The Second Annual 48 Minutes of Hell Guide to the Spurs’ Offseason

by

The thought of digesting what lies ahead for the Spurs as they head into the offseason is a lot more palatable with a Larry O’Brien Trophy in tow. After the horrific way the 2012-13 season ended, this San Antonio team can look ahead calmly and devoid of stress, anguish, depression, dire urgency, anger, or any other sentiment that may have clouded (or inspired) the journey the players and coaches traveled over the last year. The franchise finally has its fifth ring, the one that’s been most difficult to steal away from the rest of the league, and now it’s time to take a well-deserved rest, relatively speaking.

Still, there’s work to be done, not just for next season, but for life after Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. The one thing — well, one of the things — left on the Spurs’ to-do list is repeat as champions, and they’ll have a great shot to chase after that dream while building a foundation for the future in the process, if they so choose. Their cap situation is pristine, they’ve got young talent, both in the states and overseas, and unlike most teams in the league, they’ve got all their first-round draft picks to look forward to down the road.

So, follow me down the salary-cap rabbit hole for a look ahead at all the options San Antonio has going forward. It’s going to be sectioned by subheads, so if you’d like to skip around it’ll make it quite a bit easier. Or you can just read the whole thing. That’d be fine, too. I’m going to link to portions of Larry Coon’s phenomenal FAQ on the league’s collective bargaining agreement, which is incredibly complicated in itself. Use Coon’s guide as a supplemental piece to your reading, and you’ll be able to grasp this much more easily.

A read on the current roster

No matter how you look at the Spurs’ salary-cap situation, it’s difficult to find much of a problem going forward. If they want to go after another title, the front office can bring back virtually the exact same roster without so much as a speed bump or two; if they’re looking to prepare for the future and just take a swing at a sixth ring along the way, then the door is wide open.

San Antonio is capped out at the moment, meaning that they can’t go out and spend money on free agents before first taking care of some other business, but that’s generally par for the course for this team. The cap, which was set just above $58.6 million for the 2013-14 season, is expected to settle in around $63.2 million for 2014-15, and it will only continue to grow as league revenue continues to soar.

But the Spurs made their run to the title at a cost well below the luxury tax threshold. The tax — a mechanism that helps control team spending — was previously set at just above $70 million, but there is currently no guaranteed minimum for the upcoming season at this point. (You can probably assume that it, too, will go up.) For some perspective: There were 19 teams that paid more for their rosters to play basketball last season than did San Antonio, and seven of those teams didn’t make the playoffs. Yeesh.

If the Spurs want to bring the band back together entirely for next season, they’re going to have to take out the checkbook, though they’d likely be able to stay under that tax threshold and avoid the extra financial penalties that come with overspending. The majority of the team is under contract going into the 2014-15 campaign, but the pieces in limbo hold enough weight under the cap that the decision on their contracts could heavily sway the actions of the Spurs if things somehow get weird.

First, a quick look at who is and isn’t under contract for next year, and what their salary looks like:

Under contract:

Tony Parker — $12,500,000 (non-guaranteed)
Tim Duncan — $10,361,446 (player option exercised)
Tiago Splitter — $9,250,000
Manu Ginobili — $7,500,00
Danny Green — $4.025,000
Marco Belinelli — $2,873,750
Kawhi Leonard — $2,894,059 (eligible for extension)
Jeff Ayres — $1,828,750
Cory Joseph — $2,023,261 (eligible for extension)
Austin Daye — $1,063, 384 (non-guaranteed)
Aron Baynes — $1,115, 243 (qualifying offer)

Unrestricted free agents/rookies (cap hold):

Boris Diaw ($8,934,750)
Matt Bonner ($7,495,500)
Patty Mills ($2,154,505)
Livio Jean-Charles (unsigned first-round pick — $924,800)
Kyle Anderson (unsigned first-round pick — $911,400)

Current cap figures (cap holds included)

Salary cap: ~$63,200,000 (projected)
Payroll (with cap holds): $73,519,648
Luxury tax line: ~$77,000,000 (projected)
Possible cap space: ~$7,500,00

Available exceptions

Before we move on, here’s a quickie on the applicable exceptions the Spurs have available for the use of signing a free agent on the open market. (For full explanation on all available exceptions, click here.)

Mid-level exception: So long as San Antonio stays under the tax “apron” AFTER the use of this exception, they’ll have access to the non-taxpayer MLE ($5.305 million for 2014-15). If using any part of that MLE puts them over the luxury tax “apron,” which is $4 million over the projected $77 million threshold, then the amount available would be reduced to the taxpayer MLE ($3.278 million).

For example: Say the Spurs re-sign all their players and their payroll reaches the $77 million tax threshold (it’s highly unlikely this happens, by the way). At this point, the use of their full MLE to sign a free agent would take their payroll past that $4 million “apron” ($81 million) to a little more than $82 million, in which case they’d have to use the reduced taxpayer MLE. This franchise does not like to pay the tax, so none of this should be an issue for San Antonio this summer. But hey, the more you know!

Bi-annual exception: As the name indicates, you may not use this exception in two consecutive seasons. Also, like the non-taxpayer MLE, only teams who are below the “apron” after the use of this exception have access to it. The Spurs last used the BAE to sign Nando De Colo two years ago, so they’ve got it back in their hip pocket. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll need to use it.

The BAE for the 2014-15 season is projected to be worth $2.077 million. But when you take into account the fact the Spurs are going to spend the majority of their cash re-signing players and signing a free agent or two with the MLE, and you couple that with their already stacked roster and reluctance to pay the luxury tax, they may not even have interest in using those extra $2 million. I’d be surprised if this exception was used at all this summer, honestly.

Trade exception (Nando De Colo): The Spurs have a trade exception from the De Colo trade for Daye at the February deadline, but it’s quite minimal — just $1.463 million, Nando’s salary from last season. A trade exception is essentially a one-year credit the team can use to tack on to a trade package to help match salaries. If they don’t use it by the 2015 trade deadline, it expires.

Rookie exception: This allows a team to sign its first-round draft picks to rookie “scale” contracts even if they will be over the cap as a result. This does come with a cap hold, but it’s relatively tiny at less than $1 million for the 30th overall pick, which is where the Spurs will be selecting. They’ve also got a cap hold on the Livio Jean-Charles roster spot (also just under $1 million), which will be excluded from the team’s salary once the new regular season begins.

We’ll get into what all this means shortly, but first let’s take a look at the players in question.

Tim Duncan

Timmy has opted in on the final season of his three-year deal. This was expected (despite a brief turn of events Monday morning that ultimately never panned out), as the Spurs’ cap situation is essentially organized around the contracts of the Big Three. This probably wasn’t the most important part of the Spurs’ offseason, per se, but Duncan’s decision was the trigger for the rest of the chain of events they’ll have to deal with between now and the start of next season.

Tony Parker

It’s a small subhead at this point, but Parker’s contract for the upcoming season is only partially guaranteed. The Spurs have until June 30 — the end of the salary cap year — to fully guarantee his $12.5 million contract for 2014-15, and it’d be a shock if that did not happen. That’s probably why you don’t hear much about it. It’s pretty simple: Unless San Antonio cuts its All-Star point guard between now and Monday, he’ll be on the 2014-15 team. I’d say you’re safe to continue wearing your Tony Parker jerseys.

Boris Diaw

Two and a half years ago, Diaw was cut by one of the worst teams in NBA history. Now, he’s part of a title-winning team as one of its most important cogs. He’s become one of the most versatile players in the league on both sides of the ball, and his skill set fits just perfectly in the Spurs’ system, something made quite clear by his postseason performance. Now it’s time for Bobo to get paid again.

Diaw’s $4.7 million contract expires on June 30, and he’s got a cap hold of nearly $9 million. (Cap holds are “placeholders” for players the team is expected to sign in the future.) After his contributions this season, it’s likely the Spurs will bring him back, but at what cost? They’ll have to go over the cap to do it, but San Antonio owns Diaw’s Bird Rights — meaning they can go over the cap to re-sign him — and there is a good chunk of space under the tax line to offer a solid raise while still avoiding those extra taxpayer’s expenses.

Unless the 32-year-old starts asking for something close to the dollar amount in his cap hold, then this should be an easy decision for San Antonio. If his asking price does spike, then this might get interesting. But the fact of that matter is, the Spurs have money and space to bring him back, so long as his demands aren’t astronomical.

Patrick Thrillington/Patty Thrills/Party Mills/ Thrills, Patrick Thrills

Yet another guy who’s got a great relationship with his teammates, and yet another guy whose performance is going to get him paid soon enough. Patty lost a bunch of weight last summer, and the work paid off in a big way. He became firmly entrenched as the team’s backup point guard to Tony Parker from the get-go, and as the playoffs wound down he became a killer, burying the Heat under a firestorm of backbreaking 3-pointers.

His defense was underrated. Despite being undersized, Mills was a pest. He hounded ball-handlers for all 94 feet and stuck to their hip pockets on pick-and-rolls, and Mills made himself useful nearly every aspect of the game he could — and he did it all for just a little more than $1 million. That’s about to change.

Look at a guy like J.J. Barea. He broke out during the 2011 NBA Finals against Miami, and because of it, earned a 4-year, $20 million contract from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Now, the ‘Wolves aren’t exactly a model of brilliance in terms of front offices around the league, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if Mills’ camp came looking for something in the $4-5 million-per-year range. He does love his place and role in San Antonio, and he can return to chase another championship or more going forward, so I don’t believe he’ll ask for the moon. And the Spurs want him, too, but don’t forget, Cory Joseph is still on this team and has played well at times as the backup. If discussions get too tight, Mills might be the odd man out. I don’t think it’ll get to that point, though.

Matt Bonner, a.k.a. Red Rocket, a.k.a. Red Mamba, a.k.a. Sandwich Hunter

A longtime fan and team favorite, Matty B’s contract is up, and I don’t know what’s going to happen. His salary of nearly $4 million is coming off the books, which is a sizable chunk for a guy who didn’t play all that much. Bonner would like to be keep playing (or so I’ve been told), but he has other interests outside of the lines on the court, so it’s going to be interesting to watch.

Will he return for something closer to the minimum? Will he choose to move on or hang ‘em up? Either way it would save the Spurs some money. Gut feeling: He’ll be back at a discounted price. That’s what we all want, anway.

Loose ends

To wrap up the individual portion here, there are a few little things to hit on. First, Aron Baynes is a restricted free agent. I imagine the Spurs will extend a qualifying offer for the $1.12 million he’s set to make, but I also believe another team will reach out and offer a more lucrative contract. Baynes had some moments along the way, even during the postseason, and he certainly has some value against some of the league’s bigger centers and as a plug-and-play guy for Duncan’s rest nights. But the Spurs have more important business to take care of first, so that will be a process to monitor as we move along.

The Spurs have really nice depth at point guard, something that’s invaluable considering all the mileage on Parker’s wheels; and Mills isn’t the only one whose got a looming decision on his future. Cory Joseph is eligible for an extension this summer, but considering the team’s options at the position and the limited NBA time he’s seen, it’s difficult to say whether he’s in the team’s future plans. He’s got value, but there are only so many minutes to go around. If the Mills negotiations break down, then things get interesting. I’m not sure anyone expects that to happen, though. If Joseph isn’t extended by Oct. 31, the Spurs will have the option to make him a restricted free agent at the end of next season.

Austin Daye’s contract is non-guaranteed heading into next season. San Antonio still has its 15th roster spot available, so there’s still some room left even if the team decides to bring back all or most of its players. Daye came over in the Nando De Colo trade to Toronto and flashed some shooting ability in limited minutes, but he’s certainly a question mark in terms of his future with the organization. Do the Spurs want to continue to develop a guy who will seldom be in uniform or free up a spot for any other additions? It sounds like Daye is on the way out, whether it’s via trade or outright release. But they’ve got until Monday to decide.

Hey, whatever happens, at least he got a ring.

Kawhi Leonard extension

Duncan’s opt-in decision was the lead offseason domino; contract negotiations with Kawhi Leonard will be the first big leap into the future of the franchise.

The Finals MVP is entering the fourth year of his NBA career and is now eligible for an extension that could make him a Spur until the year 2020. Gregg Popovich has never been shy about his praise for the 22-year-old, calling him the “face of the franchise,” among other things — telling, considering the coach is hardly one to liberally gush about an individual’s star power — so it would be pretty shocking if the front office gets to the extension deadline without a deal in place for its young small forward.

San Antonio has until Oct. 31 to come to an agreement on an extension, which could be worth up to 25 percent of the salary cap with annual raises of up to 7.5 percent of the contract’s first-year salary if the maximum is offered. To put it more clearly: The Spurs could potentially offer Leonard an extension of up to four years (starting after his final option year, making it a five-year deal, essentially) beginning during the 2015-16 season that would pay him roughly $16 million in the first year of his deal, based on salary-cap projections. They also have the option of naming him their “Designated Player,” which would allow the team to extend his contract for up to five seasons (six in total). Under the current CBA, teams can only designate one player for the life of that contract; but you can certainly see the Spurs moving forward in this capacity given Leonard’s clear standing as the team’s best young player, much like the Pacers, Rockets and Wizards handled their situations with Paul George, James Harden and John Wall. Derrick Rose, Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook round out the list of current Designated Players on their second contracts.

Whether or not the Spurs offer the max to Leonard remains to be seen, and that’s a conversation that warrants its own post. So we’ll get to that soon. But the short version is, he may very well be worth it, and San Antonio has the sort of cap space beginning in 2015 that makes that sort of commitment easier to handle. As the team currently stands, with only Tiago Splitter’s contract and the qualifying offers of Leonard and Cory Joseph on the books, the Spurs have less than $16 million committed to payroll, and the cap is expected to be as high as ~$67 million for the 2015-16 season with a projected luxury tax threshold north of $81 million! San Antonio will have all the money in the world to play with after the upcoming season, even if it remains on its typically conservative path, financially.

For now, we wait. Again, the Spurs have until Oct. 31 to reach an agreement, and there’s business to be handled before then. Hell, even if they don’t reach an agreement on that extension, the team would still have the ability to extend a qualifying offer to Leonard at the end of next season, making him a restricted free agent and affording it the opportunity to match whatever offer a team might throw his way. But there is a little more risk that accompanies that result, and I fully expect the two sides to agree to a deal by the start of next season.

(Again, there will be plenty of Leonard discussion moving forward, but first we want everyone up to speed.)

How this plays out

I hate to break it to you, How Do We Get LeBron? guy — the Spurs’ offseason looks pretty cut-and-dried. Unless things go awfully awry in the renegotiation processes with Patty and Bobo, this likely won’t be a terribly eventful couple of months beyond what the team might do with its available exceptions. Though I should say, that could get interesting, as the already stacked Spurs will have a nice handful of money to throw at a decent free agent if they please. Where y’all ring-chasers at?

But, we’re going to jump into a number of scenarios and outline as many options as we can. Ready. Set. Offseason!

The most likely scenario

The systematic and culture-driven Spurs are capped out, still have their core intact and, oh yeah, are coming off one of the best seasons in franchise history. Especially considering Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are all back in the mix (I’m assuming Parker will watch the June 30 deadline come and go without a worry), there is no reason take anything but a levelheaded approach. With Duncan’s option drama now in the rearview mirror, San Antonio can now focus its attention on its other free agents.

Again, the Spurs’ current payroll is sitting north of $73 million with cap holds included. I linked to an explanation of cap holds earlier in this primer, but just so we have a better understanding: If cap holds did not exist, teams could use the that extra space left by an expiring contract to sign free agents, then turn around and use Bird Rights to re-sign their own players. Without cap holds, the Spurs would be looking at roughly $10 million in cap space to throw at a high-level free agent before focusing their attention on Diaw, Mills and others. Teams can renounce their rights to a player if they’d like, thereby clearing the holds on their roster spot; but in doing so they’d lose those Bird Rights and the ability to go over the cap to re-sign said player.

For now, we’re going to put the cap holds* on the backburner — just remember they’re there, because I’m going to explain the Spurs’ situation based on cap space available to re-sign their own free agents rather than the what is essentially the renegotiation of a cap-hold number. The contracts of Diaw, Mills and Bonner are expired, so we’re going to treat them as free agents and just make believe San Antonio can go over the cap to re-sign them without any sort of exception. Something that, in reality, those Bird Rights allow them to do. Are you thoroughly confused enough? Smile and nod. Good. Onward.

*This probably just complicated things. Just know that a cap hold is a placeholder meant to keep a player’s spot on the roster until the team decides which course of action to take with him — whether they re-sign him or renounce his rights altogether.

Assuming San Antonio extends its $1.1 million qualifying offer to Baynes and releases Daye by June 30, the team will have a little more than $55 million on the books, excluding the cap holds of Diaw, Mills and Bonner (but including the cap holds of the unsigned first-round picks). That leaves them with nearly $24 million to spend on their own free agents before hitting the dreaded luxury tax line, something the Spurs don’t typically mess with. And by the way, after the way the 2013-14 team performed and the inevitable cap increase, it’ll probably be difficult to convince Peter Holt that he needs to shell out any tax payments in order to field a contender.

Because San Antonio can use Bird Rights to go over the cap to re-sign its free agents, $24 million should be plenty. There have been a few murmurs here and there about Diaw’s salary demands, but we know nothing concrete. (A two-year, $18-20 million figure popped up on the Internet, apparently via the New York Daily News, but if it actually had legs it didn’t walk anywhere. For now, it’s just rumor — an unsubstantiated one at that.) Still, that chunk of change has to be spent wisely, because the Spurs will be faced with more than just re-signing its two biggest free agents.

First of all, keep in mind that the goal in this scenario is to avoid the luxury tax entirely. There’s the disclaimer. However the negotiations pan out with Mills and Diaw, there are two things to keep in mind. 1) There’s a very good chance someone is going to extend an offer to Baynes that goes beyond that cheap $1.1 million price tag, and 2) you’ve got to take into account the $5.305 million available via the full, non-taxpayer mid-level exception. San Antonio has the opportunity to not only bring almost everyone back but bring more help onboard. Signing Diaw and Mills to responsible contracts will ensure they have the means to do so.

I have no idea what’s going to happen with Bonner. From what I gather, he still wants to play, but the Spurs are highly unlikely to bring him back at the same cost — nearly $4 million annually — to play sparingly. I’d imagine, if he wants to return to San Antonio, he’ll do so at a much cheaper price. He shouldn’t have a major impact on the San Antonio payroll if he returns, but limited roster space could be an issue.

The Baynes situation has piqued my interest. He has value beyond his current contract, and the Spurs utilized him situationally at different points last season. That includes some pretty solid moments in the postseason. But his free-agent value is a little bit of a mystery. Big men typically command more money than most, especially guys of his size who can body up and frustrate opposing centers. There’s a chance restricted free agency could get a little rich for the Spurs’ blood if they decide the use of the mid-level exception is more valuable than matching anything Baynes gets from the outside, but who knows?

San Antonio also has its bi-annual exception this season, but it’s only worth $2.077 million and can only be used if the team stays beneath that luxury tax “apron,” which is $4 million above the tax line. But at some point, this team is going to run out of money and/or roster space, unless

So there it is, Spurs fans. You’ve got about $17 million to spend on Mills, Diaw, Bonner and Baynes (if an outside team matches his qualifying offer) and another ~$5 million to use on an outside free agent without hitting the luxury tax, or you can use all that money on your own free agents. Obviously, you don’t have to use that MLE, but the free-agent crop is decent this summer. It’s certainly worth a look if you can make all your re-signings within that ~$17 million window. But remember, if all these players return (Daye excluded) you’re already looking at a 13-man roster, which is the maximum number of players a team is allowed to dress on a nightly basis.

Payroll (cap holds excluded): $53,871,509
Luxury tax line: ~$77,000,000 (projected)
“Spending money” on Spurs free agents only (under tax line): $23,128,491
Mid-level exception: $5.305 million
Bi-annual exception: $2.077 million

Players to sign:
Boris Diaw
Patty Mills
Matt Bonner
Aron Baynes ($1,115,243 million qualifying offer)
Austin Daye (likely to be released in coming days)

Let’s get weird

The last thing the Spurs want to do now is screw with their future salary situation, but they have the real luxury and ability to safely spend a lot of money in the short term to ensure another great title-winning opportunity if things go unexpectedly wrong in negotiations with their free agents.

But realistically, it’d be a shocker if the scenario I outlined above didn’t come to fruition. If you have Duncan coming back for another year at that price, you’re not going to make any drastic changes to a roster that just won an NBA championship. If there were any changes planned, it’s likely we would’ve seen Duncan opt out and sign for a cheaper deal to allow more cap flexibility in an effort to pursue bigger names in the free-agent market. That’s not the case. San Antonio is going to try and bring the band back together, and there shouldn’t be much of an issue in doing so.

Still, I’ve got no problem getting a little weird just for the hell of it. What if Diaw’s asking price becomes way too high? What if Patty gets an offer to start on another team and a financial opportunity he can’t refuse? The Spurs have Joseph waiting for another opportunity at the end of the bench, so losing Patty wouldn’t destroy them. What if the Spurs decide to renounce the rights to their most expensive free agents, then go after a second-tier free agent or two? Well, it’s doable.

Say San Antonio loses out on both Diaw and Mills (almost zero chance of this happening, but let’s keep going down the rabbit hole while we’re here). This would be pretty brutal from a continuity and depth perspective, but there’s a silver lining — this class of free agents isn’t too shabby. Without these two players on the books, and say Bonner is back at the minimum salary of nearly $1.5 million to maintain a little depth and Baynes is lost to another team via restricted free agency, the Spurs would be left with roughly $9 million to spend on free agents.

Pau Gasol, Greg Monroe (RFA), Marcin Gortat, Luol Deng, Andrew Bynum (LMAO), Trevor Ariza, Eric Bledsoe (RFA), Avery Bradley — these are just some of the names out there on the wire. (San Antonio would be unable to use its exceptions in this case, because when a team is under the cap, exceptions count against the space they have unless they’re renounced.)

So losing out on their free agents wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it certainly isn’t the best option. Once you dive into the free-agent market, you can’t necessarily control the outcome of events. The Spurs know what works with Diaw and Mills — and to a lesser extent, Baynes — and they also know they can afford to pay both players handsomely, whereas they’d be limited in how much they could shove toward an unrestricted free agent.

And I go back to this: Duncan wants to run this back, and his decision to opt in likely means he’s got the front office’s word it’s going to do what it can to bring this group back together. Otherwise, he may have handled his situation differently and perhaps taken another pay cut. Bringing back Diaw and Mills, and perhaps Baynes and Bonner, is the team’s main goal, but if things unexpectedly fall apart, the Spurs know they have options.

Scorch the earth, raze the fields, bring LeBron to San Antonio

So, while we’re at it, allow me to appease my twitter followers intent on clearing max cap space right this second. First and foremost, the Spurs are not good trade partners for any of the teams currently in possession of max-type players who are looking for a way out. They have zero space, undesirable draft picks, funky or rookie-scale contracts, players who excel within the San Antonio system who might not flourish elsewhere, and they’re not going to package and trade any member of the Big Three. Not that anyone would want them on the back sides of their careers in exchange for an in-his-prime superstar.

No, the Spurs aren’t a good trade partner. But where there’s a will, there’s a way, I guess. Let’s assume the acquisition of someone like LeBron James would require max money for a chase through free agency. San Antonio is nowhere near capable of creating that type of space unless drastic changes are made — like using the amnesty provision on Tony Parker, one of just two players on the roster still eligible for the provision.

In order to have max money to throw at LeBron, the Spurs are going to have to clear roughly $22 million off the books. Doing that without just completely tearing the roster apart would require the following process: 1) Renounce the rights to each of the team’s free agents. (You could probably bring back Bonner back at the minimum, but bringing in minimum players will be a necessity later, regardless, so just clear space.) 2) Amnesty Parker and his $12.5 million contract during the July 1-7 window to do so. 3) Profit.

This would leave the team with, at most, eight players, but there’d be a boat-load of cash. Throw it all at LeBron and see how much of it sticks. From there, with all the cap space burned away, the Spurs would fill out roster spots 10, 11, 12 and 13 with minimum contracts, and BOOM! There you have it.

There are other, more complicated ways, but that’s the quickest path to that sort of enlightenment, if you’re interested. Or, maybe you could just set up a nice billboard about LeBron. That should work.

AGAIN, I don’t condone this course of action. The Spurs are just fine as presently constituted and should focus their efforts on bringing the crew back together and potentially adding a piece or two to help supplement the roster. THIS IS JUST FOR FUN!

And now, we watch…

So there you have it — a look at the Spurs’ salary-cap situation, the possibility of a Kawhi extension, and a bat-shit crazy plan to bring LeBron to San Antonio for a couple more rings. It will be interesting to watch the offseason unfold, beginning with the NBA Draft on Thursday. The Spurs aren’t exactly looking for any immediate help with the 30th pick in the first round, so I’d expect to see another draft-and-stash situation. This franchise has at least one more year until its young players — both those here in the states and those still overseas — contribute in any significant form or fashion.

Until then, let’s see what this group can squeeze out of what could be its last hurrah. With the Bird Rights to Diaw and Mills, and the exception money they have to spend on a free agent or two, a first-ever repeat in San Antonio is not too far-fetched.


  • Tyler

    I guess we’ll just have to wait and see with Lebron. Yes, opting out is a way for him to maintain leverage (tangent – I’m shocked everyone is shocked by him opting out – this was a near certainty the day he signed that deal), but I think it’s also going to end up helping the team in the long run. Both sides can win here, and not necessarily at the other’s expense. We’ll see though. Again, I think this is something TD would do if he was in Lebron’s situation.

    In terms of the Cleveland what-if game, their cap was really bad at the end of Lebron’s time there. The best player Lebron played with in Cleveland was Mo Williams (!!!). The only way he could have won there was if he had attracted another big time FA or two, and even the gravity of Lebron wouldn’t assure that – it is Cleveland after all.

    I agree with you that it is a chicken/egg scenario and no doubt you need elite talent at the top of the roster to win. But as we saw with OKC, LA Clippers, and Miami this year – quality role players are typically what puts you over the top. The separation between those four teams isn’t much. One or two role players stepping up can be the difference.

  • LukeDawg

    Yes, I’m 100% with you on the total surprise that has surrounded his decision. The same can be said for Melo and his decision or Kevin Love and the situation he is facing (he was definitely opting out after 3 years the day his deal was signed). Really it just makes very little sense for teams to be handing out these kind of deals, because there is just not enough incentive at this point for guys to opt in. Even if they want to stay put, it still makes more sense to renegotiate a more lucrative long term deal, if not only monetarily, but in number of years and overall security as well. As you mentioned we will just have to wait and see how it all plays out.

    It was shocking how poor the supporting cast was in Cleveland for Lebron, it was a feat in itself him dragging that 07 team to the finals against the Spurs. But by the same token, Cleveland showed itself willing to spend and make moves to a point, albeit mostly stupid moves; but it would be hard for me to envision them whiffing on every front office decicion for the next 6 years of Lebron’s prime. Especially considering Danny Ferry has subsequently shown himself to be a competent GM for the Hawks, he was just young and still learning like Lebron. I would compare it to Dirk and the Mavs. Its not like Dallas has ever been a free agent hotbed (though admittingly i’d rather live there than Cleveland), and in spite of Cuban’s lavish spending, they mostly made terrible decision after terrible decision during Dirk’s prime. But Dirk bought in and stuck with it until they basically lucked into the perfect situation and combination of guys and finally won a championship. Again, my point being, if you are a legendary talent, often times you make your own luck and can win even without help from outside factors.

  • DorieStreet

    Ditto.

  • DorieStreet

    The Spurs had to part ways with fan favorites before, when their basketball skills had deteriorated to the extent that their ROSTER SPOT AND SALARY BOTH are detriments to the team remaining a title contender/repeating as league champion. Blair exited last year; this year it must be Bonner’s turn.

  • DorieStreet

    Thanks for the NBA franchise money primer on the Spurs. will refer back to it as the offseason unfolds.
    Just one other thing to add—–WEAR YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP GEAR ALL SUMMER LONG!!!!!

  • Governmentname

    This comment of yours is baseless: “I will also note that you made 0 suggestions for free agents the Spurs could pick up or would want to pick up.” (Just read below what I posted 3 days ago in the comment section for this article)

    MLE: Josh McRoberts aka McBob is basically a younger/bigger/more
    athletic Diaw. If RC can get him for the MLE then he would be an
    excellent fit. If Boris bolts then he would be the replacement otherwise
    he can take Bonner’s spot on the team except he would get 20min a game
    (ala Marco) as Boris (FIBA)/Timmay(OLD) aren’t going to play extended
    minutes in the regular season.

    -Vet Min: Back-up SF
    (Granger/Butler (aka washed-up ring chasers)……..or even
    Vince/Marvin/Wesley Johnson if they are willing to play for the vet min)

    -Draft: Young back-up SF in training (Glen Robinson III)

  • Governmentname

    Except Ayres is under contract for next season while Bonner/Daye(non guaranteed)/Baynes(restricted) are free-agents. Unlike Daye, Bonner has no potential & unlike Baynes, Bonner did basically next to nothing in the post-season.

  • MH

    You think Daye’s teams haven’t tried to bulk him up? Some guys can’t add muscle. It’s not in their DNA.

  • MH

    There is no NBA position that Deshaun Thomas can defend. As a wing player, it was shocking to me that his combine speed and agility numbers were worse than DeJuan Blair’s. He’s just a slug.

  • MH

    I doubt Tim wants to do that. If he was seriously considering retiring this summer like he said, then I’m having a hard time seeing him play past next summer.

  • MH

    Parsons is a one way player. He either can play, or doesn’t care about playing defense, both of which would be red flags for the Spurs.

  • Tyler

    I think a motivated Gasol can still be a force. Similar to Diaw in Charlotte, he had absolutely nothing to play for last season. It was basically him anchoring a D-League level squad. Though he dropped off significantly on defense last year, I think the problem was more effort than physical ability. I still think he moves pretty well and his BBIQ has always been superb.

    As far as fit, even at his age there are very few seven footers that have his passing and scoring ability. He can play at a variety of spots on the floor – high post, low block, elbow, etc. With that type of skill, I don’t think you have to worry about fit. There’s 96 minutes to around between Diaw, TD, Splitter and a fourth big, or 24 per. And given that TD will need even more rest this year, that’s more than enough to go around.

    Guys with his skill and talent level don’t come around often. If the opportunity is there for something close to the MLE (admittedly, the chances are probably slim to none), I think you jump at the opportunity and figure it out in training camp and the first half of the year.

  • Riotsmoke

    Agreed, but the main thing is gonna be he’s going to have to WANT to play here for any of this to happen. As in “I’m gonna give you everything I’ve got for table scraps” wanting to play here. With teams like Dallas and LA having extensive cap room, it’s hard to see him passing up what they would have to offer for bench spot with us. Obviously if we do pick him up, we’d probably cut ties with Baynes and Bonner, but a combo of Splitter and Gasol on the floor sounds REALLY interesting especially with the Spurs being as pass-happy as they are.

  • GoSpursGo

    Any free agen scenario starting with ‘Player X takes less money’ is largely unrealistic. In only a very few cases, and these are usually aging superstars who have never won a ring, players will make the best financial decision. Which is entirely appropriate. Gasol scenarios are not really likely.

  • Tyler

    No doubt the odds are squarely against SA as his destination.

  • Matt

    I think Gasol would be an enormous help. The main reason the Spurs haven’t won 10 championships is because all the years they lost they lacked a solid big man to play with Duncan. Insert Gasol who can rebound, shoot and pass and you have an unstoppable team. I think Gasol would be less interested in his minutes and scoring if he was on a team set on cruise control for a deep playoff run.
    I believe he will either be with us or OKC next year, and I REALLY don’t want him added to that big roster in OKC because Splitter can’t handle them.
    I’m not a huge Splitter fan, he does well against smaller men but big physical guys tend to dominate him, mainly due to his weak hands. I would actually be OK with trading Splitter and signing Gasol to replace him.

  • Matt

    Gasol would get plenty of minutes, let’s be honest. He would start over Splitter and his baby hands.

  • Matt

    We need a big strong guy who can rebound and play defense. We have run into problems with teams like OKC and Memphis in the past because we don’t match up well with their big men inside. Duncan holds his own but can push those big guys around under the basket. Splitter sometimes gets completely taken out of the game by the more physical big men.

  • Matt

    Boris Diaw showed a ton of competency in his first year with the Spurs. We brought him in mid-season and won a ridiculous amount of consecutive games until we fell apart against OKC. Just saying. I think a lot of guys don’t excel in their first year with the Spurs because we tend to bring in young or underdeveloped guys and bring them along. That’s what happens when you get no high draft picks in 17 years!

  • Matt

    He hasn’t made less money at all. He cost himself a couple mil in payroll $ but by playing on a fashionable super team in a fashionable city he made a huge amount of off the court money through sponsorships, etc that he wasn’t getting in Cleveland.
    Don’t kid yourself that Lebron gave up anything to play in Miami.

  • Matt

    The decision was easily the most ridiculously selfish and self-serving act in NBA history. So yeah…

  • Matt

    I think Cleveland’s main problem was being in Cleveland. It’s hard to tell if they really made mistakes or if those were the only options they had.
    If Lebron had stayed, they probably could have brought in more talent, but he was still pretty young at the time and didn’t have a lot of opportunity to show other players they could win if they created a super team in Cleveland.

  • Tyler

    Cleveland certainly isn’t the sexiest city for NBA players, but I think their biggest problem at that time was (and still is) their owner and his incessant and misguided quest for immediate success. From what I remember, they traded quite a bit of long term flexibility for short term, immediate fixes. They painted themselves into a corner cap-wise, and when that didn’t work out, they had very few options.

    Based on Ferry’s recent stint in ATL, I think he’s acquitted himself well.