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The Spurs’ list of untouchable players could be short

With the trade deadline approaching, most of the roster should be on the table for San Antonio.

NBA: Denver Nuggets at San Antonio Spurs Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline is almost here. There hasn’t been a lot of talk about the Spurs making a move other than sending out LaMarcus Aldridge, but you never know what could happen if the right offer comes along.

Is there anyone on the roster that you consider untouchable and wouldn’t include in any trade that doesn’t involve a superstar?

Marilyn Dubinski: Sentimentally and because of the leadership he provides, I feel like Patty Mills has done so much for the Spurs’ organization that he shouldn’t be traded without his consent (even if he doesn’t have a “no trade” clause). Dejounte Murray and Derrick White have signed friendly extensions and shown enough star potential that they likely wouldn’t bring back the right combination of youth and equivalent value in return. Beyond that, oddly enough, the player I feel the Spurs should refuse to consider any trade offers for is Devin Vassell. Odd as that may be to say about a rookie, he potentially has the highest ceiling of all the youngsters, and I can’t think of anyone the Spurs could reasonably get in return at that price range that would present the same future opportunity.

Mark Barrington: I could never be a GM, because I would be too sentimental about keeping guys who are good teammates, even if you could end up getting a better player out of it. I think Brian Wright has one of the hardest jobs in the world. But if put on my dispassionate GM hat, the only completely untouchable player is ... Keldon Johnson. That kid is so great and he’s only going to get better. There’s no way you could ever get back equal value for this budding superstar. I think that there’s some overlap between Derrick White and Dejounte Murray’s game, so I could see situations where one of them gets traded. Patty Mills is a treasure, and he’s going nowhere, because he won’t have the same value he has to the Spurs anywhere else. I could see the Spurs trading DeMar if he’s not in their long term plans and they expect to lose him in free agency anyway. Jakob is a really good player, but he could be moved for the right return, as could Lonnie. So, it’s pretty much only Keldon who I wouldn’t listen to offers for.

Bruno Passos: The caveat to any hypothetical San Antonio trade is that they probably value—and optimize—most of their individual players more than a potential trade partner might, which is partially why LaMarcus Aldridge is still technically a Spur. In Patty Mills, another team might see a high-level movement shooter and reliable secondary creator on an expiring deal, but he won’t be the leader and culture setter he’s grown into for San Antonio. DeMar DeRozan’s the floor-raising anchor to an offense that’s otherwise short on playmaking, whereas in another system he may be a second or third option whose weaknesses stand out more. Does moving, say, Rudy Gay for an asset and an expiring contract contradict the organization’s years-long focus on competing now? Most of the young wings would be great additions for other teams, but those teams aren’t invested in their long-term development.

No one should be seen as untouchable in theory because even the young guys’ realistic ceilings probably don’t get the Spurs to contender status, but the organization’s approach to team-building has always grounded hypothetical trades.

Jesus Gomez: I’d be all for moving the veterans and I would trade most of the young guys provided the return is another young player who balances out the roster, but the only one I feel should not be on the table at all right now is Keldon Johnson. At this point he’s mostly a hustle player with extremely effective straight line driving ability, but if he develops his handle and gets a more consistent shot, he could be special. Big wings who can defend both forward positions, rebound, drive and space the floor are valuable. Johnson could not only approach stardom but also be the type of player that gives a team lineup flexibility, which is huge in the modern game.

The other young players are all very intriguing but simply not all that special from an archetypal perspective. Defensive-minded guards and centers are valuable but replaceable. There are explosive but erratic wings like Lonnie Walker IV in every draft. Devin Vassell could turn out to be Robert Covington on steroids or just a good 3-and-D wing. The most potentially unique of the young guys could be Luka Samanic, but the consistency hasn’t been there.

Johnson is right now the only player on the roster who combines production, potential, and uniqueness at a high enough level to stay off the table, in my eyes.

J.R. Wilco: If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last two decades of following the Spurs, it’s that if they have a generational talent on the roster, they’re capable of helping him reach his potential. Sure, there are role players that have left the Spurs and exploded beyond what they were in Silver and Black (Davis Bertans, anyone?) but there aren’t any “Wow, I wish we’d known who we had in THAT guy before we traded him!” stories for San Antonio. Part of that is because they never succumbed to the temptation to jump at shiny objects — which allowed every foundational piece to grow with the group and become so much more than the simple sum of parts. In the NBA, continuity is an underrated superpower.

As I watched Kawhi Leonard develop, I kept trying to tether myself to reality, to convince myself that his trajectory didn’t mean that he’d keep improving — that his development could level off at any moment. But as long as he remained with the team, I was forced to realize that his skills were multiplying because of a) his immense talent, and b) the environment he was in that knew how to maximize that talent. The team did that with the Big Three. They did it with Kawhi. And they’ll be able to similarly identify and develop any other potential superstar they happen to acquire. And they’ll never trade such a player unless he wants to leave the team.

I can’t identify those guys before they’re obvious to the whole league. But the Spurs can. So I don’t consider ANY of the current crop of young guys tradeable as long they’re on the team. If they stick in San Antonio, there’s a really good reason for it.