Rumors of unrest among NBA stars are swirling right now. While the Spurs aren’t directly involved, reports of turmoil in Atlanta and Chicago could have a huge impact on San Antonio’s rebuild. If Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan leave the Bulls and Trae Young leaves the Hawks, the two franchises in the draft that owe the Silver and Black could become much more valuable.
Naturally, Spurs fans are salivating over the prospect of the team’s extra picks turning into blue-chip assets, but it’s important to keep things in perspective. Eventually, things could turn out in San Antonio’s favor, but right now it seems too early to invest in the dysfunction of others, as nothing seems imminent.
Let’s start with the conversations. There are different types of reports when it comes to the potential movement of NBA stars. Sometimes a player or his agency actually says they want out, or at least heavily hints at it. Sometimes the front office starts leaking about a star’s bad behavior, trying to get ahead of the situation and avoid the blame after parting ways. Sometimes a report comes out of nowhere and refuses to go away, as it did with Dejounte Murray over the summer. In all three cases, there is a good chance that a move is possible as either the team, the player, or both try to find ways to part ways. And then there’s the talk that starts with the rival chiefs’ speculation that happened with Young in Atlanta and DeRozan in Chicago.
It would be unwise to ignore those types of reports entirely, because executives are usually connected to agencies and have more knowledge than most insiders, but they also have an agenda and shouldn’t face the consequences of what they say. When things are going badly for all teams, it’s inevitable for people to wonder if the front office is trying to blow things up or if the star will force his way out. Someone with no skin in the game, like an executive who has no connection to any particular franchise and can remain anonymous, doesn’t have to worry too much about how they express themselves. So, could the rumors that Young hates his coach and is unhappy with the poor situation in Atlanta be accurate? Of course it is. But that doesn’t mean the Hawks are facing imminent doom.
Even if the reports about Young and DeRozan, as well as the more plausible one about LaVine, are true, there’s no indication that their teams will blow it instead of staying relevant. The fact that the Spurs have the future picks of those franchises actually provides the perfect motivation to at least try to stay competitive, and both the Hawks and Bulls made their moves with the clear goal of making deep playoff runs. Assuming the Bulls have to move their two star scorers, they might just try to get a good return on them in the form of players who can still help them make the playoffs. If that seems implausible, just remember that the Spurs chose to bring in DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl when they had to get rid of Kawhi Leonard simply because they didn’t want to go down.
Even if things look bad for those franchises at the end of this season, the Spurs may not be out of the situation every fan fantasizes about, as the team won’t get a pick from any franchise until 2025 at the earliest. Years ago: One of the league’s most coveted assets was the Miami Heat’s 2021 unprotected pick, as teams believed the Heat, after losing LeBron James and led by an aging Dwyane Wade, would lower the floor. The Suns had it in 2018 and used it to trade Mikal Bridges of the 76ers in the 2018 draft when it was still considered really valuable. The pick then moved and ended up in Oklahoma City, where it landed in the late teens as Miami managed to rebuild and win 40 games in three seasons behind Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and Tyler Hero. The same could happen to the Bulls and Hawks by 2025.
To be clear, it’s good for the Spurs that the teams that owe their picks can be a mess. Those assets could be incredibly valuable if the Hawks and Bulls fall apart in the next few years. A perfect example is the Lakers struggling and having to trade the pick in the 2023 Anthony Davis trade to the Pelicans. Things could absolutely go well for San Antonio.
It’s just too early to get too excited about something that’s years away. So let’s all hope for the worst for the Bulls and Hawks, while remembering that even if those picks don’t turn out to be the best, the Spurs can have a successful rebuild if they just shore up what they can actually manage.