The 2021 NBA trade deadline is just under a month away on March 25, 2021, and that means the rumor mill is starting to churn. While the San Antonio Spurs aren’t known for making mid-season moves unless it’s requested by the player (a la Nando De Colo) or an offer too good to pass up comes along, they always do their due diligence.
However, this season might be different. The Spurs are facing a nearly unprecedented offseason that could potentially set the projection for the future of the franchise, with all four of their main veterans — LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay — hitting unrestricted free agency. They’re going to have decisions to make on all those players, and that could include seeing if there’s a trade market out there to get pieces in return instead of potentially losing them for nothing.
Headlining the trade rumor mill for the Spurs is unsurprisingly Aldridge: the oldest of the bunch and whose potential future with team — both this season and beyond — seems the most unsure. After missing the Bubble following shoulder surgery, he has missed nine games so far this season with knee and hip issues, and while his signature shot is still there, his mobility appears dramatically deteriorated. During his most recent six-game absence, the Spurs flourished with Jakob Poeltl taking over starting center duties, and in their return from a COVID hiatus (and LMA’s first game back), he came off the bench for the first time since his rookie season.
While he gracefully accepted the role and took it stride (and after the game Gregg Popovich seemed noncommittal on if it was a permanent move), it could be a sign that his days with the Spurs are numbered. It’s been known for much of the season that they have been open to listening to offers for Aldridge, and that was recently reinforced by ESPN’s Marc Spears on The Jump:
“Another name is San Antonio, is kind of surprising. LaMarcus Aldridge’s name has been bandied about.”
We're exactly a month away from the NBA trade deadline, so we went hot stove with @ZachLowe_NBA, @MarcJSpears and @RamonaShelburne to find out the most likely buyers, sellers and buyout candidates to look for over the next few weeks: pic.twitter.com/AMDJMsHkah— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) February 26, 2021
Spears also mentioned he’s heard DeRozan’s name “a little bit”, which again is not too surprising, but it will likely take a lot more to pry him away from San Antonio now than it would have before the season. Since the Bubble, he has flourished as a leader in a small-ball PF position alongside the younger Spurs, where his defensive deficiencies against less mobile players are more easily masked, and he has become their go-to guy in the clutch. (Anyone think he wasn’t missed in their recent loss to the Thunder?) He has not ruled out returning to the Spurs next season, and with there likely not being any other big name free agents looking to come to San Antonio, this season has proven he may be worth keeping around if the asking price isn’t too high.
As for their other veterans, Gay has been tied to recent reports regarding the Miami Heat, who are looking to add some veteran talent to a squad that is struggling after last season’s surprising Finals appearance. There haven’t been any serious rumors regarding Mills, and while one could see a title contender looking for a veteran with championship experience making an offer for him, it’s also easy to see the Spurs setting a high asking price. He’s still the spiritual leader of the group, their current sixth man, and could still have a role going forward.
As always, it’s important to take all trade rumors with a grain of salt (and especially check the source first), and as of now no one has been tied to any particular team besides Gay. With that being said, the next month should be interesting for the Spurs, who are caught in a complicated position of being well on their way to making the playoffs (and not wanting to be the first team in franchise history to miss the postseason in consecutive seasons) while also having to be wary of the future. At this point, both no move or any move would be unsurprising.