Reading this article by Zach Lowe, which looks back on the George Hill-for-Kawhi Leonard deal, I was struck by how similar the Spurs' situation was to the one we're in right now with Eric Bledsoe. The Spurs loved Hill, a solid, defensively oriented backup PG, but knew he'd never be their starter with one of the best players in the league in front of him, and also knew they wouldn't be able to afford him as a backup when he hit the open market, since he was likely to be offered somewhere between $7MM and $9MM by some team that would want him to be their starter.
So, going into the draft, the Spurs got on the phone. They made conditional deals with not just the Pacers but also teams above them, offering Hill for the pick if any of the players they coveted (presumably not just Leonard) were still on the board when it was that team's turn to pick. As the night wore on, the teams above the Pacers all backed out and held on to their picks, since the guys they themselves liked were still on the board. But then Indiana's turn came, and since the Spurs liked Leonard and Indiana already had Danny Granger and Paul George on the wings, the rest is history.
The savvy San Antonio displayed here is none too surprising: It's why the Spurs are the Spurs. They knew what they needed—someone to guard the likes of Durant and LeBron—and they used a valuable trade chip at a surplus position to go out and get it. Despite the feelings of those who would love to see us keep Bledsoe, the truth is that, in today's NBA, the constraints of the salary cap dictate that you have to part with guys you'd love to keep in order to fill holes while balancing the budget. And no matter what one might think about our underachieving center, he's still better than a lot of the stiffs playing center in the NBA, and he probably does deserve one more shot to see whether a new coach can get him playing closer to his potential. The reality is, we have starting-caliber players at the 1, 4, and 5, but we really don't at the 2 and 3. We have no bigger need than a solid two-way wing with size and shooting ability (i.e. the next Kawhi Leonard), and aside from getting super lucky at pick #25 or signing someone on the downside of his career for the MLE, we probably only have one bullet in the chamber to help us get it: Bledsoe.
Here's hoping Sacks/Miller/CP3 channel their inner Spurs and get this one right ...