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How the Raptors’ trade of OG Anunoby affects the Spurs

The trade might make it harder for the Spurs to get the Raptors’ 2024 first-round pick, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

NBA: Toronto Raptors-Media Day John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Raptors and Knicks have made the second big trade of the season, after the James Harden to LA transaction. RJ Barret will return to his native Canada along with Immanuel Quickley and a 2024 second-round pick. OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn and Precious Achiuwa are heading to New York.

Normally a deal between Eastern Conference non-contenders wouldn’t concern the Spurs, but the Raptors owe San Antonio a top-six protected first-round pick in 2024 and this deal could affect whether or not it conveys in the next draft. So let’s take at what it all means for the Spurs.

What the trade means for the Spurs

It’s important to know the details of the pick the Silver and Black is owed from the Jakob Poeltl trade. The Spurs own the Raptors’ 2024 pick as long as it doesn’t fall in the top six. If it does, Toronto gets to keep it and will owe San Antonio their 2025 first-round pick unless it falls in the top six. The same applies to their 2026 pick. If it hasn’t been conveyed by then, then they will owe the Spurs two second-rounders, one in 2026 and one in 2027.

The Raptors are currently tied for the seventh-worst record in the league. If the season ended today and they didn’t jump up in the lottery, the pick would convey and San Antonio would have two picks in the top 10. If the trade improves the Raptors, they might make a push up the standings but the Spurs would still get a pick that would likely be closer to the middle of the first round than the bottom, as the best-case scenario for this version of the Raptors would probably be to become a play-in team. The real impact this trade could have is that it could make Toronto just bad enough to keep its pick in 2024.

The five worst teams in the league are unlikely to turn things around, as the Pistons, Spurs, Wizards, Hornets and Trail Blazers don’t have a lot of top-end talent and would be reluctant to make win-now trades while finding themselves so far off the play-in spots. Things get interesting after that with the other squads with bad records. The Grizzlies now have Ja Morant and should start climbing up the ladder. The Hawks are reportedly shopping Dejounte Murray in hopes of getting better after underachieving. Those two franchises will try to win. The Jazz and Bulls are wildcards, as they could decide to trade away starters in hopes of bottoming out, but would have a tough time outtanking the terrible teams.

If the Raptors take a step back after making a big move in the middle of the season, they could easily fall to a bottom-six record. They wouldn’t even have to actively tank or blow things up, yet that could still be a possibility. The Anunoby trade could be the precursor to a Pascal Siakam trade, as the front office is already entertaining offers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. If this is a reset for the Raptors — and it certainly looks like it will be — the Spurs’ chances of getting a second lottery pick in 2024 are not looking good unless the ping-pong balls bless them. But is that necessarily a bad thing?

San Antonio has its centerpiece in 19-year-old Victor Wembanyama. Jeremy Sochan and Malaki Branham, two starters, are still 20 years old and trying out different positions. Other young pieces are still struggling to find their way. It could be argued that one of the Spurs’ biggest problems is that they have too many core young players who are all still looking to see how they fit with one another. Adding two heralded rookies at once next offseason could create a logjam of projects that could require more developmental manpower and minutes than the Spurs could have at their disposal without forcing the front office to pull the plug on prospects currently on the roster. Getting a steady drip of young, cheap, talented players through the draft this early in the rebuild, when the coaching staff is still trying to figure out what it has, is probably better than adding several pieces at the same time. In the future, when there’s more certainty, that would change.

Holding the Raptors’ 2025 first-rounder instead of their 2024 also offers another benefit, as it gives the Spurs an extra year to use it as a potential trade piece. From the outside, it doesn’t look like Toronto is fully bottoming out. Even if they trade Siakam, they will still get good value back. They might have a bottom-six record this year but if Barnes lives up to his potential, they add a solid rookie, and keep the other rotation-caliber players they have, they should be a play-in hopeful and not a bottom-dweller next year, turning a rebuild into a reload. In that situation, the pick would remain a first-rounder that is likely to convey and San Antonio could use it to speed up its rebuild if there’s progress next season. Considering the Silver and Black have the rights to their pick as well as the Hawks’ 2025 from the Dejounte Murray trade, they could have an instant rebuild package ready for a team looking to blow things up.

It will be interesting to monitor what the Raptors do next. They could easily trade Siakam for a package centered on picks and ensure they keep their 2024 selection or they could either keep him or go for a return of rotation players and hope the new faces around Barnes improve the team. Both decisions would work for San Antonio.

The only really bad scenario for the Spurs would be a complete tear-down and rebuild that would keep Toronto picking highly enough for the first-rounder they owe to turn into second-rounders, but that seems unlikely to happen.