San Antonio Spurs 2014 NBA Free-Agency Big Board: Top Targets Post-Draft
Be afraid, folks, the San Antonio Spurs have salary-cap space.
Yes, the team that captured the 2013-14 crown will have an opportunity to improve by adding free agents with the NBA draft now completed. San Antonio selected Kyle Anderson from UCLA with the No. 30 pick in the draft and added Nemanja Dangubic with the 56th pick.
Anderson is a small forward who enjoys passing, while Dangubic is an off-ball scorer who will play 2-guard. Anderson probably won't get much burn as rookie, and Dangubic will likely remain overseas (Serbia) for a few years before finally joining the Spurs.
Thus, San Antonio will have roughly $6 million of salary-cap space to play with during free agency.
It’s worth noting that Tiago Splitter is the only Spurs player signed past the 2014-15 campaign. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili’s deals expire after the upcoming season, and it seems reasonable to assume they will then retire.
Tony Parker’s deal concludes after 2014-15 as well, but he will still only be 33 years old when the 2015 offseason kicks off. I expect the Spurs to re-sign him to a three-year deal.
Kawhi Leonard has a qualifying offer scheduled for the 2015-16 season, which San Antonio will almost assuredly present and then try to sign him to an extension.
Cory Joseph will become eligible for the qualifying offer at the same time, but retaining him might not be a priority.
These details matter for this summer because San Antonio is probably keeping an eye on its present (defending title in 2014-15) and future (post-Duncan era). Thus, free agency will be about getting players at affordable deals that allow the franchise to easily retool going forward.
One last item of note: San Antonio has its own free agents to worry about. Patty Mills has already agreed in principle (not yet signed) to terms with the franchise on a three-year, $12 million deal, per ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.
That leaves Boris Diaw, which could be tricky. He could eat up all of San Antonio’s cap room (no pun intended).
However, let’s assume that Diaw returns at a discount (three years, $4.5 million per season). Diaw would take up most of the cap room and leave the Spurs with $2 million in cap space.
The Spurs still have their mid-level exception ($5.305 million), which could allow them to add a quality piece to their championship roster. We'll navigate from the least to most interesting free agents.
Salary information provided by ShamSports.
Caron Butler could offer the Spurs some value with his scoring and shooting off the bench. He’s averaged 10.4 points and converted 39.0 percent of his three-pointers since 2012-13, per Basketball-Reference.com.
San Antonio has interest in Butler, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick, but the club likely wouldn’t go overboard to sign him. The Spurs would likely only offer him their $2 million in cap space (this scenario suggests Diaw was re-signed) because he would be a luxury of sorts.
Between Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Ginobili and Leonard, the Spurs have enough wing players to go around. Butler would be more of an insurance policy for injuries, foul trouble and those nights when the coaching staff goes rogue and benches the entire starting unit.
Management would welcome Butler’s arrival, but it won’t view losing him as a huge loss. Keep in mind, Butler will be 34 years old when next season starts, and it’s tough to envision him playing for San Antonio for more than one season.
Isn’t Mo Williams seemingly destined to play for the Spurs? He enjoys pushing the pace, getting into the lane via pick-and-rolls (Spurs run plenty of those), likes firing away from long range and accepted a backup role with the Portland Trail Blazers last season.
During the 2013-14 campaign, Williams averaged 14.2 points and 6.3 assists per 36 minutes, while nailing 36.9 percent of his treys (38.5 percent for his career, though).
The Spurs technically don’t need him, but Mills’ separated shoulder throws a bit of a wrench in San Antonio’s well-oiled machine. According to The Sydney Morning Herald’s Chris Dutton, he could be out for up to seven months. The Spurs do like Cory Joseph and might give the backup gig, but it's possible the team might want another player just in case at the position.
He made a modest $2.6 million last season and might be willing to sign a contract averaging $3 million per season. Depending on what happens with Diaw, the Spurs might be able to sign Williams with their cap space. If not, they can use part of the mid-level exception to bring him and his fake beefs to the Spurs.
Considering that San Antonio has made the decision to limit the minutes of its starters during the regular season, adding Williams would certainly make it easier for head coach Gregg Popovich to sit Parker down for long stretches.
Kirk Hinrich fits the backup point guard role quite nicely. He limits his mistakes, runs the offense, makes shots (37.7 percent for his career from downtown) and does a great job defensively against backcourt players.
Thus, getting Hinrich could be a great move if San Antonio can sign him to a two-year deal worth around $6 million total.
Even at $4.5 million or so, he might be worth it. Hinrich plays both guard positions, which means he won’t get buried on the bench when Mills returns. Also, once Ginobili departs, Hinrich can become the team’s sixth man on a reloaded roster.
Josh McRoberts might be a poor man’s version of Diaw, which is a good thing.
Per 36 minutes, Diaw outclasses McRoberts in scoring, rebounding and shooting, per Basketball-Reference. Because Diaw helped swing the Finals in San Antonio’s favor with his skills, he might command a king’s ransom on the open market.
If such is the case, McRoberts could be a great pickup for the Spurs. It would be a three-year deal worth $12 million total. McRoberts actually averaged more assists per 36 minutes (5.1) than Diaw (4.0), which suggests McRoberts would fit in nicely with a pass-happy Spurs team.
Also, he made 36.1 percent of his treys last season and bumped it up to 47.1 percent during the postseason. If Diaw flees, McRoberts would fit in nicely as a replacement, especially considering he will be 27 years old when next season starts.
Keep in mind, Kyle Anderson is probably Diaw's eventual successor, but his youth could be an impediment early on. Bringing McRoberts in allows Popovich to slowly bring in Anderson and turn him into a solid pro.
McRoberts’ in the prime of his career and could give the Spurs a quality big man for a couple of years at a cheap rate.
Pau Gasol could join the Spurs on a deal averaging around $6 million per year if they don’t re-sign Diaw. Sham Sports tells us that the Spaniard made $19.3 million during the 2013-14 campaign, which means a salary under $10 million might seem like a stretch.
However, ESPN’s Stein reported that Gasol has manifested an interest in the Spurs, knowing full well that playing alongside Duncan is only possible if he accepts a substantial pay cut.
With Gasol on board, an argument could be made that Popovich would own the most skilled trio of big men in the league. Splitter, Duncan and Gasol are all good passers who also happen to thrive when catching the ball on the move.
I’m not sure there’s a defense that has been invented to guard the ground that Duncan and Gasol would cover with their pinpoint passes and dives to the hoop resulting from pick-and-rolls.
And then reality sets in: Even if the Spurs re-sign Diaw, they could add Gasol with the mid-level exception. If you thought San Antonio’s execution looked beautiful during the 2014 playoffs, imagine Gasol on that roster to complement the second-unit shooting with his low-post skills.