Which restricted free agent will the Spurs target?

USA TODAY Sports

The first part of a three part series in which I look at the free agent class of 2013 and who the Spurs should target. The best restricted agents will be hard to get, but can the Spurs lure some away?

Free agency in the NBA is a time that occupies both teams and fans alike. Fans get to speculate on who will sign where and the teams maneuver, bargain, prepare and haggle for the services of an ever-shrinking group of players. After having the shortest possible offseason, Spurs fans finally have some time to look at both the draft and free agency, which looks to be a bit better than last years' crop. For the first time in a while, the San Antonio has some cap room, as big contracts such as Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson's are off of the books, in addition to Tiago Splitter's, Gary Neal's and DeJuan Blair's.

Here's the Spurs roster as of today:

PG - Tony Parker, Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Patty Mills

SG - Danny Green

SF - Kawhi Leonard

PF - Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner, Boris Diaw

C - Aron Baynes

Out of the 15 players on the roster this season, only 10 are definitely staying for 2013, allowing the Spurs the freedom to either re-sign their players or play the market and try to lure free agents to a team that nearly won the championship this year. DeJuan Blair is likely gone, as is Tracy McGrady, unless he truly has something left in the tank (which we'd never really know from anything he did in the silver and black last year).

If we look at the depth chart, it is easy to see dearth in the shooting guard and small forward positions. There will likely be a need for a starting center if Splitter is pulled away to another team offering a bigger contract. For these reasons, I will focus on the SGs, SFs and PF/C, C positions in the free agent class, highlighting the best options and fits for San Antonio, while also narrowing down who could be a part of the team come next season. Remember, these are only restricted agents, so these players will be tough to get.

Top Shooting Guards and Small Forwards

Player Team
Gerald Henderson Charlotte
Wayne Ellington Cleveland
Andrew Goudelock Los Angeles
Chase Budinger Minnesota
Tyreke Evans Sacramento
Gary Neal San Antonio
Garrett Temple Washington
Josh Selby Free Agent

I don't expect any of these free agents to be highly coveted, but at least half of them can be of use to a contending team. Henderson has performed admirably in an offense that focused on him as a scorer. Without much talent around him, Henderson became the second leading scorer for the Bobcats and arguably its best player. His shooting numbers were the best of Charlotte's guards, 45% from the field and 33% from downtown. He hits 82% of his freethrows and averages 4.6 FTA per game, meaning he dose an admirable job of getting to the line. Henderson is likely looking for a starting role, and with Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard firmly entrenched at the wings, he is an unlikely get.

Someone I can see having a good impact as a bench scorer could be Tyreke Evans, who had a great rookie season, joining the ranks of players who averaged 20pts-5ast-5reb per game. Since then, his numbers have dipped, but he bounced back last year with fewer turnovers, and a better three point percentage. He still gets to the line and hits at a decent 77% clip. The problem is that he isn't coming from the strongest franchise and may be tough to coach. He averages over a steal a game, however I just don't see him accepting a bench role after having started nearly his entire career.

Wayne Ellington can provide some offense, but isn't the best defender and would cost more than keeping Gary Neal. Unless Josh Selby shows something that can salvage his reputation from high school, the Spurs will have to look at unrestricted free agency if they want to pick a new player up this offseason.

Top Forwards and Centers

This crop is a little lighter than the guards.

Player Team
Ivan Johnson Atlanta
Byron Mullens Charlotte
Omri Casspi Cleveland
Timofey Mosgov Denver
Tyler Hansbrough Indiana
Jon Leuer Memphis
Nikola Pekovic Minnesota

Again, the restricted agency pool is very small, so the top talents here are Nikola Pekovic, and on good days, Ivan Johnson and Byron Mullens. With the top tier forwards set to be unrestricted free agents, I don't see too many of these guys moving other than Johnson and Omri Casspi, who doesn't see much playing time with the Cavaliers. Cleveland also had a number of draft picks, so they might be more amiable to letting him test the waters. Pekovic would be a good replacement for Tiago Splitter, providing a bruising presence that could take the Spurs over the top. Unfortunately, Pekovic is more than likely going to receive a great contract offer from Minnesota, as they try to build a contender around Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio. Johnson would provide a nice big power forward bench player in case the Spurs want to let Matt Bonner go, Byron Mullens is good offensively, but isn't the best defender. And to be honest, he doesn't seem like he would fit with Tim Duncan, but the Spurs have had worse players than him man the 5 spot over the past 15 years.

Timofey Mosgov provides some intrigue here. He's a legit 7 footer and is 26, and should peak here soon. He hasn't shown much proof that he will be a very good player, but he has the tools to get there. He's only averaged 12 minutes in his career, so seeing him jump from that to starting on the Spurs is a bit of a stretch. Casspi could be a dependable backup at the small forward position, and has a similar career to that of Tyreke Evans. Both were rookies when they had their best years, and have slowly regressed since then. Casspi plays off the bench more than he starts, but was a serviceable option at the backup forward position in 2009-10, averaging 10.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 36% shooting from three point land in only 25 minutes. His stats have gone down as his minutes have, showing that he has not gotten along well with his teams (Sacramento and Cleveland). In his first season with Cleveland, he started 35 games out of 65, but that went down to 1 out of a his 43 played overall. His minutes were down to 11.7 minutes this past season, and it seems like his days in Cleveland are over. He just turned 25, so he could be a good backup at the forward position for the Spurs.

Later this week, I'll take a look at the Unrestricted Free Agents.

UPDATE

I wrote the article a few days ago and never updated after the end of June 30th. The following players written about here are now unrestricted:

- Atlanta - Ivan Johnson
- Charlotte - Byron Mullens
- Cleveland - Omri Casspi, Wayne Ellington and Semih Erden
- Dallas - Darren Collison and Roddy Beaubois
- Denver - Julyan Stone
- Indiana - Ben Hansbrough and Jeff Pendergraph
- L.A. Lakers - Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock and Devin Ebanks
- Memphis - Austin Daye and Jon Leuer
- Orlando - DeQuan Jones
- Philadelphia - Charles Jenkins
- Phoenix - Diante Garrett
- Portland - Eric Maynor
- Sacramento - Toney Douglas and James Johnson
- Washington - Garrett Temple

These players were not extended a qualifying offer, making them unrestricted. No one really pops except for Eric Maynor, but the Spurs have plenty of point guards in their roster already. Omri Casspi seems like a good candidate for backup SF.

Some recently waived players include:

Aaron Brooks PG
Carlos Delfino SG/SF
Terrence Williams SG
James White SG/SF
Chris Duhon PG
Hamed Haddadi PF

Some commenters also wanted a list of restricted, yet notable, Point Guards, which is as follows:

Pablo Prigioni* New York Knicks
Jeff Teague* Atlanta Hawks
Brandon Jennings Milwaukee Bucks

* notes that the player has received a qualifying offer from their team

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