Why The San Antonio Spurs Must Trade For Trae Young This Off-Season

With no legitimate contention path in sight for the foreseeable future, Trae Young trade rumors are loudly echoing across the NBA world. Enter the San Antonio Spurs, who desire a star to pair with Victor Wembanyama and have the picks to pull the trigger.

Trae Young Mock Trade

The following framework is an excellent move for both franchises this off-season:

Atlanta Hawks Receive:

  • Keldon Johnson
  • Blake Wesley
  • 2024 1st via Spurs
  • 2025 1st via Hawks
  • 2025 1st via Bulls (top 10 protected; becomes 2026 top 8 protected if fails to convey; becomes 2027 top 8 protected if still fails to convey)
  • 2026 1st Swap via Hawks
  • 2027 1st via Hawks

San Antonio Spurs Receive:

  • Trae Young

Why The Hawks Accept

It’s always extremely difficult to consider trading a three time All-Star who has yet to reach his prime, and Trae Young is no exception. However, Atlanta may not have a choice. Their 2025 and 2027 first rounders belong to San Antonio, and the Spurs possess swap rights on the 2026 first. The Hawks are also burdened with expensive long-term contracts and subsequently lack a sliver of cap space to improve during free agency. Unless they attach valuable and scarce draft capital to move veterans, Atlanta is essentially crippled financially until the 2027 off-season.

What do they have to show for this disaster? They rank 22nd in Net Rating and barely cling to the final play-in spot with a 24-30 record. Even if they wanted to weather the storm for a few years (which accomplishes nothing), Trae Young likely demands a trade long before greener pastures potentially emerge – potentially being the key word too.

Therefore, hitting the reset button remains Atlanta’s best avenue forward. The Spurs are the sole team that can offer the Hawks their future back because they own their draft capital. The trade above represents a fair framework that could emerge during negotiations.

Keldon Johnson is still just 24-years-old and has a team-friendly contract to the tune of $54M total across the next three seasons. Per Basketball Index’s metrics (minimum 500 minutes), he ranks 57th in rim shot making and 62nd in self-created shot making, which adjusts efficiency with shot quality, or degree of difficulty. At a minimum, his scoring (18.5 PPG over the past three seasons) deems him an impactful long-term player. Additionally, former first round pick Blake Wesley turns 21 in March. He’s a dart throw at this point, but Atlanta adds a talented young point guard who could eventually become a solid rotation player.

The surrendered draft capital forms the bulk of the treasure chest though. San Antonio’s 2024 first rounder is currently projected to be third overall, and it’s probable that the pick winds up in the top five. Alex Sarr, Cody Williams, Rob Dillingham or another similar prospect is an outstanding building block to kick off a rebuild. The Hawks would also have their own 2024 first and Sacramento’s 2024 first to add talent too.

Meanwhile, Atlanta claws back their picks, which allows them to add more tantalizing prospects. Plus, Chicago’s first likely provides them with a mid to late lottery selection sometime from 2025 to 2027.

Overall, the Hawks secure hyper-valuable draft capital to pair with Dejounte Murray, Jalen Johnson, and Kobe Bufkin. Trading Trae Young will be a painful process but ultimately the correct choice. Otherwise, Atlanta is doomed to the crawling treadmill of mediocrity.

Why The Spurs Accept

San Antonio ranks 27th in Offensive Rating largely because they lack an elite table-setter who wrenches open advantages against tough defenses. That defines Young, who produces the second most points created via assists per game across the NBA. In the following chart via Basketball Index, the metric passing creation quality essentially measures a player’s ability to generate high value assists (rim attempts, three-point attempts, free throws). On the other hand, lob passing creation rate measures a player’s ability to create lobs on a rate basis.

Trae Young Passing

As you can see, Young has consistently been at or near the top of the league in both categories. Considering Victor Wembanyama may be the most dangerous lob threat in NBA history, the pairing could not be more perfect.

In addition to his highly effective playmaking, Young has averaged roughly 27 points per game since his rookie season. Efficiency has often eluded him, but the All-Star currently sits just above league average in true shooting percentage this season. Of the 51 players with at least 200 pull-up field goal attempts, he ranks 12th in pull-up effective field goal percentage. His mark is on par with Jamal Murray, Jalen Brunson, and Luka Doncic.

Young’s immense three-point range and willingness to launch at a moment’s notice also forces the defense to always go over ball screens and aggressively step up once he crosses half-court. As a result, he ranks 7th in on-ball gravity per Basketball Index and warps defensive geometry. Victor Wembanyama and company will have far more space to operate due to Young’s presence. How can defenses contend with simultaneous back-breaking pressure points behind the arc (via Young) and inside the paint (via Wembanyama)?

Overall, the Hawks have ranked 9th, 2nd, 7th, and now 8th in Offensive Rating since the start of the 2021 season. In other words, rostering Trae Young basically guarantees a top ten offense due to his brilliance. That trend should easily continue when combining him with Wembanyama and Vassell.

Now, it’s not as if Young is a perfect player. In particular, his suspect defense will always be a fundamental roadblock to success; however, Wembanyama is an absolute game-changer who could mask this flaw more than anyone. The 7’4” rookie often transforms the paint into an unassailable medieval castle. When opponents do dare to challenge him, he ranks second in block percentage. Not only does the eye test paint him as a blossoming all-time defender, but he is 3rd in D-LEBRON and 7th in Defensive Estimated Plus-Minus. With Wembanyama on the court, San Antonio has the chops to survive teams hunting Trae Young.

Finally, Young turns 26-years-old in September and is signed for the next three seasons, although he does have an early termination option in the final year. This trade secures a long-term partner for Wembanyama and immediately raises their outlook by a considerable amount. Yes, the Spurs lose valuable draft capital, but they would still possess all of their own future picks after the trade. Players of Trae Young’s caliber rarely hit the market, so San Antonio must pounce, especially since the fit is perfect.

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Braxton has been covering the NBA for Lineups since the 2022 season. He's worked with multiple collegiate coaching staffs regarding analytics and scouting, which has allowed him to understand the game on a deeper level. Braxton is also a contributor at Thunderous Intentions.

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