The San Antonio Spurs have finally made it clear that they plan on going into full-scale rebuild mode. Following a third consecutive non-playoff season, San Antonio dealt star 25-year-old guard Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks for a package centering around three future first-round picks.
San Antonio’s decision to focus on draftcapital rather than young players makes it clear that the team is headed for a long-term rebuild under aging head coach Gregg Popovich. For his part, the legendary coach was firmly supportive of the Murray trade.
Thus, sets into motion a remainder of the summer in which San Antonio will plan on kicking on the 2022-23 season while building more for the future. Under that guise, let’s look at three more moves the team should still make.
San Antonio Spurs find a trade partner for Lonnie Walker IV
Hours before pulling off the Murray trade, San Antonio tendered a $6.3 million qualifying offer to Walker. If the team had not done this, he’d have become an unrestricted free agent. Now, San Antonio has an opportunity to either match any offer for Walker or pull off a sign-and-trade.
Roughly $19 million under the cap, these Spurs can afford to take back some salary in a sign-and-trade — enabling them to also receive assets in return.
- Lonnie Walker stats (2021-22): 12.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.2 APG, 41% shooting
Still only 23, Walker will draw some interest in the free-agent market. San Antonio also doesn’t necessarily have a need for him moving forward with the excess of wings on the team’s roster right now. It’s led to widspread speculation that the former first-round pick will not return to the Spurs. Why not try to add another first-round pick down the road to the mix? Perhaps, a team such as the Boston Celtics or Brooklyn Nets might come calling.
San Antonio Spurs hang on to Danilo Gallinari
As the only player acquired in the Murray trade, there’s now some thought that San Antonio will simply buy Gallinari out. He has one year and $21 million remaining on his deal. If the idea is to go full tank mode in 2022-23, having him on the roster makes little sense.
With that said, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford must think about the long-term plan. Gallinari will end up being on an expiring contract during the 2022-23 season. San Antonio can get future assets for him by holding off and trading the veteran forward. Even if it means bringing on a long-term deal, those assets could prove valuable.
San Antonio Spurs play the long game for Victor Wembanyama
Acquiring two unprotected first-round picks from Atlanta for Murray makes one thing clear. San Antonio is looking to the future when it comes to finding a franchise cornerstone.
Considered one of the top international prospects ever, Victor Wembanyama has to at least be part of the consideration behind the scenes. He’s the consensus top overall prospect in the 2023 NBA Draft and is seen as a can’t-miss player. Sure the Spurs would still have a mere 15% chance of acquiring the No. 1 pick next June if they boast the worst record. But accumulating more assets could make it a more reasonable end result.
Could that mean moving wing Keldon Johnson and his team-friendly contract while adding a veteran deal to the mix as a cost-cutting measure? Doug McDermott and Josh Richardson are set to count a combined $25.8 million against the cap. Moving one of them in addition to Johnson could potentially net multiple future first-round selections — adding to the Spurs’ stockpile in the process.