Among the most-discussed provisions of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement is the amnesty clause. Under the new rule, teams would be able to regain salary cap flexibility by buying out the contract of a single veteran.
One slumping veteran who’s being talked about as a potential casualty of the new rule is San Antonio's Richard Jefferson.
The San Antonio Express-News reports the Spurs “are believed to have been in contact” with agents for a number of free-agent small forwards, including Dallas’ Caron Butler and Washington’s Josh Howard.
For all that, Jefferson scored just 11 points a game last season—his worst output since his rookie year—and it’s hard to see what the Spurs hope to gain by parting ways with him.
San Antonio needs to decide whether to make one last push with its aging core or begin building for the future, and the proposed replacements for Jefferson would contribute little to either goal.
Jefferson’s poor scoring numbers were largely a result of his taking the fewest shots per game he’d attempted since he was a rookie.
San Antonio’s current offense mostly requires the small forward to stand in the corner and hit three-pointers, and Jefferson did that (at a career-best 44 percent clip).
None of the projected alternatives are drastically better three-point shooting options than Jefferson himself, so if the Spurs are playing for the short term, they might as well stick with the player who’s already established in their system.
Jefferson has never been much of a creator offensively, but that’s not his job in San Antonio.
If, on the other hand, the Spurs want to begin the painful process of building for the post-Tim Duncan era, they’re looking in the wrong places. At 31, Jefferson isn’t as old as Duncan or Manu Ginobili, but he also isn’t a player you want to build around for the long term.
Neither, however, are the other forwards the Spurs are apparently courting.
Howard and Butler (and Bostjan Nochbar, another candidate) are the same age as Jefferson, and Maurice Evans is even older.
Unless San Antonio thinks it can bring in a younger player to help reshape the offense, the team is better off keeping the steady Jefferson (even at an unnecessarily high salary) until a better option presents itself.