As we approach the trade deadline…

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The NBA’s trade deadline is at 2 pm central time on Thursday afternoon. The San Antonio Spurs, holders of the best record in the NBA, are on the frayed edges of the thick of all the trade rumors. There have been rumblings of the Spurs showing interest in both Al Jefferson of the Utah Jazz and the Hawks’ Josh Smith.

Nothing like that is probably going to happen, though.

The Spurs’ rankings are exactly where they want them to be right now. Fourth in offensive efficiency. Third in defensive efficiency. Fifth in defensive rebound percentage. The Spurs have had the best record in the league the last two seasons but haven’t boasted the defensive chops they do this year.

The only trades worthwhile for the Spurs are those that can improve the top three or four players in the rotation, increasing the team’s ceiling come playoff time; San Antonio doesn’t have a need for more depth. As we’ve seen, the depth simply isn’t as important come playoff time as playing your best players as long as possible.

That’s not likely to happen because in order for the Spurs to make something like that happen, they’ll either have to gut the rotation, losing the depth that is so valuable for keeping older players fresh during the regular season, or trade Stephen Jackson. Dealing Jack isn’t a major loss, especially with how he’s shooting this season (26 percent from 3-point range), but most teams are unlikely to take on the mercurial forward.

It’s no small secret around the league that the only coach and locker room that can really keep Jack in check and under control is in San Antonio. A team could be willing to take on the rest of Jack’s salary this season and buy him out or simply keep him away from their team, but it would take an owner with deep pockets to sign off on that.

Instead, what we’re likely to see is a simple trade involving DeJuan Blair. When the Spurs signed Aron Baynes, the writing wasn’t on the wall, but markers had been taken out. Baynes does similar things that Blair does and the Australian can do them taller. The Spurs are rumored to have been shopping Blair since the summer in an effort to get a first round pick back, but no one has taken the bait.

If R.C. Buford and Co. don’t get the offer that they want for Blair, I expect them to keep him around through the end of  the season. Though emotional, Blair hasn’t been a distraction for the team this season despite his uncertain status. He’s an expiring contract and the Spurs will simply absorb the savings when he comes off the books this summer.

The Spurs are in an advantageous position this trade deadline. They’re exactly where they want to be in the standings and, health aside, have playoff-ready roster to work with. Breaking up that rhythm and chemistry just for the sake of making a move would be a mistake. Aside from a minor deal involving the fringes of the active roster, a massive shakeup for a borderline All-Star is simply a reach that’s not likely to happen.

Team rankings courtesy of NBA.com/Stats

  • jamberg

    Yeah but still. I would love to see us shore up the backup PG spot or grab another big.

  • MWS

    Everyone has to admit that a Jackson/Blair pairing for J. Smith looks good on paper.

  • CL

    They need help on the offensive board. If they can get a good rebounder, it might be worth giving up Jackson, Blair, or both of them.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    The Spurs don’t care about offensive boards.

  • NYC

    “Baynes does similar things that Blair does and the Australian can do them taller.”
    What’s disappointing is that Blair no longer does the things that Blair does, namely rebounding. I still don’t understand what happened there. Why did he stop rebounding the way he did when he came into the league as a touted rebounding specialist??

  • http://twitter.com/chrisjkuntz Christopher Kuntz

    I don’t understand the complacency of so many Spurs fans (and Spurs sportswriters). We haven’t won the West since 2007. Staying put means we have a ceiling on our performance that caps out at or just below the best in the league…that’s a proven fact over the past six years. The only way we move above that line is taking a risk. We talk about championships being the only thing that matters, but the Spurs organization is remarkably conservative in its approach getting there, personnel-wise. The stylistic changes have been radical, but are not enough. Witness last year: 20 in a row and some of the best basketball we’ve ever seen, followed by 4 losses in a row. Our style is fragile…and championship teams are not fragile. I’m pessimistic about this team’s ability (as currently composed) to grind out four wins against OKC or Miami when their defensive pressure increases and our role players aren’t making threes.

  • Graham

    Dwight and Pau looked great on paper for the Lakers, but we saw how that worked out. I’ll take Chemistry and heart over potential in regards to this trade.

  • Graham

    It’s your right to be pessimistic, but frankly looking at everything the best chance to win is standing pat. No trade out there truly makes us better for what we’d have to give up.

    And I’m good with that.

    I look at this team, and I see a team hardened by that OKC series. Tim and Tony look driven, and the best they have individually looked in a long time. Our secondary guys have grown, especially Tiago and Kawhi particularly, and we have improved mightily on the D side of things since last year. Stop looking at the Thunder as some monolith we will never get past, just because we lost a flukey turnabout, or a Miami team we match up EXTREMELY well against as a juggernaut. We can beat them, and we can win it all.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Being conservative is in large part because the Spurs don’t have the resources to dig themselves out of a hole if things backfire. Having already won four titles in this run, the Spurs would rather remain competitive over a longer period of time than take one shot, miss, and leave themselves screwed for three or more seasons following.

  • DorieStreet

    The rotation can’t be shortened too much during the playoffs–especially in the first two rounds.

  • http://twitter.com/KDerrick21 Kyle Derrick

    What was the post from Woj that they would take the best off for Blair at this point? I think they should move him for the best off at this point, he deserves to be somewhere where he’ll get playing time, and maybe we can get his minutes to Baynes sooner than later and get him better acclimated.

  • http://twitter.com/chrisjkuntz Christopher Kuntz

    Agreed, but we’ve gone into the luxury tax before. And I think if you polled fans, they would choose a risky shot at a championship vs. “West Finals at best.”

    To me, it’s about top-level talent. When we won titles our top-level players were better than the other team’s. Now, vs. OKC and Miami, we can’t say that. Top-level talent > bench depth.

    Also, a semantic point: not sure we can classify this as part of the same “run”, I would say this is Phase 3 of the Duncan era. Phase 1 was 1998-2003, Twin Towers (two championships). Phase 2 was 2004-2010, Big 3 (two championships). Phase 3 is ongoing, I’ll call it the Fellowship of the Ring phase, where we’ve tried to make up for the decline of Tim and Manu with a new style of offense and a deep bench. So far, no good.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    I totally agree about the top-level talent, that’s a major point in the post above. The problem is that the luxury tax under the new CBA is much harsher, and those tax penalties go into effect next season. That’s why you’re even seeing owners like Cuban being very careful about the salary they take on.

  • MWS

    True, but J Smith isn’t coming back from back surgery and Spurs don’t have an egomaniac HOF leader or an over rated head coach who refuses to change his coaching style.

    I hear what you’re saying though. Spurs are #1 seed and looking damn good. Last year is casting a shadow over this season and I don’t want to repeat that experience

  • RG

    “so far, no good” ? I don’t know… I’ve really enjoyed this team the last few years. Many fans claim every second that their team isn’t reigning champ is a waste of their time, which is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment.

    Bottom line, there are no absolutes. This whole thing is a gamble at all times, and this organization has done a great job keeping the odds in their favor. Can we beat OKC in the WCF? Will we even have to?

    Should we risk everything we can to try to assemble a team that might beat that team if we both make it that far?

    Is this team not better than the one that was up 2-0 in last years WCF? I think we’ve got a great shot at making something happen this year.

  • lvmainman

    I agree with you. The Spurs as currently constructed aren’t championship material as evidenced by the last 5 years. What kind of championship caliber team wins 20 in a row and then loses the next 4 to get eliminated? A good, enjoyable team to watch in the mold of the D’Antoni Suns, sure.
    I’d try to trade Stephen Jackson, Dejuan Blair, and Cory Joseph to the Mavs for Shawn Marion and Darren Collison if possible. The Mavs would get more cap space by eliminating Marion and giving Roddy Beubois a chance to play. Then, the Spurs would have a 2nd defender for the Durant/Lebron type players come playoffs and an actual backup point guard.
    The Thursday night game against the Clippers will be a major wake up call for most casual Spurs fans.

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  • Graham

    I completely agree, we have a better team than last year and were 6 wins away from a championship. Bringing in new pieces will hurt more than help. We have what we need to beat OKC, and I for one am baffled by the overreaction to the WCF, given how well things went the first two games. The thunder made a mental adjustment and a well timed hot streak put them over. We only need a similar adjustment to do so, and I submit the body of this season’s work is just that.

  • Graham

    The wild card is can Josh Smith adjust to the system? From what I’ve seen from his career I lean towards no, and a panic trade to chase away ghosts of season past is not the answer.

    If it were Horford instead of Smith……then I’d be interested.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Not to mention okc doesnt have Harden and Tiago is improved well he’s actually playing now and can handle bigs a lot better this year than ever (see Demarcus Cousins last night). @Kuntz Gheeesh! We were only 2 games away from the finals and Timmy in my opinion blew his wad by then. He was worn. We can save him during the first two rounds if we get on a roll again and he’ll have enough gas by the time the finals come around. We are better now plain and simple. If kobe can block LJ shot so can KL or DG. (sarcasm)

  • krista

    Except it isn’t Jackson/Blair alone. It’s also Splitter and/or Leonard. Unless Ferry is looking to do us a favor, Jackson/Blair isn’t enough. And 27 games isn’t enough to get a new major piece acclimated. And if Smith really expects a huge payday, I don’t think he’d get it here, so we’d rent him for a few months and lose one or two rotation players. Standing pat with a solid team is better than making a potentially stupid trade. To get a really good player, we’d have to give up a good player(s), take on too much money, or find a really stupid GM. We’re around $500k from luxury tax so any trade would also have to be even money-wise or we’d have to cut salary. I’ve yet to read a trade suggestion that makes sense basketball-wise and money-wise.

  • http://twitter.com/blanchard48moh Jesse Blanchard

    I’m not sure it’s complacency so much as it is being realistic. The Spurs are as deep as any team needs to be to contend for a title. They have all the role players you could need and a system to utilize all of them.

    The problem lies in matching the quality of the top three or four rotation guys. The Spurs don’t match Oklahoma City in that department unless they’re firing on all cylinders and OKC is not.

    The Spurs have stayed conservative in regards to their core for the same reasons the Mavericks did in eventually winning their title. Catch the right luck and the right matchups and the Spurs are good enough to win a title as constructed.

    Stephen Jackson and Splitter/Green/Blair might be enough to upgrade one of the top three or four rotation pieces, but realize you’re grabbing a questionable player for that (Josh Smith?). The simple truth of the matter is the Spurs best three players are too good to upgrade and two of them have aged out of matching the Thunder or Heat–unless Duncan from earlier in the season makes it to the playoffs.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Since the last title in 2007, the Spurs’ Defensive Efficiency + Offensive Efficiency rankings are as follows:

    2007-2008: 3 + 15 = 18
    2008-2009: 6 + 10 = 16
    2009-2010: 9 + 9 = 18
    2010-2011: 10 + 2 = 12
    2011-2012: 11 + 1 = 12
    2012-2013: 4 + 4 = 8

    The combined efficiency totals for the 2005 and 2007 titles? 8 and 7, respectively.

    Tim’s playing better than he has in 4 seasons. Tony has never been better. Kawhi, Green, and Splitter are all 15-20% better than last season. This Spurs team is legitimately better than they have been since 2007.

    I have lots of faith in this team as currently constructed.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Craig-Thomas/1541940034 Craig Thomas

    Should they though is the question? Didn’t realize but we are actually 2nd in DREBs but 23rd in overall rebounding precisely because we are last in OREBs. So, is that a good thing for us? We don’t have any 2nd shot opportunities in order to prevent transition offensive. I guess the question boils down to: do the Spurs need 2nd chance opportunities to win playoff games?

  • Sven

    Its actually the other way around. The spurs elect to leave the glass on offence, just to get back in time on defense. I dont know the numbers, but im pretty sure we dont give up a lot of fastbreak points of missed shots (is there a stat for this?) I think its a major part in why the defense has been so good, everyone gets to where they need to be in time. Make sense?

  • Sander

    I am afraid that most of the Spurs fans are seriously unfair towards Stephen Jackson and his potential impact come playoff time.

    Yes, he has struggled with his shot this year (not only percentage-wise but also selection-wise). Yes, he has, at times, the tendency to act like a teenage girl. But with that being said, Captain Jack is, in my opinion, a crucial part of our bench.

    He has the oh-so-important “nasty” in him. He does not hesitate from doing anything, and I do mean anything necessary for winning. Although he has aged quite remarkably, he is still one of the most unpleasant players to play against (the likes of Ron Artest, Tony Allen, Gerald Wallace come to mind). He is totally capable of guarding multiple positions, he is still more than decent all-around player. Stephen can pass as good as any other wing-man in the league (not talking about superstars KD and LBJ of course). I still believe he can improve his shooting percentage in play-offs and he is, to this day, able to create his own shot off the dribble. In addition, his 6’8” frame allows him to rebound quite well. But wait, there is more – he knows the system, he has tremendous trust in Timmy and Pop and in this stage of his career, he must have an unwavering desire for that second (and probably last) championship ring.

    When I look at the potential match-ups all the way to the finals, I can only find a few players on his position, who he could not handle in slow-paced, grit-and-grind elimination games. Those few include the aforementioned LBJ and KD, but then again, who is capable of shutting those guys down (apart from themselves or a well-rounded team-effort).

    Of course, all those notions are all useless, if Jack lets his emotions get the best of him. The same characteristics that could make him a liability, could as well make him irr-(expletetive)-replaceable in play-offs.

    PS: I am from Europe and therefore English is not my native language, so I apologize up front for potential grammar mistakes.

    PPS: I found this site a couple of weeks ago. Have been visiting each and every day since. Please keep it up! Big up from Estonia!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Shotgun.D Derek Brown

    I think RC and Pop have proven that they know what they are doing, 4 rings and the best winning percentage in the last 14+ years. No other team can say that. Can’t win a ring every year. The Spurs have spoiled us.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    Honestly, I don’t think it matters. As good of an offensive team as the Spurs are, it’s more important to get back on defense in the event they don’t score than chase offensive boards. I think you’re likely to give up more points going after OREBs and getting out of position than you would gain by getting the OREB and scoring.