With the emergence of Danny Green as a big time contributor, questions about what it would take to resign him, and whether the Spurs can and should resign him have increased. There have also been rumors starting to flyabout the Spurs targeting Nicolas Batum in the off-season. With that in mind I wrote a breakdown of the Spurs projected financial figures for next season that might help clarify some doubts. Follow me after the jump for the numbers.
Salaries provided by Shampsorts and HoopsHype. I've used the most recent information available regrading the CBA.
The Spurs will have $48,262,972 in committed salary for next season in the following players:
Tony Parker $12,500,000
Manu Ginobili $14,107,492
Stephen Jackson $10,060,000
Tiago Splitter $3,944,000
Matt Bonner $3,630,000
Kawhi Leonard $1,861,920
Cory Joseph $1,105,560
DeJuan Blair $1,054,000
To all the above, we have to add Neal's unguaranteed contract that the Spurs are certain to pick up since it's a fantastic deal at only $854,389. That leaves us with a grand total of $49,117,361. Boris Diaw is only signed through the season and Patty Mills has a $1,000,000 player option he's not likely to pick up.
The salary cap is expected to stay at $58 million, which is similar to this season's number. The Spurs have two key free agents of their own to consider: Tim Duncan and Danny Green. The Spurs do not have Bird Rights to Diaw and Mills.
Before thinking that the Spurs will have cap space to sign a free agent, and then work to resign their own free agents, we have to remember that there are cap holds. Teams that don't renounce the Bird Rights of their free agents will have a cap hold counting against their cap which in the old CBA was 105% of the free agent's last salary.
Duncan is an unrestricted free agent, which means he could sign with whomever he chooses or resign for up to the max. It's safe to say that Duncan will return to San Antonio next season. Tim won't get the $20 million a year he's getting now, but we can't expect him to sign for way below market value. This is purely speculation but let's say he signs for 10 million a year. That puts the Spurs cap number in $59,117,361 and above the salary cap.
Danny Green, as best as I could nail down, is a restricted free agent. Assuming he doesn't qualify for the Early Bird exception, the Spurs can either renounce their rights to Green or extend him a qualifying offer of $1,060,120. If they do so, the Spurs have three days (down form seven in the old CBA) to match any offer sheet Green might sign. The Spurs are expected to resign Green unless the offer sheet he signs is ridiculously high. If Green has a good playoff run, it wouldn't be far fetched to assume he might get MLE money. The Spurs could match that offer or not. If they do match and the MLE stays at the rate it was this season at around 5 million, the Spurs would have $64,117,361 in committed salary to 10 players.
Teams start paying tax when their committed salary exceeds the roughly $70 million threshold, which would leave the Spurs $5 million to sign three more players to get to the league-mandated 13, which is the minimum roster allowed. Being above the cap but below the tax level, the Spurs will have the full mid-level exception of $5 million to do it, or they could sign as many players to minimum salary as they want. The mid-level exception can be used on more than one player but the sum of the players contracts cannot exceed those 5 million. For example, the Spurs can split the MLE into two players making 2.5 million each.
If they resign Duncan and Green, and also use the MLE, the Spurs will probably be close to the tax line next season. But if they are careful with their finances, they probably won't cross it. Even so, the team should be pretty competitive since the core players are returning and they could add a quality player via the MLE or use it to resign Diaw and/or Mills.
Can the Spurs get creative and make a big signing?
By having so much committed to guaranteed salaries, the Spurs' chances of making a free agent signing or retooling their roster are reduced. Most impact players that the Spurs are rumored to be interested in, like Nic Batum, will probably command more than the MLE. That being said, there are two (unlikely) scenarios were the Spurs might be able to make a splash.
1) Sign and Trade. Teams might agree to it in two scenarios: to receive a trade exception equaling the player's new contract or to receive an asset from the team they are sending the player to. Since the Spurs are over the cap, they won't be able to absorb a contract and will have to send something back. In order to entice a team to do it they will likely have to send Stephen Jackson (for salary matching purposes) and a young player or asset such as a draft pick or the rights to formerly drafted players. On top of that, teams might prefer the cap space to what the Spurs are sending back. It really doesn't seem like it would be worth it unless the player the Spurs receive is a clear upgrade to both Jackson and the other player or asset they are surrendering. The Knicks trading David Lee to the Warriors for Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike is a recent example of this kind of S&T.
2) Sending Jackson to a team with cap space. The new CBA requires teams to use a minimum of 90% of their cap space. Rebuilding teams usually have very little committed salary since their players are usually young and cheap. To meet the minimum cap requirements, they will be forced to sign other players. The Spurs could send Jackson to a team with cap space like the Cavs or the Wolves, and that would create a $10 million trade exception. As he's showing with the Spurs, Jackson can still contribute to a team and his expiring contract might make him a better option to meet the minimum requirement than to sign a veteran to a multi-year contract. It's risky for the Spurs to do this, since they might not be able to use that trade exception to get a better player than Jackson who also has an expiring contract.. A recent example would be the Jazz sending Carlos Boozer to the Bulls, getting a huge trade exception in the process and then using it to absorb Al Jefferson's contract.
As I mentioned, these scenarios are pretty unlikely and don't seem that beneficial to the Spurs. Jackson has adjusted to his role well and his expiring contract should improve in value as next season progresses.
Those are the Spurs' projected numbers for next season. Since I've made some speculations, the actual numbers may vary a little but they not that much. The two things to take away from this are: 1) the Spurs should be able to resign Tim Duncan and Danny Green, plus using the mid-level exception without going into luxury tax territory as long as their contracts are reasonable. 2) The Spurs are not in the most favorable position to make much of a move this off-season unless they take some pretty big chances.