Rumors of unrest among stars are flying in the NBA right now. While the Spurs have not been directly involved in them, the reports about turmoil in Atlanta and Chicago could have a huge effect on San Antonio’s rebuild. If Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan leave the Bulls, and Trae Young forces his way out of the Hawks, the draft picks those two franchises owe the Silver and Black could become a lot more valuable.
Naturally, Spurs fans are salivating at the possibility of the extra picks the team has coming turning into blue chip assets, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. Things could work out in San Antonio’s favor in the end, but at this point, it seems too soon to be too invested in the dysfunction of others, since nothing seems imminent.
Let’s start with the rumors. There are different types of reports when it comes to NBA stars potentially being on the move. Sometimes the player or his agency will essentially say they want out, or at least heavily hint at it. Sometimes the front office will start leaking about the star’s bad behavior in an attempt to get ahead of the situation and avoid blame after parting ways. Sometimes a report comes out of nowhere and it refuses to go away, as it did with Dejounte Murray over the summer. In all three cases, there’s a good chance that some kind of move is likely, as either the team, the player or both are trying to figure out a way to part ways. And then there are the rumors that start with the speculation of rival executives, which had been the case with Young in Atlanta and DeRozan in Chicago.
It would be reckless to fully ignore those types of reports because executives are typically plugged in with agencies and have more knowledge than most insiders, but they also have agendas and don’t have to face repercussions for what they say. When things are going poorly on teams that have gone all in, it’s inevitable for people to wonder if the front office is trying to blow things up or if a star will force his way out. A person with no skin in the game, like an executive that has no relationship with a specific franchise and who can remain anonymous, doesn’t have to be too worried about how they phrase things. So is it possible the current rumor that Young hates his coach and is unhappy on a bad situation in Atlanta is accurate? Of course it is. But it doesn’t mean the Hawks are facing impending doom.
Even if the reports about Young and DeRozan, as well as the seemingly more credible one about LaVine, turn out to be true, there’s no indication that their teams would blow it up instead of trying to stay relevant. The fact that the Spurs have some of those franchises’ future picks actually provides the perfect motivation to try to at least remain competitive, and both the Hawks and the Bulls made the moves they made with the express objective of making deep playoff runs. Assuming the Bulls have to move their two star scorers, they could simply try to get a good return on them in the form of players who can still help them make the playoffs. If that sounds unlikely, just remember that the Spurs chose to bring in DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl when they had to get rid of Kawhi Leonard simply because they didn’t want to bottom out.
Even if things look bad at the end of this season for those franchises, the Spurs might not get the type of asset out of the situation that every fan fantasizes about since the earliest the team will get a pick from either franchise is 2025. Years ago, one of the most coveted assets in the league was an unprotected 2021 Miami Heat pick because teams believed the Heat, reeling after losing LeBron James and led by an aging Dwyane Wade, were going to bottom out. The Suns had it in 2018 and used it to trade for Mikal Bridges from the 76ers in the 2018 draft, when it was still thought of as really valuable. The pick was then moved around and ended up in Oklahoma City, where it landed in the late teens since in the span of three seasons, Miami managed to rebuild and won 40 games behind Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro. The same could happen to the Bulls and the Hawks between now and 2025.
To be clear, it’s a good thing for the Spurs that the teams that owe them picks could be in disarray. Those assets could turn out to be incredibly valuable if the Hawks and Bulls collapse in the next couple of years. A perfect example is the Lakers struggling and owing a 2023 pick swap to the Pelicans from the Anthony Davis trade. Things could absolutely work out well for San Antonio.
It’s just still too soon to get too excited about something that is years away. So let’s all hope for the worst for the Bulls and Hawks while always remembering that even if those picks don’t turn out to be the best, the Spurs could have a successful rebuild if they just nail the things they can actually control.