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Buy or Sell: The San Antonio Spurs face a tough decision

It’s trade deadline day, and the Spurs have many directions they could go. Here are a few trade suggestions just for fun.

Los Angeles Lakers v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

The NBA trade deadline is just a few hours away, which means trade machine usage is at 2016-17 Russell Westbrook levels. Fans all over the world are thinking of different ways their favorite team can get better, whether that’s by trading for a player or future assets. The San Antonio Spurs are in an interesting position thanks to their contract situations, youth, and that guy we call Wemby. This puts them in a place where they could be a buyer or seller in the trade market, depending on who’s made available and what teams offer. I dusted off my GM cap and came up with three trades as both a buyer and seller the Spurs could make (I also included a wild one for each just for kicks).

With these trades, I wanted to be reasonable for both sides, trying to include players and picks that each team would possibly be willing to part with and trade for. I also made it a point to avoid trading the Spurs core pieces or rookie contract players. That means you won’t see the likes of Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, or even Malaki Branham in these trades.

Now, let’s get into the trades.

Buyers

The Family Reunion

Every Spurs fan should know that there’s been mention of bringing the former All-Star back home. While there were some interesting things said on social media, nobody knows the standing behind the scenes other than those actually behind the scenes. What we do know is that Dejounte Murray was quoted saying, “Pop like a father figure to me. I would welcome it.” Also, we know that Dejounte fills arguably the team’s biggest need, has a track record of closing games, is on a really good deal considering what’s out there, and would likely be able to put some focus back onto the defensive side of the ball. He’s also shooting 38% from three on six attempts per game, and three-point shooting is something the Spurs could always use more of.

As far as the Atlanta side of things, I’m sorry, but you don’t get the same return as what you traded. The Hawks and Dejounte pairing is more like buying a car than buying a home: it loses value the moment it leaves the lot. There may be a desperate team vying to make a move they think will help win them a title, *cough* Lakers *cough*, but the Hawks would be hard-pressed to get all their picks back from the Spurs. Here, the Spurs toss one of them back and include another couple of first rounders. Odds lean to the Charlotte Hornets first turning into two second rounders, so when the dust settles, the Hawks get three firsts (one being recovering their own), three seconds, and Devonte Graham, who is included for salary purposes and only has a partial guarantee for next season. That’s more picks total than what they gave up, but the Spurs’ 2025 and the Boston Celtic’s 2028 first rounders are less value.

Finnishing the Rebuild

When I first started this exercise of figuring out potential trades, the Utah Jazz had just beat the Milwaukee Bucks 132-116 with Lauri Markkanen going for 21 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks on 5-15 shooting. They continued their winning ways, beating the Denver Nuggets, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Lakers, and Indiana Pacers, ending a six-game streak with a 134-129 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. That doesn’t mean he’s unattainable, though. It just means his value has likely increased. How much of the Spurs draft chest would PATFO be comfortable parting with to acquire a player like Markkanen?

Given how perfect of a fit he’d be alongside Victor Wembanyama and Jeremy Sochan in the frontcourt, that he’ll only be turning 27 this May, and they only have one player slotted to make more than $20-million per season through 2026-27, they’d be wise to unload for him. There’s a line of thinking in sports that you should prefer what you know over what may be. The picks the Spurs give up here could turn into an All-Star level player, but you can’t be sure. What you are sure of is that Markkanen would give the team a jolt down the stretch of this season and would vault them into being a possible top-4 team in the Western Conference next year.

Feeling Presidential

Not as high-level of a buy as Dejounte and Markkanen, but a buy, nonetheless. Malcolm Brogdon has shown Spurs fans what he can do when they played back-to-back games in Portland earlier this season. In the first game, Brogdon went for 29 points, six rebounds, and six assists while hitting six threes. The second game was almost the same, as he had 27 points, seven assists, and one rebound while hitting five threes. He’s an older piece the Spurs could trade for, but he’d undoubtedly fit with the roster they’ve constructed, and his playstyle will age better than traditional point guards — think Andre Miller.

At the very least, the Spurs get themselves a quality player who will bolster the backcourt (he’s a career 39.1% three-point shooter who has been over 42% the past two seasons) and will be on an expiring deal next season, which means they can recover what they traded to get him. It’s a gamble they should be willing to take if they feel they could make the playoffs next year with the right roster, especially since this might be all they can garner from Devonte Graham and Cedi Osman, plus they have second rounders to spare.

The Wild One

Not going to lie, this one was a lot of fun to come up with and took a good bit of time to work out (created before the LaVine announcement). Going to break it down for each team in bullet points.

New York Knicks: Trade Evan Fournier, Jericho Sims, and Ryan Arcidiacono along with a top-10 protected first from the Dallas Mavericks and top-4 protected first from Milwaukee Bucks to get themselves DeMar DeRozan. They’re currently the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and have already traded for OG Anunoby, so why not see where adding a player of DeMar’s caliber could take them? He’d give them another ballhandler and playmaker, which would take some of the weight off Jalen Brunson’s shoulders. If he doesn’t work out, then he’s off the books in the offseason and they’d have the money to extend OG or maybe bring in a free agent.

Orlando Magic: Trade Joe Ingles, Gary Harris, and Markelle Fultz along with a top-5 protected first from the Denver Nuggets, top-10 protected first, and the less favorable second rounder from the Boston Celtics or Memphis Grizzlies for Zach LaVine and Cedi Osman. Even though LaVine is going to be out the rest of the season, that isn’t a dealbreaker, especially since he’ll still be under contact when he returns. Also, the Magic likely don’t instantly become contenders with the addition of LaVine – it’s a move rooted in what they could be the next couple seasons as Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner continue to grow. The one thing the Magic could use right now is more offense. They score less per game than the Spurs, their best three-point shooter percentage wise is their starting center, and their defense is good enough to carry him on that end. The tricky part becomes the salary down the road, but for a young team likely to make at least the play-in, they could use a veteran who can carry the offense when they’re in a scoring slump.

Chicago Bulls: Trade DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Lonzo Ball for Evan Fournier, Ryan Arcidiacono, Doug McDermott, Devonte Graham, Joe Ingles, Gary Harris, the Mavericks’ top-10 protected first, the Bucks’ top-4 protected first, the Nuggets’ top-5 protected first, the Magic’s top-10 protected first, and their 2025 first back from the Spurs. After starting 5-14, the Bulls righted the ship and don’t seem to be in the “blow it up” situation they looked to be headed toward. That doesn’t mean they should stand pat though. This is them hitting the big, red reset button and trying to earn back some of the picks they’ve traded away. They get off the LaVine contract, get something back from DeMar instead of him possibly walking in the offseason, and stop having to wonder if Lonzo is going to play again. The players they’re trading for end up in buyouts, have partially guaranteed contracts, or have some other way of leaving that would allow the Bulls to fill their roster out around Coby White, Patrick Williams, and Alex Caruso. They also get five first-round picks back in the deal, which will help with their rebuild.

San Antonio Spurs: Trade Cedi Osman, Doug McDermott, Devonte Graham, and Chicago’s 2025 first back to Chicago for Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, Jericho Sims, and the less favorable second rounder from Boston or Memphis. Lonzo will be 27 and Fultz will be 26 next season. When healthy, they’re well-rounded point guards who get after it defensively. The question for each of them comes down to health, but that’s why it only took expirings (Devonte’s contract next year is only partially guaranteed, so he can be waived) and the Bulls’ first. Some reports show Lonzo is trending upward, and Fultz returned from injury on January 7. If either of them hit for the Spurs, it’d be well worth trading that first rounder.

Now we come to the selling portion of our program, which is likely where the Spurs will land if a deal does happen to be made before 2 PM CT. In these scenarios, the Spurs are basically saying, “Let’s get something for players we’d otherwise lose for nothing in the offseason and free up some minutes for the likes of Dominic Barlow and Sidy Cissoko – perhaps even bring David Duke Jr. into the fray.”

Sellers

The Rolling Thunder

The Oklahoma City Thunder are on the kind of trajectory they found themselves on in the early 2010s, where an NBA Finals berth seems to be on the horizon. They could possibly find themselves there this year, but they’d likely need to make a trade or two to solidify their bench and wing depth. You can refer back to the way they looked playing the Los Angeles Clippers and realize they’re a little small on the wing compared to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. And when the playoffs roll around and rotations shorten, how much can you trust to get out of Kenrich Williams, Isaiah Joe, and Aaron Wiggins? Doug would provide them another knockdown movement shooter, and Cedi provides quality secondary playmaking, can make a three or two, and give them some minutes guarding a bigger wing.

The Thunder don’t need to burn through their cache of draft picks to snag these guys, either. All it’d take is to match salary and toss a few second-rounders the Spurs way – none of them even being their own. Thanks to a contract revision for Davis Bertans, his contract is only guaranteed for 5.25 million dollars next season, which would be waivable should the Spurs choose to do that. For Aleksej Pokusevski, he’ll be a free agent after the season who the Spurs would likely let walk.

Magic in the Air

As noted above, the Magic could really use some three-point shooting. Joe Ingles has been a solid player for a long time, but he’s not close to the same guy he was in Utah. Doug is much more mobile and has been shooting at a better clip than Ingles, not to mention he does happen to be four years younger if they wanted to bring Doug back after the season. Ingles has a leg up defensively still, but on a team like this Magic one, Doug’s limitations on that end won’t be too severe. Ingles’ contract is up for a team option, so he’d likely be moved off of after the season, but the Spurs are able to tack on a couple more picks in future years.

Knick-knack Picks Come Back

The Knicks have been playing really well this year, specifically the 2024 portion, as they’ve gone 16-3 since the calendar changed. They have a good thing going with their All-NBA level player, Jalen Brunson, leading the way. What they could use to keep the ball rolling is some more consistent shooting and another guy who can make a play off the dribble. For a player they don’t play and will likely be gone after the season, a future second rounder, and a first they received from the Detroit Pistons that’s protected 1-18 this year, lottery-protected in 2025, 1-11 protected in 2026, and 1-9 protected in 2027 (it turns into 2027 second-round pick), they could do a lot worse that Doug and Cedi. Once again, the Spurs prize is getting more picks and freeing up minutes to divvy out to some younger players.

The Wild Wild West

Here’s a trade that features a couple teams mentioned above, but in a grander scale. Let’s start with the big-ticket item:

Oklahoma City Thunder: Trade Davis Bertans, three first-round picks, and three second rounders for Lauri Markkanen. The idea here is the same as it was above when he was traded to the Spurs. Pairing a seven-foot knockdown shooter next to a player who’s taller and is likely to make multiple All-Defensive teams, let alone be in the running for multiple Defensive Player of the Year awards. A two-man game with SGA and Chet with Markkanen on the wing should scare any team knowing they’ll need to beat the Thunder four times later this year. They’d likely need to toss in a younger player to the Jazz for them to agree (perhaps they decide Josh Giddey is expendable), but for now, it’s just the picks.

Dallas Mavericks: Trade Richaun Holmes and a lottery-protected 2027 first-round pick for Kelly Olynyk. How do you value a player like Olynyk? That answer can vary wildly based on how you view roster construction. One thing we can all probably agree on is that the Mavs don’t have quite enough around Luka Dončić to really make a push in the playoffs. Olynyk will provide them another solid big who can shoot well. He does a lot of little things that add up to winning basketball and can share the court with another big if they want to go that way.

Utah Jazz: Trade Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynyk, and a lottery-protected first in 2029 for Doug McDermott, Devonte Graham, four first-round picks, and three second rounders. For the Jazz, this is all about resetting and stacking the draft deck in their favor. Markkanen is extension eligible and the clock would be ticking for them to compete for a title if they sign him to one. His value might not be any higher than it is right now, but the issue is what team has picks on top of young players they’re willing to give up? They might need to take the picks where they can get ‘em and snag a couple expirings in the process.

San Antonio Spurs: Trade Doug McDermott, Devonte Graham, and a second-round pick for Davis Bertans, Richaun Holmes, a lottery-protected first-round pick, and a second rounder. Holmes was traded to Dallas this past offseason but hasn’t found himself with a recurring spot in the rotation. With how awesome Derrick Lively II has been as a rookie and the kind of lineups the Mavs like to use, he’s likely going to be collecting dust the rest of his time there when Lively is healthy. Who knows, maybe he can give the Spurs some decent minutes, as they’ve had quite the struggle in non-Wemby center minutes. On top of taking a flyer on Holmes, they reunite with Bertans, who they can let go after the season, and snag a couple more picks for the future.

Finding trades that work and could be seen as one every team involved is willing to do is trickier than you may think. There’s a reason why we don’t see trade after trade happening. If you have a trade you’ve put together in the trade machine, you’re more than welcome to share them here in the comments or with me over on X (@caseylevane).

This afternoon, we’ll find out what the Spurs end up doing. Whatever that is, it’s not the end of the world.