COMMENTARY | In a recent post giving news updates from around the NBA, Ken Berger reported that the San Antonio Spurs were "unusually aggressive" in trying to upgrade their roster in the trade market this season.
Though no specific team or player names were mentioned in the report, the fact that the Spurs were even mentioned in trade rumors is rare enough to make news.
Then, Berger also mentioned something that Spurs fans have not been looking forward to for many years: coach Gregg Popovich and San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford realize this season may be the last shot at a title with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.
"The Big Three" have been the cornerstone not just for the Spurs organization, but also for the NBA. No team has been as consistent, as feared, or as dominant over the past decade than San Antonio, much in part to Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli.
But all of this has to eventually come to an end. While on the surface it may seem odd for the Spurs to be in "unusually aggressive" trade talks with other teams, we all have to remember that Father Time is undefeated.
As if aging players weren't enough for San Antonio to work around, this past week has seen two members of the starting rotation go down with injuries. Both Tiago Splitter and Danny Green are out for the next four weeks, at least. Splitter suffered a shoulder injury against the Los Angeles Clippers on January 4, while Danny Green fractured his left hand against the Minnesota Timberwolves on the 12th.
While this situation may seem bleak for the present, in reality, it could benefit the Spurs greatly in the long run.
If San Antonio is entering into talks with other organizations, it is going to need some "carrots" to dangle in front of them. Last year's playoff run for the Spurs displayed an array of talent outside of Duncan, Parker, and Ginboli. Kawhi Leonard, along with Splitter and Green, became go-to guys and household names at the end of last season. Teams saw, in great detail, what they were capable of.
Now, with two of their young starters out, the Spurs organization now has some minutes freed up to show off what else they can offer.
Jeff Ayers, Patty Mills, and Aron Baynes will all see a little more playing time come their way over the next few weeks, which could become a "trade asset showcase" of sorts.
Ayers is now taking over the starting role for Splitter and has an opportunity increase his comfort within the Spurs' defensive scheme, as well as work on his offensive game. He will be shopped as more of a defender than a scoring threat, and appeal to teams who need a big man to step in when games get close down to the wire.
Mills has been "Tony Parker, Jr." for San Antonio over the past few years, and can even make you do a double take to make sure it really wasn't the Frenchman who split the defense and drove the lane. This season he is averaging 8.1 points per game in over 17.5 minutes. Mills offers a smart, efficient player to run the point- or two-guard position to teams looking to fill any gaps in their backcourt.
The other Australian, Aron Baynes, should be looking to get some more minutes with Splitter down. While he, too, is not a scoring threat right now, having him in the paint on the defensive side can prove to be quite beneficial for teams looking for that presence. He also has had some monster dunks this season, showing a glimmer of an aggressive offensive mindset.
Overall, the Spurs will be fine during Splitter's and Green's time away from the court. Popovich has coached this team too well to be hindered drastically by these injuries. And if he is truly interested in "aggressively" perusing trade talks with teams, no time is better to show off some of his young talent than right now when minutes are looking to be filled.
Stephen Shepperd has written about the San Antonio Spurs for Bleacher Report and the Fansided network. You can follow his on Twitter @ShepperdStephen.
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- Tiago Splitter
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