Why a Mid-Season Trade May Be Difficult for the Spurs

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The San Antonio Spurs have had a rough start to the season. They are 6-13 and are playing Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and the rest of the Los Angeles Clippers tonight. Many fans have wondered when the Spurs will change their focus from trying to compete for a playoff spot to the development of their younger players.

If the Spurs do make that decision, something they will likely not do hastily, trading DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge would make sense for both the Spurs and the players.

What would a trade involving those players look like, though? The rules of making the salary match in trades (explained in Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ) is different for teams that are below the salary cap, teams that are above the salary cap but below the luxury tax line, and teams that are above the tax line.

The salary that the team would have after the trade is what is used when determining what set of rules applies to a team. For instance, if a team that is under the luxury tax line would make a trade that would put them over the luxury tax line, they would be considered a luxury tax team for that trade.

For the Spurs, since they are a team that is operating over the salary cap, if they were trading DeRozan or Aldridge they could take back no more than 125% of the salary of the contracts they trade plus $100,000.  DeRozan’s is making $27,739,975 this season and Aldridge is making  $26,000,000 this season, so if they were trading either of these players on their own, the most they could take back is $34,774,968.75 and $32,600,000, respectively.

The only team that has any cap room right now is the Atlanta Hawks, who are $3,743,178 under the salary cap, meaning that, effectively, no team has enough cap space to take DeRozan or Aldridge into their cap space without sending out significant salary. If a team was trading for just DeRozan or Aldridge, the least amount of salary they would be required to send to the Spurs is $22,111,980 and $20,720,000 respectively.

The next consideration is considering what teams would be good trade partners for the Spurs for either player. Contenders probably wouldn’t look to trade for either player, as they usually are constructed in such a way that they wouldn’t be able to send out the amount in salary needed without trading away a significant piece of their team. Young, rebuilding teams wouldn’t be interested in trading away assets for players that are much older than their young players. Teams that have scoring at both the wing and big position probably wouldn’t trade for either player.

This makes the list of teams that would be interested in trading for either player relatively small. The type of team that would be most interested in either player would probably be a fringe-to-mid tier playoff team that needs more scoring at either position. This is why the rumors that the Orlando Magic are interested in DeMar DeRozan (as reported by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer) makes sense.

It’s difficult to know if DeRozan or Aldridge are players that other teams would give up assets for, though. For instance, would the Magic be willing to give up Aaron Gordon and Khem Birch for just DeRozan? Or would the Spurs need to include another asset? And how does that trade fit the Spurs needs at all unless they have an Aldridge trade lined up?

That last question brings up a point that hasn’t been discussed here, yet. What should the Spurs be looking for in a trade for either player? The Spurs have a very deep guard rotation, so unless they are trading for a player that is an obvious upgrade over Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, taking a guard back wouldn’t make much sense.

If the Spurs trade Aldridge, they will be a little light on bigs, with Jakob Poeltl and Trey Lyles being the only traditional big men that have been in the rotation this year. The Spurs’ biggest need, though, is a defensive wing who can shoot 3’s. Teams usually don’t trade these players, though, as they are one of the most valuable types of players in the NBA, currently.

If the Spurs’ struggles continue this season, they may look for trades for both DeRozan and Aldridge. There are teams who could use both players’ skills on offense, but finding a trade that makes sense for the Spurs and their potential trade partner for either DeRozan or Aldridge may be a challenge.

CBA information from Larry Coon’s CBA FAQ. Salary cap information from basketballinsiders.com

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