Summer school out of session for Spurs
Much of the offseason player movement has trickled to a halt, so barring another point guard that David Kahn just has to have, a final destination for Shaq, or another scathing LeBron column from Adrian Wojnarowski, the majority of the summer’s story lines have played out to their finish.
For the most part, as has been the norm for every summer they are not trading for Richard Jefferson and signing Antonio McDyess, the San Antonio Spurs have had a relatively quiet — and quietly nice — summer.
As has come to be expected, some (like John Hollinger) have included the Spurs in aÂ small group of offseason winners. But what have we truly learned so far about next year’s San Antonio Spurs?
Even in moments when the front office appears the most questionable, it should be assumed that there is some method to the madness. Often, it simply requires stepping away from each individual move to discern the bigger picture.
Richard Jefferson opting out of $15 million guaranteed was the NBAâ€™s largestÂ joke-turned-savvy business move. The San Antonio Spurs opting back into Jefferson forÂ $38.9 million over four years quickly launched a few â€œhave the Spurs hired Isiah Thomasâ€ jokes.
Overpaying on an overextended contract for what was, last year, a poor fit will do that.
This has been the most fiscally sound front office of the past decade, right? They did scoreÂ Tiago Splitter on the cheap after all. Well, through the confusion comes a little bit of clarity through the words ofÂ ESPNâ€™s John Hollinger.
So the Spurs ended up with both the best and worst contracts of this offseason. But on balance, theyâ€™re paying $13 million a year for the next three years for a Splitter-Jefferson combination. Iâ€™d take that deal any day, and between it and drafting James Anderson, I think the Spurs are in much better shape for next season than many people realize.
Headed into the offseason, many assumed Tiago Splitter would command, and was deserving of, the Spurs’ entire midlevel exception. Once the shock of Richard Jefferson opting out subsided, some were amenable to re-signing him to a contract between $5-7 million.
So ignoring how the money is distributed, the combined contracts of Jefferson (who is seen as overpaid) and Splitter (who signed for, again, Johan-freaking-Petro money) is perfectly reasonable for the two players over the next few years.
If the length of the Jefferson contract seems a bit much, it should be remembered that a small market Spurs team that far over the luxury tax might not have been able to afford Splitter, and Richard Jefferson probably does not opt-out without some security.
If nothing else, we can at least extrapolate one tidbit from the contracts.
Tiago Splitter is hardwired like many Spurs before him
While many view Splitter as the long-awaited front court cavalry for Tim Duncan, if most are being honest with themselves Tiago Splitter is for the most part a mystery.
Outside of two video breakdowns, one from our own Andrew McNeill and the other from NBA Playbook (both worth taking another look at), there is not a lot of extensive analysis of Splitter’s game stateside. But that contract speaks volumes.
Tiago Splitter could have received more money staying overseas. And unless R.C. Buford kidnapped Splitter and kept him away from all NBA free agent news, he undoubtedly knows his value is higher in the NBA than what he signed for.
Priorities. In Europe, Tiago Splitter is a much bigger star. On almost any other roster he’s probably a wealthier man. But in San Antonio, Splitter had an opportunity to play out a lifelong dream: to be on a winning team against the greatest competition in the world.
Given that there were much easier options to pursue, it can be assumed that his career priorities begin and end with the basketball court. Which should fit in nicely with the Spurs culture.
A different kind of player movement
While the core ages, the team is quietly getting younger, and with that youth movement comes a new dynamic to the Spurs — motion. Gone are the role players that were limited to launching standstill jumpers from the three-point line.
New additions James Anderson and Gary Neal (helpfully scouted by Jay Aych earlier this week)Â should not only provide shooting, but enough versatility to do so on the move, should defenses close out too hard. Tiago Splitter, it has been noted, is an adept passer with a high basketball IQ.
All of which should open up new offensive options for Gregg Popovich to utilize besides the pick and roll, options that just weren’t available last year. Between Duncan, Splitter, and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have three superior passers from their positions with a (presumably) healthy Tony Parker to get the ball rolling (and the defense out of position).
Those curls, drives, and additional a passing big man open up a lot of possibilities. In particular, having a capable and mobile passer from the high post should open up a lot of those baseline cuts which Richard Jefferson is so fond of, which in turn should make Spurs fans much fonder of him.
Of course, if any of that movement can translate to moving one’s feet on the defensive end, that would be great too.