Over the last 5 games, San Antonio Spurs forward DeMarre Carroll has been out on the injury report for two games with illness and he’s been on the inactive list for three games, usually sitting behind the bench in a suit when healthy.
The two positions Carroll plays – the 3 and the 4, currently don’t have any minutes available for him to get into the rotation. At the 4, there’s Trey Lyles and Rudy Gay taking all the minutes, and even they have seen both of their minutes decrease with Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich going even smaller at times with four wings/guards around LaMarcus Aldridge or Jakob Poeltl in various lineups.
At the 3, DeMar DeRozan has the starting job there and Lonnie Walker IV has earned the backup spot at that position. When Walker IV isn’t meeting the expectations Popovich has out on the floor during his time, Marco Belinelli will often get his chance at the backup 3.
This has been the key reason why Carroll hasn’t been able to get into many games and lately, he’s not even on the active roster, despite being one of the free agents San Antonio acquired in the offseason with a 3-year, partially guaranteed deal.
The annual NBA trade deadline is now less than 2 weeks away, so to explore the Spurs’ options regarding Carroll, here’s what they’re able to do.
Carroll is earning $7 million this season, $6.65 million next season, and $7 million in 2021-2022, with $1.35 million partially guaranteed. For this trade deadline, the number to focus on is the $7 million, that’s the number trading teams would be using if they were looking to acquire Carroll.
At this point in the season, there’s no teams with enough cap space to just absorb Carroll’s $7 million salary. The next place to look are team’s that have large enough trade exceptions to absorb Carroll’s $7 million salary. After digging through each team with a trade exception over $7 million, there’s three teams that stand out – Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Portland.
Dallas should have $9.6 million remaining with their trade exception that will expire on February 7, after taking Willie Cauley-Stein into that exception. Oklahoma City has a $9.3 million and $10.4 million trade exception that will each expire in July. Portland has a $7.1 million trade exception that will expire in January 2021.
Now, just because these teams would be able to acquire Carroll in their trade exceptions doesn’t mean they’re actually exploring a trade to try to get him.
Before acquiring Cauley-Stein, the Mavericks were reportedly looking for a wing or big. Now that they got a big via trade, the question remains are they still seeking a wing? As for the Thunder and Blazers, they each just made recent trades with the Thunder acquiring forward Isaiah Roby from the Mavs, and the Blazers trading for Trevor Ariza, Caleb Swanigan, and Wenyen Gabriel.
If the Spurs were to find a team that could take Carroll’s deal in a trade exception, San Antonio wouldn’t have to take back any salary, but they could look at a future asset like a future pick in return.
If the Spurs can’t find a team to take Carroll’s deal in a trade exception, they could also explore trades that match similar salaries, while making sure not to cross the hard cap line of $138.8 million.
If Carroll wanted out of San Antonio and a trade couldn’t be completed, he and the Spurs could look at going through a buyout, similar to what the Spurs and Pau Gasol did last season when Gasol knew he had lost his place in the rotation and he still wanted to find a place where he could get minutes. The way a buyout would work with Carroll is he’d have to give up a portion of his $15 million guaranteed salary. The amount that he’d still get paid could either have an impact on the next three seasons on the Spurs’ cap sheet, or they could look to use the stretch provision for up to seven years, depending on how much Carroll would be giving up in the buyout.
Since Carroll’s only in year one of a three year deal, a buyout seems like one of the most extreme options at the moment if both sides were to head in that direction.
The last option is for no changes in roster movement to take place between the Spurs and Carroll. Maybe one of the players in front of him – Lyles, Walker IV, or Belinelli will start to struggle and Popovich goes to him as a new option. Or, perhaps the Spurs finish the season with the current rotation and even though Carroll never cracks the rotation, perhaps with whatever decisions the team makes in the offseason, there might be available minutes for him next year.
For now, the first option to watch is the upcoming NBA trade deadline.
All salaries and trade exception numbers came from BasketballInsiders.com.
Each trade scenario with Dallas, Portland, and Oklahoma City was cited as a success using the TradeNBA.com machine.