What do the Spurs have left to spend after signing Boris Diaw?

Chris Trotman

Boris Diaw will be a Spur for three more years. Let's see what it means for the team in the short and long term.

Boris Diaw narrowly beat Adrian Wojnarowski to the news that he was coming back to San Antonio for three more years, and he did it via his Instagram account.

Hey spurs fans, Good news i stay in san antonio for a few more years. Lets win it again #gospursgo

The deal is supposed to be for a total of $21 million over three years. But according to Woj, the deal will be front loaded, with Diaw getting $15.5 of the total $21 million in the first two years. It makes a ton of sense for both the Spurs and Boris to structure the contract this way.

For the Spurs, who front-loaded Tiago Splitter's contract last off-season, the deal makes sense from a perspective of production per dollar as well as flexibility. Diaw is 32 which means it's likely that he will begin to decline soon. If his price tag decreases along with his abilities, he won't be overpaid. On top of that, the Spurs get the chance to waive him and clear part of his salary in 2016/17 if they are rebuilding or his skill-set is no longer necessary.

For Diaw, it means a hefty guaranteed sum for the next two seasons. BoBo will be 35 when his deal expires, if he stays with the team for the length of his contract. By then he will have earned over $70 million throughout his career. He could decide to retire, sign for the minimum with a contender, or go for one last good pay day if his game hasn't eroded much.

Did the Spurs pay market value?

It was very strange to not see Diaw mentioned in free agency rumors after supposed interest from Portland. So it's not crazy to assume that the Spurs bet against themselves here. His agent claims three other teams were interested but who was going to give Diaw more than the MLE?

There's just one problem with that line of thinking: things could have gotten crazy after Melo and Lebron decided what they were doing. If they stay with their current teams, a lot of clubs will have a ton of cap space and no one to spend it on.  That is exactly the scenario in which a player like Diaw can get seriously overpaid and his agent directly addressed that possibility.

By striking early, the Spurs secured the services of a key player on a reasonable salary and under favorable terms. There's no reason to over-think this one. It's a good deal, as long as the same aggressive Diaw we saw last season suits up again throughout 2014/15.

How does the signing affect the Spurs' cap situation?

Here are the Spurs' salary commitments for next season:

Tony Parker $12,500,000

Tim Duncan $10,400,000

Tiago Splitter  $9.250,000

Boris Diaw $8,062,550

Manu Ginobili $7,000,000

Danny Green $4,025,000

Patty Mills $3,400,000

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

Kyle Anderson $911,400

Total: $66,232,154

The tax line is supposed to be set at around $77 million dollars. That means that the Spurs will be under it by almost $11 million dollars with the minimum required 13 players already under contract. Being so low under the tax is extremely rare among contenders. And the defending champions did it by working the CBA to perfection. Going forward, they will have only Splitter, Diaw, Mills, and Anderson under contract when the time comes to extend Parker and Leonard. That's as close to an ideal situation as any contender could hope to be in when facing a possible rebuild down the road.

What's next?

San Antonio still has to figure out what will happen to Matt Bonner and Aron Baynes. They could easily bring them on board but that would mean one out of those two or Austin Daye will be inactive at all times and Anderson will have to be in Austin. If they only bring one of the two back, they could have their 13-man active roster filled while Anderson gets reps with the Toros.

But the Spurs still have the mid-level exception (MLE) and bi-annual exception (BAE) at their disposal. The MLE is worth $5.3 million and the BAE $2 million. That's $7.3 more million more the Spurs could easily use without getting close to the tax line. Now this is important: the exceptions cannot be combined, which means that the most the Spurs can offer a free agent is the MLE alone. But that should be enough to get a rotation-caliber player.

Let's look at the depth chart to see if bringing back Bonner, Baynes or both makes more sense than using the MLE:

PG: Parker - Mills - Joseph

SG: Green - Ginobili - Belinelli

SF: Leonard - Daye - Anderson

PF: Duncan - Diaw

C: Splitter - Ayres

I'm going to assume the Spurs will get a third PG on the cheap until Mills returns. Ideally, it would be someone whom they can send to the D-League, say Bryce Cotton or even a more seasoned player like Brian Roberts. So that's 14 roster spots covered. Considering Daye will likely play both forward spots and Ginobili/Green both wing spots, the Spurs have a remarkably well rounded roster.

A fifth traditional big could come in handy. Baynes fits the bill, will be cheap and already knows the system. Obviously, a case can also be made for Bonner. So it's possible the Spurs keep one of those guys and don't spend the MLE or BAE at all.

Normally, I'd be against that frugal approach. But looking at possible MLE targets, few make sense for the Spurs. The guys that would truly force Pop to reshape the rotation -- guys like Gasol or Deng -- don't look like realistic options. Even someone like Trevor Ariza will get a better offer. That leaves players like Josh McRoberts, Mike Miller, Jordan Hill and Mo Williams as legitimate targets. But it's hard to see any of those guys moving the needle and, while trading someone away to create another roster spot shouldn't be hard, we know how much Pop values continuity.

I can only see two legitimately intriguing MLE targets for the Spurs: Shawn Marion and Channing Frye. Marion would help the Spurs kill two birds with one stone by giving them another perimeter defender and a small-ball big. Frye could space the floor as well as Bonner does while offering more length and rebounding. If either of those guys is willing to take what the Spurs offer both in terms of dollars and minutes, they would make good additions and the team would be foolish not to make room for them.

At this point, the more likely possibility seems the Spurs spending the BAE on someone like Marvin Williams or Kent Bazemore, two free agents they have been connected to. Instead of making a big investment on someone who might not end up cracking their well-established rotation, the Spurs will look though the scrap heap for a low-risk, high-reward contributor. Now that does sound like PATFO.

The Spurs have the tools to get one more rotation-caliber player. But since they might not need one, don't expect them to spend for the sake of spending.

Conclusion: be happy, Spurs fans

As I wrote this, Twitter was going crazy with rumors about where James was going and what the meant for the rest of the contending teams. The Spurs, meanwhile, just secured the services of every core player from their dominant championship season. While we are discussing what's the best way to fill the last two roster spots, other teams have no idea what their starting lineup will look like in October.

Boris Diaw was the last big piece of the puzzle the Spurs needed to take care of. They did it. So now we get to sit back , watch the rest of the league go crazy, and enjoy the fruits of the Spurs front office labors. Sounds like the recipe for a perfect post-championship off-season.

If you have any doubts about the ins and outs of the CBA, check out Larry Coon's CBA FAQ.

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