Spurs fleece Timberwolves with the draft pick they got by fleecing the Raptors

The Toronto Raptors had to watch as the Spurs took the pick they stole from them and used it to fleece the Timberwolves on NBA Draft night.
Adam Silver, Rob Dillingham, 2024 NBA Draft
Adam Silver, Rob Dillingham, 2024 NBA Draft / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

The Toronto Raptors were absolutely fleeced by the San Antonio Spurs over a year ago, and now the Spurs just turned around and did it again.

16 months ago the Raptors were fighting just to make the Play-In Tournament, and they were in need of reliable rim protection behind their collection of athletic forwards. Instead of trading their veterans to get maximum value, they decided to double-down on a mediocre team and trade for center Jakob Poeltl.

The Spurs fleeced the Raptors

The Spurs extracted a painful price, including a lightly-protected first-round pick. The Raptors predictably didn't turn into a contender overnight, and a year later were trading away those players at discounted rates.

In the meantime, they handed a long, lucrative new contract to Poeltl, which means they are now holding onto an aging veteran center who doesn't match the timeline or goals of their young core. And the Raptors were bad enough that instead of sending the Spurs a pick in the 20s, they handed the No. 8 pick in the draft to San Antonio after a moribund season.

Watching the Spurs make the pick that should have been theirs would have been painful enough, a twist of the knife on a deal that looks like a big mistake in hindsight. At least they could take solace in this draft being described as a weak one, with a paucity of star-level talent.

The Spurs spun that pick into gold

Instead, the Raptors had to watch the Spurs turn the No. 8 pick in a weak draft and spin it into gold. The Minnesota Timberwolves, holding just a few draft assets after mortgaging their future for Rudy Gobert and with no financial avenues to upgrade the team, traded up to take Kentucky guard Rob Dillingham with the No. 8 pick originally belonging to Toronto.

Dillingham is a dynamic on-ball scorer and playmaker, a fearless point guard who should be able to score in droves. The questions with him involve his size (6'1" tall, 164 pounds) and whether he can survive defensively. Perhaps he's going to be an All-Star scorer for the Timberwolves, or perhaps he's the next Bones Hyland.

What the Spurs did was take advantage of a Timberwolves team desperate to strike before their future draft picks begin to be frozen for living above the second luxury tax apron. What did it cost the Wolves to trade up for Dillingham?

An unprotected first-round pick in 2031, and a Top-1 protected first-round pick in 2030.

The Wolves are going to be punitively expensive over the next few seasons. They are reliant on an aging center and making a bet that Dillingham can be their long-term starting point guard. Anthony Edwards is young and phenomenal, but there is a very good chance that the new CBA grinds the Wolves back down and that the Spurs just landed one or even two lottery picks.

They did that for the No. 8 pick in a weak draft. That kind of upside swing for the Spurs, and in years when Victor Wembanyama will likely be winning MVPs, is a stroke of brilliance. The Spurs stole the Raptors' lunch money, then invested that money in high-yield stocks that will mature far down the road.

Smart franchises play the long game. Impatient franchises make mistakes trying to prioritize the present. The Raptors did that with the Jakob Poeltl trade, and it set the Spurs up to secure their future. That can't be fun to watch.

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