First things first

by

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.

  • Tyler

    Right there with you. 3 years for a total of $26-32M, last year partially guaranteed. That’s a decent value for what he’s going to give you each night.

    Assuming the FO guarantees Blair and Neal, extends a QO to Green, and Mills picks up his option (very likely in Neal and Green’s case IMO), that puts SA at about $61-64M total payroll (cap expected to be $60-62M). Being over the tax limit would restrict the FO to the taxpayer MLE ($3M) which could come into play with Lorbek’s supposed addition (although given Tiago’s deal, I wouldn’t expect Lorbek to get anything over $3M to start; that would still constitute a pretty good deal for the Spurs). This also doesn’t include the resigning of Diaw, which I think is a priority.

    Given the Spurs will be most likely a few million over the cap, I’d expect some minor deal making to get under the tax (think Blair for a 2nd rounder; or Bonner and a pick for a non-guaranteed deal).

  • STIJL

    Being “fair” in this situation more than likely leaves the Spurs with the same team as last year. Not bad at all until it comes to playoffs and the team’s ugly non-productive interior game rear’s it’s ugly head once more only to loose to some athletically superior youth team. (aka Memphis, OKC, etc.)

    I believe Duncan’s final contract will be reflective on a nod and wink scenario that might arise prior to Duncan actually signing. If Duncan were to sign for the above proposed scenario…don’t expect any help in the post to be arriving. If Duncan should sign for what would seem to be very contract friendly for the Spurs scenario…look for a deal and/or signing of a legitimate interior post player via free agency.

  • DorieStreet

    Sounds plausible. The 2011-12 Tim Duncan was a positive memory from this season- hopefully his training regimen, etc. will stave off a dropoff in his play for two more years. (We can hope for three, but it’s hard to envision starting the 2014-15 season with a 38 1/2 year-old C-F as your anchor — but a few years ago, some guy named Kareem did ok until he was 40.) Let’s hope the negotiation is quick and painless.
    As for the draft–I’m not inlcuding Kawhi in any package unless it puts the Spurs in one of last few spots of the lottery picks, or at worst, 15-19 with an almost certainy somebody spectacular will still be around to select.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    I wouldn’t expect Kawhi to be included in any trade offers, was just pointing out that it’s trade-friendly if it came down to it.

  • dfg

    time certainly flies. i remember watching wake forest game(s) live with duncan playing.

  • Hobson13

    At this point, there’s no reason to assume that the Spurs won’t still be an elite team next year assuming we can get Diaw back. Although in several of the previous years, I have suggested Parker trades, I really think that’s definitely off the table at this point. As many have mentioned, Bonner MAY have some trade value, but I think Blair could be a nice trade piece given his salary vs production. I really don’t think we will have to get a really high pick given the depth of bigs in this draft. If the Spurs could only get in the 15-20 pick range, they would have their shot at a good big like Jared Sullinger of Ohio State who could probably be an immediate producer. Someone like Terrance Jones of KY or Perry Jones III of Baylor would come with HUGE upside. There are a ton of options in this draft for teams who are looking for a PF.

  • ThatBigGuy

    After adding all the current salaries and assuming that Duncan gets a 3 year deal at $12, $10, $8 million, the Spurs are looking at a $62.7 million salary figure for next season (using Sham’s numbers). This past season had a $58 million salary cap with a $70 million luxury tax threshold, and there might be an expected increase of about $2 for this next season, so therefore giving us $60/$72 million to work with.

    The way I read the MLE language, it’s worth $5 million if you’re under the luxury tax, $3 million if you’re over. Using that MLE on Diaw would be a good idea. He showed a lot of game for a fat guy, and if he signs for the MLE, I have no doubts that between Pop and Tony, he’ll show up in good shape next year. So that puts us at $67.7 million.

    That’s a nice position to be in: a conference finals-type team while not paying taxes.

    The best move might be no move. Perhaps competing without paying taxes for a season and waiting for the summer of ’13-’14 when we’ll be some $25 million under the cap (assuming reasonable extensions for Tim and Manu) is the smartest move.

  • Nima K.

    Adam Hanga is coming to SA for a 2 week workout. Heads up!

  • Mike

    Raises limitted to 7.5%? 7.5% off $12 million is not $8, – it is $11.1 – http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q53

    On top of that, over 36, it is assumed that the player will retire year three, so deals longer than 2 years are tricky – http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q56

    Of course, SAS COULD do back to back 1 year deals.

  • Len

    Manu isn’t resigning. When this contract is up next year, he is gonna retire. Or so he’s said.

  • JustinFL

    With the Bird rule, can the FO sign Timmy later in the FA period after they’ve picked up some help? I know this rule allows a team to go over the cap to re-sign a player if a player has played 3 or more years for that team. Was this rule modified after the last CBA?

  • Tyler

    No. There’s what they call “cap holds” for your team’s free agents. It’s basically an amount of money charged to your cap even though that player might not be under contract. TD, for example has a cap hold of about $22M even though he’s not under contract. It was instituted to prevent exactly what you’re talking about – http://www.shamsports.com/whatthedeuce.htm

  • SargeSmash

    So, any ideas on who the Spurs might target with that 2nd-round pick, if they actually use it? I’d love to get a solid backup point, so I’m thinking about somebody like Dee Bost. (That he went to my school, and would give some folks around here a reason to root for the Spurs isn’t part of my reasoning here at all. No sir. Not at all.)

  • JustinFL

    awww.. thanks 4 the info.

  • Tyler

    I wouldn’t expect Diaw to get anywhere close to the full non-tax payer MLE. I can see him getting about $2-3M in year 1.

    Also, I think we have the option to use our Biannual exception ($2M) as well. (I don’t think we used it this past season). This might be an even better route to try and sign Diaw simply because the max amount of years is 2.

    I agree with you. Probably not going to see anything outside of some minor moves.

  • Tyler

    I wouldn’t consider trading Kawhi unless it’s for a top 5 pick, and even then I’d have serious reservations.

    If they were to re-draft last year’s class, Kawhi would surely go top 5.

  • Tyler

    I take that back, I wouldn’t trade him for anyone in this draft other than Davis.

  • NY Spurs Fan

    we’ve had the same big problem for the past five years.

    we need an athletic 4 who can stretch the court and play good D.

    and, secondly, we need a true back-up pg

    i’m surprised no one mentioned how much we could have used tj ford (against okc) during the 8-10 minutes tony needed to rest.

    duncan + splitter = great C combo

    ? + diaw = great PF combo

    jackson + leonard = great sf combo

    ginoboli + green = great sg combo

    parker + ? = great pg combo

    that leaves our trade chips as neal, blair, bonner, anderson, mills and future draft picks

    so, is it realistic to turn them into 1 or 2 of those missing pieces???

    all i want is one more ring for the wonderful Tim Duncan!

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    I can’t see the Spurs getting a solid backup PG that can be used this season with the 59th pick in draft. I am hoping Patty Mills can be the backup PG assuming a cheap and better option doesn’t appear before season starts.

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    Why sign a front loaded contract and hamper the Spurs FA signing of the next couple years? Why not create a back loaded contract where the last year is mostly guaranteed. Duncan signs for 6-8 mill this season, 8-10 next season and then $10-12 for last year which is guaranteed for say 80%. This frees some money for the Spurs to get some ‘quick’ fix FAs for the next couple years, make 2 last runs at title with Big 3 and ensures Duncan still gets his money when it gets to be rebuilding time.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Is that the same situation Batum is in?

  • Drew

    So looking towards the draft and potentially buying/trading into the first round, one player that I think could fulfill a lot of needs is Perry Jones III. At 6’11” he’s an athletic big that could stretches the floor and in the mock drafts most of them have him going from 18-20. Some project him as a top 5 talent as well, so if he starts to slip why not take a chance on him?

  • Titletown99030507d

    How bout Danny Green for that range of picks. Kawhi and SJ can handle the 3 spot.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yet he’s a year older and not playing in a shortened season. 82 grueling games next season and the season after that. Don’t know if he can keep this up. Not for $12M.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Better yet how about 8M next season and 9M the season after that and then call it a career?

  • Titletown99030507d

    Really I could handle watching Timmy 2 more seasons at $18M and no more and let the rebuilding begin.

  • Tyler

    Because even if he signs for 8-10 next season we still won’t have room under the cap to go out and sign FA’s.

    Realistically, no matter what happens, we’re limited to the $5M MLE. And we’re going to use most of that to resign Diaw and possibly bring over Lorbek.

  • Tyler

    Yep, and rest assured Portland will match just about any offer sheet he gets.

  • DorieStreet

    That sounds better. If Tim thinks a 5th title is realistic, he cuts a deal that enables the FO to get him some help.

  • DorieStreet

    He goes back to 25 minutes until 2013 allstar break while newcomers Anthony Randolph, Kyle O’Quinn, and/or Arnett Moultree come in and contribute.
    Can the Spurs acquire 2 out of those 3 guys?

  • DorieStreet

    I want the Spurs to trade up to the late first round and select Dee Bost’s teammate- Arnett Moultree.

  • STIJL

    You’re very knowledgeable regarding cap space and salaries. Kudos and thank you for posting these informed situations.

    What is disheartening is the “facts” be according to your comments that the Spurs will be no better off next season as they were this season when “contending” against a youthful athletic squad.

    The positioning of this team has got to be (imo) to attributing their lineup to being more conducive to defending the paint and scoring more efficiently in the paint. It was proven last season via the Grizzlies and this season via the Thunder that teams can focus in a 7 game series to stopping the Spurs perimeter strengths because other than Duncan they don’t have a dominant or in the least consistent post player in either regard when Duncan is not on the court.

    The supposedly reality of caps and salary structure does not lend itself to achieving such a goal for this team.

  • Hobson13

    With Anderson essentially out of the equation, I’m not sure we can part with our starting SG unless we want to see Manu or Gary Neal play more time.

  • Hobson13

    I am intrigued by the two Jones guys (Perry Jones III and Terrance Jones). I think both of these guys could be really good stretch 4’s. I would absolutely love to see either of these guys in a Spurs uni.

  • STIJL

    I think LSU’s Justin Hamilton would be a more than likely scenario for draft night. And just might be a sleeper in this year’s draft.

  • TD BestEVER

    Sorry but resigning Diaw to start is a bad idea…..WE should go and get a real Starting bigman who can actually score on his own or do something other than pass up shots…….His passing is just like Bonner floor stretching – Great when you are winning but bad when you aren’t.

    Kris Kaman is someone who may be willing to sign for 5million or so and go after a title……and that’s someone who would give us EXACTLY what we need…….another big who can defend and score on his own…….

  • Carlos

    I don’t think Timmy is worth that kind of money sorry, we can argue but i don’t think that is a certainly thing.. if Timmy really want to win he should sign for 5 millions per year, he was good last year but playing less minutes and in a short season.in 2010 and 2011 he was very bad it was just sad to looking at him play. so how he is going to play next year in a new full season?? i really don’t know, that’s why i think 5m is right and that coul give us more money to sign someone that can be more than just a role player.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Nice one Dorie. This guy is a KG type of stretch 4 floor spacing maniac. Athletic, good rebounder, shoot from downtown and handles the ball well at 6″11″. He’s projected at around 16. Philly and Houston at the 15th and 16th pick are interested in him. Houston looking for a big and a point guard with their 2 picks at 15 and 16. I would give them either Neal or Mills (if we resign him) and Blair or Green for the earlier pick to get him and then Houston can still go after Henson if he’s still around. As for Philly hope they go after someone else.

  • Titletown99030507d

    That is for some miracle Pop decides to keep Anderson and he turns into what he was supposed to be before his injuries.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Yeah I’m not all that excited about Diaw getting resigned either. That’s another slot that would be available for someone like Kaman like you mentioned. Kaman would give you value in the playoffs where the front courts are bigger and better.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Like the
    Moultree guy.

  • SargeSmash

    Oh, yeah, that’d be incredible if they could pull it off. I think he’s projected to go mid-first. They might also want to look at Renardo Sidney if he goes undrafted. Dude’s got serious work ethic concerns, but I think if anyone could get him to shape up, it might be the Spurs, and he’s got tremendous touch around the basket and can shoot the 3. Of course, he also screwed up our program… so it better be _really_ low risk.

  • DNITCH24

    Couldn’t agree more. Terrence Jones is probably the better option with a better all around game and the ability to slide into the 3 and 4 spot but either one would be great. Saw a trade proposal on PtR that was Tiago and Bonner for Dalembert + a first round pick. Add that defensive big, get one of the Jones guys. I dont know how we say yes fast enough.

  • Tyler

    I think there is room to get better. Bringing over Lorbek should help. I think he’s a better player than Bonner or Blair, so that’s improvement right there. Also, Diaw having a full offseason under his belt will help (let’s hope he stays in shape). Most importantly though, Leonard should improve in his 2nd season. I’d expect him to play with more freedom and confidence knowing the starting SF position is his. Also, if Mills picks up his player option, he should prove to be a legit backup PG. Simply, most of our improvement should be organic.

    The key thing is that we have financial flexibility, something many teams don’t have. At the very least, that gives us the potential to take on a little money in the form of a trade.

    As far as finding more help for TD in the paint on offense and defense, I think every Spurs fan is with you, me included. The problem is, those type of guys aren’t cheap (or you have to draft them). So outside of the MLE or a sign and trade, it’s going to be difficult.

  • Tyler Warren

    Why are people still so enamored with Randolph? He’s played for 3 horrible, horrible teams and still hasn’t gotten any consistent playing time. Look, I realize he’s long, athletic, and a tantalizing, but he hasn’t been able to produce for 3 doormats. He’s going into his 6th year. At this point, he is what he is – long on potential, short on production.

  • ThatBigGuy

    I hear what you’re saying, but Robinson earned $10.5 million in his last season, aged 37. He also has recurring back troubles that limited him that season. Timmy’s a bit more healthy, and his game is much less athletic based than Robinson’s was.

    But really, this contract isn’t about getting our money’s worth. It’s about paying (pun intended) respect to the greatest player in franchise history, and one of the greatest of all times. How many millions (perhaps billions?) of dollars has Tim made for the city of SA over his 15 years so far? I don’t see the FO taking their chance of offending him with a low ball offer.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Hollinger rates Dalembert as slightly above average defensively and among the elite centers as a rebounder. He’s got a functional jumper, although he’s below average offensively in the post. I like him as a Spur: he’s smart, humble, and would be a really solid big man in Pop’s system.

    However…….Bonner and Splitter are due $8 mil next season and $9 mil the next year.
    Dalembert’s making $7 mil next year, which is the final year of his
    current contract, and the rookie will get ~$1.5 and ~1.7 million in his first two years. Houston basically is taking on $6.8 million over the next two years. I’m not sure I’d give up a solid player and a first round pick for 2 solid players and $7 extra bucks if I’m Daryl Morey. SA could throw in $3 million cash, but I’m not sure I want to give up a first rounder in a quality draft for a solid bench big and a niche player.

    If I’m Buford, I would love this trade, but I’m not sure Houston gets enough back.

  • Hobson13

    I’m all for getting a better big and would certainly love to have Kaman, but I’m not sure we could afford him. He is only 30 years old and would command at least the MLE if not more.

  • DNITCH24

    Normally I would agree but I think there are enough incentives in place. It’s no secret that Houston is trying to get bigs and they’re projected to grab two with their picks provided they are not traded. If they draft two bigs in the first round that would be 5 rookie bigs in their Front court with Marcus morris, Donatas Motiejunas and Chandler Parsons. Trading Tiago who is good friends with Scola would complement well and give them a big to stretch the floor. If the spurs have to throw in a second round pick or something to make the deal happen.

    I know it’s unlikely but it could work.

  • lvmainman

    Chris Kaman is garbage, pure and simple. He’s worse than Splitter. He’s the Bonner of the 5 position. Great against lousy players and Lousy against good players. He misses layups, misses face up jumpers, and gets his shot blocked more than Duncan. Kaman won’t help ANY team in the NBA win a championship ever.