The San Antonio Spurs have reached the end of a truly historic dynasty. They missed the playoffs this season for the first time in 22 years, with their run having started in 1998. For some perspective, that was before young stars like Luka Doncic, Ja Morant, and Zion Williamson were born. With that being said, they were very close to making the playoffs this season, and have a few young pieces on the roster to build with.
How the San Antonio Spurs can Improve
Step One: Trade LaMarcus Aldridge
LaMarcus Aldridge has been one of the best power forwards in the league for the past decade. His All-Star years are behind him, however. He’s 35-years-old now and heading into the last year of his contract. With that being said, he averaged 19 points, seven rebounds, and almost two blocks per game last season. This all came on a solid shooting split of 49-39-83.
Aldridge carries plenty of value on his expiring contract. He doesn’t fit the Spurs’ current timeline, but plenty of contenders may view him as the final piece for a championship run.
One of these teams could be the Brooklyn Nets. They already have Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Caris LeVert, but should upgrade at the power forward spot as Taurean Prince is not the answer. The Spurs should inquire about the availability of Jarrett Allen. The Nets already have DeAndre Jordan at the five, and Allen hits free agency in 2021. He’s a promising young talent, so when that time comes he could very well be out of the Nets’ price range. He’d be a solid addition alongside Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, and Keldon Johnson.
There will be plenty of other suiters for Aldridge as well. The key for the Spurs, however, is to get assets in return. Trading Aldridge’s expiring contract for other expiring contracts does no good in the long run. If the Spurs were to receive other expiring contracts in return, they need to make sure draft picks are included in any deal as well.
The ball is in San Antonio’s court with this one. Now is the time to get pieces in return before potentially losing Aldridge for nothing next offseason.
Step Two: Trade DeMar DeRozan
If the Spurs are serious about moving onto a quick rebuild, trading their best player is the best option. DeMar DeRozan has a player option in his contract this offseason, but one he’s likely to accept as it’s for nearly $28 million.
Trading DeRozan frees up playing time for the aforementioned young core of guards the Spurs already have. DeRozan also has a higher value than Aldridge, as he just finished another strong statistical season. He averaged 22 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 5.6 assists per game. He also just turned 31, meaning he still has a couple of solid seasons left in the tank.
One team that should be interested in DeRozan is the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James isn’t getting any younger, so the Lakers must surround him with as much talent as possible to remain contenders. If the Spurs can get a package revolving around Kyle Kuzma and Danny Green, it’s a worthy return. Kuzma can instantly become the starting small forward for the Spurs, while Green returns to the team where he first made a name for himself.
Another team that is a good fit is the Orlando Magic. They’ve been able to make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, but lack firepower to truly become a threat. Assuming Evan Fournier accepts his player option, the Spurs should seek him and Mo Bamba in a deal. Fournier is a very capable scoring guard, while Bamba is a former lottery pick who has yet to truly have a chance to shine. The Magic then gets to pair DeRozan with Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, among others, and instantly become better.
Like any Aldridge deal, trading DeRozan would hurt the Spurs short-term, but help them down the road. They should seek young players and draft assets in any deal involving him to quickly accelerate their rebuild.
Step Three: The San Antonio Spurs Need to Aim for the Moon in 2021 Free Agency
San Antonio is considered one of the “smaller markets” in the NBA world. That may be the case, but their dynasty under coach Gregg Popovich made it clear that they have a stellar fanbase and management willing to build championship quality teams.
With Aldridge, DeRozan, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills off the books come the 2021 offseason, the Spurs are going to have a lot of money to throw around. Re-signing restricted free agent White is likely to be a priority, but many of their other important players will still be on their rookie deals.
Assuming the Spurs are set on guards, there’s going to be plenty of frontcourt free agents to splurge on. These include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bam Adebayo, OG Anunoby, Kelly Oubre, Steven Adams, Lauri Markkanen, and more. Getting any one of these players, or perhaps a combo can turn the Spurs into playoff contenders quickly.
If they play their cards right, the Spurs will have plenty of cap space and a very solid young core. The Spurs’ recent success shows that they may not have an interest in a long and intense rebuild, so expect them to make noise sooner rather than later.