Spurs post-Finals mailbag: Prospects, free agents and summer league
Do you see any of the Spurs’ foreign prospects coming to the team next year? If so, who? — John Lugo
It seems unlikely at this point. Assuming the Big Three remains intact for a potential last hurrah (and we do think it’s almost a certainty) and the Spurs do what they can to bring back Boris Diaw and Patty Mills, that doesn’t leave much room for the likes of Adam Hanga (59th pick, 2011), Davis Bertans (42nd pick, 2011) or last year’s first-round pick Livio Jean-Charles (28th). Not to mention, San Antonio’s roster seems to be in pretty good shape to make a run at a repeat, and it wouldn’t make much sense to hamstring the chemisty they’ve developed with the inclusion of young, inexperienced players.
Another wrinkle in all this is the fact each of the three previously mentioned players has dealt with injuries over the last year. Hanga (torn meniscus), Bertans (torn ACL) and Jean Charles (torn ACL) all decided to go down in the summer months of 2013, and all three required surgery. But of the three, only Jean-Charles has yet to return to the court, as the Spurs are being very cautious with the young Frenchman.
Tony Parker, who owns a 20 percent stake in ASVEL (the French team for which Jean-Charles plays) and holds the ceremonial title of Vice President of Basketball Operations of the team, said in a radio spot last year that the 20-year-old forward will remain in France for now.
“I have already spoke with the Spurs,” Parker said in the interview. “He will be with ASVEL next season. He will have a breakout season.”
Jean-Charles is an intriguing prospect, to be sure, and it will be interesting to see how he responds from the knee injury. He blew up in last summer’s Nike Hoop Summit (27 points, 13 rebounds, two blocks) as the international team smothered the American side, whose roster was loaded with the likes of Jabari Parker, Julius Randle and John Calipari’s Harrison twins.
Bertans is another player who possesses some skills that are quite desirable within the Spurs’ system. The 6’10 Latvian small forward was another product of the George Hill-Kawhi Leonard trade, and is viewed as one of the best shooters on the international scene at 21 years of age. He has recovered quite nicely from his knee surgery last summer, too, averaging nearly 13 points in around 22 minutes per game on better than 46 percent shooting, including 47.2 percent from the 3-point line on 125 attempts. More than 65 percent of his shots have come from deep, and he’s hitting at a very high rate.
At 25 years old, Hanga is a bit more developed than the other two, and his estimated time of arrival in San Antonio is still unknown. You should read this piece by Jesus Gomez over at Pounding the Rock, as he goes in on Hanga and what his potential might be. (Also, for more on Spurs prospects, our own Trevor Zickgraf did a roundup not long ago.)
I’ll be chatting with David Pick of Eurobasket.com and Sportando.com in the next week, so check back later. The guy is totally tuned in overseas and has some great knowledge on the subject matter. We’ll dive into this more.
What’s in the way to sign Pau Gasol (aside from his decision)? Who is likely to leave to get paid? — Dave McNulla
Aside from his decision and the fact the Lakers have yet to renounce his rights (or re-sign him for that matter), the money’s in the way, and so is the fit. I’m not sure what Pau will be looking for if he does indeed hit the open market, but the Spurs are likely to return a pretty loaded team, and I’m not sure the fit would be all that great. Tim Duncan and Tiago Splitter aren’t exactly fast on their feet, and the addition of the elder Gasol would not help in the athleticism and youth departments. San Antonio is already paying Splitter and Duncan eight figures apiece (unless Timmy decides to opt out and take yet another pay cut, though he really doesn’t need to), and we saw what kind of impact Boris Diaw can have in that front court. Not to mention, Jeff Ayres will still be under contract, and Aron Baynes is a restricted free agent the Spurs may want to bring back.
Hell, if you can bring Gasol in for mid-level-exception type money and guys are willing to play even fewer minutes, then I guess it couldn’t hurt. But I don’t know. I love Pau, and he had a very nice 2013-14 season, but if the Lakers decide to let him go I can think of better ways for San Antonio to spend the (presumably) limited funds it has.
Do you think the Spurs make a run at Greg Monroe? Even if it means losing pieces like Patty & Boris? Possibly trading picks, etc. I think he’d be an amazing Spur. — Taylor Young
Monroe is a really nice young big man, but again, I’m not sure another eight-figure frontcourt player is in the cards for San Antonio unless it’s an absolute slam dunk. The former Hoya is not a great athlete, and he hasn’t shown great tendencies on the defensive end of the floor so far throughout his career. A lot of this comes back to the fact that, if the Spurs want to make a run at a repeat, and if Duncan comes back, this roster will be pretty loaded. Not to mention, I just can’t see this team emptying the cupboard, so to speak, to clear room for a guy who’s going to command a lot of money. This isn’t a veteran willing to chase a ring on a discount, it’s a young guy coming off his rookie contract. Chances are he’d like to get paid.
I know people like to envision ways for San Antonio to clear cap space to bring in another All-Star type talent; but realistically, if you as a fan want to go after ring No. 6, the best course of action is to keep this team — one that just dominated the NBA Finals in historic fashion, by the way — together. Only time will tell what goes down, and if Diaw and Mills decide to bolt for greener pastures (unlikely), then maybe the Spurs will have to look into going after another young, impactful player for the present and future. But until then, these big names should probably be crossed off your summer wish list.
Ryan Richards, will he be on the Summer League roster? What’s his progress? Are the Spurs still working on this project? Thanks! — John Estrada
Ah, Ryan Richards. The most popular of the summer Spurs. San Antonio still has the draft rights to the big, 23-year-old Englishman, but he doesn’t appear to be anywhere near an NBA player at this point. You can see why the Spurs drafted him as a teenager with the 49th overall pick in 2010, but his size and athleticism have yet to progress into steady weapons. He’s seven feet tall, he’s got range, and he can run, jump and dunk, but it hasn’t all been put together on a consistent basis. Even during the past few Summer League appearances, he’s been effective one day and nonexistent the next. I have no clue if he’ll amount to anything in the Spurs’ future, but he’s a second-round pick they don’t need right now. He’s still young, and his skills are still worth honing, but he’d probably be just icing on the cake if he actually pans out.
The Spurs have yet to release their roster for Las Vegas, but I’d say there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be there. It’d be a bad sign if he wasn’t, I’d say. Speaking of that, I’m intrigued by who San Antonio will send to Summer League in July. Bertans was there last July. He was limping around on a surgically repaired knee, but he was there. Guys like Marcus Denmon and DeShaun Thomas will probably make an appearance as well. But, who knows? Stay tuned.
What will the front office do to ensure Chip Engelland sticks around? I feel this is key in development. — Jesse Brockschmidt
Could not agree more. This guy is the reason Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard and a host of others have found their shooting strokes during their careers. He’s invaluable and, luckily, still under contract. Gregg Popovich has always been great about letting his guys go when great opportunities present themselves, but there’s no question they’d like to keep Chip around. Rumors popped up about Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr having interest in his longtime friend (Engelland and Kerr go way back), but I have no idea in what capacity or for what kind of compensation. The Spurs take very good care of the guy, so I’m not sure he’ll be in some big hurry to jump ship, especially after winning a title. You never know, but I can’t imagine they’ll let him get away unless it’s truly in his best interest.
I could be wrong here, but I personally feel like the bench’s play in Game 4 saved the season. The starters played awful, hero-ball … I know Pop said he wanted to rest the starters, but the bench proved to the team that if you played to the system, you have a better chance of winning. After that game the Spurs rolled off 6 of their next 7. Im curious to your thoughts on this. — Jesse Brockschmidt
I assume you’re talking about Game 4 of the Oklahoma City series, Jesse, and I agree that it was huge. I don’t know if it saved the season or not, but I wrote about it after the fact — it seemed to revamp their trust in the system. The effort the bench put in was fantastic, and for the starters, it was basically like a film session. Everything was working, the team was playing inspired and the ball never stopped moving. Again, we’ll never know how the Spurs would’ve responded otherwise, but I think your point is totally valid, and it honestly could’ve been a turning point in that series considering how thoroughly the Thunder dominated the majority of Games 3 and 4.
What exactly is the spurs cap situation this summer? How much cap room? Do they have a MLE to use? Other exceptions? — John Alvarez, Jr.
Tune in next week, John. I’m going to drop my offseason primer that will answer damn near every question anyone could ever ask about the Spurs’ offseason.