Spurs post-Finals mailbag: Prospects, free agents and summer league

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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.

  • gino

    What’s going on w Deshaun Thomas

  • cincodemanu

    Andrew Wiggins was not on the American team at the Nike Hoops Summit. Probably because he is Canadian.

  • Matthew R Tynan

    Yes. Was a slip-up and is now corrected. Thanks.

  • Bachmann Sausage Roll Starship

    I love Matty B, but what you say about Bertans just sounds amazeballs. Considering Matt didn’t log many minutes (and, as much as I want to punch myself in the nards for saying this after everything that’s happened), would it behoove the Spurs to bring in Bertans for a years of NBA life and minimal game experience this season in lieu of re-signing Bonner?

    Bonner made just under $4 million this year, and Bertans probably would cost much less than that, but so would Matt, probably. He’s not expendable, but he also has a history of falling off his normal three-point excellence in May and June.

    What do you think?

  • Ryan McShane

    Bonner won’t get 4 million again this year. I think he gets the vet min or renounced pretty quickly.

  • ThatBigGuy

    He probably gets a 2 year, $4 million deal, just because of the fairly unique skill set and the corporate knowledge he brings to the team. I mean, his sandwich blog and community outreach abilities are worth $500k at least.

    That being said, I wonder if Coach Bud scoops him up. If he and the Spurs part ways, he’ll be in a Hawks jersey real quick.

  • Robb

    Could the Spurs make a run at LeBron?

    They’re about $10 million under the cap including Timmy’s current player option. If he takes a 50 percent paycut to $5 million, Spurs could offer LeBron a contract at starting $15 million per year. They’d have to let Bonner go unless he’s willing to accept the minimum, but you could re-sign Boris at $5 million per year using Early Bird rights, Patty with the mid-level exception at $5.3 million, and still not eclipse the luxury tax threshold.

  • DorieStreet

    Despite the sustained level of achievement over a decade and a half, and the ultimate success of this just-past season (NBA Champions —yeeeah, baby!!!!!), the draft and stash program has pretty much been underwhelming.. Two players (Manu and Tiago) in 16 years—not acquiring talent on a steady basis that way. Hopefully the rate improves from this time forward.

  • Tyler

    What’s the alternative to draft and stash?

    Picking in the late first and second round, those aren’t typically NBA players anyway – only 20-25 from each draft class will be in the league in 3-4 years.

    The draft and stash is a great way to develop prospects on someone else’s dime, a strategy that has now been copied by virtually every other team. Just b/c SA has “only” unearthed a HOF and a quality starter doesn’t mean it is the wrong strategy.

    I think if you look at the players SA has drafted relative to other teams that are drafting in the late first and early second, SA is head and shoulders above the rest of the league.

  • spurs10

    Thanks again! Yes, it’s hard to imagine the Spurs rocking the boat after this amazing season. I hope Chip stays! Can imagine Kerr will make a run for him. I hope he’s gets a raise and wants to stay put. The Mattie scenario is the one I’m most unsure of. He did spread the floor in game 5 against OKC, even if he didn’t score. He makes a decent back up to Boris in that regard. Boris and Patty seem to be key.

  • idahospur

    Props to the gang at this website and to the fellow Spurs fans this year. I get so nervous the deeper this team gets in the playoffs and it has been great reading the articles and comments posted during this run.
    From what I read Boris will not easily leave this team. Having a rough career besides here and Phoenix makes me think he wants to stay where he is comfortable.
    Mills is the question mark. Except for a much better attitude his position is very similar to that of Stephen Jackson after winning the title with the Spurs. He played amazing and could be much more than #4 guard behind Tony, Manu, and Danny. I bet the Heat would have loved him playing starting point guard over Chalmers. I think he could use a couple more years here to develop but it is a tougher sale.
    Spurs will make Bonner a token offer but for less than what he usually gets. I think he has a few more big in him but it all depends on if he gets the chance.
    I think Kawhi will make San Antonio his long term home.
    Duncan will take another pay cut if it guarantees everyone sticks around. If he and Manu call it good then big changes next summer.
    As for LeBron just because I feel like it. He plays one more year in Miami. So he doesn’t feel like a home wrecker. The Heat do not return to the Finals and he leaves the following year when there are many more opportunities out there than this summer.

  • brunostrange

    ESPN has an article on its site positing the same question. In my view, he’s not a good fit. I’m not a LeBron hater, but I think his skill set/style of play and the Spurs system don’t go together.

  • DorieStreet

    The Spurs’ bench/rotation on this perennial potential AND NOW CHAMPIONSHIP team have been/are primarily free agent acquisitions. SA has done a solid job in drafting the last few seasons (Blair, Hill, Leonard, Joseph) at their annual very low 1st and 2nd round positions.
    The HOF was picked up a long time ago (1999) The quality starter was picked 8 years later.
    I didn’t say the draft & stash was the wrong strategy; it’s just when you have a team that has maintained being an elite title contender for over a decade, you wish that method of acquiring talent could be a little more successful as the other two ways.
    One or two more d&s guys that could have come over and produced in the 2000’s decade might have gotten the SA a couple of more championships (and that elusive back-to-back….maybe even a three-peat performance).

  • DorieStreet

    Bonner has to accept way less to stay on the squad. A one game contribution (game 5 WCF) does not cover up his overall role in the playoffs and the preceding 2013-14 season—a marginalized, seldom used player –even with the injuries suffered by this team. He became what DeJuan Blair was his last year with SA.. I’d rather bid him goodbye and bring in someone who will fit and work to become part of the post-Tim & Manu Spurs.

  • DorieStreet

    That would work. His time with the Spurs should end. Pop has minimized his role too much to justify keeping him for old times’ sake. And the Hawks need a player of his experience—-and Coach Bud would use him a lot more than Pop did,

  • Graham

    Not enough mutual interest, I feel. Spurs don’t want to have to carve out that much money and why would LeBron want to move to the West?

  • Ben Dean

    I would really like to see the Spurs add Evan Turner in the offseason. They should be able to get him for the mid level exception. He was a former number 2 overall pick and although has done less than expected definatly has talent. The Spurs are a great team at helping players get to their potentional. We are weak at the wing and he would add another good wing player, who could possibly develop into a solid starter or sitxth man down the line after Duncan and Ginobli eventually call it quites.

  • Governmentname

    RC should sign Vince Carter for the vet minimum to give the team a motivation to “Win for Vin” ala “Win for Fin” after Finely signed w/ the team in 2006. Vince would be the back-up SF that RC has been searching for a while now. Manu is most likely going to pick-up some kind of injury over the summer (FIBA) thus Marco has his work cut out for him next season to eat up minutes.

  • Philip Fletcher

    This team coming back is capable of winning it all, Diaw and Mills are necessary, do a 2 year with the1st year being vet minimum and second year being 7 mil a piece. LOL. Bonner not necessary.

  • Philip Fletcher

    Just watched a Davis Bertans video, 20 points in 20 minutes on youtube, he is much more athletic than Bonner and his three’s are jumpers not set shots, he is an immediate upgrade over Bonner.

  • mudyez

    Would the Spurs be the first team, that repeats with the exact same playoff roster? I’d love this and it’s the first year as a sprs fan (20years), I’m just hoping they bring back everyone, while not signing new faces.

  • mudyez

    Actually I’d think LeBron would be perfect, as he is more Magic than Jordan! Put its a pipe dream and I rather repeat without him, than with him anyway.

  • Tyler

    “No thanks. We don’t think Lebron is a good fit here,” said no team ever.

  • Tyler

    If it was possible, we’d trade anyone and everyone. What wouldn’t you trade for the generation’s best player? RC would trade his unborn son if that’s what it took.

    Imagine the crazy sets Pop could run with a player of his skill. It would be unfair.

  • Allan Advincula

    Why not Dirk?

  • jamberg

    You also have to consider the financial flexibility the draft and stash method provided the Spurs. When you’re working with three superstars, filling out the roster becomes a little more difficult, so you draft a guy who you don’t actually have to pay right off the bat. It’s harder to fit guys under the tax when you have three players making between $25 and $32 million a year, like the Big 3 were in the mid- to late-2000s.

  • Ryan McShane

    Dirk is too loyal to his own team. But the Spurs probably wouldn’t have space for Dirk the same way they won’t have space for Pau Gasol – both are old and slow and they already have similar players in Duncan and Splitter. I would take Duncan and Splitter over Duncan and Gasol/Dirk any day.

  • Ryan McShane

    Buford wouldn’t trade Duncan or Ginobili for him unless they wanted to retire (a la Bowen). I don’t think he trades Parker either. Maybe next season. Of equal salaries, that might leave Splitter + Leonard/Diaw + change after new contracts. That’s still a lose-lose for both teams.

    The best the Spurs could hope for is some cap maneuvering and signing him as a free agent IF he opts out. And I don’t think the Spurs would gamble on that.

    BUT YEAH. He would definitely fit on the Spurs’ roster. Just slide Leonard over to the 2 for a huge line-up or Leonard over to the 4 for a small-ball line-up.

  • Allan Advincula

    I agree with you, my post is just a reply to the guy asking why not make a run for LeBron, And I would love Dirk more than LeBron on the spurs.

  • Tyler

    No, you’re right – he wouldn’t trade TD or Manu, and probably not TP (although it would be tempting) simply out of sheer loyalty. But Miami probably wouldn’t want them either – they’d probably want young cheap guys, expirings, and picks.

    But while we’re on the subject of pie-in-the-sky scenarios, RC would def trade Kawhi for Lebron no questions asked, as would I.

  • Ryan McShane

    And Luis Scola was also a draft and stash player the Spurs just couldn’t bring to the US. He probably would have been the piece you’re referring to.

    Let’s not forget the Spurs traded for/drafted Kawhi Leonard and Beno Udrih was an immediate success as well.

    The Spurs draft has also had a non-d&s “bust” in James Anderson and a d&s bust in Nando de Colo.

    But more importantly, the free agents the Spurs have picked up (Green, Diaw, Mills, Neal) were all castaways or players other teams didn’t want. Belinelli is the only exception, but he disappeared for most of the playoffs.

    If you look at the Spurs’ draft history, there’s just nothing better available in the draft than what they picked. Going through the last few years the best possible picks that could have been made if we looked into the future:
    2007: Tiago Splitter (28): Marc Gasol (48)
    2008: George Hill (26) – Pekovic/Jordan/Asik (31/35/36)
    2009: DeJuan Blair (37) – Wesley Matthews (Undrafted)
    2010: James Anderson (20) – Landry Fields (39)
    2011: Cory Joseph (29) – Chandler Parsons (38) (but they had already drafted Kawhi)
    2012: Marcus Denmon (59) – Kent Bazemore (60)
    All of these players were draft and stash caliber players. The Spurs have sorely needed a backup point guard for years, so the Spurs have trained Hill and Joseph here instead of overseas. Some of them turned into solid players over time, but no one thought the younger marshmallow Gasol was going to become a top-5 center.

    In short, like Tyler said, there just hasn’t been much there. Hopefully some of the players the Spurs have drafted and stashed pan out, or the Spurs are able to pick a guy up in this deep, deep draft.

  • Ryan McShane

    Speaking from a strictly hypothetical standpoint, I think Dirk is a better culture fit too. But LeBron adds so much more and for more years than Dirk.

  • Ryan McShane

    Assuming salaries weren’t an issue, you’re probably right

    I’ve thought about this though – LeBron is just about over the hill… and Kawhi is very young and promising. I think LeBron has a few more elite years left – but he’s going to start to need a reduction in minutes. I think the Spurs’ coaching staff could manage that much better than Spoelstra and crew. Kawhi, on the other hand…

    Okay, yeah. I would take LeBron for Kawhi straight-up, too. Not a bad trade for George Hill.

  • Slavename

    I would have “voted up” this post as i very much enjoy the idea of Half Man-Half Amazing backing up Kawhi but that Manu comment you made really makes me want to dick slap you

  • Len

    Apparently K. Love recently made a comment about how he would like to play for the Spurs. Obviously that isn’t going to happen next year but considering Love’s current contract actually expires the same time that the Big 3’s contracts expire, it does raise an interesting conversation.

    The trick obviously would be for Love to make it to next summer without signing an extension, as there’s no way in heck R.C, would break up the championship team to make that trade.

    And I do recall a few years ago, Love getting a bit pissy about Timmy making the ASG rather than him. Doubt that would be an issue, but character/personality are always a factor for our beloved Spurs.

  • LukeDawg

    I agree with this assessment. Of course Lebron’s skills would fit on any team, but the Spurs recruit and expect a certain kind of behavioral trait that extends beyond basketball and starts with the classic Pop designation, “guys that have gotten over themselves”; And I’m just not sure that Lebron qualifies there. If the Spurs philosophy is “stay the course, pound the rock”, then Lebron’s strategy is almost certainly “survey the work from a safe distance, then jump in after the 101st blow to see if the rock split in an acceptable amount.” I mean, all that said, he is obviously great, I guess I am just saying that for being the indisputable best player in the world, he sure has shown himself to be quite the front runner.

  • Ryan McShane

    At minimum, LeBron has a healthy respect for the Spurs. After game 5, he said something to the effect of, “now that’s how team basketball is supposed to be played. I think he has a high enough basketball IQ to find a way to fit.

    But if he were on the Spurs, he would be somewhere between third and fifth banana. Duncan and Popovich are the clear leaders of this team. Ginobili and Parker are also up there – they’re still called “the big three” despite the fact that Kawhi is worthy of a spot. I don’t know if he could handle that. I don’t know if he could handle not being the loudest voice in the huddle.

    And of course, all of the extracurricular activities LeBron is involved in could be a distraction.

    In a game, he would be a distributor and work within the system. I doubt he would play hero ball unless he had to – and LeBron rarely does that unless he has to. He’s never been much of a hero ball player; he was maligned for years for sharing the ball in crunch time situations. Sidenote: this is why Carmelo Anthony will never win a championship as the best or second-best player on a team – he’s a ball hog and he makes defense against his team quite easy. He is the ultimate anti-Spur – more so than Ron Artest or Dennis Rodman.

    It’s not inconceivable to see LeBron being a culture fit on the court, but I’m not sure about him in the locker room or extracurricularly.

  • eddde

    could the spurs aim for gordon hayward