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2021 Trade Deadline: Spurs news, rumors, and opinions

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The Spurs have some of the best assets available to potential suitors, but do they even care?

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA trade deadline is set for Thursday, March 25 at 2PM CST. The Spurs’ most recent in-season trade was the 2014 blockbuster that sent Nando De Colo to the Toronto Raptors for Austin Daye. To be fair, the perennial championship-contending Spurs of the past two decades never had any real need to dabble in the trade market.

This iteration of the Spurs is different. Gone are the surefire hall-of-famers who defined the franchise for so long. Even with the inevitable retirement of these players, the Spurs have done a great job of staying relevant in the highly-competitive Western Conference while rebuilding through the draft. That said, realistically the Spurs are a fringe playoff team with a number of veterans on expiring deals who could help other teams in their push for the playoffs.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that this trade deadline could be unlike any that Spurs’ fans have seen before...or exactly the same.

What we know

Everything is a rumor in my eyes unless the news comes from PATFO, the player directly, Woj (maybe), or until the trade is official. Keeping that in mind, the only thing we as Spurs fans know for sure is that LaMarcus Aldridge and the Spurs have mutually agreed to part ways.

Aldridge has battled injuries and ineffectiveness for much of the season, which resulted in him being supplanted by Jakob Poeltl in the starting lineup. While this is just speculation on my part, the timing of Aldridge being benched and the news of him and the Spurs agreeing to part ways leads me to believe Aldridge was not in favor of such a change in the rotation.

What we think we know

All things were quiet on the Spurs’ trading front heading into Tuesday morning (not surprising), but then news broke that the Spurs were making the majority of their veterans available for trade.

LaMarcus Aldridge

The Spurs seemed pretty confident that they would be able to trade Aldridge before the deadline, with as many as five teams reportedly interested in trading for Aldridge, but right now all signs point towards a buyout instead of a trade. There’s still time to make a deal, but his large contract, declining play, and potential issue with accepting a reduced role off the bench makes a buyout far more likely.

Speaking on The Jump, Brian Windhorst said:

They (the Spurs) have continued to have trade talks. They could trade LaMarcus by sundown here in San Antonio if they wanted to but the issue here is are they willing to take back long-term money.

If the Spurs are unwilling to take back long-term money in any trade involving Aldridge, a buyout seems likely. He will join a potentially long list of big men on the buyout market, with Andre Drummond, JaVale McGee, and a few others all likely to be bought out if their respective teams are unable to find a trading partner before the deadline.

Rudy Gay

Unlike Aldridge, Rudy Gay is having a solid season with the Spurs and is making a much more manageable $14.5 million this season. He is also on an expiring contract, so teams interested in maintaining salary cap flexibility over the summer would not be impacted by trading for Gay. A team acquiring Gay in a trade would also retain his bird rights, allowing them to go over the salary cap to re-sign him if they so chose.

Before trading for Trevor Ariza, the Miami Heat were reportedly interested in trading for Gay, but the Spurs’ asking price was higher than they were willing to go. Another report came out today from Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report that the Spurs are open to trading Gay.

Trey Lyles

In the same report from Bleacher Report, Jake Fischer mentioned that Trey Lyles and his representatives are interested in finding Lyles a new destination. After starting for much of the 2019-2020 season, this news isn’t all that surprising given his severely reduced role in a contract year.

DeMar DeRozan

The biggest news from Jake Fisher’s report was that DeMar DeRozan was interested in playing elsewhere next season, potentially moving back to the Eastern Conference.

The San Antonio Spurs have made it clear that LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan are available via trade, according to league sources.

DeRozan is also playing out the final year of his contract, and sources said he has an interest in playing elsewhere following this season—perhaps with an eye toward the Eastern Conference. DeRozan is quietly having an exceptional season, scoring 20.3 points per game on 49.1 percent shooting and boasting a 7.5-to-1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio. “He’s transformed himself into this swing playmaker,” one team analytics staffer said.

The ever-active Knicks have considered acquiring DeRozan, sources said, but New York has the same reservations regarding that possible move as with the Victor Oladipo scenario we detailed Monday.

There’s a faction of the Chicago front office that feels adding one piece such as DeRozan could push the Bulls firmly into the postseason, sources said.

And the Orlando Magic have discussed trading Evan Fournier, also on an expiring deal, plus a first-round pick for DeRozan, as the four-time All-Star could re-sign and help bolster the Magic once their roster returns to full health next season.

Beyond the Knicks, Bulls, and Magic, there have also been rumors of the Warriors monitoring the DeRozan situation closely.

What I think

The Spurs have a severely-imbalanced roster full of guard-sized slashers with limited range. None of the Spurs’ starting five are league-average shooters from distance, making it easy for defenses to pack the paint anytime the ball-handler takes the ball to the rim. The Spurs’ four most reliable outside shooters - Patty Mills, Devin Vassell, Rudy Gay, and Lonnie Walker, all come off the bench.

There are tweaks that could be made to the existing lineups to offset some of this imbalance, but trading one or more of the veterans for younger players who compliment the skillset of the Spurs’ younger slashers or trading for future draft compensation would be worth exploring.

LaMarcus Aldridge

I don’t think trading Aldridge is worth taking back long-term salary unless the draft pick has the potential to be a lottery pick. Problem is, I don’t see any team giving up a potential lottery pick just to shed some future salary since lottery teams aren’t championship contenders anyhow. The only exception is if a playoff team owns the draft pick of another lottery team. This scenario seems like a massive long shot though.

Simply buying out Aldridge might be worth it if he’s willing to give back some money in the process. The reason I say this is the Spurs are only $1 million under the luxury tax, complicating potential trades with other players (more on this later). If he gives back what he’ll likely make in the buyout market (likely the veteran’s minimum), that would give the Spurs some more cap flexibility the rest of the season.

Rudy Gay

Gay seems like the most likely Spur to be traded before the deadline due to his reasonable expiring contract, strong play, and positional versatility. Of course, those are also all reasons to not trade Gay, hence the difficulty in making trades.

I would like to see Gay get traded before the deadline. I don’t see him re-signing with the Spurs in the offseason, and him and Mills sharing the court together makes it very difficult to assess the Spurs’ other bench pieces due to their propensity to create shots for themselves or play a two-man game between themselves. They are both high usage players, and I’d prefer to see some of those possessions get distributed to players like Walker and Vassell.

I don’t think Gay could net the Spurs a first round pick, but it’s possible. At the very least they might be able to get an early second round pick and a young player with some upside.

The Miami Heat don’t have much in the way of draft compensation, so I have a feeling the Spurs were asking for Precious Achiuwa in any trade involving Gay. To me that’s a reasonable ask, albeit one that will likely result in Gay ending the season in San Antonio.

Trey Lyles

It was just a few months ago when Lyles was talking about how he hoped to stay with the Spurs for a long time. How quickly things change when not getting consistent minutes. I don’t think Lyles by himself would net the Spurs anything that would make it worthwhile since he’s shown an ability to fill in nicely when called upon, but I could see him being used as salary filler in any potentially larger trade (more on this later).

DeMar DeRozan

I’ve made it known how I feel about DeRozan for quite some time. The Spurs don’t have anybody else on the roster who comes close to matching his playmaking ability, and there’s nobody who is reasonably obtainable this offseason that would be better than DeRozan. Because of that, my top priority would be to work on an extension with him. However, it’s a two-way street. If DeRozan has no plans of re-signing with the Spurs this offseason, trading him when his value is at the highest of his career would be a great idea.

Potential trades

Without any known suitors for Gay and Aldridge likely being bought out, I’m going to focus on a couple potential trades for DeRozan that might work out for both teams.

Spurs and Knicks

Next.

Spurs and Bulls

The Bulls are reportedly shopping Lauri Markkanen, who is likely due for a hefty raise in restricted free agency this offseason. As I mentioned before, the Spurs are sorely lacking consistent outside shooting in the starting lineup and rely too much on dribble penetration into collapsing defenses. Yes, the Spurs have Luka Samanic on the roster, but that doesn’t mean a more established player like Markkanen should be off the table. Far from it.

Markkanen is averaging nearly 18 points and 6 rebounds while shooting 40% from distance this season. Injuries and questions on defense keep this trade from being a slam dunk, but defense has not been the Spurs’ issue this season. And let’s not forget, DeRozan is far from a lockdown defender himself. Markkanen and Poeltl look like a good pairing on paper.

The full trade I propose is Markkanen, Otto Porter Jr., and some draft compensation for DeRozan and Lyles. The Spurs would be taking back $2 million more than they are sending, thus putting them $1 million over the luxury tax line. If Aldridge were to give back $1 million to be bought out, the Spurs could make this trade and stay under the luxury tax. There are other transactions that could take place to get the Spurs under the luxury tax, but this is an example of how buying Aldridge out for some cap relief could be beneficial to the Spurs.

Spurs and Magic

The reported trade between these two teams is DeRozan for Even Fournier, salary filler (likely Al-Farouq Aminu), and draft compensation. If the Magic are somehow offering their first round pick for this year (or next), even if lightly protected, the Spurs should jump on this opportunity.

Fournier is no slouch himself, averaging 19 points and shooting 38% from distance. I have a feeling the Magic are only offering a second round pick (or two) or else this deal might have already happened.

Spurs and Warriors

This one somehow feels the most likely and least likely at the same time. The Warriors’ window is now, as Steph Curry is already 33 years old (crazy, I know). DeRozan is unquestionably better than Andrew Wiggins and would make the Warriors clear title contenders next season when Klay Thompson returns.

This trade would hinge on two things: 1) Are the Warriors willing to offer James Wiseman or the Timberwolves’ first round pick in the trade and 2) Are the Spurs willing to take on Wiggins’ contract, which is worth over $30 million dollars each of the next two seasons?

I don’t know, which is why I said this trade feels both the most and least likely out of all the ones I’ve heard thus far. It makes a lot of sense, but it’s also reliant on a couple major decisions by two well-run franchises.

What I want

  • I want the Spurs get either a second round pick or some salary cap flexibility in any trade or buyout with Aldridge and to not take on longterm salary unless it nets a potential lottery pick (which isn’t happening).
  • I want to see Gay traded for a late first round pick or a young player with promise. This could open up a few minutes for Samanic off the bench. He did well enough with his minutes before the all-star break to warrant some regular minutes in the rotation.
  • I want to see DeRozan get traded if he’s not willing to stay with the team longterm. There are a number of trades I’ve seen floated around by the national media that could work for both teams. It should be noted that not all teams interested in DeRozan will have cap space in the offseason, so trading for him to retain his bird rights could play a factor over the next couple days.
  • I want to continue not hearing Mills’ name mentioned in any trade rumors. That’s exactly how it should be.
  • I want the Spurs to hold onto their entire young core, at least before the deadline. Walker would be the most likely to get traded, but he’s shown flashes of being an explosive scorer at all three levels. He’s too young with too much potential to trade.