It has become clear that Brian Wright has a very specific plan for how to handle this phase of the rebuild.
Before Wembymania started and quickly ended in the Summer League, Spurs made a really interesting trade. They got Reggie Bullock and the rights to trade a 2030 first-round pick to the Mavericks by facilitating the deal that sent Grant Williams to Dallas.
The move is mostly about the trade since San Antonio is in asset acquisition mode, but it deserves closer attention because it’s part of a larger trend of how the front office is handling the rebuild.
Bullock could become the new Josh Richardson
Richardson and Bullock aren’t necessarily similar players, as J-Rich was more of a 3-and-D guy, but they share some traits. Both are veterans with mid-sized contracts who were moved by teams trying to upgrade. Both joined San Antonio as their current contracts are about to expire. Both could be useful in a limited role for a team that has a lot of young players, and both could be used as trade bait as soon as another team shows interest.
Let’s start with the pass on the field. Last season the Spurs needed some secondary ball handlers and Richardson filled that role well. In the coming year, with Tre Jones, Malaki Branham, Devonte’ Graham, Blake Wesley and even Jeremy Sochan around, there will be enough players to facilitate. What is missing is shooting and wing defense. Bullock could deliver it. The former Maverick is a career 38 percent shooter from beyond the arc on good volume and has been a solid if unremarkable defender for years. If everyone is healthy, Bullock shouldn’t play heavy minutes, but if the Spurs are again careful with the way they handle injuries and take the time to integrate the younger guys into their rotation, playing the veteran for the first few months of the season could give them an opportunity to showcase him for a trade.
There is a rational fear that having Bullock around could stimulate the development of Branham and Julian Champagnie, but having some competition won’t be the worst thing for the younger guys. And if Bullock doesn’t play much, there’s still a chance he’ll be traded midseason for an asset, just like Thaddeus Young did.
The Spurs have traded cap space for expiring contracts
The Spurs entered the offseason armed with cap room to facilitate trades for a fee. They used it to get Cedi Osman, Lamar Stevens, Reggie Bullock, a future second rounder and a pick swap, which is a decent move. Now they have mostly used up their entire room, so it could be difficult to be a player in the market. However, the fact that no one else really has cap space could work in San Antonio’s favor as two big trades could still come.
At some point, Damian Lillard and James Harden will be moved unless the front offices of the Trail Blazers and 76ers call their bluffs. When they do, they might need a third team to take on a contract they don’t want. The Spurs could do that while deploying viable rotation guys on expiring contracts like Bullock and Osman. A simple example would be for the Heat to include Duncan Robinson in a deal for Lillard. The Blazers don’t want him, so San Antonio could step in to accommodate him while offering someone who could be waived immediately or only be on the books for a year. By combining Osman, Bullock and Khem Birch, the Spurs could have close to $40 million in expiring contracts ready to be moved. Expiring deals aren’t as valuable as they once were, but they could still help grease the wheels of trades.
The good thing is, if no one needs them, the Spurs can simply keep him on the books, regardless of whether the players are waived or not, and essentially roll their cap space into next offseason. Even with significant Devin Vassell and potentially Zach Collins extensions included in the projection, San Antonio should once again have plenty of room to either make a splash if the front office thinks it’s time to go all-in or continue to acquire more assets by renting it out. Bullock is just one piece of that puzzle, but the fact that the Spurs only have one veteran, Graham, on a contract that extends beyond this season puts the franchise in a good position going forward.
The Bullock fair shows the front office has a plan
Bullock is a decent player who can be a stopper on the wing if needed, but the most interesting thing about him being with the Spurs is that he is part of a trend. The front office gets veterans on expiring or close to expiring contracts, tries to flip them, and if they can’t, they just use them to roll their cap space into next summer. It’s a smart way to have enough experience on the roster without committing to anyone, and it has yielded some good returns on trades.
It took a while for the rebuild in San Antonio to really start, but at this point it’s hard to find much to complain about how it’s been handled, and the Bullock trade is just the latest example of Brian Wright seeing out to know what he is. do.