Spurs Free Agency: A Short Appraisal of Available Wings

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Now that the Richard Jefferson has opted out of his contract, it’s fair to say the Spurs will target a wing in free agency. Although Jefferson’s deal brings the Spurs close to the cap line, they’re still limited to exception money and veteran minimums. In addition to this, they hold Bird Rights on Matt Bonner and Richard Jefferson.

The Spurs could resign Jefferson or look at sign and trade options. With so many teams under cap this year, and a few looking at hard sells to their respective free agent targets (I’m looking at you, New York Knicks), the Spurs could also move Jefferson in a sign and trade and bring back nothing but a big, fat trade exception. R.C. Buford and company are fine.

The Spurs’ failures last season are easily organized around two principal concerns: defense and shooting.  The Spurs need to target a wing who can at least satisfy one of these objectives, if not both. RJ was neither a perimeter stopper nor sniper. In fact, his presence on the floor introduced all sorts of bad voodoo into the Spurs’ offensive spacing.

When the free agent season kicks off at 12:01 tomorrow, the Spurs, although cash strapped, will be in good shape. The Tiago Splitter situation is increasingly optimistic. James Anderson was an ace draft pick, and, at the very least, supplies the Spurs with the sort of shooting they sorely lacked last season. (Anderson, it should be noted, also provides the Spurs will a player who can eat minutes at shooting guard. Manu Ginobili, in other words, can play fewer minutes during the season’s early months because of James Anderson’s arrival.)

But Splitter and Anderson are not enough, and Richard Jefferson’s opt out only intensifies the team’s need to upgrade their talent base.

Alonzo Gee and Malik Hairston have both shown themselves worthy of  NBA minutes, but how many minutes is still uncertain. I suspect one of these two will emerge from training camp as a reliable small forward reserve. I’d bet on Gee over Hairston because he has better size and more range on his shot, but Hairston’s scrappy defense will garner attention. These are two players to watch during summer league and training camp.

Taking things a step further, the addition of Anderson gives the Spurs a solid 5-man deep glut of guards. Parker, Hill, Ginobili, Anderson and Temple. And Hairston and Gee are both capable of sliding between wing positions.  The Spurs, then, would do well to hunt a bargain bin combo forward during their free agent pursuits–a wing who is capable of playing small ball power forward.

The catch is cost. How much will the Spurs have to spend after signing Splitter. If Splitter commands the entire MLE, the Spurs are limited to the lower level and vet minimum contracts. These, and sign and trade options.

Who’s available at these prices?

Dorell Wright – Of all the small forward options, Wright is the most intriguing.  Wright is only 24, and has steadily improved every year in the league. He has a reliable mid-range game and shoots 40% from the corners. And Wright not only has good size (6’9”) for a defender, he applies himself to one-on-one assignments. Wright is capable of guarding 2s, 3s, and small ball 4s. By one account, Wright had the 17th best APM in the league last season. How could the Spurs afford such a promising player? In short, Wright was not the best citizen last year, and there are concerns about his character. The Spurs would have to take a risk on a player who may be a bad fit in the locker room.

James Jones – Jones is another thought-provoking option. Unlike Wright, Jones is known for his great locker room presence. He doesn’t have nearly the upside of Wright, but he’s a smart, efficient defender and a great shooter from the perimeter. Jones is an oft-utilized stretch four option, but he is a competent small forward.  How much is James worth? The Spurs might be able to secure his services for the LLE.

Travis Outlaw -Travis Outlaw is likely to command more than the Spurs have to spend. In order for the Spurs to secure Outlaw, some sort of trade scenario would have to play out. Antonio McDyess for Outlaw makes financial sense, but it’s a solution that creates another problem–the Spurs gain depth at the wing while losing depth in the frontcourt. A sign and trade swap of Jefferson for Outlaw is conceivable. Whatever the case, signing Outlaw requires creativity. But the payoff is there. Outlaw, much like Jones and Wright, is a good defender. And he’s excellent from the corners.

Matt Barnes – Barnes is a fan favorite, but I’m not entirely sure why. He’s a tough defender, but lacks good size for a small forward and is a mediocre three point shooter. Plus, Barnes is probably seeking more money than the Spurs can pay, making him a difficult get apart from a trade. To my mind, Barnes is Keith Bogans with more offense. The Spurs can do better.

Ryan Gomes – Gomes is an under-the-radar option, but a very solid option nonetheless. Like Dorell Wright, Gomes is young and improving. He’s a smart defender, but not a  defensive ace. I studied his game using Synergy and came away with the distinct conviction that Gomes is laterally slow against quick wings, but intelligent enough to make up for his shortcomings. And his strong base allows him to play effective defense against smaller power forwards.  On the other end, Gomes is a terrific offensive fit for the Spurs. His midrange and corner game couldn’t be better suited for San Antonio’s offense. And in terms of the locker room, Gomes is all San Antonio.  Ben Polk recently wrote an appreciation of Gomes that details his locker room value.

Ronnie Brewer – Ronnie Brewer can’t shoot. He’s not even Bruce Bowen good. Can. Not. Shoot. But he’s the best man defender of all the available free agent options, just nudging Wright for that honor. If the Spurs must sign a player who is only a defender or a shooter, Brewer addresses the team’s defensive concerns.

Kyle Korver – Korver is Ronnie Brewer in reverse. Can. Not. Defend. But Korver is the best pure shooter available in free agency. Lights out.

Tracy McGrady – And now for something completely different. McGrady is a gigantic risk, and is, at this point, an average defender and shooter. Perhaps worse. But he has great court vision and is tremendous passer. Remember how Brent Barry used to energize the Spurs’ offense by providing ball handling and ball movement? Tracy McGrady would add that, minus Barry’s dead-eye accuracy. McGrady is worth a look if he’s willing to sign for the veteran minimum. Otherwise, the Spurs should pass.

  • B.D.

    Oh come on. RJ’s not going anywhere.

    4 years, $30-35 million

  • Ian

    What are the chances of signing James Gist? I know he’s more of a 4 than a 3, but perhaps he could play as a long 3 in some situations?

  • Ian

    Of course, the thing with Gist would be whether Spurs sign him or not, but whether he can make the roster or not…

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  • Chris

    I’d say go after brewer. Anderson addresses shooting; need a lock down defender.

  • Adonis

    Our first priority is to see how we contract Tiago Spiltter financial wise. Then we are able to see what to do with R.J. and the free agent class. My heart says “Let R.J. stay” but for our Spurs, I say we should see what we can pick up with trade talks; it is business. Free agents, I believe something crafty will come up along the lines. The front office know what their doing and what it want/needs. GO SPURS!!

  • Greg

    we should have bit the bullet and signed captin jack last year when we had the chance! yes we would have been over the cap big time last year but it would be fine from this season on.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I like Brewer. I’d rather teach a defender to shoot rather than teach a shooter to defend. That was Bowen’s career arc.

  • Dr. Who

    Would have much rather seen RJ NOT opt out and then use the 15MM expiring contract as a huge carrot for the trade deadline next year. would have got much more bang for the buck. Unless his opt out supplies us with a great S&T deal, I fear we just got the screws put to us AGAIN by RJ. Looking for a big, 3 point shooting and now a new starting SF with the LLE and vet minimum. Thanks for nuthin RJ.

  • Filipe

    Weird suggestion: making a deal with the Celtics to send McDyess there for a sign and traded Tony Allen. Obviously only after Splitter sign, but I think Dice is expandable after that (even if it means some Red Rocket meaningful minutes), Cs need more nig man insurance, we get one of the best wing stoppers on the league (even if he can’t shoot and might make Pop crazy on O).

  • grego

    James Jones was who the Spurs were targeting before they became the front runners in the Finley signing that summer. If not for Finley, there’s a good chance Jones would have been a Spur.

  • Bushka

    Wright makes sense

  • Jim Henderson

    Thanks for the nice overview, Tim. I like most of the options that you mentioned. I actually think that all of the guys you mentioned will likely be a bit too pricey for the LLE, except for maybe Barnes, or T. Allen (I hope I’m wrong). For example Barnes played for 1.6 mil. with the Magic last year, and played just well enough for Orlando to NOT offer him an extension with a salary raise.

    Thus, the wing players that we could really use are most likely going to require a sign & trade deal to get it done. By the way, all of this is based on the assumption that we’re using all, or at least the great majority of our MLE on Splitter. One option to deal with this situation would be to use McDyess in a sign & trade deal for a decent wing, and then use the LLE on signing a defensive/shot-blocking big. In my view, with Duncan, the addition of Splitter, and the expected improvement from Blair, we shouldn’t really need a highly capable, or offensive-minded big to replace the 36 year old McDyess. But first, I want to add a few more names to the potential wings to consider in a sign & trade:

    T. Allen (similar to Brewer – no shot/defender)
    A. Morrow (GREAT shooter, with OK “D”)
    R. Bell (excellent shooter & defender)
    J. Childress (decent shooter, solid defender)

    Personally, including Tim’s list, as a combination of what I like, and what seems most realistic, I like the following in rank order:

    D. Wright
    A. Morrow
    R. Bell
    T. Outlaw
    J. Childress
    R. Brewer
    R. Gomes
    K. Korver
    T. Allen
    M. Barnes

    Potential LLE Bigs (some could be the vet minimum, or are over-priced):

    J. Anthony (GREAT athlete/”rim protector”)
    L. Amundson (very active defender/shot-blocker)
    D. Mbenga (good size/shot-blocker)
    Ben Wallace (excellent defender/good shot-blocker)
    Z. Ilgauskas (good shooter/shot-blocker)

    I think Miami is looking for every penny they can free up right now to spend on the biggest free agents (hence, the Heat looking at unloading Beasley for cheap), so they might feel the pressure to let Anthony go (not match our offer). Thus, I would seriously look at trying to get Anthony now with all or most of our LLE. Then, after the Heat make their major FA signings, offer McDyess in a sign & trade for Wright (assuming he’s still available). Then, hopefully make a sign & trade deal to send RJ off for the best all-around player/draft pick, etc. that we can get.

    That’s one piecemeal way to try & improve our competitiveness. I would still prefer to combine the piecemeal approach along with making a major trade of one of our most valuable assets, providing it’s a “good” deal, of course (see my trade proposal with Portland from a previous thread as a consideration).

    Any ideas on possible player/minimum signings?

    Tim Thomas?….etc….

  • Jim Henderson

    Of course the sign & trade of McDyess doesn’t have to be for Wright. I’d be okay with any of the top eight on my list coming back. I don’t know about doing it for Barnes or Allen though.

  • Jim Henderson

    Actually, I would rank James Jones ahead of Allen & Barnes on the list.

  • grego

    Also note that even though Anderson might eat some of Manu’s minutes early on, you also have Temple who has a strong chance of making his team. I’d venture to say, he probably is the front runner (his 3-point shooting and ability to play point) if only one of the new guys could make the team. He had the strongest showing with the team, although Gee did have a good showing with the Wiz. The most pressure if probably on Hairston of those 3 guys.

  • lvmainman

    @ Greg,

    I agree passing on Stephen Jackson who was 1 of 4 NBA players in 08-09 that averaged 20 pts, 5 rebs, and 6 assists, was sad. The other 3?….. Try Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Paul.

    Jackson was paid $7 mil this past season and knew the Spurs system.

    James Jones, Rasual Butler, or Ime Udoka sound like the only small forwards the Spurs can afford. The rest will definitely make more money elsewhere. Probably won’t get anyone signed at the position until the end of August, when players are willing to accept the minimum the Spurs will pay like with Keith Bogans.

  • lvmainman

    Or Spurs could sign Bobby Jones.

    http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Bobby-Jones-351

  • Bushka

    Ivmain those stats of jacksons were ridiculously skewed due to the fact he operated within an offence that allowed him to remorselessly chuck whenever he felt the need.

    As long as he is the focal point of the offence I think he is comfortable. Making him defer to three other guys i.e Timmy, Manu, and Tony wouldn’t work. Or at least that’s my opinion and It’s usually in a minority of one so take it for what it’s worth.

  • Rey

    Hey, I checked the ‘net and the word is that RJ opted out of his contract to avoid being the “tradeable piece” by next season. He is apparently still in touch with Pop and the plan is that he might sign up for next season for less money but longer years. He seemed to be genuinely interested to be a Spur to the end of his career and has allegedly decided to opt out to give the Spurs enough financial lee-way to sign up Splitter.

    I’m not really sure if this is reliable information (I just typed “san antonio spurs rumors” on Google and hoped for the best) and got a bunch of sports-related websites that discusses the situation. But still, if RJ’s doing this for his career and for the Spurs, then I’m very impressed – we’re hitting two birds with one stone here. As has been observed sometime last year, the Spurs seemed to be making the transition to a slow-paced, Duncan-centric team to a quicker, Parker-centric team. I think that keeping RJ as an important piece (and I hope the chemistry had improved by next season) would be vital in keeping the team playoffs-material and championship contender.

    I’m excited about next season. I really hope we get to sign Splitter and the rumor above is true.

  • Ian

    @lvmainman – man, you’re repeating that piece of information over and over like a broken record. As Bushka stated above, there was no way Jackson producing even half of those stats if he played with Duncan, Manu and Parker.

  • Nick (Italy)

    I think we should try to go for a high risk – high reward trade.
    I like the Wright option, I definitely am a fan of the player , but I would rather try hard to obtain Beasley: sure, he’s an headcase, but he’s still extremely young, an above average athlete and an extremely talented offensive player.
    In order to make him a star, the Spurs would have to transform him in a less horrible defender and a more focused player, but if there is a team that can do it, these are the Spurs.

  • pb

    I wouldn’t mind signing tracy mcgrady for the Vet minimum… excellent ballhandler and passer… But then, we would be really heavy in the guard position…

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  • Bryan

    @Jim Henderson
    I like the way you think, man. We don’t need to constrain ourself to trying to find a wing with the LLE. I like the idea of scoring a wing with ‘Dyess and then trying to replace him with the LLE. Bringing in somebody like Amundson with the LLE wouldn’t be a bad idea at all.

    I keep hearing the rumor that there’s a chance that Jefferson might be looking for a longer term deal with the Spurs. Where is that coming from? This is a guy who underperformed for this team because he was a terrible fit, and now we want to give him 4 more guaranteed years??? I just don’t see it. I know the Spurs loose some depth without the cap space to adequately replace it, but extending RJ just doesn’t make sense. The FO is just going to have to get creative to replace him.

  • lvmainman

    @ Ian, Bushka,

    I have no doubt that Jackson’s numbers with the Spurs wouldn’t have been as high. But, he would have fit a role on the team as a proven needed extra scorer/playmaker/shot maker scoring around 14 to 16 pts a game, to help the Spurs in my opinion, without a long adjustment period. Giving Bonner and Mason (or some combination of the 6 expiring contracts) away for Jackson would have put the Spurs in a stronger position to contend for a championship. Unlike now.

    In the same way Ray Allen went from 26 pts a game to 17, Garnett 22 to 19, and Pierce 25 to 20 when they became Celtics.

  • Bryan

    Why does everyone forget that Jackson was not a free agent, nor up for trade at this point last season? Jackson requested a trade at the start of last season – after the Spurs had already made the trade for RJ. The Spurs knew that they needed to upgrade the team at this point last summer, and made a trade that, in theory, was strongly in their favor. At the start of last season, Jackson became disgruntled and requested a trade, which was granted. At that point, the RJ experiment was just getting started so the Spurs weren’t thinking of unloading him.

    Ergo, any discussion or argument about how and why the Spurs should have gone after Captain Jack is moot. He wasn’t available when the Spurs needed an upgrade.

  • hurm66

    I’ve been talking about Wright here for a while now. He has tremendous upside and length. His problem here in Miami was South Beach temptation coupled with immaturity. Supposedly he’s come a long way since.

    They’ve said here that his athleticism is off the charts – young McGrady-esque even. Now can he put it all together remains to be seen. Bowen was a Riley castoff who became a very key cog in our title runs. Wright can be that guy with a different skill set but still a great length defender.

    I don’t know how much Beasley is on the block – keep hearing different chatter here in Miami, but it’s possible. Good team defense can hide weak one on one defenders like him. Too talented to be this mediocre. I don’t think he loves the system in Miami. I just think they don’t want to rid themselves of him just yet though.

    I’d also target Golden State – feels like they’re in a bit of disarray and would make a good trading partner for RJ.

    I have to say I’m intrigued about your McGrady idea. If he could be persuaded to take a small salary and shoot for that elusive ring – with limited expectations, I think he can be a real asset. For short spurts he can still be lethal. Plus he knows Texas fairly well.

  • john

    rudy gay

  • mws

    Why not make a run at J.J Redick. Shoots lights out, works hard, has to have a good basketball IQ (4yrs. under MK at Duke). Seems like a good fit. Not sure how much he’s going for this summer though.

  • charles

    if we sign and trade rj that means we can still use the LLE for another player besides the trade of rj ?

  • http://latamviewsports.blogspot.com/ Rodrigo

    I think the best fit available in the market is Travis Outlaw…

  • http://fundamentally-sound.blogspot.com Jaceman

    I think we have just short of $9 million with the MLE, am I wrong? With Jefferson gone it’s $52M on the books over 8 players, ESPN predicts the cap will be around $56.1M so we have a little bit of wriggle room. Assuming that the brunt of the MLE goes to Tiago Splitter, I suppose we have to figure out what would work. The names that pop up for that kind of budget aren’t very nice, and there would still be at least 3 other players to sign. I’d take a hard look at maybe James Singleton or perhaps try one of the Graham brothers. Brewer and Outlaw are probably better known, but Outlaw’s defense is so suspect, I don’t know. Either that, or try to sign Splitter with the available cap space and see how much Josh Howard’s stock has dropped and take a run at him.

  • Maxim

    What about Anthony Randolph?

  • spurfan74

    r j ain’t leavin’. he’s probably gonna ink something long term while saving us some cash. he owes us that much for tanking it last year. blair, hill, and rj will have another year under their belt, and if we get splitter, we’ll be right back in contention. i’m looking for a sleeper year for malik hairston, too.

  • http://fundamentally-sound.blogspot.com Jaceman

    Ignore me, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  • http://yahoo.com Logan

    Travis Outlaw,Rudy Gay,or Raja Bell would fit perfect to the Spurs

  • lvmainman

    @ Bryan,

    Your missing the point. No one is talking about having traded RJ when Jackson was available. We’re talking about getting a player on the cheap and keeping RJ at the time. The Spurs had 6 expiring contracts @ the time. Any combination of them could have convinced the Warriors to trade. Instead the Warriors traded straight up for Vladomir Radmanvic. Jackson would’ve been an upgrade over Mason anyday of the week. Losing Bonner as a role player, big deal. Haislip, Mahinmi, or Ratliff would have gotten more playing time.

    When opportunity presents itself, you take advantage of it, no matter the odd or peculiar timing. The Spurs front office didn’t and I wish they had.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bushka
    July 1st, 2010 at 1:24 am

    “Making him defer to three other guys i.e Timmy, Manu, and Tony wouldn’t work. Or at least that’s my opinion and It’s usually in a minority of one so take it for what it’s worth.”

    I don’t really agree. He didn’t seem to have a problem with Parker, Manu, & Duncan in 2003, when we won the title. I don’t think it would be much different now. All those guys are good passers, and like to WIN above anything else. We haven’t seen the Jackson that defers as much in recent years simply because he’s not been on really good teams. He’d be a team guy under Pop. That said, I’m not sitting here whining about not acquiring him. If it was the right move at the right time, the FO would have done all they could to make it happen, and the fact is, RJ was already signed when Jax became available.

    Jaceman
    July 1st, 2010 at 8:44 am

    “I think we have just short of $9 million with the MLE, am I wrong?”

    No, it’s about 6 million.

    lvmainman
    July 1st, 2010 at 10:41 am

    “We’re talking about getting a player on the cheap and keeping RJ at the time. The Spurs had 6 expiring contracts @ the time.”

    You want to pay Holt’s luxury tax bill for 2009-2010?

  • Jim Henderson

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news;_ylt=Alj2qbNT6yKJ7N6ExwV6xg28vLYF?slug=ys-freeagentbuzz070110

    Apparently we are showing interest in Morrow.

    “Morrow draws several suitors

    Golden State Warriors restricted free agent Anthony Morrow(notes) has attracted a slew of interest in the first hours of free agency, including from the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Portland Trail Blazers, Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Clippers.

    – Adrian Wojnarowski, 11:40 a.m. ET, July 1

  • sbgaucho45

    Beyond being a Spurs fan, I tend to watch a ton of Portland games. I am amazed that anyone who understand Spurs basketball thinks Travis Outlaw would be a good fit. He gambles on defense, he prefers bad shots to good ball movement, and it never seemed like many of the Portland starters liked playing with the guy, his shots per touch ratio was about .99 to 1.

  • jordan

    What about Rasul Butler. Hes a above avg. defender who really shot the ball well last season. I think hes the perfect fit.

  • DorieStreet

    Good list except for 3— Raja Bell -a journeyman; Matt Barnes- too edgy, loses cool (fracases & technicals); Tim Thomas? He entered the league with Duncan. McGrady—where do I start—-too many years and injuries, plus his attitude and behavior for the past few seasons alone makes him radioactive. Childress is viable, but he wants to go back home to Atlanta. Brewer brings a high level of energy on both ends every time he steps on the court. His hustle results in steals for dunks and bunnies that he MAKES (Blair, take note). FO needs to look at your list and make something happen.

  • Jim Henderson

    jordan
    July 1st, 2010 at 5:24 pm

    “What about Rasul Butler.”

    He’s not bad, but probably not in the top 8-10 wings that are available. I’m hoping we can afford someone younger & better (e.g., Dorrell Wright).

  • albert

    Get TIAGO!!! then a Sign and trade is the ideal option for the spurs, I’m happy RJ opt out… Get Battier or Posey… Battier is a lockdown defender who has a good 3pt shot, if not go for Posey a vet. lockdown defender who can also shoot, plus I can see RJ will fit in NO bec. of CP3 he can be a receiver of CP3 alley hoops. if those 2 trades dont happen go for FA’s: Barnes is a good pick-up. I don’t know if its possible but Ray Allen is a very welcome addition….

  • Sam

    What about Mike Miller? Perfect vet for San Antonio

  • Lykos (Greece)

    I am a big fan of T-Mac and a huge fan of SA Spurs since 1989. I would very much like to see T-Mac wearing the silver-black jersey. I believe that the Spurs organization should risk it. It is the best time to risk by signing T-Mac instead of going for a more certain but less able signing. Probably from the next year or the year after the organization is going to start rebuilding. So, in my view is now or never to risk and go for a last shot at the title with the existing team.

  • Redge

    I GO FOR TRACY MCGRADY!

    SIGN HIM! NOT JEFFERSON ANYMORE!

  • Jim Miller (jimjule)

    I don’t think the Spurs are going to go after any of the available FAs available who can play both the 3 and the 4. Why do you think they drafted Ryan Richards? Richards, Marcus Haislip and James Gist all fit that mold. They will be fighting it out to fill that need. Gist and Haislip are familier with the Spurs system and have an experience edge over Richards, but the skill level of Richards is really mind boggling. The loosers will be offered spots on the Toros roster and the winner will ride the Spurs bench. Any guesses who will win out?

  • Fern

    Popavich…STOP PLAYING SMALL BALL!!!! Epecially when you’re trying to play small ball half court!!! Come on half court offense is a traditional line up….SIZE matters in the NBA!!! AM I the only person in the world that thinks Pop cost the Spurs at least two NBA championships!??