Back in 1996, the San Antonio Spurs and the New York Knicks made a trade which resulted in the Spurs receiving Charles Smith and Monty Williams while the Knicks received JR Reid, Brad Lohaus and a 1996 first round pick.
The Spurs were looking to replace Dennis Rodman who was traded to the Chicago Bulls for center Will Perdue.
However, did you know the Spurs really wanted to trade for Charles Oakley?
Instead, the Knicks turned to the Spurs, who originally called Grunfeld about acquiring Charles Oakley. San Antonio was looking for a power forward to replace Dennis Rodman and the Spurs now feel they have their man.
This made me think how Oakley would have been a suitable replacement for Rodman in the 1995-1996 season and how a David Robinson, Sean Elliott and Oakley front-court would have been formidable. Not to mention, he would have helped erase the “soft” label the Spurs had.
It also made me wonder if Oakely would have made a difference in the playoffs that year against the Utah Jazz.
That season, the Spurs finished first in the Midwest Division with a record of 59-23. In the playoffs they beat the Phoenix Suns in the first-round (3-1) but lost in the Western Conference semi-finals (4-2) to the Jazz.
In the playoffs for that season, Smith averaged 5.1 points, 50% from the field, 3.7 rebounds and averaged 37% from the free-throw line. Oakley averaged 13.1 points, 50% from the field, 8.6 rebounds and shot 69% from the free-throw line for the Knicks.
More importantly, Oakley would have been a big help in challenging the Jazz. He would have been a defensive pain for Karl Malone and would have provided the toughness the Spurs desperately needed.
He would have taken pressure off Robinson (who often had to guard Malone) leaving him to become a weak-side defender. It would have also left Robinson to defend and have his way on the offensive end against the likes of Greg Ostertag, Antoine Carr and Felton Spencer. Also, Oakely was the “enforcer” type. If any opposing player would have laid a hard foul on his teammate, they would have had to answer to him.
However, Oakley would have had trouble if Malone took him away from the paint and started to hit his outside shots. Oakley was not a quick defender away from the basket.
As for Smith, he lasted two seasons with the Spurs before retiring in 1997 due to injuries but I leave you with this. Here is what former Spurs’ GM, Gregg Popovich, had to say about Smith when the trade was finalized:
“We are thrilled to have been able to make this deal,” said Spurs GM Gregg Popovich. “Charles Smith is exactly what our team needed at the power forward position. Our frontline of David Robinson, Charles Smith and Sean Elliott is going to be among the best in the NBA.”