Free Agency: My Thoughts

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To give you a window into my fragile emotional state, once the Spurs were eliminated from the playoffs I checked out from caring about the NBA. The loss to the Thunder was too disappointing.  I needed some time. But I’m writing again. It feels good.

What We’ve Learned

  • In my estimation the Spurs’ loss the Thunder revealed no fewer than three roster issues: 1) the Spurs’ team defense is not athletic enough, 2) the Spurs need more players who can get their own shot, 3) the Spurs need an actual backup point guard.
  • It’s worth noting that Manu Ginobili hasn’t made it through a regular season unscathed since, well, I’m not sure if he’s ever made it through a regular season without injury. My memory doesn’t go back that far. He’s still amazing when he’s amazing, but his play against the Thunder was a good reminder that the Spurs must begin to supplement and eventually replace his play-making.
  • The Spurs’ FO should absolutely explore the trade market on DeJuan Blair, Gary Neal, and Matt Bonner—as I’m sure most Spurs fans are doing right now, even as I type. These are all good players in the right situations, but in order for the Spurs to win a championship, they need to get more from the minutes they would otherwise give these players.
  • It’s worth trading Blair and Neal for any asset available. The Spurs don’t necessarily need to receive a player back. Draft picks and trade exceptions will do. The Spurs can’t afford to lose Bonner unless they can somehow replace him with a stretch four (Lorbek?).
  • Additionally, the Spurs should look at the market on Tiago Splitter and Stephen Jackson. Obviously, you don’t move these players unless they’re necessary in a deal for an unquestioned roster upgrade.
  • A note on Stephen Jackson. He’s a hero to us all, I know. But he has a fairly large expiring contract that might force the Spurs’ hand. He’s a short term fix, and if the Spurs have to use his contract in order to trade for a long term upgrade, it’s a hard decision they will have to make.
  • The Spurs shouldn’t overpay for Danny Green, but they’ve done the smart thing by extending a qualifying offer to him.
  • Ditto on Patty Mills. Let another team set the market on Mills, but hope for an opportunity to bring him back to San Antonio.
  • Boris Diaw earned his keeps. He gives San Antonio a boost on both sides of the ball. The Spurs’ lack of cap room makes it impossible to overpay for any player, but they should work to give Diaw a good deal.
  • Kawhi Leonard is a crucial piece to the Spurs offseason puzzle. The Spurs will be a better team if Leonard is able to improve his game this summer. Internal improvement is always under-valued, but Leonard’s high ceiling makes him one of the most important themes of the offseason.
  • Duncan is still a great player, even at 36. The Spurs should pay Duncan whatever he wants but hope he wants less than he should.

What We Know Now

  • Per Marc Stein, the Spurs and Duncan have apparently worked out the framework of a deal, but Duncan hasn’t yet committed his signature to a contract. Optimistically, this means he is giving the Spurs some opportunity to scale his deal based on the caliber of free agent they’re able to attract.
  • Reports say the Spurs have expressed interest in Ersan Ilyasova (via SpursTalk). Ilyasova is an ideal free agent for the Spurs, but given his expected price tag and the Spurs current wallet, it’s difficult to see this working. Either Duncan is willing to take a reduced paycheck if SA is able to sign Ilyasova or the FO has their mind on a sign and trade package. Keep your fingers crossed.
  • The Spurs’ interest Erazem Lorbek and Nando De Colo is widely reported. With Lorbek, I don’t think the Spurs can lose. He’s an ideal fit for SA’s system—a new Matt Bonner, but with a more skills. Offensively, De Colo makes sense as a multi-positional playmaker. On the other hand, it’s uncertain if De Colo can defend in the NBA. Remember Russell Westbrook? Plus, assuming Danny Green returns, the Spurs’ backcourt is already crowded.
What Could Happen
  • Because of the new CBA, the free agent market might be more volatile this summer as teams account for the increasing tax penalty of future seasons. The Spurs are always patient, but this is a good summer to wait for opportunities to present themselves. The Spurs, as always, should not play a plan, they should play their options.
  • The amnesty market is still developing. Tyrus Thomas and Dorrell Wright are two players whose teams may either exercise the amnesty clause on or seek to dump. Both players should appeal to the Spurs. Other players may shake free in the coming days.
  • Depending on what the Spurs are able to accomplish with trades, veteran free agents like Kenyon Martin and Marcus Camby could fit the bill as 5th bigs. Again, letting the market settle and come to them is the best option for San Antonio.
What I Would Like to See
  • No matter what happens this summer, the Spurs should return a good team. I expect them to fight for a Top 4 seed in the Western Conference, and, as you can see from the bullets above, they have a laundry list of team-positive scenarios to pursue this summer that will make that expectation come to life. Having said that…
  • The Spurs should not let up, even a little bit, on their offensive agenda. No matter how much recovery they make as a defensive team this summer, the current NBA privileges offense. The Spurs’ best players are good, but not great defenders. San Antonio has to play to their strength, which means they have to continue to run up the score. In other words, they don’t have roster space available for players who can’t score.
  • At the same time, San Antonio should target offensive players who can infuse their defensive schemes with some much needed athleticism. Rather than filling out the end of the roster with players for Austin, I’d like to see the Spurs take a chance at developing a couple (heretofore failed or old) athletes. Anthony Randolph is the poster child for this kind of approach, and he’s unrestricted. If the Spurs have an opportunity to give a player like Anthony Randolph or Kenyon Martin or Tyrus Thomas or Marcus Camby a chance to assume the regular season minutes Pop would otherwise give to DeJuan Blair, the Spurs would benefit.  As a thought experiment, I can’t imagine Anthony Randolph under-performing DeJuan Blair if afforded the same situation (the opportunity to start games next to Tim Duncan) and the same minutes. It’s hard too imagine Randolph dramatically over-performing Blair, but he would do things Blair doesn’t. Namely, stand 6’11” and block 3 shots per 48 minutes. Assuming the Spurs simply re-sign Duncan and Diaw, their frontline would still lack length, athleticism, and shot blocking.  I hope the Spurs target a player like Randolph or Camby as a fifth big.

 

 

  • thecity2

    Warriors already used their amnesty on Charlie Bell.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill
  • albe

    i like anthony randolph. would love to see an ilyasova or a guy like antawn jamison come in even though both are more offensively gifted than defensively, they fit into the spurs system. both would come with a pretty large price tag though. i think our best bet is hoping diaw sees how close we were last year and comes back for cheap, everyone forgets about randolph and the spurs make a sneaky signing, or nobody cares about beasely and the spurs pick him up (yeah i know he plays 3 but thats what he was forced into playing in minny, he’s 6’10 and was a versatile combo forward in college, spurs could move him back to the 4 or keep him at the 3 and create match up nightmares with kawhi and beasely). my dream of anything hibbert related has died since he got offered a max contract but with how the nba landscape is changing and the need for two slow tempo bigs is now irrelevant, trying to get hibbert means moving duncan to a back up role or hoping he could defend athletic stretch 4′s (he cant anymore) and id rather see duncan ride into the sunset on his own terms.

  • thecity2

    …However, Dorell is extreme trade bait at this point. I’m sure if San Antonio wants him, they can work something out. With Barnes, Jefferson, and Rush (not to mention Klay and Green), we currently have 6 players capable of playing the 3. The team desperately needs more depth behind Curry at the point and Lee at PF. I think most everyone in the Bay Area assumes Dorell is gone, and will be surprised if he actually sticks around.

  • Hobson13

    I’m not sure it makes a lot of difference what the Spurs do this summer. We really can’t trade Parker, Manu, or Duncan and why would we part with Jackson after his playoff performance and overall versatility? We tried to dump Blair, but GS wasn’t even willing to give up the 30th pick. I doubt we can get much more for Neal and Bonner isn’t worth a second round pick in 2033. This leaves us with trading Splitter who is worth much more than the $4mil he will make this next year. In short, unless we REALLY roll the dice, the team is what it is for 2012-2013.
    In the end, I think we are stuck at being, at best, the 2nd best team in the West behind OKC (who just got the steal of the draft in PJ3) and maybe even the Clipps who just signed Odom. To me, Randolph offers considerable upside IF he can be coached. Ilysavoa would be nice, but signing him on the Spurs current budget is a pipe dream. If Manu and Jackson leave then the Spurs will have a ton of $$$ to be huge players on next year’s FA market.

  • Tim Varner

    Thanks for the catch. I corrected the post. Wright is available, however. Man, it’s hard to mess up the amnesty clause but the Warriors found a way. Charlie Bell. I had completely forgot.

  • http://twitter.com/seriesandtv Series And TV

    I have to disagree in your statement about Manu. If I have to see theplay agains OKC, he showed to be the only player wanting to win while others disappeared.
    Manu is Manu and as such, he´s a key piece for the Spurs

  • Tyler

    Agreed. Splitter is much more valuable than some realize (seems everyone only remembers the missed FT’s), especially given his contract. The flip side is that he’s probably one of our best trade assets (along with Jax’s deal and Leonard). Unless there is a definite upgrade (i.e. Batum), I can’t see this team parting with him.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I think the FO stands pat this year in order to preserve next summer’s cap flexibility. We have the second best team in the West, 3 best overall. We’ll knock out 50 wins, sell out the AT&T center all season, play lovely basketball, and ultimately get knocked out in the Conf. Finals. That’s another damn good year. Heck, if we’re healthy and Durant pulls a Derrick Rose in round two of the playoffs, we’re in the driver’s seat to the Finals. What other teams besides Miami and OKC can legitimately be considered title contenders?

    Crank out another elite but not quite championship year, and give it a go in free agency next year.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I share the exact same sentiments. 20 other teams in the league would LOVE to trade places with our franchise right now.

  • ThatBigGuy

    @ thecity2

    I like Wright. What would be required to get him? DeJuan Blair/Corey Joseph? Blair/Gary Neal?

  • thecity2

    If the sign JJ Hickson, then they won’t have any interest in Blair. But if they can’t sign Hickson, Jordan Hill (another reported target), or Jason Thompson (my preference), I could see easily see them trading Wright for Blair. Our other position of need is a PG or combo guard to backup Curry, but I don’t see Neal or Joseph as improvements over Charles Jenkins in that role. I’d say Patty Mills, but I assume he’s a keeper for you guys.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Exactly. He’s He’s a starting big man on 2/3s of the teams in this league, and the first big off the bench on all the others. For only $4 million, he’s an amazing value. You could pair him with Jax and have a very tempting trade package. The problem is, I’m not sure there’s anyone out there in that $15 million range that is available and can make us better than OKC.

    If we chill, we’ll have another great year, and have much more opportunity next year.

  • lvmainman

    Sign Anthony Randolph and Kenyon Martin. Kick Blair and Bonner to the curb. For 2nd rd picks, or let Blair go and amnesty Bonner. Either way, they both need to be gone by the start of the season. If Pop won’t play either one in the playoffs, why keep them on the team?
    With Randolph and Martin the Spurs get more size, block shot capabiities, and aggressiveness.
    Bigs – Duncan, Splitter, Randolph, Martin
    5th big? Diaw, if possible. If not then Lorbek (aka Bonner 2.0)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    I love that Spurs fans and Warriors fans are working out a trade with each other

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    What the playoffs showed is that the Spurs need a player to defend players like Kevin Durant (listed at 6’9″, more like 6’10″), Paul George (listed at 6’8″, but has grown as well), etc who are tall enough to play PF or even C but fast enough to play SG.

    I know Anthony Randolph isn’t known for his defense, but I think he’s big and fast enough to play that role in short bursts… enough to dissuade OKC from going “small” (yet simultaneously taller than every Spur other than TD).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    Chicago. Los Angeles. And considering all the work Danny Ferry is putting in for the Hawks, maybe Atlanta.

  • thecity2

    It can totally happen! :P

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    I like the idea of adding another defensive big like Camby or trying to teach some D to Randolph. But Kenyon Martin is living off reputation only right now. He is a waste of a roster spot. I’d rather keep Bonner than roll the dice with Kmart

  • Andres

    not this year, unless he pulls miracles in the next couple months…

  • Tim in Surrey

    I find it mind-boggling that rational thinkers are still looking at Anthony Randolph and seeing a half-full glass. I’m as optimistic as the next guy but he has made a career of disappointing hopeful GMs and coaches. I could see if he’d only played for a bunch of idiots but he has played for Don Nelson, Mike D’Antoni, and Rick Adelman–and they couldn’t get anything useful out of him in anything other than garbage time at the end of a game or the end of a season. He still has all of the potential he entered the league with, but still has all of the holes in his game, too. In other words, he has done nothing to develop himself and by all appearances he just doesn’t care about basketball. I love Pop as much as the next guy, but I don’t think he’s enough of a miracle worker to get Randolph to harness very much of that potential.

    If you can sign him for the veteran’s minimum, then fine. But otherwise, move along, there’s nothing to see here.

  • anonymous

    1) you can’t have the best of both worlds, you can’t bring in lorbek, diaw, and randalph and find a second string point guard ( de colo etc) with the current cap situation because any of these players would require more than the minimum. Personally I’d bring lorbek and diaw with the MLE (praying that splitting it would be enough) and de colo with the (lle)

    2) I’m allways hearing about trading Blair and neal, and I’m all for it if you can find a lengthy 4 who can defend. But the very reasons we want to trade them – they’re flaws. Are evident to every other team aswell. If they both played on a loosing team people may assume they’re poor defense was just a symptom of team defense, but these two play on a top team and still can’t defend, and equally they haven’t got a lot of upside. Blair isn’t going to grow/ learn to jump shoot, and neal isn’t going to get quicker.
    The only teams who want pieces like that aren’t about to give up a long defensive player to do so

  • STIJL

    Agree

  • STIJL

    The Spurs this off season will be forced to get what they can more so than who they want.
    However…I hope there is hope beyond hope in light of Ferry’s much anticipated and already implementation of breaking down the Hawks to rebuild will garnish the Spurs Josh Smith.

  • Tyler

    Couldn’t agree more. Zero production on 3 bad teams….and he’s supposed to come in and contribute on a championship caliber team?

    He’s entering his 6th year, he is what he is. There are much more productive areas in which to put our money….

  • DorieStreet

    Camby is the energizer bunny of the NBA. The closest shot he’s had to winning a ring was waaaay back in ’99 vs. our Spurs. Can we afford him now?

  • DorieStreet

    Odd to root for an opponent’s misfortune beforehand as a path for one’s team to succeed.

  • DorieStreet

    Bulls are the 21st century version of Michael and the Jordanaires–even with Rose I think the Celtics or the Heat would have figured them out and adjusted just like the Thunder did against the Spurs.
    Both the Clippers (adding Lamar Odom helps) and Lakers have to make changes to overcome OKC and SA.

  • Pingback: Nando De Colo coming stateside as well? | 48 Minutes of Hell

  • lvmainman

    Kenyon Martin was guarding Rudy Gay with the Clippers up 1 pt for the last shot of the PLAYOFF game. Martin made Gay miss and the Clippers won the game as a result. Martin then proceeded to do it a 2nd time and the Clippers won again. Martin can still get the job done.

  • Juz

    The production is there, maybe not the attitude.

  • Grego

    Reports say the Spurs have expressed interest in Ersan Ilyasova (via SpursTalk). Ilyasova is an ideal free agent for the Spurs, but given his expected price tag and the Spurs current wallet, it’s difficult to see this working. Either Duncan is willing to take a reduced paycheck if SA is able to sign Ilyasova or the FO has their mind on a sign and trade package. Keep your fingers crossed.
    ——
    This screams CIA Pop and company. Use this rumor to throw off other teams. There’s no way they can afford him in an effective way (have a fully competitive team).

  • Grego

    Dorrell Wright are two players whose teams may either exercise the amnesty clause on or seek to dump. Both players should appeal to the Spurs.
    ———
    Wright was their #1 wing that they targeted in RJ’s year of re-signing. They just couldn’t nab him then. Would still love him. He’d be a pretty good fit with his 3pt shooting and defensive abilities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    Dwight Howard with Josh Smith would be a game changer. They’re instantly the best front court in the NBA. Better than LA or Memphis.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=173600134 Ryan McShane

    The Lakers almost beat the Thunder. Like Ron-Ron said, they could have been up 3-1 in that series. And even the Mavs could have beaten them in games 1 and 2. If the Nets can nab Deron Williams and Dwight Howard and put them with Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace… they’ll be instant contenders.

  • DorieStreet

    Ah, Ryan, but that is the irony and beauty of OKC’s playoff run:
    Opening series- won by 1, 3, & 6 and a blowout = sweep
    WC semis- lost by 3; won by 2, 3, & two blowouts = 4 games to 1
    Conf. finals- lost by 3, blowout; won- blowout, 6, 5, & 8 {4 straight} =4 games to 2
    Finals- won going away; lost 4 straight by 4, 6, 6, blowout = 1 game to 4
    The Thunder went 7-2 in games decided by 6 points or less in the first three series- they were no fluke.

  • DorieStreet

    They are not together yet.
    As for now the western conference will be tough again.
    Thunder, Spurs, Lakers, Grizzlies, Clippers (reverse alphabetical order there); let’s rank these teams after all the FA deals have been completed.

  • DorieStreet

    Kawhi is not going anywhere unless he is packaged with others to bring back a top 7 player in the league (I’ll let you decide who the top NBA 7 is) or one of the lottery picks.

  • lvmainman

    He’s always produced when given playing time. When Kevin Love was out this year for 6 games, Randolph avg 22 pts and 9 rebs a game.
    Jeremy Lin was cut by the Warriors and the Rockets. Now he’s going to earn 5-8 million a year.

  • cob1984

    Internal Improvement is more than enough to improve the Spurs. Alongside the improvement of Kawhi Leonard, Tim Duncan needs to reemphasize aspects of his game.

    After the OKC series, the one thing that was stuck in my head was Tim Duncan is no longer THE man. Don’t get me wrong, Duncan is still the best big man in most games but he is no longer the best big man in THE game. I understand that Duncan prides himself on dominating a game without
    going for 40, but that influence is lessening. In several games Duncan
    had his usual stat lines of 20 & 10 but some felt like quiet/not impactful/Chris Bosh/Pau Gasol double-double.

    Duncan no longer commands a double team on the block and is not money in the bank when his primary defender is picked off. During the OKC series there were times when Durant and Harden switched on him and Duncan did not dominate. Duncan needs to return to the block this summer and treat the NBA to his vintage baby hook (left & right), drop step and head fakes. I believe that the style of the NBA is pulling Duncan away from the basket but he needs to buck convention (as he always has) so that other teams have to respect the threat of Duncan down low. OKC (and pretty much any NBA team) will be in trouble when they go small and Ibaka/Perkins must contend with a retooled Duncan 1-on-1 on the block. During the OKC series, we all saw Duncan show shades of his past self on the block but other times he looked rusty and uncomfortable on the block. This refocusing will keep the Spurs moving the ball, getting wide open 3′s and easy layups, while adding a “playmaker” like no other in the NBA & maintaining the best Offense in the NBA.

    Do not fear, Duncan’s basketball IQ will sustain him in the Spurs pick & roll game.

    In all things the pendulum swings to the poles (in the NBA the spectrum goes from the post to ther perimeter). The NBA finals performance of Lebron James showed us that the pendulum may be swinging from the perimeter to the post or as I like to call it Duncan’s dominion!

  • cob1984

    Also Marcus Camby would improve the Spurs defensively but does he create a hole on offense? What do you think?

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    He can knock down an 18-footer, I think he’d work alright on offense.

  • Titletown99030507d

    “Again, letting the market settle and come to them is the best option for San Antonio.” You mean left overs again?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Great another dinosaur. We already had McDyess and by the time he was comfortable with pop’s system it was time to call it a career. No thanks. He can’t play significant minutes night in and night out at the level some people think he can.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I like that big rotation and I’m not sold on Diaw either and I’m talking about when the playoffs roll around again when we’re facing quality tall bigs again. Diaw can not guard these type of bigs in the playoffs or in the regular season. I don’t see Diaw any better than last season and that’s not good enough for the playoffs.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Not for free agent big men. With the exception of DHoward (who we won’t sign), Mozgov and Serge Ibaka in the summer of 2013 there are no decent big men to sign. It’s going to have to be a trade for some college stud in the draft scenario. It just doesn’t look for the FO in the big department. I would consider Randolph right now and get the players we’ve stashed away a good look.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Wow they want more from us? Wink. Wink.

  • Spurholicmumbai

    “my fragile emotional state” aptly shared by other spurholics, couldn’t watch the Finals. Have the Spurs spurned their best chance of adding another championship?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/3KFVT7757O7TVGWIDNZF3VNJ5Q Shaaaaaaaawn

    Manu, TD, Kawhi should come back, the rest should go.

  • Bob

    I think the Spurs will still be there. They’ve been the one seed the past two seasons. The key is addressing the roster weaknesses.