Erazem Lorbek, Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair
Reports have come out the last few days stating Erazem Lorbek will join the Spurs this summer. Lorbek, in case you had forgotten, was part of the Spurs’ haul last summer when they dealt George Hill to Indiana for Kawhi Leonard on draft night (fun fact: Matt Moore at CBSSports.com only mentioned Lorbek in the deal as “a pick from 2005 unlikely to ever head to the NBA”).
If true, this doesn’t come as too much of a surprise. Before taking on the Pacers on March 31, Coach Pop mentioned in his pre-game press conference in response to a question about next season’s roster that “the big kid in Europe can help us.” Presumably he was talking about Lorbek, and if Coach Pop is talking about any player that the Spurs have rights to that’s not already on the team, you can bet it’s a pretty solid lock.
In fact, I’m kind of shocked Pop remembers the team owns the rights to players outside the NBA umbrella. I’m not at all surprised, however, that Pop either didn’t know Lorbek’s name or decided against saying it.
So how does Lorbek fit in with the Spurs if he does indeed join the team this summer? I won’t pretend that I’ve watched extensive film on Lorbek in Spain, where he was the Spanish League Finals MVP this season. DraftExpress had Lorbek’s best case scenario as Memhet Okur when he was drafted. Most likely, he’ll fit into a similar role as Matt Bonner. Lorbek is a good outside shooter who can probably bang down low better than Bonner, but I doubt has the team defense skills that Bonner does. I can assure that Lorbek has a higher release on his hook shot than Tiago Splitter, so there’s that.
So Lorbek is another Matt Bonner. Do the Spurs need another Bonner?
No, they don’t. In fact, I don’t think it’s worthwhile for any team in the NBA to have more than one perimeter-based big man. So what do the Spurs do? This is where RC Buford and Co. get creative. I think the Spurs want to keep Diaw around, who I don’t see has a stretch big man, so long as Diaw doesn’t command too great of a price tag and are apparently bringing Lorbek over. That gives the Spurs six big men in a four man rotation.
If they can’t package him in a deal, I think you’re likely to see DeJuan Blair get waived. Blair is in the final year of his rookie contract, which is fully unguaranteed according to Sham Sports. The Spurs are on the hook for the entirety of that final year if they don’t waive Blair by November 1st, however, so they’ve got time to see how things play out before getting rid of Blair without penalty.
Bonner is a different story. As much as I like the Red Rocket as a personality in the locker room for the Spurs, I think his time in silver and black has run its course and it’s time to cut him loose. Bonner is entering the second to the last year of his contract, which pays him about $3.6 mil this season. It’s all fully guaranteed, so they won’t be able to waive him this season.
The final year of his deal, in 2013-14, is only partially guaranteed. If the Spurs, or whatever team Bonner is on at the end of next year, waives him by June 29, 2013, he’s only guaranteed $1 million from that final season. Essentially, this makes Matt Bonner a sort of expiring contract next season. The Spurs can package him in a trade at the deadline to a team looking to shed salary, knowing they’d only have to pay him another $1 million beyond next season. Trading Bonner either this summer or next season is the most likely option for him.
With Erazem Lorbek likely coming to San Antonio this summer and the Spurs hopefully bringing back Boris Diaw, the odds are looking greater every day that Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair will not be with the Spurs next season. Both have trade-friendly contracts when part of a package, and DeJuan Blair can be waived at any time before November 1 without penalty. The Spurs big man rotation could be a lot different come next fall.