The 2009-10 NBA season is over and the NBA draft is in the books, now it’s time to focus our attention on the annual NBA free agency buffet with one caveat, this year’s buffet features filet minion with the superstar trio of Lebron James, Dewayne Wade and Chris Bosh headlining the menu
Every NBA franchise should be lining up to partake in this wondrous bounty of talent, right?
Unfortunately, looming in the backdrop of this year’s free agency market are two storm clouds —the financial restrictions placed on owners due to the recession, and the pending Collective Bargaining Agreement, which has the potential to stall the NBA seasom a la 1998-99.
With so much uncertainly, it pays to have your major pieces locked into existing contracts, and the majority of your roster intact before the free agent market opens on July 1.
This brings us to the San Antonio Spurs and their roster projection for 2010.
Last year, the Spurs made the biggest off-season splash by signing Antonio McDyess and acquiring Richard Jefferson, effectively using the cap space originally earmarked for this summer.
While the end result wasn’t another championship title or even a conference finals appearance, the long-term wisdom to use their cap space in 2009 should not go unnoticed.
Consider this: the Spurs will enter the 2010-11 season with the same starting five and two primary reserves from last season (Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, Richard Jefferson, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair and George Hill). This lineup was key in their surprising first round victory over their in-state rivals, the Dallas Mavericks. One should expect this core to play better in 2010 after a year of on-the-job training and another summer camp.
Also under contract are two young wing players (Alonzo Gee and Malik Hairston) who have spent several years learning the Spurs' system playing for the Austin Toros of the NBDL. This gives the Spurs nine players under contract prior to the start of free agency, and most teams do not play more than a nine man rotation during the course of the regular season.
With a few open spots remaining, who might the Spurs target to fill out their roster? The primary target for the Spurs this summer is their 2007 1st round draft pick, Tiago Splitter.
In 2007, Splitter chose to remain in his native Spain instead of going to the NBA. However, the Spurs still retained his draft rights and now there are clear indicators that Splitter will choose to opt out of his current contract in favor of playing in the NBA.
Shortly after July 1 we should know if Tiago Splitter will be the 10th player added to the Spurs roster. Splitter would bring much needed size and athleticism to the Spurs' aging front court.
With the 20th overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Spurs acquired a scoring option from the wing, James Anderson. Last season, Anderson averaged 22 ppg with Oklahoma State, and at 6’6” should be a suitable replacement for Roger Mason at a third of the cost.
As previously mentioned, many teams will be hampered in their quests for free agents because of financial restraints; the Spurs are not exempt. In fact, with nine players already under contract San Antonio exceeds the projected salary cap ($56 million) and are nearing the projected luxury tax threshold ($68 million). Meaning every player, starting with Tiago Splitter and James Anderson, will cost the team a dollar for dollar per contract.
The Spurs will take advantage of three exceptions (Mid-Level, Bi-Annual and Minimum Salary) to fill out their roster, most likely using the MLE to sign Tiago Splitter.
Also, expect them to target another shooter like Mike Miller or Kyle Korver with their BAE. Of course, they might just decide to use it on Matt Bonner.
By signing any of these three outstanding sharpshooters the Spurs would bring their roster to 12. They could play the majority of the regular season with 12 players under contract in order to keep the cost down, but more than likely they will fill the seats at the end of their bench with a revolving door of players from their D-League affiliate.
The San Antonio Spurs are going into the new season the way they left it, with their major parts intact. They will attempt to fill various holes through draft picks and various exceptions. Will it be enough to give Tim Duncan and company one last shot at glory?
Time will tell.