Before Wembymania started and swiftly ended in Summer League, the Spurs made a really interesting trade. They landed Reggie Bullock and the rights to swap first-round picks in 2030 with the Mavericks by facilitating the deal that sent Grant Williams to Dallas.
The move is mostly about the swap since San Antonio is in asset acquisition mode, but it deserves closer attention because it’s part of a larger trend about how the front office is handling the rebuild.
Bullock could become the new Josh Richardson
Richardson and Bullock are not necessarily similar players, since J-Rich was more than a 3-and-D guy, but they do share some traits. Both are veterans with mid-sized contracts that were moved by teams trying to upgrade. Both joined San Antonio as their current contract is close to expiring. Both could be useful in a limited role for a team that has a lot of young players, and both could be used as trade bait as soon as another team shows interest.
Let’s start with the on-court fit. Last season, the Spurs needed some secondary ball handlers, and Richardson filled that role well. This upcoming year, with Tre Jones, Malaki Branham, Devonte’ Graham, Blake Wesley and even Jeremy Sochan around, there will be enough players who can facilitate. What is missing is shooting and wing defense. Bullock could provide it. The former Maverick is a career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc on good volume and has been a solid if unremarkable defender for years. If everyone is healthy, Bullock shouldn’t play heavy minutes, but if the Spurs are once again cautious with the way they handle injuries and take their time integrating the younger guys into their rotation, playing the veteran in the few first months of the season could allow them to showcase him for a trade.
There’s a rational fear that having Bullock around could stimy the development of Branham and Julian Champagnie, but having some competition won’t be the worst thing for the younger guys. And if Bullock doesn’t play much, there’s still a chance he gets traded midseason for an asset, just like Thaddeus Young did.
The Spurs have traded cap space for expiring contracts
The Spurs came into the offseason armed with cap room to facilitate trades for a fee. They used it to get Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens, Reggie Bullock, a future second-rounder and a pick swap, which is a decent haul. Now, they have mostly used all of their room so it could be hard to be a player in the market. The fact that no one else really has cap space, though, could work in San Antonio’s favor as two major trades could still be coming.
At some point, Damian Lillard and James Harden will be moved unless the front offices of the Trail Blazers and the 76ers call their bluffs. When they do, they might need a third team to take on a contract they don’t want. The Spurs could do that while sending out viable rotation guys on expiring contracts like Bullock and Osman. A simple example could be the Heat having to include Duncan Robinson in a deal for Lillard. The Blazers won’t want him, so San Antonio could step in to take him in while offering someone who could be waived immediately or kept on the books for only a year. Combining Osman, Bullock and Khem Birch, the Spurs could have close to $40 million in expiring contracts ready to be moved. Expiring deals are not as valuable as they once were, but they could still help grease the wheels on trades.
The good thing is that if no one needs them, the Spurs can simply keep him on the books, whether the players get waived or not, and essentially roll their cap space into next offseason. Even with sizable Devin Vassell and potentially Zach Collins extensions included in the projection, San Antonio should once again have plenty of room to either make a splash if the front office thinks it’s time to go all-in or continue acquiring more assets by renting it out. Bullock is just one piece of that puzzle, but the fact that the Spurs only have one veteran, Graham, with a contract that extends past this season puts the franchise in a good position going forward.
The Bullock trade shows the front office has a plan
Bullock is a decent player who can be a stopgap at the wing if needed, but the most interesting thing about him being with the Spurs is that he’s part of a trend. The front office gets veterans on contracts that are expiring or close to expiring, tries to flip them, and if they can’t, they just use them to roll their cap space to the next summer. It’s a smart way of having enough experience on the roster without overcommitting to anyone and it has yielded some good returns on trades.
It took a while for the rebuild in San Antonio to start in earnest, but at this point it’s hard to find much to complain about how it has been handled, and the Bullock trade is just the latest example that Brian Wright seems to know what he’s doing.