With Richard Jefferson on board, San Antonio faced a difficult decision: hold on to a sometimes-productive small forward who never quite fit in or cutting a guy set to make over $10 million for two more seasons. The amnesty clause would have been an attractive option.
Surely San Antonio could have found a more valuable addition, especially if Tim Duncan agreed to take a pay cut.
San Antonio could take its savings and make its run at a guy like Pacers' center Roy Hibbert, a soon-to-be restricted free agent who worked out with Duncan and Tiago Splitter before the season. Perhaps Indiana would match the offer, but perhaps the Spurs could make it too expensive for a small-market team looking to return George Hill and eventually offer Paul George a huge payday.
Whatever happens, it won't be easy for San Antonio to replace its most iconic player. Even beyond the confidence he inspires in the locker room, the Big Fundamental remains one of the league's best players on the court.
Duncan is averaging 15.2 points, nine rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 blocks in just under 29 minutes a night.
The Spurs don't want to lose that production—nor can they replace his sharp defensive IQ and ability to facilitate his teammates' offense from the post. However well-deserved a ceremonious retirement may be, Duncan could remain a valuable contributor for at least another couple of seasons.
If Timmy sees it the same way, then San Antonio automatically becomes less of a player in the free agent market.
With Stephen Jackson under contract for just one more season, the amnesty clause makes less sense—remember, Jefferson had an additional year on his contract, jeopardizing San Antonio's flexibility in the 2013 offseason.
The Spurs are better off, however, holding on to Jackson. Even at 34, he remains a better option than most of the free agents who'd consider San Antonio over glitzier destinations. He's also familiar with Gregg Popovich's system and comfortable with his role—these things aren't easy to purchase on short order.
The ever-creative R.C. Buford certainly may have something up his sleeve that none of us sees coming.
But, with a roster that's deep with developing youngsters (Kawhi Leonard) and budding role players like Gary Neal and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs aren't in dire need of new talent. Upgrades are always welcome, especially in the paint, but this is the kind of organization more likely to draw from its stash of overseas talent than make a dramatic splash in free agency.
The Spurs' real decisions will come in 2013, when the contracts belonging to Jackson and Manu Ginboli both come off the books. If either returns, it will be for substantially less money—they will earn a combined $24.1 million next season.
Those decisions, however, are for another day. Beyond minor adjustments, staying the course remains the best policy in the short term.