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1. Combo Wing
Fun fact that will never get old so long as it stays true: The Spurs have not made an in-season trade since the Nando de Colo-for-Austin Daye swap of February 2014. It will be a genuine surprise if they break that streak this season.
The Spurs own the league’s best offensive and net ratings since Dec. 1, along with a top-eight defense. They have a window of opportunity in the West—not to overthrow the Warriors, but to join the Nuggets-Rockets-Thunder tier just below them.
Landing a wing is the best way for the Spurs to assure themselves of that climb. They’re not swimming in hot trade properties, but they have a few different things they can do.
Pairing a pick or two with cheaper salary might get them in the running for a wing nearing the end of his first contract. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Rodney Hood, Stanley Johnson, Kelly Oubre Jr. and—wait for it—Tomas Satoransky all loom here.
Entering the fold for second-tier wings like Trevor Ariza, DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross et al. is a long shot. The Spurs don’t have the right combination of salaries unless they consider Patty Mills expendable. But they can use Pau Gasol‘s partial guarantee for next season ($6.7 million) to wolf down outcast or overpriced contracts that will be useful for them.
All the usual suspects fall into this category: Harrison Barnes, Kent Bazemore, Otto Porter Jr., etc. People will laugh and/or vomit, but if he comes with a first-rounder while purging the books of Gasol, Marco Belinelli and another salary, Nicolas Batum is one of those never-been-but-could-be-a-Spur fits.
2. Pau Gasol Salary Dump
Front-office sources told The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor that the Spurs are “viewed as a team with significant interest in” Kristaps Porzingis, who will be a restricted free agent this summer. Unless they’re thinking ahead to his third contract, in 2023 or 2024, they’ll need to offload a bunch of salary to fund KP’s max ($27.3 million).
Using a pick, prospect or both to dump Gasol doesn’t get them there. Wiping him from the 2019-20 index arms them with around $10.1 million in room. But he’s their hardest non-star piece to move. It won’t be as trying to reroute Belinelli (one year, $5.8 million) and Patty Mills (two years, $25.7 million) and open up the rest of the money over the summer.
That’s an awful lot of trouble to go through for a player the Spurs won’t get. Barring catastrophe in Porzingis’ return from a torn left ACL, the Knicks will match whatever price the market sets. They might not even wait for him to go out and field offer sheets.
Creating cap space doesn’t have to be about Porzingis alone. Other bigwigs will be available. Shoot, Kawhi Leonard and head coach Gregg Popovich hugged on national television. Maybe the Spurs put together Belinelli, Gasol, Mills and Davis Bertans dumps and then bring the prodigal son home.
3. Trade for Carmelo Anthony, You Cowards
Carmelo Anthony may only be the shadow of Rudy Gay’s silhouette these days, but sign me up for this, just because.