SAN ANTONIO, TX – JANUARY 26: DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs receives a technical from … [+] official Lauren Holtkamp during first half action against the Toronto Raptors at AT&T Center on January 26, 2020 in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that ,by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)
The 2020 NBA trade deadline became a little more eventful than expected. No superstars moved from one team to another, but a handful of multi-team transactions headlined the slew of deals, none of which included the San Antonio Spurs.
Whether it was DeMar DeRozan’s future or DeMarre Carroll’s need for a better fit elsewhere, the Spurs, outside of the playoff mix, stood to potentially make their first trade at the midseason deadline since 2014. They had the chance to accumulate assets in a non-forced way (i.e. Kawhi Leonard trade of 2018).
On ESPN’s Woj & Lowe special before the trade deadline, the Spurs apparently considered “liquidating everybody” as one of their options, or to try improving their team to make a late playoff push. Neither happened, keeping the roster identical to how it arrived to training camp in October.
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Instead, Wojnarowski prognosticated that San Antonio would stand pat at the deadline and wait for the off-season when a player like DeRozan, who has a player option for 2020-21, can move in a sign-and-trade package. The latter, which is obviously the case now, will open the market for DeRozan, even if he doesn’t opt out of his contract, and LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay. Moving those players becomes a likelier reality as the Spurs continue to slip from playoff relevancy.
The hope for one last postseason run with this group is slipping away. A 22-31 record has coach Gregg Popovich’s group five games outside the No. 8 seed, with the Memphis Grizzlies pulling away and the Portland Trail Blazers within distance. Facing the Thunder twice, the Jazz and Mavericks in the next four games only dampens the aspirations for more. Going 0-4 could take the Spurs out of the mix by nine games and set up a harsh end to a 22-year streak of postseason appearances.
Sure, the concept of “one last hurrah” was probably appealing. Popovich isn’t getting any younger, and the veterans atop this roster are either on the wrong side of 30 or bound for free agency. Even players in the middle of the roster can hit the open market, so the 2020-21 roster is bound to look different.
Still, now was probably time to pull the plug on at least part of the roster. The DeMarre Carroll signing flopped, leaving an unhappy veterans making $7 million at the end of the bench. He needed a move more than anyone, but a guaranteed $6.5 million salary for 2020-21 makes a deal difficult without attaching an asset. Trying to move one of Aldridge, DeRozan or Gay could have worked, too, but when more teams are open to making changes in the summer, that’s arguably the opportune time to shop those players. The return packages remain to be seen since nothing came to fruition before Thursday’s trade deadline.
2019-20 is the Spurs’ last chance with this group, but that’s slipping away with each loss in February. The tenable outcome is missing a chance at playing for the NBA title for the first time since 1996-97. That might take a second for the NBA to register, but after years on top, the Silver and Black are taking their official step backward.