Anticipating a Richard Jefferson trade
This post is pure speculation. It’s made of tea leaves and weathervanes and little bits of the NASDAQ.
A Richard Jefferson trade is on the table. The Spurs are about to make a move.
Since the start of free agency, the Spurs’ name has been attached to no fewer than five players: Boki Nachbar, Josh Howard, Mo Evans, Vince Carter, and Caron Butler. All veterans; all small forwards. Josh Howard and Caron Butler will be in San Antonio tomorrow to meet with the Spurs.
Just after the Spurs were bounced from playoffs last season, Gregg Popovich granted an end-of-year interview to the Express News. In that interview Popovich listed a couple offseason goals. The first was defensive improvement:
…to do everything humanly possible to become a more elite defensive team. For a couple reasons: One, historically, good defensive teams go the farthest in the playoffs, as can be proven in a million different ways.
Secondly, for personal reasons I felt very uneasy all year long with our spotty defense that could not be consistently relied upon in fourth quarters. It drove me crazy. I think I just need to do whatever I need to do — personnel-wise, or drill-wise or demand-wise — to go from the middle of the pack back to four, five, six, seven, somewhere in there.
We can’t be one, two, three anymore. We don’t have that youth, that juice to do that. But I think we can be four, five, six, seven, instead of 12, 13, 14, 15.
Coach Popovich put his other goal this way:
Our biggest need right now — depending on what ’Dyess does (with retirement) — is a starting four (power forward). We need to know who is going to be our starting four. Is it DeJuan Blair? Is it (Tiago) Splitter, where Timmy’s the four and Splitter’s the five? Is it Matt Bonner? Do you need to make a trade? We’re investigating all those areas.
Let’s assume nothing has changed since Pop identified these two things as his team’s top priorities. If the Spurs need a power forward, why are they chasing every available veteran small forward? Why would they need another small forward with a depth chart of Richard Jefferson, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Da’Sean Butler?
The smart money says the Spurs have a deal in place to swap Richard Jefferson (and pieces?) for a big.
There is the possibility that San Antonio is planning to use the amnesty clause on Richard Jefferson, but this doesn’t make much sense to me.
First, there is the expense of it. Is Peter Holt really keen on the idea of paying Richard Jefferson 30 million dollars to take a walk? Doubtful. And doubly doubtful if the Spurs are currently planning to add another 5 million of payroll to secure his replacement. That’s 35 million dollars in RJ-related expenses.
Second, Peter Holt is well-known to have lobbied for use of the amnesty clause at any time over the life of the new CBA, not simply prior to this season. Why go through the trouble if his team planned to throw the amnesty sack over Jefferson’s head prior to the start of this season? Either he was simply playing the role of good soldier for his fellow owners or the Spurs have other plans.
Third: RJ amnesty plus a replacement small forward does not equal a new power forward. In fact, it makes a new power forward practically impossible.
Finally, the Spurs did something rare over the weekend. They leaked their displeasure for a player. In a Buck Harvey piece published on December 3, we find this quote:
“You know, in football, when there’s a pile and the runner is tackled?” a Spurs coach said not long ago. “Richard is the guy who runs in when the play is over and jumps into the pile.”
Ouch. And, wow, is that out of character. How often will the Spurs publicly ridicule one of their own in this way?
Here’s what I expect to happen Friday morning: the Spurs will announce they’ve moved Richard Jefferson (and other assets) for a new big. Then, shortly thereafter, the Spurs will sign a veteran small forward to replace Richard Jefferson.
I hope you enjoy spoilers. That’s not your entire offseason, San Antonio, but, if my suspicions are correct, it’s the central plot.