Narratives of closing windows and downward spirals have followed the San Antonio Spurs over the past few seasons, but while the team silenced its final few detractors after winning the 2014 title, it is entirely possible that it will return even better in 2014-15.
After re-signing Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, two of the team's most important role players, the franchise is in a good place financially to make a smaller splash before the free-agency period ends.
Though Pau Gasol is the leading name on every fan's radar, he'd have to settle for a contract structured around the Spurs' mid-level exception, which would be a significant pay cut from his current salary.
However, if the team is unable to secure the four-time All-Star, a number of cheap options remain on the market who could help San Antonio reach new heights.
If the Spurs use their final roster spot on a bargain-bin player, it is entirely possible that they'll be looking for a short-term supplement who won't eat up any cap space once the post-Duncan era hits.
Though Shawn Marion's previous allegiances may have clashed with San Antonio, he fits the bill perfectly as a sensible team-oriented veteran with a skill set that mixes well with the Spurs identity.
Over his career, the small forward has developed a reputation for his defensive aptitude. He can hassle opponents along the perimeter and maintain his presence in the paint.
As a whole, his tenacity and innate prowess on the defensive end made him a natural comparison for Kawhi Leonard when the San Diego State product was entering the league. Now a Finals MVP, Leonard has garnered his own reputation as a lockdown defender and workhorse. With little depth behind him at the 3, San Antonio would be wise to acquire a player with similar skills in order to avoid the defensive meltdowns that occurred when either Leonard or Danny Green—or worse, both—were injured or simply resting.
Even in the final years of his career, Marion has proven himself a valuable asset on both ends, scoring efficiently and contributing on offense without the ball. On defense and on the boards, his high motor makes him an ideal player to contribute off the bench.
Though it may take time for Spurs fans to adjust to seeing Marion sport black and silver, they would be smart to welcome him with open arms.
Like Marion, Rashard Lewis may not appear to be your prototypical Spurs target. After all, he was a member of the Miami Heat team that battled San Antonio in back-to-back championships.
However, his status as a veteran small forward who won't demand a large contract makes him an attractive free agent for the Spurs to ponder.
According to Yahoo's Marc J. Spears, the squad has already expressed interest in him.
Heat free agent forward Rashard Lewis is expecting interest from Miami, Indiana, Oklahoma City, Toronto and San Antonio, a source said.— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) July 1, 2014
Though he is hardly the player that he once was, Lewis has proved recently that he can contribute when counted upon, and in more ways than one.
He found his offensive groove late in the postseason and made a defensive impact that caught many by surprise. Even when his stats didn't show it, the seasoned veteran had an influence on the team's success, something that he'll continue to do wherever he lands.
As a combo forward, Lewis could find limited playing time on a Spurs roster that lacks frontcourt depth. He can shoot, slash and contribute the intangibles that the team values so highly.
He's hardly a big name, but as a short-term option, Lewis is a sensible summer pickup for the defending champions.
If the Spurs decide to avoid adding veterans, 28-year-old Marvin Williams, who David Aldridge has named as a potential target for the team, provides them with perimeter defense and another shooting spark at a relatively low price.
Williams never lived up to his No. 2-pick potential, but he has demonstrated a handful of strong qualities that make him a valuable rotation player on any roster.
Most recently, as a member of the Jazz, the former North Carolina standout averaged nine points and five rebounds in just over 25 minutes of action. He shot nearly 36 percent from deep and contributed defensively despite limited playing time.
At 6'9'', he can play either forward position, a trait valuable to the Spurs, who often found themselves resorting to Matt Bonner for depth at the power forward slot in the postseason.
Williams' shooting ability would mesh well with San Antonio's current offensive scheme, while his rebounding and defensive tenacity would supplement Leonard and Green at the wing.
Overall, he'll demand very little, and while there will be slight competition for his services, the Spurs have the means to acquire Williams should they elect to add a player whose talents will be useful both now and going forward.