Report Card Grades for San Antonio Spurs' 2014 Offseason So Far
The San Antonio Spurs are the best basketball team in the world for many reasons, one of them being their appreciation of continuity.
Basketball is a complicated and difficult team game that requires each player to know where his/her four teammates should be on both ends of the court. There’s constant movement, and verbal communication is key—but the game’s speed requires more than that.
Players with an innate feeling of how their teammates operate (likes, dislikes, tendencies, strengths, weaknesses, etc.) have a leg up on those who are still figuring all that stuff out while also worrying about their own responsibilities. The Spurs know this, which is why instead of reshuffling the deck, they’ve decided to bring all their own free agents back for at least one more shot at defending the title.
Here are grades for their major moves so far.
Re-Signed Boris Diaw to Four-Year, $28 Million Contract
The particulars of Boris Diaw's four-year, $28 million contract are team-friendly, which is exactly what you'd expect being that he signed it with the Spurs.
Only $3 million is guaranteed in the third year, and the final season is completely non-guaranteed. Coming off an incredible playoff run in which Diaw nearly became the least likely Finals MVP in NBA history, San Antonio knew keeping his services this summer would be a priority.
Diaw is a big man who plays like a guard. He can obliterate smaller defenders in the post but also take larger ones off the dribble, shoot threes and pass like a point guard.
He's one of the most skilled forwards in the world, with the type of talent that figures to age nicely. The Spurs were wise to lock him up for the next couple seasons while giving themselves options in 2016, when the league is expected to experience a free-agency bonanza.
Re-Signed Patty Mills to Three-Year, $10.99 Million Contract
Patty Mills was a nightly three-point bomb all season long. During San Antonio's playoff run, he continued to play extremely well, showcasing his ability for the world to see.
Mills doubled his per-game scoring average from the previous season, too (up to 10.2 from 5.1 points per game). He shot 42.5 percent from beyond the arc during the regular season and 40.5 percent throughout the playoffs.
During the Finals, Mills connected on an ungodly 56.5 percent of his threes, showing more accuracy than a teenager trying to plop rocks in a lake while kneeling on a dock. Mills projected to be one of the most sought-after point guards on the market, and some team with cap space could've promised him starter's minutes (the Detroit Pistons?).
But the Spurs hung onto Tony Parker's backup, locking him up for the next three years on a deal far below his presumed market value. Mills had shoulder surgery after the season ended, which may have given a few suitors pause, but he's not expected to miss significant time.
It's still a fantastic signing not only for his ability to launch fireballs, but also for his end-to-end pressure defense.
Drafted Kyle Anderson with 30th Overall Pick
Somehow, someway, Kyle Anderson fell all the way to the San Antonio Spurs in this year's draft.
As UCLA's primary ball-handler last season, Anderson did it all and was ranked by DraftExpress.com as the eighth-best sophomore in college basketball. Some mock drafts had him going just outside the lottery.
Anderson can pass, drive, shoot (48.3 percent from deep on 1.6 attempts per game last season) and take over a game with his syrupy pace.
Finding value this late in the draft is extremely difficult, but there's a great chance Anderson becomes a solid contributor for years to come wearing a black and silver jersey. Hopefully he's ready by the time Boris Diaw's contract expires.
Hired Ettore Messina to Be an Assistant Coach
Not every team gets to follow up a championship-winning campaign by adding one of the most respected coaches in Europe to their bench, but that's exactly what the San Antonio Spurs just did with Italian legend Ettore Messina.
Messina joins the Spurs after spending the last two years as the head coach of the CSKA Moscow in the Russian League, his second stint with the team. Before returning to CSKA Moscow, Messina served as a coaching consultant for the L.A. Lakers in 2011-12. Prior to making the move to the NBA, Messina spent four seasons (2005-2009) at the helm of CSKA Moscow where he led the team to two Euroleague Championships (2006, 2008) and four Russian SuperLeague titles (2006-2009).
You can never have too much brain power one on sideline, especially when it's coming from a different style of basketball over in Europe. Messina will add nuance to an already intelligent coaching staff, and it's basically unfair being that the Spurs are the ones who grabbed him.
Gave Gregg Popovich a Contract Extension
The Spurs refuse to disclose for how many years and how much money this contract extension outlines, but being that we're talking about arguably the greatest coach in NBA history, those points are irrelevant.
All that matters here is that San Antonio isn't losing one of the most important figures in professional sports anytime soon. That's major. We don't know when Popovich and Tim Duncan will walk away, just that it won't be next season.
Re-upping Popovich's contract—for whatever the terms might be—has to be one of the easiest decisions any team makes all summer long, and the Spurs, obviously, did the right thing.
Michael Pina covers the NBA for Bleacher Report, Sports on Earth, Fox Sports, ESPN, Grantland and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelVPina.
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