San Antonio Spurs rumors, top trade & free-agent targets for 2021 NBA offseason

May 5, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) keeps the ball away from Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (23) during the first quarter at Vivint Arena. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

San Antonio Spurs rumors are bound to be flying around this NBA offseason as they enter a pivotal summer that will go a long way in determining the next era of one of the league’s premier organizations.

It’s been a struggle for the past two years, as the Spurs have missed the playoffs in a highly competitive Western Conference. Injuries and a lack of star power are partially to blame, but per RealGM, San Antonio is projected to have a max of $51.8 million in cap space, so there’s plenty of room to make improvements.

Here’s a look at the latest buzz surrounding the Spurs, along with ideal trade scenarios for the offseason and top free agents the front office should target to restore coach Gregg Popovich’s squad to prominence.

San Antonio Spurs rumors: CJ McCollum trade may be in the offing

According to CNBC’s Jabari Young, the Spurs “like” CJ McCollum, but haven’t been able to work out a trade scenario in which they can land him.

Complicating matters is DeMar DeRozan’s pending free agency, and the fact that San Antonio would struggle to make salaries match unless the Portland Trail Blazers wanted DeRozan back as part of a sign-and-trade package.

Think about this: Despite committing the second-fewest turnovers and third-fewest fouls per game this past season, the Spurs still finished 10th in the Western Conference with a 33-39 record. The key? They attempted the lowest number of 3-pointers in the NBA, and hit at only 35% as a team, good for seventh-worst league-wide.

McCollum seems like the type of player who’d shine with the Spurs and also bring them into the 21st century with his offensive game, ability to play either guard spot and elite 3-point shooting. Let’s see how aggressive the team is in pursuing the Blazers star.

San Antonio Spurs rumors: Team expected to make strong push for Lauri Markkanen

San Antonio Spurs rumors: Team expected to make strong push for Lauri Markkanen
Feb 3, 2021; Chicago, Illinois, USA; Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen (24) dribbles the ball against New York Knicks center Nerlens Noel (3) during the first quarter at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs badly need size and spacing on offense, which is something Chicago Bulls forward Lauri Markkanen provides in spades. He’s even larger than the classic stretch 4, as he’s a legitimate 7-footer.

Bleacher Report’s A. Sherrod Blakely reported a while back that “multiple executives and scouts anticipate the San Antonio Spurs will make a strong offer this summer” for Markkanen.

Here’s the issue: Markkanen isn’t the fleetest of foot, so he lags behind on defense. The good news is, Jakob Poeltl can pick up the slack on that end of the court in a big way, and Markkanen would give San Antonio so much more versatility offensively.

Markkanen is a restricted free agent, and the Spurs could make an offer the Bulls probably wouldn’t be willing to match, especially with a probable Zach LaVine max extension looming.

San Antonio Spurs trade scenarios for 2021 NBA offseason

A DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade is the ultimate win

San Antonio Spurs trade scenarios for 2021 NBA offseason: DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade
Mar 19, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward DeMar DeRozan (10) shoots over the defense of Cleveland Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr. (22) during the second quarter at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

It’d be difficult to find a lot of takers for DeMar DeRozan. Despite his improvement as a distributor and efficiency in the mid-range game, he’s not a reliable 3-point shooter. That often doesn’t fly in the modern NBA when it comes to building around an All-Star.

To facilitate a sign-and-trade, DeRozan needs to sign either a three- or four-year contract. San Antonio has exclusive bird rights, meaning it can offer DeRozan a lucrative deal before anyone else. However, forking over a max contract to someone with limited shooting range seems ridiculous.

The best scenario would be to wait things out, convince DeRozan to a sign-and-trade arrangement at a discount, and try to land a combination of draft assets and perimeter shooting help. Adding 3-point marksmen with defensive upside should absolutely be the priority in free agency, too, as you’ll see in the next section.

Using the NBA trade machine on ESPN.com — granted, this is based on DeRozan retaining his current base salary and other contracts holding as they are — check out this intriguing scenario:

  • Brooklyn Nets get: DeMar DeRozan
  • San Antonio Spurs get: Joe Harris, DeAndre Jordan

In this situation, the Brooklyn Nets would get a legitimate playmaker in DeRozan to join with Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and a bunch of vet minimum players who’d make a legitimate NBA Finals push.

Meanwhile, San Antonio gets desperately-needed shooting with Harris and another depth piece in the frontcourt in Jordan — still with room to sign Markkanen and make other additions.

Sounds crazy, yet it just might work!

Related: 50 Top NBA players of 2021 – Chris Paul back in the Top 10

Any young perimeter player could be moved

San Antonio Spurs trade scenarios for 2021 NBA offseason: Any young perimeter player could be moved
Dec 30, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Keldon Johnson (3) reacts with guard Dejounte Murray (5) in the first quarter against the Los Angeles Lakers at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

DeRozan is really the team’s only big trade play to make, and even then, he’s a sign-and-trade deal.

That said, between Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, Devin Vassell, Lonnie Walker IV and Keldon Johnson, San Antonio has plenty of younger trade chips to play with. The question is, will the Spurs keep developing these players through their system? After all, Popovich is a master at doing so.

Considering they’re all on modest salaries by NBA standards, though, any potential trade would be in exchange for other developmental players, cheap veterans, additional draft capital, or some combination of those elements.

If any of the above Spurs gets moved, smart money is on Walker. All of these youngsters are solid but not spectacular. That’s kind of the defining trait of San Antonio these days. Like, yes, DeRozan is a strong, All-Star-caliber player. But building around him as the No. 1 option? Eh, not so much.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the Spurs balance contending in the near future while Popovich is still coaching with more of a long-term vision to build a sustainable winner.

Given the cap space San Antonio may have available without DeRozan, no members of its young core should prevent the Spurs from making a big trade or free-agent move.

Top San Antonio Spurs free-agent targets this summer

  • Norman Powell, wing, Portland Trail Blazers
  • Evan Fournier, guard, Boston Celtics
  • Duncan Robinson, guard, Miami Heat (restricted)
  • Nerlens Noel, center, New York Knicks

WATCH: Sportsnaut’s Carolyn Manno on the latest NBA news & rumors