The San Antonio Spurs are often misguidedly labeled a "boring" team due to their fundamental style of play and complete disregard for flash. Nearly every Spurs fan—or true basketball fan, for that matter—will promptly argue the lack of truth in that statement.
However, few will deny that the Spurs are boring at the trade deadline, the time that many teams use as a means of overhauling their roster midseason. But, for the consistent Spurs, any additions or subtractions come during the offseason, with the vast majority of the roster consisting of homegrown players.
This year, however, the Spurs may very well need to mix things up. It was reported by CBS Sports' Ken Berger in early January that the team was actively pursuing a trade, which, despite their lackluster track record as buyers, shouldn't be too much of a surprise.
Despite what their 36-14 record might suggest, San Antonio has proved over the course of the season that their roster is anything but perfect. Even before a handful of their top players succumbed to injuries, the Spurs exhibited a consistent inability to defeat the league's top teams, and with a firm eye on a fifth banner to hang in the AT&T Center's rafters, the clock is ticking for the team to make the necessary adjustments.
In order to pinpoint what the Spurs need, however, we must first find the areas in which they need the most help, something easier said than done given their relative dominance even amid some stretches of hardship.
Entering the season, the Spurs only had one player slotted at small forward. The emerging Kawhi Leonard was—and is—a promising, multi-faceted player and a long-term guarantee of the Spurs' success.
But behind him, there was very little depth.
At first, the team's trio of shooting guards made their lack of true 3s almost unnoticeable, but as injuries set in, it became evident that the Spurs did, in fact, lack in the small forward department.
At the wing, Danny Green fell first, followed by Leonard and, most recently, Manu Ginobili. Not only has the shooting guard spot become a second slot for a point guard, but the lack of a backup small forward has resulted in an apparent depth problem, with Green—following his return—and Marco Belinelli serving as the sole players accustomed to play the 3, even though both are natural guards.
Though Leonard will eventually find his way back, this glimpse into life without the team's only true small forward has been a bit uneasy. Not only does it create defensive mismatches and increased rebounding opportunities for the opposition, but the team's de facto small-ball lineup sans Leonard lacks the ability to thrive in the post.
Going forward, the team may have to work something out in order to add a capable 3. While the team certainly has an abundance of capable players in the backcourt, the roster has shown that it cannot survive without Leonard should anything happen to him going forward.
Another true small forward would provide injury insurance as well as another option if the Spurs are ever forced to counter a lineup that is simply too big to oppose with a third guard.
In the Post
Is it possible? Does the renowned Spurs' bench have more than one glaring weakness?
If anybody was left uneasy watching the Spurs struggle to find consistency at the small forward spot without Leonard, it was likely nothing compared to the issues that the team ran into without Tiago Splitter, who also missed a large slate of games due to injury.
While Splitter's development ensured that the Spurs can end their search to find a complement to Tim Duncan in the starting lineup, the frontcourt lacks the proper depth to succeed in the playoffs.
As noted, the Spurs' small forward situation is an evident issue, though the biggest troubles lie in the post.
Behind Duncan and Splitter exists a fragile handful of big men headlined by Boris Diaw. After Diaw, though, is a long list of lackluster power forwards and centers. Jeff Ayres has been the source of many fans' frustrations, while Aron Baynes remains raw and unrefined. Matt Bonner can shoot the long ball well, but his contributions end there.
Diaw has been everything that the Spurs have asked for—and then some. But the truth of the matter is that the team cannot win a championship with only three adequate big men—especially considering Duncan's age and Splitter's injury history.
Without a true fourth big, the Spurs are in jeopardy of falling short against any sizable opponent whenever they are shorthanded—or even when healthy in some cases. Until another true post presence is added to the roster, the frontcourt's lack of depth will be an issue that opponents will exploit in the future.
Can the Spurs Make a Trade?
In order to find assets to bring in, the Spurs first need to find pieces to ship out.
Unfortunately, the team's current pieces all claim low salaries, thus making it difficult to put together a deal that would bring in real quality.
San Antonio's two most mentioned trade pieces were Green and Splitter, but after witnessing the defensive catastrophe that accompanied their collective absence, Spurs fans have quickly reversed their stances on dealing these two high-valued pieces.
The biggest assets are Matt Bonner's expiring contract and the team's first-round draft pick—something of value in such a deep draft. Beyond that, the Spurs would likely be willing to part with Cory Joseph, Nando de Colo, Ayres and/or Baynes, though only Joseph provides any true value to a team.
With such limited options, the Spurs are not in store for a blockbuster deal. However, with Bonner's attractive contract as well as a pick and a handful of other pieces, the Spurs do have the tools to make an under-the-radar deal to fill one of their glaring holes.
If the Spurs are serious about making a title run, which they most definitely are, they should certainly explore their options in the coming weeks.
Though it is often praised for its depth, the team is shallow in the frontcourt and desperately needs a final puzzle piece to add to the winning equation.
The easiest fix would be a combo forward, someone with a skill set that rivals that of Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko, who nearly fell into the Spurs' lap over the offseason, is 6'9'' with a versatile repertoire that allows him to play and defend either forward position. He can shoot, slash and post up, a trio of qualities that would help patch up San Antonio's weaknesses.
However, he has found himself a home in Brooklyn, and the team must look elsewhere for a versatile player, though perhaps of a lesser caliber.
A name that comes to mind is Shawn Marion, whose name is frequently thrown around in trade talks. Though the Dallas Mavericks may be hesitant to ship him out, he might be worth a desperate plea.
If the team finds itself very desperate, then Gerald Wallace might be worth a look. His name is no stranger to the rumor mill, and he possesses the well-rounded skill set that would help San Antonio. However, his contract is a bit unwelcoming, and it may force him to be more of a last resort.
Whoever it is, there exists a player out there who can be had at the right price and whose talents would help bring the Spurs over the top.
It's up to the team to find him, but they certainly should keep their eyes peeled. Boring as they might be, the Spurs are in need of a trade to make a final run at the title, and they shouldn't hesitate to weigh their options as the deadline approaches.
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