The 2021 NBA Draft is tonight and the Spurs are ~currently~ slotted with the 12th overall pick. Bruno and I re-visited draft strategy in the past for GM Brian Wright, and also took a look at some of our favorite and least favorite prospects if the Spurs were to stay at 12.
Bruno, the Spurs are currently slotted at 12, but hear me out, what if they weren’t? Where do you think a potential trade in this draft would have the Spurs end up in the pecking order, and what would you be targeting in a draft day trade?
Bruno: It’s worth caveating that the Spurs seem like they’re wired to stand pat in drafts and make the value swing, whether that’s in the late lottery where they were last year and are this year, or towards the back of the first round. That said, the case can be made that a shift in approach wouldn’t be the worst thing if you think there’s a ceiling on the core talent the team’s accumulated. That said, it’s a fun exercise to ask what kind of move might the front office be willing to make given the value placed on its players and assets and who they might want to swing for.
I’ll single out two players that have been linked to them already who may not be available at 12 as possible trade-up opportunities: Alperen Sengun out of Turkey and Josh Giddey from Australia. Both are probably still on the board at the 8 spot, and the Magic (who also pick 5th) may be open for business. Would they be interested in swapping picks if the Spurs included a protected first-round pick down the road? Could the team picking after them (Sacramento) be interested in pushing their chips more towards breaking their playoff drought and take one of the Spurs’ seasoned guards in exchange for number 9?
Do you see a better play out there that PATFO might explore?
Walker: Interesting thoughts. As you well know I’m a proponent of taking a big wing in this draft and so I’d be interested in seeing if Oklahoma City is open for business at 6 if they can’t move up themselves. All of this is a targeted approach to draft Scottie Barnes. If not, I think there’s also a case for a trade down. Is Kai Jones on the board around 16? Can you move back to 19 and take Trey Murphy (who I would be perfectly fine with at 12)? The only way I see a trade up for this team is if they’re moving for one of the high upside wings (Kuminga, Barnes) or their future starting big man (Sengun). If the Spurs decide to move
up, are there any young players on the current roster that you’d be okay with moving to pick higher in this draft?
Bruno: Barnes is a fun upside swing and complement for SA, but OKC is such a tough team to consider as a trade partner without expecting the Spurs to give up too much. What do you give the front office that has everything (in terms of future assets, ostensibly) and values nothing (in terms of current contributions)?
As far as who may be untouchable among the young guys, I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that no one should be off the table if it means the Spurs getting a higher-ceiling long-term piece — it just comes down to price vs return, and if the Spurs don’t overvalue their own guys for culture and continuity. I would assume Keldon Johnson is the player (and contract) they’d be the hardest to move on from though?
Walker: I would agree and I think the likelihood Vassell is gone after his rookie season is low as well. As for OKC, trade rumors surround Shai Gilgeous-Alexander right now which makes you wonder if they’re just now beginning their tear down. Would future as well as current firsts still interest them? I’d think so. It’s a hard deal to make though with Oklahoma City seemingly chasing their next franchise cornerstone. So, with all of those things in mind, would you rather see the Spurs trade up or trade back? Or are both options unappealing and would you like to stay put at 12?
Bruno: Any action is fun and a change of pace, so from a pure entertainment standpoint I’m up for any moves on Thursday. It would also indicate that the front office sees a need one way or another to take swings. If I had to pick, without talking specific players, I’d rather see them trade up and shoot for the guy they think could raise their ceiling, which is what I assume is the likelier of the two. That said, it seems like they’re going to have some appealing options dropping to them if they stand pat, so I’d be just fine with them making the value play once again. After all they still (should) have all that cap room to use in free agency and make moves that could impact their ability to compete sooner than any draft pick could.
Walker: I agree that any trade should be a trade up for what you feel is a future top of the line scoring option, but it seems that the Spurs are content as can be to sit at 12, and take the same best player approach that they’ve taken in past seasons. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony wrote “Sources around the Spurs say they will be taking a best-player-available approach to this draft, as they are about to embark on a rebuilding effort that will require stockpiling as much talent as possible regardless of positional fit.” I would expect the Spurs to sit at 12 and would also expect Sengun to be atop their board at that spot, but it also doesn’t appear that we can rule out another guard being brought into the fold. That alone should tell you how PATFO feel about the state of the current roster, especially the backcourt. Tonight is shaping up to be wildly unpredictable, but hopefully we’ve given you a variety of different outcomes to be prepared for.