The draft is nearing and reports keep pouring in about workouts and interviews the Spurs have been conducting. Like always, they seem to be doing their due diligence and will, most likely, stay put and select the best player that drops to them. But they do have other options.
If the Spurs don’t think anyone at their range has the potential to become a contributor or if they want to either slow down or accelerate their rebuild, they could simply use the pick as a trade asset. These are just some possibilities they could have.
Trade the pick for a veteran and run it back
If the Spurs want to keep DeRozan and feel like he wants to come back, it could make sense to use this year’s pick to bring in a veteran who can contribute right away in the front court in hopes of making the playoffs. It seems unlikely for them to go this way — and it would be unwise for them to do so — but it’s a possibility.
Moving the 12th for guys like Robert Covington and Larry Nance Jr. feels like giving up too much, and the pick alone might not be enough to get Myles Turner, but there’s one option that could work: Christian Wood. The Rockets are seemingly committed to a full rebuild, so they really don’t need 25-year-old Wood hanging around when their next playoff team will likely take a while to assemble. Getting a second lottery pick in this draft would give them an immediate core to build around, and finalizing the deal after the moratorium, when the Spurs could potentially absorb Wood’s contract without sending money back, could give them more wiggle room under the cap to make deals sending out John Wall and Eric Gordon.
For the Spurs Wood would represent a significant upgrade, especially on the offensive end, over the forwards they’ve had recently. As a big man who can create for himself in a pinch but also spread the floor and finish in the pick and roll, he would complement DeRozan and the young guards perfectly, essentially being the player San Antonio hoped LaMarcus Aldridge could transform into. Would Wood, along with some interior development, be enough to get the Spurs back in the playoffs? It’s unclear, but if for some reason the front office doesn’t want to commit to the youth movement yet, a deal like this could make some sense. Hopefully that doesn’t turn out to be the case.
Trade for an established young player
It’s possible the Spurs want to stay young, but also make sure they make an addition this offseason that can immediately make an impact, and feel like there’s no such player at 12th. In that case, using their lottery pick to trade for someone still on their rookie deal but who has proved they can contribute could be an option.
Tyler Herro, the 13th overall pick of the 2019 draft, was one of the breakout stars in the bubble, averaging 16 points, five rebounds and four assists as a rookie while playing a huge part in the Finals run. Since then, the shine has worn off a little, as Herro did not make a leap as a sophomore. A player that at one point was considered close to untouchable no longer has that tag and is in fact likely to be traded, according to reports. A lottery pick, even a late on like the one the Spurs have, should be enough to a least pique Miami’s interest.
Herro is yet another small wing, but unlike guys like Lonnie Walker IV, Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson, he has showed the ability to not only shoot well but also create for himself and others in a pinch. He was even used as a point guard by the Heat early last season before moving to a more traditional sixth man role. If he can become a more well rounded pick and roll ball handler who doesn’t rely so much on his pull-up and instead gets to the rim — and to the line — more, he would be the perfect complement for the Spurs’ current wing rotation, either as a starter in DeRozan’s place or a bench scorer.
If the Spurs want a big man instead to avoid creating a bigger logjam than they already have at perimeter positions, they could find a great reclamation project in Wendell Carter Jr. The 7th overall pick of the 2018 draft was stuck on some truly dysfunctional Bulls teams to start his career and was traded last deadline to the Magic, where he looked better but still not close to the potential he was projected to have. Orlando, which owns two top-10 picks already, could really load up on talent by getting another first rounder for Carter and the 33rd overall pick. As for why the Spurs would be interested, the upside is there for the 22-year-old Carter to become the Horford-ish, selfless, two-way force he was expected to be while also being ready to give them minutes now.
The problem with this approach is that instead of getting a young player for cheap for four years by drafting one, the Spurs would be getting one that could become expensive very soon. They would also have to target guys that have so far fallen short of their perceived potential, because no one would trade a future star for the 12th pick. If they find the right piece, however, such a trade could pay off.
Trade for a future pick
It’s possible the Spurs want to continue building through the draft but simply don’t like this class very much, or they would rather see how the current talent fits before making any more additions. In that case, they can simply trade out of this draft by exchanging their 2021 first rounder for another team’s 2022’s.
This type of move would be a bit of a gamble, because the pick they might receive could end up being worse than the one they have now, but there should be some good, relatively safe options around. The Pelicans seem like a good trade partner if the Spurs want to keep it simple, as New Orleans might want a second lottery pick to either move up or add two more potential cornerstones next to Zion Williamson immediately. If they are willing to part with, say, a top-8 protected 2022 pick in return for this year’s 12th pick, both teams could walk away happy, as that selection should be in the late lottery-late teens range, unless New Orleans makes an unexpected leap. The Spurs would then have two picks in a class they hypothetically would like more.
San Antonio could also try to take a big risk by trading for a pick that doesn’t look good now but could be good if the team that originally owned it underperforms next season. The Thunder would likely part ways with the Clippers’ unprotected 2022 first rounder and one other of their protected extra first (the Suns’ 2022?) for the 12th. If Los Angeles has a healthy, normal 2021/22 season, that pick would likely land in the bottom five in the first round, so it would be understandable for OKC to not value it much. If Kawhi Leonard or Paul George miss significant time or there’s internal turmoil, however, it could turn out to be closer to the middle of the first round. Moving down a few spots to get an extra future pick could be worth it for the Spurs.
Of course, there’s also a scenario in which San Antonio would be moving out of the lottery to get two late firsts in 2022, which would be disastrous. As mentioned, there’s serious risk involved with these type of trade, so the Spurs would have to be really disenchanted with this class to go through with one.
All these scenarios feel like they could turn out to either be unnecessarily risky or shortsighted in hindsight, which suggests that moving out of the first round completely could come back to haunt the Spurs. It’s understandable to not love any of them but it’s good to know all the ways the pick could be used.
Hopefully there will be someone available at 12th that proves too good to pass up and the Spurs add another piece to their core, but If they don’t really have faith this draft class, it’s at least good to know that they will have options.