Thoughts After the Spurs Trade Josh Richardson for Devonte’ Graham and Four Second Rounders

The San Antonio Spurs completed a second and final trade at the NBA trade deadline. After trading Jakob Poeltl to the Toronto Raptors, the Spurs sent Josh Richardson to the New Orleans Pelicans for Devonte’ Graham and four second round draft picks.

While the Spurs wanted a first rounder for Richardson, they settled for a handful of second rounders and Graham, a 27-year-old point guard. Initial reports indicate that the Spurs will receive second round picks from the Pelicans in 2024, 2026, 2028 and 2029.

1) Graham is owed $12.1 million next season. That amount is guaranteed. In the 2024-25 season, only $2,850,000 of the $12.65 million he’s owed is guaranteed. 

Considering that Graham was only averaging 15.3 minutes per game for the Pelicans this season and hadn’t played in three of New Orleans’ previous four games, part of the reason the Pelicans gave the Spurs so many second rounders was for San Antonio to absorb Graham’s contract.

2) While Graham, who has hit only 36.8% of his shots from the field this season, isn’t currently worth his contract, he fills a hole in San Antonio. The Spurs have lacked point guard depth since they released Joshua Primo. Graham is good enough to step in immediately and play a role. In fact, don’t be surprised if he starts if Tre Jones misses more games due to his injured foot.

3) Graham’s strength as a basketball player is his three-point shooting. He’s a career 35.6% shooter from downtown. More impressive than his accuracy, though, is his volume. 

For example, back in the 2019-2020 season, he averaged 18.2 points per game for the Charlotte Hornets. That season, he attempted 9.3 threes per game and shot them at a 37.3% clip.

At his peak, Graham shot 14 three-pointers per 100 possessions. To put that in perspective, San Antonio’s current sharpshooters Devin Vassell and Doug McDermott shoot approximately 10 three-pointers per 100 possessions.

Graham shooting early and often from deep should help San Antonio’s spacing, if all goes as planned, and provide room for the younger players to operate, learn and grow. 

4) While Graham’s contract gives him negative value right now, the Spurs could rehabilitate his value over the next year and look to deal him at next year’s trade deadline. In New Orleans, he was buried behind CJ McCollum and Jose Alvarado at point guard. In San Antonio, he has a much clearer path to consistent minutes.

5) While Graham is a fit with the Spurs due to how their roster is currently constructed, he shouldn’t endanger the tank. Richardson is the better player and he’s much more impactful on both ends. If San Antonio’s aim is to lose as many games as possible to help their chances in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes, this trade is a net positive in that direction.

6) The Spurs also have reliable resources to know whether Graham is a strong character fit on the team. Graham played at Kansas for four years where RC Buford’s best friend Bill Self is the head coach. Additionally, Graham and Tony Parker were teammates during Parker’s farewell tour that was headquartered in Charlotte.

7) Tre Jones will be a restricted free agent this summer. If a team throws a pile of money at him that the Spurs are hesitant to match, having Graham on the roster makes letting Jones go an easier pill to swallow. Although Graham isn’t a good enough point guard to start on a contender, he’s good enough to fill a role similar to what Jones has been playing this season.

8) The Spurs pushing out the second round draft picks as far out into the future as possible is a win. The Pelicans have a lot of talent on paper right now but that could all change if Zion Williamson eventually asks out of the small market. For that reason, having New Orleans’ 2028 and 2029 second rounders is especially appealing. 

9) All in all, the Richardson trade played out much like the Poeltl trade. The Spurs didn’t quite get what they wanted (a first round pick) and they had to take back an unsightly contract (Graham) but they were rewarded with a healthy amount of draft capital (four second round picks). 

If the Spurs can rehabilitate Graham’s value, this trade will undoubtedly go down as a win. Even if they can’t, San Antonio still has plenty of salary cap space going forward and now even more draft picks to work with.