First things first
The Spurs face a somewhat uncertain offseason after getting bounced by the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. At first glance, their options look limited and it’s likely that we’re going to see a very similar roster on opening night to the one that finished the season just a couple of weeks ago. Then again, there’s the capability with the contracts the Spurs possess and the front office’s track record to really shake things up.
Really? The team could be simliar or different to last year’s team? Way to go out on a limb there, Andrew.
Yeah, I know, total cop-out. But in many respects, I think there’s only one of two ways this will go. The Spurs will either bring back the same rotation with a couple of minor tweaks in personnel, or the team will swing a deal or two that will add and subtract a couple significant pieces to the rotation, much like last year.
There are two major points that the Spurs offseason hinges on: the NBA Draft and Tim Duncan.
Going in to next week’s draft, the Spurs have just one pick. It’s the 59th overall pick, second to last in the draft. San Antonio traded its first round pick to Golden State in the Stephen Jackson deal. Normally a team’s options would be limited in circumstances like these, but after trading George Hill on draft night last season, write off the Spurs front office at your own risk.
The Spurs have several trade-package-friendly deals (Bonner, Blair, Neal, hell, even Kawhi) that can be used in combination with a larger one to bring back something of value for the franchise or get San Antonio back into the first round of the draft.
After draft night, nothing regarding free agency can begin for the Spurs until Tim Duncan puts pen to paper on a new contract. Duncan has said publicly that he’s re-signing for multiple years and after the performances that he put up this season, that’s fully what I expect him to do. But how many years? And what’s a fair value for Duncan?
Let’s tackle the years first. Tim Varner and I talked about this on the phone earlier in the season and tried to come up with a good contract that the Spurs and Duncan could agree to. His opinion, and one that I am fully behind, is to give Duncan a deal structured similar to the one San Antonio signed Antonio McDyess to.
In July of 2009, the Spurs signed McDyess to a three-year, $14 million and some change contract, according to Sham Sports. McDyess, you may remember, retired after two seasons and the Spurs waived him before the third. That’s because that third year was only partially guaranteed. San Antonio guaranteed only about $2.6 million of that final year, so when Dice decided not to return the team waived him and sent him home with a nice little retirement gift.
I can see the Spurs front office handling Duncan’s new deal the same way. Sign Duncan to a three-year deal with that third and final year only partially guaranteed. Something like $12 million in the first year, $8 or $9 million in the second and something similar in the third, only guaranteeing about $3-$4 million if the Spurs waive Duncan by a certain date. If Duncan feels up to a third season he can play, but if he decides two more years is enough and the Spurs need to get on with rebuilding, he can ride off into the sunset with a nice gold watch in the form of millions of American dollars.
What about value? This is where my powers of estimating betray me. When you’re talking about the most important player in franchise history, one of the ten best players of all-time and yet someone consistently unselfish when it comes to the team, what’s fair? As much as it would be fun for Duncan to sign for the minimum for the good of the team, I don’t think you can realistically expect something like that. This is a guy who’s taken less money to give the front office flexibility to operate for years.
The last year of his contract was valued at over $21 million and he put up comparable per-36 minute numbers to his career averages this season, although he played fewer minutes than ever. He’s figured out how to play his game with the physical limitations his body has placed on him. It’s not unrealistic to think that he can play at a very similar level to the one he’s at now for another three or four seasons. How do you put a monetary value on all that?
I’m guessing he’ll re-sign for a deal in the ballpark of the one I mentioned above. Three years, about $12 million next season, $8-$10 million in the second season and $6-$8 million in the final season, with that final year only being partially guaranteed. It would give the Spurs a little more financial breathing room and pay Duncan below market value (again), while giving The Big Fundamental something “fair” and not insulting the franchise hero.
Once these two situations are sorted out and in the rearview mirror, the Spurs can get to work on the rest of their offseason and begin constructing a roster that will leave us all wanting more on paper while probably still contending for the #1 seed in the West next season.