rebounds, shoots a high percentage, plays defense, makes occasionally awesome passes, and never shoots threes. Only there’s one major upside ... he can hit his free throws.