By Collin Reid
Ahh, the trade season! Behind free agency, this is the second most important transactional period in the NBA calendar and one of many fans’ favorite parts of the season. Rumors of All-Star-level players being interested in a new home seem to surface every year around this time and this season is no different.
The San Antonio Spurs have fully thrust themselves into trade deadline mania setting what must be a franchise record by making an in-season trade in two (TWO!) consecutive seasons. Even crazier- they may not be done.
With one player likely to be moved, and more chatter surrounding prominent Spurs players than in most seasons, here are some important questions and considerations for the Spurs heading into the 2022 NBA Trade Deadline.
Did the San Antonio Spurs ruin Thaddeus Young’s value by not playing him more or trading him earlier?
Did the Memphis Grizzlies ruin Andre Iguodala’s trade value in the 2019-2020 season? Did the Oklahoma City Thunder ruin Trevor Ariza or Al Horford’s value last year? What about Goran Dragic in Toronto this season? I suppose it depends on what you mean by “ruin value”.
These situations have become in vogue over the past few seasons – as part of a larger off-season move a young team acquires a veteran who doesn’t fit their timeline. That veteran plays little-to-none while waiting for his new team to trade him. The young team is able to add to the value of their previous off-season trade by trading that veteran again for more assets by the trade deadline or in the off-season.
But most of the time, the assets the team trading the veteran gets are either A) interesting but currently under-performing young players B) second-round draft picks, or C) maybe some combination of the two. The only deal mentioned above that involved the team getting back a first-round pick was the Thunder trading Al Horford to the Boston Celtics. The only reason they received a first-round pick was that they took back Kemba Walker’s contract, not because of Al Horford’s value.
The Spurs are probably not in a position to trade Thaddeus Young for a first-round pick. If the Spurs, at any point, had a trade on the table that involved them getting a first-round pick in a trade for Young that did not involve them sending more value out or taking back bad contracts, they certainly would have made it by now.
A likely trade partner in a Young trade is the Phoenix Suns, who seem to be the first team (and often the last team) discussed in any theoretical Young deal. While it’s unclear what the trade construction would be, the Spurs would almost certainly get back Dario Saric and some light (i.e., not first-round pick) draft compensation. A deal like this would make sense for both teams. The Suns get a player who can help them in their coming playoff run and the Spurs would get a player who could easily be the Spurs’ second-best big in their rotation next season and beyond.
While the situation is different from those above because the Young actually wanted to play, whatever the Spurs get back in trade will probably be fair value and the type of deal that was offered the whole time. The trade deadline can create a sort of bidding war, and if Young was the object of several teams’ affection after they fail on their initial pursuit, a looming deadline could result in the Spurs getting more in return for him.
Which players are at their peak value currently?
If the Spurs wanted to sell high on any players on their current roster, the obvious choices would be Dejounte Murray and Jakob Poeltl, who are both receiving interest by other teams. Other teams have been “calling” about Dejounte Murray, according to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, who notes that the Spurs would likely not engage in any trade talks for Murray, and the Toronto Raptors have interest in re-acquiring Poeltl, according to Marc Stein.
While trading either of these players is highly unlikely and would certainly make the Spurs much worse this season, as trading either one of the two best players on any team would, neither player should be untradeable.
No established player on the Spurs’ current roster projects as the number one option on a championship team, meaning the Spurs will likely have to trade or draft a player of that caliber. Trading Murray or Poeltl now would likely net the Spurs draft capital that would make either or both routes easier. The Raptors in particular have quite a few large wing players, a position the Spurs have little depth at, meaning the Spurs could get either a high-level rotation player or a draft pick back in a Poeltl trade.
Which Spurs’ players would fit most seamlessly into playoff contenders’ rosters?
One obvious answer here is Young who was discussed at length above. Another interesting player to watch who fits this description, though, is Derrick White. The Atlanta Hawks are reportedly interested in White according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. Trading White to the Hawks could finally land the Spurs John Collins, who they were reportedly interested in signing in the 2021 off-season.
White could fit into most playoff teams as a high-level back-court defender and skilled secondary or tertiary playmaker. Like with Murray and Poeltl, the Spurs are very unlikely to trade White before the trade deadline, but should not rule out moving him if a team makes the right offer.