The trade deadline has come and gone and the Spurs only made a small trade that doesn't make them better in the short term. Fortunately, none of the other contenders improved much either, unless Evan Turner becomes a completely different player in Indiana.
But after the trade deadline comes a time that is every bit as exciting for contending teams: the numerous waivings and buyouts of the traded or disgruntled. The Spurs signed Boris Diaw after he was waived by the Bobcats and he has become a core member of the team. So let's take a look to see if there is a chance to repeat that masterstroke.
First, how the waiving and the signings work
- A team can waive a player and pay him his full salary or they can arrange a buyout for less than the full sum. The Sixers, for example, will likely posture as if they want to keep Granger to get him to agree to a buyout for less than what he is owed.
- A player has to be waived before March 1st to be playoff eligible. This is usually not a problem because team and player both benefit from the buyout. But a protracted negotiation could affect the playoff eligibility of a player.
- Teams can only use their cap space and exceptions, if they have any, to sign the player to more than the minimum salary. Here is a list with all the available exceptions to teams. Some of the contenders have either their full mid-level exceptions or at least a part while the Spurs could only offer the minimum.
- A team has to have a roster spot to accommodate the signing. The Spurs have all 15 spots filled at the moment, as Shannon Brown's 10-day contract is still in effect. It ends on the 22nd. The Spurs could create two roster spots by waiving someone else after Brown's contract runs out but it's unlikely they do the that. They could also keep Brown for the rest of the season.
With that out of the way, let's see who is available or could become available in the coming days.
Not likely to interest the Spurs
Jamison has been waived by the Hawks after not being able to contribute on a very thin Clippers team. He doesn't seem to have a lot left in the tank, so it's hard to imagine him having many suitors. Money shouldn't be an object since he has been well compensated in his long career.
Gordon was a dynamic scorer when he was younger but has seen his value drop after leaving Chicago. There are reports he will be bought out now that the Bobcats have Gary Neal and Luke Ridnour to soak up the minutes he was getting.
Gordon could be a viable alternative for a team looking for an outside threat, which could make him a good fit for the Derek Fisher role in OKC.
Villanueva could be bought out by the Pistons. Once upon a time Charlie V was an offensive force for the Bucks, scoring inside and out and rebounding well enough to be a very intriguing prospect. But that was six years ago. It's hard to see any contender showing serious interest in Villanueva other than as deep bench injury insurance.
Could interest the Spurs
Davis reached a buyout agreement with the Magic and is now a free agent. There have been reports linking him to the Clippers, which make a lot of sense considering their pitiful big man rotation and the possibility of a Rivers-Davis reunion. The Clippers can only offer the minimum. The Nets are also in the run, with Garnett apparently recruiting Davis. The Nets have a disabled player exception they could use.
For the Spurs, Davis would be an upgrade over Ayres, Baynes and Bonner as the fourth big. But it's doubtful he chooses to sign for the minimum and risk not getting as much playing time, which could hurt his future prospects. He would be a good get but I doubt it happens.
Clark was released by the Sixers and is still waiting to clear waivers, which he will. After a rather underwhelming start to his career, Clark parlayed a good performance on a contract year with the Lakers into a sizable salary with the Cavs. He never found his footing in a very crowded Cleveland front court but it still young and has great athletic tools that are not easy to find.
Clark could be that long, athletic power forward the Spurs need. Clark is a decent rebounder and defender and agile enough to stay with some of the bigger small forwards, which could allow the Spurs to stay big while other teams go small. His shot comes and goes but he could affect the game defensively if he is engaged. Money arguably won't be as important to him, since he will still be paid the full amount he is owed.
Granger appears to be negotiating a buyout with the Sixers, as I mentioned. If he becomes a free agent, all the contenders will try to sign him. Granger is not the player he was before the injuries but on a patient team, he could work his way back into shape and potentially offer some scoring and playmaking from the wing.
The contender with the biggest hole at small forward is the Clippers. L.A. has a lot of players that can man that spot in theory but have not done it well in practice. Granger would have a legitimate shot at the starting spot there which is not a possibility with the Thunder, Heat or Spurs. But a player returning from injury and trying to rediscover his game might benefit more from the type of pressure-free environment he would enjoy with a contender that has a core rotation already in place.
Granger wouldn't get major minutes initially for the Spurs, as the wing rotation is pretty much set. But he could help limit Leonard's and Manu's minutes and serve as an alternative for when one of the wings is going through a slump. Having Mike Miller step in for Battier when he wasn't hitting helped the Heat last season and that could be Granger's role. Against teams that like going small, Granger could be a good option next to Leonard, since in theory, he can score inside and out.
It's hard to predict how a player might fit in with a new team in such a small time to adapt, which is why it's always better to not have depend on these type of signings to swing a title race. Fortunately, the Spurs have their core in place and whoever arrives, if anyone at all, will only be asked to contribute in small ways.
Of the potential additions Danny Granger is the most intriguing. While he hasn't been the same player he was before the injury, his size and talent would be a welcome addition to the Spurs. After him, Earl Clark could be a smart gamble.
What do you think, Pounders? Can any of these guys help the Spurs?