For a franchise that recently made the playoffs 22 seasons in a row, this three-year absence must hurt the San Antonio Spurs. They are still led by Gregg Popovich from the bench, but it is clear that the title-contending is a thing of the past for these Spurs.
Thus, San Antonio should really turn around and go into a full rebuild. Rebuilding around the current roster is possible, but it is not ideal. As things stand, the Spurs have some picks, a few young guys, and generally could do with a few more assets to kickstart their rebuild.
On that note, let's look at some ways that they can get more assets so they can really rebuild. Here are two players the Spurs must trade in the 2022 NBA offseason.
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Players Spurs Must Trade In 2022 Offseason
It might not be popular to look for a trade of the team's best player, right after a season in which Murray became an All-Star, made the All-Defensive Team, and led the league in steals.
Yet, the Spurs could get too much value out of Murray to miss this opportunity. The best benchmark for a trade like this is the Jrue Holiday deal the Bucks made in 2020, acquiring the guard in a four-team deal. In that trade, the Pelicans got three first-round picks and two pick swaps for a 29-year-old guard on an expiring deal. The Spurs are reportedly seeking a deal of this magnitude when discussing potential trades for Murray.
Murray still has two years left on his deal with the Spurs, including next season. That, paired with his age and the fact he will make around $16 million per year, all should make other teams salivate at the thought of bringing Murray in. They would be getting a great complementary guard for a cheap salary for two seasons, coming off his best campaign in the NBA and with even more potential that could be untapped. The Spurs would be selling high on Murray, and it just seems like all the stars have aligned for a deal to be made this summer.
As a rebuilding team, the Spurs are aware that Murray is their golden goose of assets. If he brings them three first-round picks, even without the pick swaps, it would be fantastic. While he is an All-Star-caliber player, he is not the first option for a championship team and has a notable flaw when it comes to shooting the 3-ball. If San Antonio actually gets that Jrue Holiday-like package or something even close, the trigger should be pulled on a trade.
Richardson was acquired in the Derrick White deal with the Boston Celtics. It was a good move for the Spurs to get a first-round pick out of the deal, as well as a pick swap and Romeo Langford. Richardson then played pretty well for San Antonio, shooting 44.4% from 3-point range.
As the offseason comes and it is clear to everyone involved that the Spurs are not true contenders, they should look to trade Richardson for another asset or two. The swingman is on an expiring contract worth over $12 million and could be coveted by a contending team. Getting no assets for a rebuilding team is equal to wasting money. As the NBA is a business, no team is in there to waste any of their salary money. With all of these things taken into consideration, the Spurs should really look to offload Richardson as soon as possible this offseason.
Of course, they have until the trade deadline in February 2023 to make a decision. But if they do it right away, the Spurs do not run the risk of Richardson injuring himself or playing so poorly that he is virtually untradable.
As far as assets go, a protected first-round pick could be something San Antonio might seek in this hypothetical trade. Alternatively, two second-round picks could also work in a Richardson trade. The Spurs have made some great picks in the second round in the past, but they can also use those assets in a future trade.
Regardless, it would help San Antonio's rebuild to trade Richardson after he played well for them this past season. The Spurs are in a position where they could stack a bunch of assets together and really go for a full rebuild, which could wind up being the right move given the talent at the top of the 2023 NBA Draft, including French phenom Victor Wembanyama.