December has been kind to the San Antonio Spurs, who have turned their game up a notch after a slow start to the 2018-19 NBA season. For the Spurs to continue their ascent to the league’s elite, they need to look at possible trades that will ensure that they enter the postseason with a competitive lineup.
After 35 games, they have a 19-16 record which is good only for eighth place in the tough Western Conference. If not for a 9-5 record this month, the Spurs would have been outside of the playoff picture. The third week of December included some convincing wins against some of the league’s best and reminded everyone how good San Antonio can be.
To continue their rise to the top, the Spurs will need a player or who that can help them advance further in the postseason. Here are three early trade deadline targets that the Spurs should consider:
*Note: These trades were simulated via ESPN’s Trade Machine
3. Spurs receive: SG Lou Williams, C Boban Marjanovic
After a strong start, the L.A. Clippers are losing steam and are in dire need of an adrenaline boost. Or, maybe they can simply allow themselves to continue losing for the chance to be a lottery team. My bet is they’ll choose the latter.
Sending Lou Williams and Boban Marjanovic to the Spurs in exchange for Gasol, Dante Cunningham and a future second rounder give the Clippers a former All-Star who may retire next season, a veteran forward with an expiring contract and a building block for their future.
The Spurs, meanwhile, get one of the best sixth men in the league over the past few years with Williams in tow. He can play behind or alongside DeMar DeRozan in a backcourt that will generate a lot of points on the board. Williams can play either guard spot and will give Pop another player who can play in the Spurs system right away. Marjanovic will develop nicely under the tutelage of LaMarcus Aldridge and someone who could be a starter on this team in a year or two.
These two players will add to the Spurs’ depth and give them a better shot at surviving in the wild, wild west.
2. Spurs receive: C Tristan Thompson
Cavs receive: F/C Pau Gasol, future second-round pick
It’s no secret that the Cleveland Cavaliers are in tanking mode this season. To help facilitate that, they may want to let go of one of their best players in Tristan Thompson. The high-energy forward/center can do wonders for the Spurs who are in dire need of a role player who can do the dirty work for them on the boards and on the defensive end where they are currently 20th overall in the league.
The addition of Thompson gives them a younger player who has championship experience just as Gasol does and has been to the Finals the past four years. Going to the Spurs gives the 6-foot-10 veteran the opportunity to continue competing in the playoffs where his talent and hustle are vastly more valuable.
For the Cavs, Gasol will be a good locker room presence for the young players and will play a mentorship role especially for the big men. The 7-foot center is still productive in limited minutes but playing for Cleveland will no doubt boost his stats as he will be given more playing time.
Let’s face it. The Spurs need another star player that can boost their chances of playing in the Finals once again. Coach Gregg Popovich is not about to throw in the towel and assume that they can’t win a championship this year just because he lost his franchise player last summer.
With this trade, the Spurs would have a not-so-fashionable but still effective Big Three with John Wall, DeRozan and Aldridge. These guys are the perfect fit for San Antonio as they propel the Spurs atop the West’s elite.
They will certainly miss DeJounte Murray but with his season-ending injury in the preseason, the decision to trade him is much easier. In his place as the point guard of the Spurs future, Wall will become a fan-favorite in San Antonio. The team has been seeking a replacement for former All-Star Tony Parker for years and Wall will be the answer to the Spurs’ faithful’s prayers.
Ian Mahinmi is a salary dump for the Wizards but the Spurs will gladly accept him to facilitate this deal.
In return, the Wizards will receive two veterans in Gasol and Patty Mills while awaiting Murray’s return next season. As one-sided as this deal may seem right now, Murray’s development once he recovers should balance things out. Plus, Gasol and Mills will provide some semblance of stability in the locker room and on the hardwood. Letting go of Wall’s humongous salary is of primary importance to the Wizards who are stuck in the middle of nowhere with a losing record and much of their salary cap being hoarded by three players (Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr. are the others).
Should the Spurs find themselves in a deal such as this with the Wizards, expect the Texas-based squad to become a Western superpower once more. Pop will most certainly be rejuvenated by his Spurs going deep into the playoffs again. Perhaps this will entice him to continue coaching beyond more than a few years.