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

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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.


  • Lakisha Barber

    Just bring back the old gang….we don’t need a Lebron

  • tigersfc21

    Likelihood of gasol + diaw + mills on the same roster? (baynes, bonner, and daye would leave). Is it even possible if gasol took less money and diaw/mills didn’t ask for a significant raise? just daydreaming.

  • Graham

    Where do we give Gasol minutes? We exile Splitter and his fresh contract? Doesn’t seem very responsible. Quite a bit of skill overlap between Gasol and Diaw too, and Splitter gives the things Gasol does that Diaw can’t. Not worth pursuing I think.

  • Graham

    Think Budenholzer and the Hawks make a run at Bonner? I feel they would pay more than the Spurs would and Bonner would likely be comfortable going there.

  • TheRed&Black

    I would love to bring back both Boris and Patty. What unrestricted FA will we get with our MLE?

    PJ Tucker
    Mike Scott
    Patrick Patterson
    Trevor Ariza
    Emeka Okafor
    Jermaine O’Neal
    Jodie Meeks
    Xavier Henry
    Josh McRoberts
    Spencer Hawes
    Channing Frye
    Vince Carter
    Dante Cunningham
    Marvin Williams
    Elton Brand
    Evan Turner
    James Johnson

    Those of are some of the FA I would like to see us target with our MLE

  • tigersfc21

    well hypothetically IF baynes and bonner both bounce, it wouldn’t hurt to bring in another big man like gasol who has the same skills like diaw just for depth especially during the regular season (if gasol is willing to take a paycut). i can’t see duncan getting more than 25 minutes a game during the regular season anyway. gasol probably won’t happen but just throwing it out there.

  • Ryan McShane

    Marvin Williams, Vince Carter, Emeka Okafor, James Johnson: yes. Johnson probably wouldn’t command the whole MLE. Trevor Ariza: YES! But that guy is getting $8-12 million in Washington.

  • Governmentname

    Bud is trying to run an offense w/ 5 three point shooters on the court at the same time thus the Hawks could make use of Bonner than the Spurs.

  • Ryan McShane

    I completely agree. But in a fantasy land where Duncan plans on playing into his 40s and Gasol would be willing to take very little money to play less than Diaw and Splitter: two players with minute limits and 41-game seasons (Duncan and Gasol, that is). Maybe 55 games. Gasol just doesn’t complement the other big man pieces the Spurs have now.

  • Governmentname

    Gasol is a cry baby who whines about not getting enough touches & disappears if he isn’t involved on offense. Thus I doubt he would be happy playing back-up & getting limited touches. Had Timmay retired then he could have been a decent replacement.

  • Ryan McShane

    I think Matt Bonner’s career earnings are somewhere around $20 million. Considering his frugality, I am sure he is sitting on a great majority of that (after taxes). $3 million dollars more next year might not be as valuable as staying with his friends and making a serious run for a championship. I think if he’s not playing for the Spurs next season, it’s not because the Spurs couldn’t pay him well enough; it’ll be because they found someone better or thought he wasn’t worth a roster spot or the veteran minimum.

  • Governmentname

    -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……..or even Vince/Marvin if they are willing to play for the vet min)

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

  • Governmentname

    -Okafor is a vet minimum player as he has missed 130+ games in the past 3 season & has already made plenty of money. The Clippers could use him as a back-up center.

    -James Johnson/Marvin aren’t seeing the MLE (just look at what similar players (Nick Young/Wesley Johnson) were offered last season, 1.1mill & 900K respectively).

    -Ariza will probably get in the neighborhood of 4yrs/40mill .

  • Governmentname

    It’s either Daye, Baynes or Bonner that’s going to be let go to open up a roster spot if the Spurs sign their 1st rd pick along w/ a veteran back-up SF(to replace Damion James). I feel like Daye/Baynes have shown some potential to deserve a roster spot over Bonner who has regressed from even being a spot up shooter & won’t eat up minutes in the regular season. They could also release Daye if someone like Josh McRoberts can be had for the MLE.

  • Stieg

    What about the cap hold for the Spurs’ draft pick?

  • Matthew R Tynan

    It’s minimal — less than $1 million.

  • Riotsmoke

    Great article Matt! Holy smokes, talk about an information overload! So what I was able to take away from all of this was 3 main points..

    1 – There’s a 95% chance that Boris and Patty are both gonna be back this year. Yes, there’s money to be had elsewhere, but I don’t really see these guys having anything close to the type of season they had this year playing for another team. These guys actually really ENJOY playing here, and for what it’s worth, I think something like that holds far greater value than any dollar amount.

    2 – Kawhi’s gonna get a fat extension. How much and for how long will be hashed out later, but I think it’s safe to say he’s gonna be a Spur for awhile. Same for Tony in sticking around for awhile.

    3 – The odd men out are going to be Daye, Baynes, and Bonner. As much as I love Matt, we just don’t utilize his skill set anymore especially with Boris coming off the bench. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him get traded or released. As Tynan mentioned in the article, it’s probably going to take more than we’re willing to part with to keep Baynes around especially considering the premium that the league places on bigs. If Dallas fails in trying to land Gasol, I’d be willing to bet money Cuban would throw some ungodly figure out there at Baynes just because he could. As far as Daye is concerned, he’d be the one that I think I’d like to keep around the most considering his age and an upgraded version of Bonner as a hybrid 3/stretch-4 kinda guy.

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

    tl;dr

  • Tyler

    Is Daye better than Bonner? Daye can’t handle PF’s, whereas Bonner has a little more bulk.

    If it’s for the vet min, bringing back Bonner is a slam dunk. He knows the system and can eat up regular season minutes.

  • sideswipe50

    Let’s not forget one thing. The Spurs system is very hard to learn & only 2 people have shown any kind of competency in it in their first year playing w/ the Spurs: Marco Belinelli & Ime Udoka. Ime is an assistant coach for the Spurs now. Belinelli disappeared in the playoffs, which I’m chalking up to 1st year casualty. So that means I’m expecting a better 2nd year from him, one good enough to replace Patty Mills if it comes to that. Which makes Diaw (Chubs, as my wife calls him) the one UFA that we MUST keep. We can’t get past OKC w/o him, I think that much is clear. Bonner can stay or go as everyone else seems to think. I didn’t see Austin Daye play, but it doesn’t seem like he got much of a chance. But doesn’t he sound like the Stretch 4 they always wanted Bonner to be? Why not try for another year for him? What do we have to lose? Finally, we CANNOT pick up Vince Carter. I threw away my Nike VC Shox when he made that 3 pointer in Round 1 Game 3.

  • Riotsmoke

    Tyler I wouldn’t argue that Daye is better than Bonner at this point, but the kid has so much raw potential it’s hard not to imagine him developing into something better than what Bonner ever was. As far as bulk goes, he could easily hit the gym and put on 20-25 pounds. Regarding the system, he came over in the trade mid-season so I’d expect him to play at least a full year before he grasps everything. As for the vet minimum I agree, but at the same time, wouldn’t you rather have those minutes going towards someone who could be part of the future rather than someone whose just in there just to be in there?

  • TheRed&Black

    Wow. I know he had a good season in Washington, but did not know he was making that much. Thought it was more in the 5-7 million dollar range. I would love to see Timmie’s buddy VInce Carter come over so we can start to campaign, “Win for Vin.”

  • Tyler

    No, I’d much rather have Bonner now and going forward.

    Daye just finished his 5th year and recently turned 26 – he’s not young by NBA standards. He’s still the same player he was in college. He hasn’t improved his body at all. At this point, he is what he is – a fringe NBA player. Having potential is one thing, seeing that potential manifest itself on the court with consistency is another. And so far in his career, Daye has disappointed. There is a reason he’s played for four teams and has rarely seen the court.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Give Baynes his $1 mil, Give Bonner $2 mil for 1 year (with a front office or coaching job, either with Spurs or Hawks). Patty 4 years at $8 mil, Diaw gets 2 yrs at $8 mil. Let Daye go, offer the MLE to Channing Frye, Anthony Morrow, or see if Danny Granger would take a pay cut to join the Spurs (assuming he’s healthy).

    Keeps the core together, and you can add several different offensive weapons that will further diversify the roster.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Bonner would get an offer for a FO job after next season, to clarify.

  • Mike Smith

    I love what you guys do here.

  • David Sobel

    As much as LeBron was singing the praises of the SPURS and their selfless play of basketball, LeBron is not a good fit for the style of basketball the SPURS put such a high value on. I can not see him playing for less like David, Timmy, Manu, and Tony so the bench could be filled with quality role players! Even though it would be in his best interests to do so for his long term health. His career could be extended by Pop limiting his minutes knowing that the playoffs are the goal every year! Plus he has to have the ball in his hands and as far as I know you can not pass the ball to yourself! No, let LeBron take his dog and pony show elsewhere!

  • David Sobel

    Does anyone know how last years draft pick from Ohio State who we stashed in Europe did last year?

  • bevo86

    Here’s his DraftExpress link (http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Deshaun-Thomas-1290/)

    Overall, he played well. As his stats suggest, he’s a capable scorer; his only problem is that he’s quite limited defensively. Still, in the right situation he could bring some scoring punch off the bench.

  • LBJ Parked

    Greg Monroe (RFA), Eric Bledsoe (RFA), Andrew Bynum (LMAO) – way to sneak that in there. well done lol

  • LBJ Parked

    this is fairly unrelated, but if you remember, Kevin Willis was on a spurs championship roster at age 42, like a boss, with elbow pads. unless something drastic happens, Duncan could pull that off. for at least one season, I would LOVE to see Duncan end his career coming off the bench, putting in 15 – 20 a game, absolutely terrorizing second strings of the opposition

  • Carlo

    Would it be feasible an offer for RFA Chandler Parsons? Today he’s earning 900K$. He already is a good SF with personality and intelligence. He could easily buy into Spurs’ system and his shooting could further improve thanks to Engelland.

  • LBJ Parked

    Sir Patty for $2M a year, I just don’t see that, he played way too damn good, and you know offers are coming in for him. Diaw may take $4M, possibly as a favor to the Spurs for saving his career (and to make another run). as far as free agents go, who wouldn’t want to take a pay cut to play with these Spurs? if you’re a $4 – $8M guy and the Spurs knock on your door, just hope you don’t pull a Bill Gramatica celebrating

  • John Lucas the Spurred

    Spurs should re-sign all key players including Baynes. Once Timmy retires, we will need solid bigs who can understand the system well enough to support the franchise until we can add another high-level 2-way playing big. It would be ideal if we can blood another big this year who can be a solid rotation player the year after Timmy retires. If we could get Gasol, we would be crowded for one year, but would then have an extra 2 year window to play a similar brand of spurs basketball with Pau taking over for Timmy once he retires. Might be wishful thinking.
    Another approach might be to look for another strong defender at 6’6 and above- Timmy is going to leave a huge defensive hole and the more high level defenders we have the better.
    As far as the team goes this year, it will be hard to see a repeat by simply re-signing the same team – the NBA changes every year and OKC might be a trade away from being back to their 2012 levels. If the blazers add a bench, the mavs get Lowry and someone like Mike Miller to go with retaining their core, they could be dangerous again. And if the clippers land Afflalo without giving up too much they could move into elite team territory. The Heat would need to get a good point guard and sign a swing man who can score and defend to offset Wades decline, and someone like Baynes would likely help them offset Bosh’s lack of paint presence and size

  • Tyler

    Wow, now Lebron is too selfish? Just a few weeks ago, he was getting criticized for not taking the last shot and passing to an open Chris Bosh….(which was the right play).

    The fact is Lebron has actually taken less $ in Miami. And chances are, he’s probably going to take another paycut to accommodate the Heat again.

  • Tyler

    If my memory is correct, the Spurs almost had a deal done for Vince Carter at the deadline a few years ago (for Barry perhaps?), but it fell through at the last minute.

    Carter is a Spurs type of guy – high character (on and off the court), great lockerroom presence, is respected by teamates and coaches, etc. On top of that, he’s really turned himself into a capable spot up shooter. Combine that with his ability to be a secondary ball handler, a decent passer, and a willing defender – he would fit great in SA’s system.

    He made $3.1M last year. I think he’d be great value for $2-3M/year.

  • Carlo

    Sorry but, as much as I appreciate Pau Gasol’s intelligence and talent, I don’t think he’d be a good fit for the Spurs.
    – He’s only slightly younger than TD and more fragile.
    – He only likes to stay close to the rim, although he showed a good faraway shoot.
    – Although a potentially very good defender, he’s a bit lazy in D and HATES to go outside the paint. Look at how TD went outside when needed.
    Should the Spurs hire a veteran, I think they’d better pick a rings-hungry one. One who may think to squeeze the last bits of his talent to get that elusive ring thanks to the Spurs.
    Anyway, I’d prefer a younger guy.
    Today, the big dilemma for the Spurs is: to go for the 6th title NOW (do it for Timmy and Manu) or keep building for the not-too-distant future when they’ll be retired?
    The way the Spurs won this year would leave the impression they could go for the repeat without the strict necessity of a “sure-fire veteran”. So, they could try both: go for the repeat AND build for the future.

  • LukeDawg

    I wouldn’t go as far as to suggest Lebron is selfish, especially on the court where he almost always makes the right decisions on when to set up his teammates. But the fact remains that off the court, he has continually shown the propensity to put his perceived best interests ahead of his team’s; essentially asking (and excuse the cheesy Kennedy paraphrase) “not what he can do for his team”, but rather “what all these different teams can do for him”. And this sentiment is really just as anti-Spurs as it gets. Thank the heavens that TD, Tony, and Manu never had this attitude, or the team as we know it, would have disbanded 5 or 6 years ago.

    So along those lines, the Spurs might consider an accomodation If and only if Lebron personally called RC and said, ” I’m a Spur, how can we make this work?” Otherwise, the Spurs won’t even consider entering the sweepstakes or requesting an interview.

  • Tyler

    “he has continually shown the propensity to put his perceived best interests ahead of his team’s”

    I get the sense people are saying he’s selfish because he’s entering FA again, which is laughable. Miami knew this was going to happen when he signed this deal – this is no surprise to them. I also remember TD doing the same exact thing with Orlando (and almost formed a superteam of his own with McGrady and Hill).

    If you’re referring to “The Decision”, I guess you can continue to criticize him – it was awhile ago. Outside of that though, once you strip away the fame and hype that has surrounded the guy since he was 17, you’re left with a guy that has not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded it while also conducting himself on and off the court with near perfection. He took less money to play for Miami – that’s not in dispute. (Had he resigned with Cleveland for the max he’d be making almost $30M per year – he made just under $20M this past year. He’s left a combined $30-40M (!!!!!!!!) on the table to play in Miami). He just opted out again, most likely to resign for less to facilitate roster upgrades (obv that’s just a hunch for now, but the most likely outcome imo). He’s made one bad decision since he was 17. One.

    I hate having to defend the guy. But honestly, its hypocritical for Spurs fans to call Lebron selfish – he works hard at his craft, he plays extremely hard, off the court he’s been great (outside of the decision). What else do you want?

  • Spurs Fan In VA

    I’ve enjoyed the Red Rocket over the past eight years, but it may be time for him to leave. I’d rather have a young Daye developing. Both have size, both shoot the three. Yes, Bonner has history and loyalty (both ways) is important. He’s gotten two rings with the Spurs, so he’s been rewarded. It’s easy to see how torn I’d be as a fan, so I realize that it would be hard for the FO to drop him. I believe Daye has an upside and it would be good for the Spurs to try to develop it.

  • Anthony GC D’Andrea

    I hope so man!

  • Anthony GC D’Andrea

    I think thats exactly whats going to happen

  • LukeDawg

    First of All, I never called him selfish, In fact, if you read the first line of my post, I said that is exactly what I would not call him. Furthermore, I’m not even sure I really criticized him. Pointing out that someone is looking out for their own best professional interests could hardly be considered a fault, but rather just human nature, something we all do. Therefore “propensity to put his perceived best interests ahead of his team’s” is referring not to the “Decision” itself, but in him leaving Cleveland for greener pastures and now threatening to do the same thing again just 4 years later. Of course it is well within his rights to do so, he can do whatever he likes and most people would do the same if in his shoes. He’s obviously the undisputed best player in the world and has earned that right, I’m just saying that attitude does not necessarily fit in line with the philosophy the Spurs have built. In other words, there are many right ways to do something, but not all of them are the Spurs way.

    So to answer your question, most Spurs fans want what PATFO wants, simply guys that have “gotten over themselves” and are ready to put their team’s best interests ahead of their own. When you are constantly just worried about your own “professional flexibility” and “putting YOURSELF in the best position to win championships” (both direct Lebron Quotes) it subtly shifts the attitude from team to self. Again, its not like there is anything morally wrong with this idea, most of the league thinks this way. But the thinking contrary to that is what makes the Spurs different and special, and why we have so much pride in our team.

    So not wanting Lebron on the Spurs doesn’t make certain Spurs fans hypocrites, it just means they put things like loyalty and “rock pounding” above Championship chasing.

  • Tyler

    Again, I can’t think of anything he’s done that has shown he values his “personal flexibility” over his team. If anything, he’s allowed his team the flexibility to get better at his expense. Chances are, he’s probably going to give Miami more $ to improve the team this offseason. That seems like something pretty unselfish to me. Yes, he’s putting “himself” in a better position to win a title, but he’s done it by improving the team around him – something TD, Manu and TP have done in their careers too!

    And the leaving Cleveland thing – what if TD or Manu or TP had been drafted by them? They’d probably leave too!

    Pounding the rock, loyalty, etc. are all great things. But it’s a lot easier to say it when you play for the best run sports franchise in the world! You can pound the rock all you want, be forever faithful to a team, but if it’s not managed well, that player might never have a chance. Given that situation, I can’t fault a guy for looking elsewhere.

    And to be clear, I don’t think Lebron is going anywhere. I don’t think he opted out to entertain the idea of going elsewhere. I think he’s doing it to improve his and his team’s chances at a title.

  • LukeDawg

    I think it is most likely that he stays as well, but make no mistake, his opting out this early is not just a purely selfless gift to the Heat so they can make the team better; no, it is first and foremost a gigantic power play that puts pressure on the rest of the Heat to improve the roster or else. That’s not my opinion as much as it is just what the majority of the league’s owners and its writers (who are obviously more connected than I) believe. Now the resign at a discount scenario you mentioned is definitely still in play, but his resigning would only be an effect of the Heat’s ability to upgrade, and not the other way around. So let’s no give him credit for that just yet.

    In fact, the comments he made about “his flexibility” suggest the opposite. He was not talking about the flexibility he had to help rework the Heat roster, but rather the flexibility he had in deciding where he wants to play for the next several years. He will hear what the Heat can do for him, along with what several other teams can do for him, and then decide which situation fits him best. That is the very definition of valuing “personal flexibility” over the team. Again, nothing wrong with that, it is a very smart personal move, it just sometimes comes at the expense of the team.

    And Its interesting you bring up Cleveland. On one hand, Cleveland is one of the most incompetent (and/or unlucky) franchises we have and I would never fault anyone for wanting out, including Lebron. But the crazy thing is, as bad as they have looked post Lebron, they would probably have already won a title had Lebron stayed. The best thing abut being an all time great, is that you always have the advantage on the court where the championships are won, even if it is sometimes in spite of a bad front office. So likewise, if Cleveland had drafted Duncan and he committed to play there his entire career, don’t you think he would have atleast one a championship or 2 there as well?

    Honestly its probably a chicken/egg type scenario, but my point is if you are truly a top 5 or 6 all time great you are going to win championships no matter where you play because you are just better at basketball than everyone else. Yes, PATFO are great, but ask them how they do it and they always say the same thing, “Its easy, just draft the greatest power forward of all time and get out of his way.” So while I agree with you about the Spurs being the world’s best organization and some guys not getting a chance, You also have to consider the inverse: Without a legendary player committing to you long term and winning you championships, your front office shine starts to lose its luster.

  • Ryan McShane

    It will be interesting to see what happens with their roster. If Pop has a choice, I think he would much rather hold on to Baynes than Ayres. Baynes played a lot more in the playoffs than Ayres. Meaningful minutes in the playoffs. He was the, “in case of emergency, break the glass back-up big man that actually comes through” in the playoffs. He’s the best enforcer the Spurs have since Stephen Jackson’s departure.

    I think Adreian Payne being selected by the Hawks suggests that it’s less likely the Hawks will need Bonner.

  • Ryan McShane

    Absolutely. Vince Carter is a throwback Spurs veteran. They need a guy like him. I would take Carter over Belinelli any day.

  • Ryan McShane

    Somebody will overpay those three guys. James Johnson is a solid defender that can play both forward positions. Marvin Williams is a solid rotation player. Emeka Okafor is still a skilled veteran PF/C in a league where Glen Davis is a highly sought after late-season buyout. Big men with skills are overpaid in this league. It’s a fact. Look at Splitter and Asik. They’re both valuable players, but just overpaid.

    I am not suggesting that these guys will take the full MLE. The main premise of this article is that Mills and Diaw get picked up again and thus the Spurs only have the MLE, Bi-Annual exception, rookie-scale deals, and vet min contracts to shell out this year. The Bi-Annual exception might best be reserved for next year when the Spurs might have a lot of roster turnover and need ways to be creative with the salary cap. That leaves them with the MLE as their only tool to obtain players worth potentially more than the veteran minimum. Last year, the Spurs split their MLE between Ayres and Belinelli and I think they still had a little bit of it left over. I think the aforementioned players are worth a look for the Spurs regardless of their potential salaries. The Spurs FO just won’t overpay players if they don’t have to. They let Gary Neal walk for just that reason. Guy barely made over $3 mil last year.

    I will also note that you made 0 suggestions for free agents the Spurs could pick up or would want to pick up.

  • Ryan McShane

    You’re right. Ariza is making $7.7 mil this year. I meant “getting” in the Bill Simmons’ future tense sense. Ie, he’s going to get $8-12 mil next year. He will be overpaid. The guy was on fire all season… albeit in the Leastern conference on a mediocre team. But if any team could nab him with their MLE, they should do it – including the Spurs.

  • Dapimp Ofdayear

    I don”t like Gasol’s attitude either at times, but right now he is a superior player to Splitter.