Following the blockbuster trade that sent Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks, the San Antonio Spurs have been in a holding pattern despite being armed with more than $30 million in cap space. The primary holdup for the Spurs was the status of restricted free agent Deandre Ayton, as the NBA landscape was frozen in place while the fate of the best free agent left on the market was being decided.
On Thursday, the Ayton situation was finally resolved when the Phoenix Suns matched the Indiana Pacers maximum offer sheet to the 23-year-old center. Now, with that out of the way, it’s possible for other dominoes involving the Spurs to begin falling.
1) According to a reliable source, the Spurs never considered making Ayton an offer in free agency. As SpursTalk reported prior to the start of free agency, Ayton signing with the Spurs was very unlikely. Even when the Spurs were only one of two teams capable of making a max offer to Ayton, the source tells me that San Antonio declined to even engage with Ayton’s camp.
2) Not only were the Spurs uninterested in Ayton, I’m told that the Spurs aren’t interested in any of the other players available in free agency. There were media reports that the Spurs may go after Cleveland Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton, however I’ve heard of no interest in Sexton from San Antonio.
The Spurs may look to sign or otherwise acquire a player on a cheap contract (like their signing of Gorgui Dieng and their acquisition of Isaiah Roby off of waivers) but it’s safe to close the book on the Spurs making a big splash this offseason with a free agent signing.
3) How do the Spurs plan to use their cap space? The Spurs are actively looking to rent out their cap space in exchange for draft capital. With All-Stars like Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell on the trade market, the Spurs are hoping to be handsomely rewarded for helping to facilitate the acquisition of one of those big names.
4) According to multiple sources, the trade that is closest to happening involves Kyrie Irving being sent to the Los Angeles Lakers and Russell Westbrook being routed to the Spurs. To facilitate that trade, the sources tell me the Spurs want an unprotected first round pick from the Lakers.
As SpursTalk was first to report, San Antonio didn’t want John Collins and was instead demanding unprotected first round picks in order to deal Murray to the Hawks. If the Lakers want the Spurs to help them land Irving, San Antonio is aiming to add to their collection of unprotected picks.
5) A Spurs insider tells me that starting center Jakob Poeltl is likely to be traded by the start of the season. Now that Ayton is back with the Suns, the market for Poeltl should begin to heat up. Josh Richardson is also actively being shopped by the Spurs and could find a new home sooner rather than later.
What do the Spurs want in return for Poeltl and Richardson? The insider tells me the Spurs are currently investigating opportunities to include Poeltl and/or Richardson in the aforementioned mega trades involving Irving, Durant or Mitchell. If adding Poeltl and/or Richardson to a trade results in the Spurs getting an unprotected pick in return, that type of deal takes priority.
For example, if the Brooklyn Nets want Poeltl and Richardson as part of a three-team trade involving Irving and the Lakers, the Spurs would be willing to do that as long as they’re compensated with sufficient draft capital — preferably of the unprotected variety.
6) The Spurs were hoping that the Suns didn’t match the Pacers offer sheet for Ayton. In such a scenario, San Antonio would have been the last team standing with a bountiful supply of cap space. Now, with Ayton back in Phoenix, the Spurs and Pacers both have more than $30 million in cap space available to utilize.
That said, scouts I’ve talked to expect the Pacers to try to add talent to their roster rather than simply use their cap space to facilitate trades like the Spurs are attempting to do.
7) From the Spurs point of view, one positive result of the Suns matching Ayton’s offer sheet is it keeps the Pacers from looking to move Myles Turner right away. If Turner had hit the trade market with the Pacers as motivated sellers, the demand for Poeltl would likely have softened.
8) Although the Ayton domino has fallen, the Spurs are well aware that it could take a while for Irving, Durant and Mitchell to find new homes. It could be weeks or even months for clarity on those fronts. But all indications point to San Antonio being willing to wait as long as it takes. It’s a somewhat risky strategy because the Spurs may end up not being able to monetize their cap space — but it’s a risk the Spurs are reportedly willing to take.