For the first time since 2014, the San Antonio Spurs made a trade on the NBA’s trade deadline. Unfortunately, this trade is nothing for Spurs fans to celebrate. No, they didn’t trade LaMarcus Aldridge for an asset before being forced to buy out his contract. No, they weren’t able to get value for the expiring contracts of DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Patty Mills or Trey Lyles.
Instead, the Spurs made a small trade to put money into ownership’s pockets while hurting the basketball team.
The details of the trade are simple: The Spurs trade the draft rights to Cady Lalanne to the Golden State Warriors for Marquese Chriss and cash. Lalanne was the 55th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft and the 28-year-old is never going to make it to the league, so trading him away is not a loss. The Spurs had to give the Warriors something as part of the trade so they gave them the rights to a valueless player. That’s nothing to be upset about.
Why Marquese Chriss was Traded to the Spurs
The Warriors traded Marquese Chriss to the Spurs in order to lower their luxury tax bill and open up a roster spot. Chriss is out for the season after breaking his leg back in December. He won’t play for the Spurs.
San Antonio was enticed to do this trade for one reason: cash. The Spurs had an open roster spot and got enough cash from the Warriors to cover the money Chriss is owed — plus a little bit extra. We don’t yet know how much cash the Spurs got but it’s probably not a notable amount in the grand scheme of the things. At the end of the day, the ownership probably profited less than a million dollars by doing this trade.
Why Spurs Fans Shouldn’t Be Thrilled
The Spurs could have used that roster spot to possibly improve the team. They still have most of the mid-level exception to use, so the Spurs could have signed a free agent instead of doing this trade.
For example, if a prospect the Spurs like became available, they could have given the player a three-year deal with only the first season guaranteed. That would have given the Spurs options going forward, while possibly landing a player who’d be useful in the future.
After this trade for Chriss, that’s not as easy. Sure, the Spurs can and probably will release Chriss, but even if they do, the amount of his contract buyout will count against their salary cap. That means they’ll have less money to spend to potentially sign a prospect before the end of the season.
In fact, after this Chriss trade, the Spurs may not have any money to spend before they run into the luxury tax threshold. Depending on how much money LaMarcus Aldridge sacrifices when negotiating his buyout, the Spurs might not have any available money at all to spend on that final roster spot.
On one hand, it’s not that big of a deal that the Spurs wasted money that could have otherwise gone to an interesting 15th man. On the other hand, it’s not great that the team opted to prioritize money over basketball at the trade deadline.
In previous years, the Spurs made deals to get beneath the luxury tax threshold. However, this trade is different because the Spurs were already beneath that threshold. This trade was done to just make money while simultaneously hurting the team’s flexibility. From a fan’s perspective, that’s tough to swallow.