Who said late-July can’t be an interesting time for the NBA? Now that the free agent dust has settled and summer league is over, things seem to be calming down around the league. Yet the San Antonio Spurs have gifted their fans with something to discuss from now until training camp starts in September.
With the signings of Sidy Cissoko and Sandro Mamukelashvili made official, the Spurs now have 18 players with guaranteed deals for the 2023-24 season. If you think that seems like a lot, then you would be correct! NBA teams can only have 15 players on the full-time active roster, and three “two-way” slots (currently occupied by Sir’Jabari Rice and Dominick Barlow) that oscillate between the G League and NBA. That means the Spurs need to get rid of three players before the regular seasons starts (they can take 20 to training camp.)
There are two options for San Antonio to address this issue. They could A). cut three players on expiring contracts and call it a day, or B). consolidate some players for a bigger contract, and add picks in the process. Given the Spurs offseason moves thus far, it seems like option B may align more with their strategy. Option A is obviously easier to do, but would leave potential assets still on the table.
Let’s look at three potential trades that the Spurs could make to get down to a 15-man roster (or close.)
Another Frenchman in San Antonio
This trade has made the rounds on Spurs Twitter (or Spurs X now? I don’t know.) Ian Begley of SNY.tv indicated that the Spurs have shown interest in Fournier this offseason. Fournier fell out of the New York Knicks rotation last season and has been looking for a new home. For my anime fans out there, he has said that he wants to come back like Goku in Dragon Ball Z next year.
With Victor Wembanyama on the team, why not go get his future Olympic teammate as a veteran leader? At his best, Fournier is an around 40% three-point shooter who can score efficiently in the half court. He’s a helpful offensive player despite being a defensive liability. He only played 27 games last season and was largely ineffective. Because he struggled, the Knicks will likely need to attach a first round pick here. In the 2024 draft, New York owns the selections of Detroit, Dallas and Washington – three teams with some major question marks. Here NY gives up their own first round pick, and bets on those three teams being worse.
The Spurs have to part ways with Doug McDermott here, which is a bit of a bummer given his emergence as a leader in the locker room. However, getting a first round pick out of him is a huge win for San Antonio. McBuckets has played for Tom Thibodeau before, and would give the Knicks some much needed movement shooting. Khem Birch’s deal is added in here to make the salary work. The Spurs would still need to cut two players in this situation. Perhaps with Fournier’s shooting and on-ball scoring, San Antonio would consider parting ways with Cedi Osman and Cam Payne? Tough decisions still remain in this scenario.
San Antonio gets in on the Dame trade
The Miami Heat want Damian Lillard, and Damian Lillard wants the Miami Heat. Yet the Portland Trail Blazers’ General Manager, Joe Cronin, has been reluctant to take Miami’s offer. The report is that Portland doesn’t want Tyler Herro, and instead prefers multiple first round picks in his stead. The Spurs have a surplus of draft capital that could allow them to scoop up an awesome player in his early-20s.
Let’s just get this out of the way... I know this is a lot for Herro. Not only do you have to give up two firsts (in a weaker 2024 draft class and they keep their picks in the 2026 draft which is supposedly stacked with guys like Cooper Flagg and Cameron Boozer) but they trade the recently acquired Reggie Bullock, who started for a pretty good Dallas Mavericks team. Unfortunately, Bullock’s salary is one of the few San Antonio can move to get to Herro’s $24 million salary. The Spurs would also need to wait until September to pull this trade off, as Bullock cannot be moved until then.
Herro is a really good player, and immediately becomes a part of the Spurs young core. Last year Herro put up 20.1 points, 4.2 assists and 5.4 rebounds per game on 44% shooting from the field and 38% from three. He’s a high volume scorer who can create his own shot. He was part of a lethal pick and roll combo with Bam Adebayo in Miami, putting up .939 points per possession in the action. Miami had him play point guard at times, where he showed the ability to be an underrated playmaker with more ball-handling opportunities.
He gets far too much hate defensively. Herro is an average NBA defender. He was able to hold his own far more last year with newly added strength to his frame. He would be one of the Spurs best scoring guards, and is an awesome pairing with Wembanyama in the pick and roll.
The Spurs shed two players, but would still need to cut one more in this deal. Herro and Malaki Branham could create an awesome 1-2 punch off of the bench scoring the basketball. Their combined playmaking could remove the need for a more traditional backup point guard like Payne. They could also start Herro alongside Devin Vassell in the back court, and move Tre Jones to a bench role.
A fan favorite hypothetical trade target is finally acquired
(NOTE: this trade also could not happen until September, when Bullock can be dealt)
I read the comment section on here from time to time. I know there is a certain group of Spurs fans who LOVE Ben Simmons. Guess what? I don’t think he’s all that bad either! He’s two years and a major back injury removed from three straight all-star seasons. If you really believe in the Spurs development system, isn’t this the perfect fit for a guy like him to recoup his value?
I’m not sure Brooklyn has a lot of leverage here. Simmons’ value has tanked to an all-time low after sitting out a full season and then playing poorly in 42 games last season. They will have to give up a second rounder because of that. In this deal they get two strong shooting wings in McDermott and Bullock, plus the sweet shooting Devonte’ Graham who could provide some scoring depth to their bench. The Nets could be a team that pushes to contend rather than rebuilding from the ground up after Mikal Bridges emergence last season.
IF Simmons can get back to some semblance of himself, he provides awesome defensive versatility and playmaking. The Spurs already have one unique player in Wembanyama and they could add another with Simmons. Imagine an uber-long lineup with Simmons, Vassell, Jeremy Sochan, Wemby and Zach Collins. Or they could play up-tempo with Simmons, Vassell, Keldon Johnson, Sochan and Wembanyama.
The upside of this deal depends on Simmons’ overall well-being. If anyone can get something out of the guy, it’s Gregg Popovich. With the team needing to shed players anyways, maybe now is the time to take a chance on the former all-star.