The San Antonio Spurs enter the offseason coming off a 34-48 regular season finish. Now, they hold the No. 9 best odds for the first overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft as they look to add more talent to build around.
With Dejounte Murray running point, Keldon Johnson at the four, and a variety of intriguing recently drafted wings to develop, the Spurs have a solid base established. Could a more dynamic center option be a logical next step?
Jakob Poeltl is about as solid of a role player as it gets. He is coming off a season with averages of 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.7 blocks in what was by far the best campaign of his NBA career.
Poeltl provides an efficient interior play finishing option for any half-court offense and is a technical defender. He doesn’t possess elite physical tools, but he is a steady option in just about all the traditional facets of the center position.
There are limitations to what Poeltl provides the Spurs. For starters, he has one of the most paint linking skill-sets in the NBA, which does limit the type of spacing a half-court offense can have. He attempted only nine jump shots within the half-court in 68 games — meaning he took one around every 7.5 games.
There becomes a natural limit on what a team can achieve as an offense when they are a poor pull-up 3-point shooting team, have a non-spacing five, and aren’t cracking the top ten in legitimately any offensive play type as a team.
Deandre Ayton isn’t a dominant force like Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid, but he is one of the NBA’s most efficient finishers around the basket and has a very effective mid-range jumper. Not to mention, he has finesse in the post that could be utilized more often as a featured option.
The presence Ayton’s shot blocking ability provides has been key for the Suns being one of the top defensive squads in the NBA. While Poeltl is a helpful defender, Ayton would bring elements that are currently not present in the Spurs’ defense.
Ayton would bring a helpful boost to the Spurs in a lot of key areas. If he’s truly attainable, it would be advantageous for San Antonio to push to acquire him, especially as a small-market franchise.
How Attainable is Deandre Ayton?
The Suns have built something special. The foundation was laid with the development of Devin Booker throughout losing seasons then adding Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges through the NBA Draft. With Paul already being 37, their window is now.
While it may seem extreme to add so much weight to one game, Sunday’s Game 7 between the Suns and Dallas Mavericks could determine a lot about Ayton’s future in Phoenix.
If the Suns win Game 7 and make it back to a second consecutive Western Conference Finals, why not pay to keep the team intact while Chris Paul is still playing? If they lose, there could be genuine questions about how much Ayton’s impact is worth paying ahead of free agency.
The Mavericks have done a lot of damage going small and shooting a high volume of 3s to maximize spacing around Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson. They’ve used a center rotation of Dwight Powell, Maxi Kleber, and sometimes Dorian Finney-Smith when they go small.
When the Mavericks are shooting at a high clip from deep, there isn’t time to dump the ball to Ayton downlow. That’s the case despite him having a size advantage against any possible matchup he faces. Could this cause questions to be raised about his value ahead of free agency? Of course, that’s up to the Suns organization to decide.
What Would A Sign & Trade Look Like?
In the event the Suns were willing to part with Ayton in a sign-and-trade as opposed to just matching a max contract offer sheet he signs with a different team, the Spurs could form an intriguing potential trade package.
Before getting too into the specifics of potential trade details, the Spurs would need to be the team that Ayton chooses to sign with in free agency. There will be other interested suitors that he can choose from, so it’s difficult to necessarily predict the outcome.
Among the most common linked teams is the Detroit Pistons, who have significant cap space and a need for a talented five. Another rebuilding team like the Oklahoma City Thunder or Indiana Pacers could hypothetically get into the mix, too. Perhaps even a playoff contender like the Toronto Raptors with a need at the five could be another.
Say Ayton were to pick the Spurs, NBA Analysis Network recently crafted a hypothetical trade package for this very scenario. The Spurs would land Ayton and Dario Saric while sending out Jakob Poeltl, Josh Richardon, Doug McDermott, and a 2022 first-round pick (via Boston Celtics).
The specific details of a trade in terms of draft picks can be debated in just about any hypothetical scenario. What matters most is the wages involved. Ayton would be signing for a deal so big the Suns aren’t willing to match to keep him.
The Spurs would send out Poeltl as a center replacement for the Suns while adding additional value with depth on the perimeter in the form of Richardson and McDermott. Phoenix could get aggressive re-shaping their roster after such a deal.