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The benefits of the Spurs trading a pick for immediate help

The San Antonio Spurs picked an unusual path for rebuilding, so they can’t ignore the present like other teams. So trading one of their two late first round picks for a quality young veteran — like the Mavericks did with Christian Wood —could make sense.

NBA: Indiana Pacers at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Before the end of the Finals, the NBA had a trade. The Mavericks acquired Christian Wood from the Rockets for Boban Marjanovic, Marquese Chriss, Trey Burke, Sterling Brown and the 26th pick in the upcoming draft.

The transaction makes sense for both teams. Dallas gets an upgrade at the frontcourt position while Houston gets an extra pick to continue their rebuild without taking on long term salary. It’s a pretty straightforward exchange, but it’ll interesting to look at it with a Spurs perceptive for two reasons:

If Wood was so easy to get, maybe the Spurs should have been interested

The Rockets got expiring contracts and a late first rounder for Wood, which is an offer the Spurs could have easily matched or beaten. Wood averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds while shooting 39 percent from outside and plays a position in which San Antonio doesn’t have a lot of depth. A deal centered around Josh Richardson and the 25th pick would have gotten Houston a better return than the one they got from Dallas in a trade that would have also improved the Spurs frontcourt rotation and balanced out their roster.

Now, it’s important to mention that there’s a reason why a 26-year-old forward/center who puts up the numbers Wood does is on the market for a late pick. Anyone who has watched him knows that he seems to be an empty stats kind of player, has some of the worst body language in the league, and has some awful tendencies, like arguing calls instead of running back. His defense is also questionable, and it’s hard to determine if it’s just because he can’t step up on that end or is simply not interested in doing so. The Spurs have typically put an emphasis on character and have a group that plays hard and selflessly, so it would be understandable for them to be hesitant about bringing in someone like Wood. At the same time, if he could be an improvement over Zach Collins and Keita Bates-Diop, he could have been useful for a team that will once again try to make the postseason next year.

There are plenty of reasons why the Spurs might have simply not been interested in Wood, including the fact that he would have been a rental. He’s not a star, so it’s not worth getting upset about a potential missed opportunity. At the same time, improving the front court rotation by getting a talented big in his prime for just a low pick would have been good. Fortunately, it might still be a possibility.

Moving one of the low picks for immediate help could make sense

After choosing not to bottom out when Kawhi Leonard forced a trade, the Spurs find themselves in the unique position of having to simultaneously build for the future while still trying to win. Dejounte Murray is 26 years old. He’s ready now. The team is too good to tank, so they might as well try to make the playoffs, and trading one of the two non-lottery picks they have in an effort to improve the rotation for 2022/23 would help with that goal.

It’s not surprising that there was a report about the Spurs having a potential interest in Myles Turner. If the Pacers remain committed to rebuilding, keeping and re-signing the 26-year-old big man might not make sense. Armed with the 20th and 25th pick, San Antonio could make an intriguing offer. Maybe those two selections (or one of them and a future protected one) plus expiring contracts can interest the Pacers. Things would get trickier if they demand a young player back on top of or instead of a low pick, but if the front office is confident the former Texas Longhorn would re-sign, it could be worth the sacrifice.

A transaction like that would give the team a rim protector with more range than Jakob Poeltl while not really derailing their rebuilding effort because of the relatively low cost of the transaction and the age of the incoming player. Turner is just one of the names that should interest San Antonio. With one of those late picks, they could try to get Daniel Gafford from the Wizards or Jaxson Hayes from the Pelicans to be young backups who could potentially take over if Poeltl leaves in free agency.

They don’t need to only target centers, either. There have been rumors about a potential interest in OG Anunoby. While the Raptors might want more than a couple of low first round picks for their young forward, more modest targets could be available. As long as the incoming player is in that 25-27-year-old range or young, represents an upgrade over the players getting minutes off the bench last season, and have resale value, they might be worth a late pick that would likely net a prospect who won’t get playing time immediately and might not pan out.

The Spurs are not in the Mavericks’ position at this point, having failed to get to the playoffs, so making any type of win-now move, no matter the scope, might seem crazy at first glance. But as the draft approaches it will be important to keep in mind how unique their situation is. After spending years accumulating young players who are now entering their primes, they can’t completely ignore the present like most rebuilding teams do.

There’s no need to trade any of the picks for immediate help, but it might not be a bad idea to do so if the return is a relatively young rotation player who can help now and be flipped later. The Spurs clearly didn’t think Wood was worth the price, but they would be smart to keep an eye on others that might be.