The Draft & Stash Free Agency
A thought occurred to me while I was going over the Nando De Colo news in my head. It’s okay, I survived. I know there’s a part of the Spurs fan population that doesn’t like the draft-and-stash approach the Spurs take to their selections, especially those later in the draft. Some people want the Spurs to select the best available player who can contribute immediately. No waiting two or three seasons while they develop in Europe. TIM DUNCAN NEEDS HELP NOW, DAMMIT.
I can see this point of view. While I largely disagree with it, I understand where those people are coming from. But what the Spurs have done with the year-after-year, draft-and-stash approach is create their own version of free agency, which no other team in the NBA can play except them.
San Antonio is not a free agent destination. We’ve been over this before. In the past, free agents came to San Antonio because of Tim Duncan and the chance to win a championship. But even when that formula worked, it never brought in marquee free agents, it simply allowed the Spurs to keep their pieces and bring in veterans looking for a ring. Now the draw is the Spurs franchise, system and Gregg Popovich. We’re not far enough along at this point to see how much pull those three things have. Though judging by last offseason’s swings and misses (Caron Butler, Josh Howard), we’re not off to a great start.
With the several years of draft-and-stash in the rearview, the Spurs have created their own free agency period where the Spurs’ only competition is the European clubs who may be able to offer a little more money and playing time than San Antonio. Those franchises can’t offer the chance at glory in the NBA, though. The Spurs are the only team who can offer that. By controlling the rights of these players, the Spurs can sign them to a contract or they can go back abroad to play.
Adam Hanga, Davis Bertans and Nando De Colo have all been in San Antonio recently to check up with Spurs staff. San Antonio can bring these guys in and run them through drills, physical tests and see how they’re developing. If San Antonio wants to offer any of these players a contract, it can. The Spurs can fill holes in the roster (sadly, no defensive bigs being stashed away currently) with those guys or promote someone who’s simply NBA ready, assuming they can agree to terms. If they can’t, he goes back to Europe without real threat of him playing for another NBA team anytime soon.
By playing this game, the Spurs also prevent themselves from overpaying. Landry Fields agreed to a deal with the Raptors today for $20 million over three years. LANDRY FIELDS! By being the only NBA team who can offer De Colo and company NBA contracts, the Spurs can set the market for those players and leave it at that. The Spurs can’t afford to get in a bidding war with anybody, and this is a good way around.
Considering the Spurs’ limited options in bringing in players every year due to draft position, salary cap constraints and free agency appeal, they’ve created (intentionally or not) a market to bring in new players which addresses many of the limitations they face.