Warning: This article contains way too many numbers. It is also very lengthy. I'll admit, I'm a bit of a numbers nerd. I'll also admit, the NBA salary cap can be quite complicated, and I by no means feel I am an expert in this topic. This article will likely contain errors and will contain assumptions, but I think(hope) I have a strong enough grasp of the topic that I can provide an informative (and hopefully entertaining) piece on the Spurs' future possibilities. The table below shows the Spurs' salary situation for the 2014-2015 season
Tony Parker: $12,500,000 ($3,500,000 guaranteed)
Tim Duncan: $10,000,000 (Player Option)
Tiago Splitter: $9,250,000
Manu Ginobili: $7,000,000
Danny Green: $4,025,000
Kawhi Leonard: $2,894,059
Marco Belinelli: $2,873,750
Cory Joseph: $2,023,261
Jeff Ayres: $1,828,750
Austin Daye: $1,063,384 ($250,000 guaranteed)
Aron Baynes: **$1,115,243**
Matt Bonner: **$7,495,500**
Patty Mills: **$2,154,505**
Boris Diaw: **$8,934,750**
The guaranteed salaries: Splitter, Ginobili, Green, Leonard, Belinelli, Joseph, and Ayres are locked in for next season. Combined, these seven players have a total of $29,894,820 in guaranteed salary for the 2014-2015 season.
Tony Parker: He has $3,500,000 in guaranteed money next season, but that's completely moot. "Bold" prediction number one...Parker is still with the Spurs next season. With his salary, the total jumps to $42,394,820.
Tim Duncan: He has a player option of $10,000,000 for next season. I in no way, shape, or form think Duncan is retiring after this season, and this article assumes he is playing next season. If, for whatever reason, Duncan does retire this season, I am of the opinion the Spurs should make a move for Pau Gasol. I think he would fit in relatively seemlessly into our system, and it would be for roughly the same amount as Duncan. ESPN's Amin Elhassan ranked the Top 30 NBA Free Agents for this upcoming off-season using a whole lot of analytics and Pau Gasol was on this list. Elhassas took all these factors into consideration and estimated Gasol is worth roughly $10,300,000 a season for three seasons. Anyhow, it's a possibility, but one I'm not going to explore. "Bold" prediction number two...Duncan finishes out his contract. With his salary, the total jumps to $52,394,820.
Note: The projected salary cap for the 2014-2015 season is $62,100,000 with the luxury tax at $75,700,000. With nine players in the books (seven of which are key rotation players), the Spurs are $9,705,180 under the salary cap and a mile away from the luxury tax. This is all very good news, but let's move on.
Austin Daye: Who here believes Daye will be around next season? I don't. I believe the trading of Nando was more a reward for him behaving the past couple years and less about who the Spurs got back in return. I don't have a crystal ball, so I can't see how Daye is progressing behind the scenes. It's always a possibility he returns, but for the purpose of this article, I am going to assume he is released. He has $250,000 in guaranteed salary next season. I'm not sure whether or not this counts against the cap, but the money is relatively negligable, so I'm going to add it to the Spurs salary. With his salary, the total goes to $52,644,820.
Aron Baynes (cap hold): With Jeff Ayres still on the books for next season and Baynes not showing a whole lot of progress, I fully expect Baynes to not be with the Spurs next season. He would come at such a cheap cost anything is possible, but I don't see it. For the purpose of this article, Baynes is no longer a Spur come season's end.
Matt Bonner (cap hold): Oh Matty, I'm not sure what to do with you, but you have a huge cap hold of $7,495,500. There are a couple options. The most likely might be to release him. The second option would be to sign him right away to a much reduced salary. This would allow Bonner to maintain his bird rights, would remove the cap hold, and would add his reduced salary to the Spurs' salary. I think if the Spurs do decide to keep Bonner, they should renounce him, then sign him to the veterans minimum after the Spurs have signed any free agents they might be targeting in the offseason. Bonner would lose his bird rights, but I am going to assume this is the approach the team takes (because it allows for more flexibility in the offseason). This isn't the best scenario for Bonner, but he would still get to stay in San Antonio so he might go for it. With Bonner renounced, his cap hold comes off the Spurs' salary. The veterans minimum for the 2014-2015 season for someone with Bonner's experience is $1,448,490. We'll keep that figure in mind, but for now, it is not added to the Spurs' salary.
Patty Mills (cap hold): What a breakout season so far for Patty. His growth has been one of the most exciting parts about the NBA season for us Spurs fans. The main priority of the Spurs needs to be resigning Patty. In the article I mentioned earlier, Amin Elhassan had Patty Mills at the bottom of this list. He projected Patty Mills to get a contract somewhere around $4,000,000 for two years. This sounds perfect to me. He deserves the raise, and $4,000,000 a year for two years is not overpaying him. There is a possibility he could get more from another team, along with the chance to start, but deep in my heart I believe he wants to stay with the Spurs. I think he has found a role he can excel in, and think of how good he could be in a couple years? He could be the next Tony Parker, but he's not yet. He still has a lot to learn, and I think he will stick around. Patty has bird rights, and his projected $4,000,000 a year is less than his$2,154,505 cap hold, so I would just add his cap hold to the Spurs' salary and wait to sign him after the free agency market has been extinguished. Remember, teams can sign their own players even if they are over the salary cap. The only consequence is their cap hold must be added to the team salary to avoid teams from signing a bunch of free agents then signing their own players. Luckily, Patty has a very small (compared to most players) cap hold, so it's not a huge deal. Adding Patty's cap hold to the Spurs' salary, the total jumps to $54,799,325.
Boris Diaw (cap hold): The Spurs are not as fortunate with Diaw. His cap hold is quite a bit larger ($8,934,750) because his salary in the 2013-2014 season is much larger than Patty's. Anyhow, adding his cap hold to the Spurs' salary would pretty much take the rest of the Spurs' cap space. Because of this, the Spurs need to either resign Diaw right away, renounce him, then sign him using the non-taxpayers mid-level exception (more on this later), or release him. The path chosen will largely depend on how much Diaw wants in his next contract and what the Spurs are looking to pick up in the offseason (if anything). If the chose to renounce Diaw, the Spurs will only have ten players on the current roster (the nine with guaranteed contracts and Mills' cap hold). This is two under the minimum 12 player roster, so the Spurs would also need to add two roster cap holds of the league minimum, which is $507,336. This would up the Spurs' salary to $55,813,997, which is $6,286,003 under the salary cap. Technically speaking, the Spurs could then use the remaining six million dollars to sign free agents, then sign Diaw using the non-taxpayers mid-level exception, followed by Patty using his bird rights. I'm going to assume the Spurs do not go this route, and instead, just sign Diaw right away without using any exceptions. I'm going to guess Diaw will make something along the lines of $5,000,000 a year, for at least two years, maybe three. Add the $5,000,000 to the Spurs' salary of $54,799,325, and the new total is $59,799,325.
Note: With the nine players mentioned above, Patty's cap hold, and Diaw's new salary, the Spurs have eleven players on their roster. The minimun number required by the NBA is 12, so there would still be a single cap hold of $507,336. That would bring the total to $60,306,661, which is still $1,793,339 under the salary cap. The other option would be to sign Bonner with the remaining salary, which would be any figure less than $2,300,675. Whether the Spurs add Bonner or use the cap hold of $507, 336, they will meet the minimum roster requirements of the NBA. For simplicity sake, I'm going to assume Bonner and Diaw are signed using the remaining Spurs salary (we'll say Bonner gets a one year contract for $2,000,000).
Patty Mills: The only person left is Patty Mills. We already said earlier he would be getting $4,000,000 a year, so we can now add this to the team salary. Once this is done, his cap hold of $2,154,505 goes off the books. Assuming the Spurs signed the eleven players mentioned above for around $62,000,000 (just under the salary cap), adding Mills will bring that total to around $63,845,495.
Note: There it is. All 14 players on the Spurs' roster have been accounted for. The Spurs' salary of $63,845,495 is just over the cap but is nearly $12 million under the projected luxury tax. Not bad at all. The Spurs roster is currently twelve strong. The main ten man rotation is still intact, and Bonner and Joseph are still along for the ride.
2014 1st Round Draft Pick: The Spurs are projected to have the number 28 overall pick in the upcoming draft. Currently, the player the Spurs are projected to pick up is Bogdan Bogdanovic (SG/SF) from Serbia. I've really been hearing some great things about him, and I know Spurs love to draft overseas players. The Spurs need more wing depth. This seems like the perfect fit. Beyond that, I'll let y'all research him on your own time. I just hope he is still on the board when the Spurs name is called. I also think he will stay with the Spurs so that he can learn a lot from Manu, Marco, and even Kawhi. I think that's very important given Manu's certain retirement in the near future. Given that he's the 28th pick, the Spurs would have to pay him anywhere between $739,840-$1,109,760 in the first season, but they can sign him even if they are over the salary cap. Let's assume they pay him the max (which is pretty standard this day and age), so the Spurs will add $1,109,760 to the salary, which brings the total to $64,955,255.
Note: The Spurs can't keep stashing all their draft picks overseas. Bogdan has already been improving overseas, and with his upside and potential to learn from Manu, along with my belief that Jean-Charles will stay overseas next season, I think Bogdan will be on the Spurs' roster next season, if of course, he's the one they end up drafting.
Non-Taxpayers Mid-Level Exception: This exception allows teams to sign free agents even if they are over the salary cap. The maximum amount that can be spent using this exception is $5,381,000 for the 2014-2015 season. The Spurs are plenty under the luxury tax to use this exception in the offseason, but with everybody going off the books next season, potentially allowing for a lot of flexibility, I'm not sure the Spurs will want to add more salaries to the books over the coming years. I guess the Spurs could sign a player for one year, but given the amount of time it takes to learn the Spurs' system (unless your name is Marco), this doesn't seem likely. I would like to see the Spurs pick up an athletic big. One that comes to mind who the Spurs could likely afford using this exception is Jordan Hill. He has a lot of potential, and is a great offensive rebounder, something the Spurs aren't currently very good at. He also seems to be a very hard worker. Other options would be to try and pick up a backup wing player. Some potential free agents that should be within the Spurs' range include Shawn Marion, Trevor Ariza, Andrei Kirilenko (if he does not take his player option), P.J. Tucker, Shane Battier, Al-Farouq Aminu (though he can't really shoot), even Danny Granger, just to name a few. Just some food for thought.
Bi-Annual Exception: The Spurs are also eligible for the bi-annual exception (BAE) for around $2,077,000. Just like the non-taxpayers mid-level exception, the BAE can be used after the Spurs have exceeded the salary cap. The BAE was used on Nando de Colo two seasons ago. This exception can only be used every other season, and I think it might be something very important to have next season when everyone comes off the books. My prediction is that the BAE will not be used this season.
Note: Clearly there are some options for the Spurs in the offseason, but I think the Spurs will likely try to keep their core roster together and start focusing more on some of their overseas stashes and their 2014 first round draft pick. The table below shows the Spurs 2015-2016 outlook given my earlier predictions.
Tiago Splitter: $8,500,000
Patty Mills: $4,000,000
Boris Diaw: $5,000,000
2014 1st rounder: $1,159,680
Kawhi Leonard: **$7,235,148**
Tony Parker: **$18,750,000**
Marco Belinelli: **$3,735,875**
Danny Green: **$6,037,500**
Cory Joseph: **$5,058,153**
Jeff Ayres: **$2,377,375**
Matt Bonner: **$3,800,000**
Disclaimer: None of this takes into account potential trades during the next offseason or the 2014-2015 season. The Spurs do own a trade exception from Nando's trade, and with all these expiring contracts, a trade is certainly a possibility. Nonetheless, it's impossible to predict such trades, so I will ignore it in this article. It also doesn't take into account buyout players, minimum salary pickups, etc. It is also assuming Matt Bonner signed a one year contract in the 2014-2015 season. His cap hold is completely guestimated.
Note: I'm going to predict a salary cap of $63,000,000 for the 2015-2016 season with a luxury tax starting at $77,000,000. These numbers are a slight increase to the 2014-2015 season, which seems reasonable. Still, it's just a guess.
The guaranteed salaries: Splitter, Mills, Diaw, and the 2014 draft pick are locked in for next season. Combined, these four players have a total of $18,659,680 in guaranteed salary for the 2015-2016 season.
Note: Mills and Diaw are not guaranteed, but I think we all agree these both deserve an extension this year, so this article assumes the Spurs give these two players the contracts they deserve.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili: Sad day. Our two future hall-of-famers have faded off into the sunset, hopefully with at least one more ring!
Tony Parker: Will he retire a Spur? I really think so. Will Pop stay and try to convince Parker that they can remain competitive even with the loss of Duncan and Ginobili? I think so. Should Parker get a raise or take another home discount to try and remain competitive? I think a bit of both. I'm going to say the Spurs give him a three year contract with the first year being around $14,000,000, the second year $13,500,000 and the final year $13,000,000. Just a guess, but it seems reasonable. Assuming $14,000,000 for the first year, this is still way below his cap hold of $18,750,000, so the Spurs should just sign Parker right away. This will bring the Spurs salary to $32,659,680.
Kawhi Leonard (cap hold): As my username suggests, I do believe Leonard is our future. I also don't think he is a max contract guy just yet, but maybe in his next contract. For now, he still deserves a hefty raise. I think he deserves roughly a three year/$30 million contract. Let's say the first year is $9,500,000, the second year is $10,000,000 and the final year is $10,500,000. He has bird rights, and his contract will almost certainly be higher than his cap hold of $7,235,148, so the Spurs should just add his cap hold and wait to sign him after signing free agents, etc. Adding Leonard's cap hold, the Spurs' salary jumps to $39,894,828.
Marco Belinelli (cap hold): Is Marco our new Manu? Not quite, but he does so many things well. He moves great without the ball, can really hit the three, can see passing lanes that most people can't, and the Spurs have even been having him run the point in certain situations. Hmm, this really is starting to sound a lot like Manu. He's gotta stay. We need him and we want him. He deserves to be paid more than his cap hold of $3,735,875, so let's add his cap hold to the salary and use his bird rights to sign him later. With his cap hold, the Spurs' salary lands at $43,630,703.
Note: Ok let's pause for a moment to summarize where we are. Splitter, Diaw, Mills, 2014 1st rounder, and Parker have all been accounted for. The cap holds of Leonard and Belinelli have also been included. The Spurs are $19,369,297 from the estimated salary cap, and only seven players have been included. I think the Spurs might have to get creative if they want to go for a big free agent in the 2015-2016 offseason. Or maybe they will be content with "rebuilding". I honestly have no clue. If they want to go for a big name (Kevin Love anybody?), they will probably want to use their exceptions to sign the players currently on their roster that they want to keep. Let's explore that now.
Cory Joseph (cap hold): The Spurs needs three point guards. Tony Parker will continue to get rest throughout the season, and you never know when injuries will occur. Also, Manu will be gone, so that is another player who is capable of handling the ball who will no longer be with the Spurs. With this in mind, I think Cory should stick around. I think he would be relatively inexpensive and would be good insurance pending an injury (look at how well he played when Parker was sitting out recently). He's not quite aggressive enough yet, but he takes care of the ball and does a lot of things really well, including defense. He will likely get way less than his cap hold of $5,058,153, so sign him up right away or renounce him and use an exception. I really don't think Cory should get much more than $2,000,000 a year. He has a qualifying offer of roughly $3,000,000 but I think the Spurs will need to renegotiate. I think this would be a great time to use the bi-annual exception. For 2015-2016, the BAE is set at $2,139,000. Similar to Nando, this seems like a perfect salary for Joseph. Because we are using an exception, the Spurs should renounce Joseph and sign him using the BAE later.
Danny Green (cap hold): Green has a cap hold of $6,037,500. He isn't worth that much, in my opinion. I think a great person to compare him to is Kyle Korver. When he was Green's age, he played for both the Jazz and Bulls, and averaged around eight points a game, shot nearly 40 percent from three, and played decent defense. He averaged between $4,000,000 and $5,000,000 those years. I think that is the pocket Green belongs in right now. I think using part of the non-taxpayers mid-level exception on him is a great idea. Yes, he will lose his bird rights, but will regain them through his next contract. I think a three year $12 million contract is reasonable, with $3,750,000 the first year, $4,000,000 the second, and $4,250,000 the final year. He hasn't really improved this year, in fact, he has declined just a bit. Not sure Green would stay for that amount, but the Spurs should definitely not pay him much more. For this article, I say the Spurs renounce Green then use the MLE to resign him.
Jeff Ayres (cap hold): I don't think Ayres is worth his cap hold of $2,377,375. Not yet anyway. If Green takes up $3,750,000 of the 2015-2016 MLE, that leaves a total of $1,714,000 left on the MLE. If Ayres takes that offer, the Spurs should renounce Ayres and use the rest of the MLE to resign him.
Note: So what have we done here? Well, we've used up all our exceptions, but we now have salaries in place for Splitter, Parker, Diaw, Mills, the 2014 1st rounder, Joseph, Green, and Ayres. We have also included the cap holds of Marco and Kawhi to the Spurs' salary. That is a total of ten players accounted for and the Spurs still have roughly $19,369,297 left in cap space. The only person not accounted for so far is Bonner, and I think this should be the end of Bonner's run as a Spur.
Livio Jean-Charles: Is this the year he makes it back to the states to become a Spur? I think, barring any injuries or major setbacks, this will be the year he gets introduced into the NBA. He's got a great wingspan and could potentially be a great backup to Kawhi. I don't know what exactly the rules would be for signing him to an NBA contract. I don't know if the rookie scale contracts would still apply. I don't think so, because Splitter was drafted number 28 overall, was stored overseas a few years, then came back and signed a contract for around three years and $11 million. Let's say they sign him for around $2,000,000 the first year and it can't be added after the Spurs exceed the salary cap. I'm not sure this is true, but let's say it is. Adding Jean-Charles would jump the Spurs salary to $45,630,703, which is still over $17 million from the salary cap.
Note: By following the steps above, the Spurs already have eleven on the roster. A good mix of young, new talent and some veterans. I really like the way this has turned out. It's highly optimistic, of course, and once again, doesn't take a whole lot of outliers into consideration (like trades), but still, it's a reasonable idea as to what the spurs might be able to do to utilize their exceptions in a way that allows the Spurs to retain the majority of their soldiers while still having plenty of cap space to play with.
Free agency: The big free agent for the 2015-2016 season is of course Kevin Love. Everybody and their mother thinks he is going to sign to a big market, and that's definitely a possibility. They will offer him the maximum of the maximum to sign, and it seems reasonable he will do just that. Still, the Spurs would seem to be able to offer him a pretty decent salary, and with a starting lineup of Splitter, Love, Leonard, Green, and Parker, with Mills, Diaw, Marco, and possible another key piece or two, we would be a force to reckon with for years to come. It's probably a pipe dream, but still fun to think about. LaMarcus Aldridge is another big name player who Spurs might be able to convince to join their squad. Who knows. I'm not going to dive down into these scenarios too much, though discussions about other possibilities would certainly be welcomed inside the comments section.
Rounding out the salary: Let's say the Spurs sign a player or two in free agency that gets them to the $62 million mark. Signing Leonard for $9,500,000 and Marco to around $5,000,000 would add $14.5 million to the salary. Their cap holds then get removed, which were a combined total of $10,971,023. If the Spurs were around $62,000,000 before Leonard and Marco, their total would be around $65,528,977. Add in the MLE and BAE for Green, Ayres, and Joseph ($7,603,000 in exceptions), and the final salary for the Spurs is $73,131,977. Quite high really, but still three or four million from the luxury tax. Chances are, the Spurs won't go for a max player in the offseason, and will have a final salary near the $70,000,000 mark. Maybe less.
Final thoughts: If you stuck with me until the end, congrats. Not an easy task. Things get a bit crazy when trying to predict what's going to happen after two of your top four or five players in franchise history are gone. Will the Spurs be ok with mediocrity for a couple years? Will they swing for the fences with somebody like Love or Aldridge? Who knows? I certainly don't. I'm almost certain our roster will include Splitter, Parker, Leonard, Mills, Diaw, and Marco over the coming years, and that's not a bad place to start, especially considering each of these players will already have an in-depth knowledge of the Spurs' system. Green could be the next Korver, with better defense. A couple of our overseas stashes could turn up big. Our 1st rounder in this year's loaded draft could play a major role in the near future. Still so many unknowns. It's very sad, but also kind of exciting. The Spurs have done the same thing for the last 20 years, and I feel privileged to have been along for the ride. This group of players still have a lot of playoff minutes left, and I don't want to prematurely look into the future, but this is one of my favorite parts about basketball, so I just wanted to share my thoughts.