Now that the season is over, there's a lot of speculation about what's next for the Spurs. I personally, have no idea what the Spurs should do. Stay the course and see if we get lucky? Be aggressive and try to reload? Go into a full rebuild? (No) Who knows?
But since I assume Pop and R.C. read PtR, I'm sure they are eagerly awaiting our opinions on how to proceed. With that in mind, I've compiled salary information to help understand what type of signings or trades the Spurs could actually make so we all have the tools we need to see that the Spurs stay in contention next season.
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. Patty Mills has a $1,000,000 player option he's not likely to pick up.
A few things we need to note before beginning:
- The salary cap is expected to be about $58 million, not too far from this year's.
- The Luxury Tax threshold is expected to be at around $70 million, again, similar to what it was this season.
- The Spurs do not have Bird Rights to Diaw and Mills.
- Cap Holds: Teams that don't renounce the Bird Rights of their free agents will have a cap hold counting against their cap number, which is 150% of the free agent's last salary (i.e. until the Spurs renounce or re-sign Duncan there will be a $30 million dollar cap hold).
The Spurs have three key free agents of their own to consider: Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw and Danny Green.
Duncan is an unrestricted free agent, but it's safe to say that he will return to San Antonio next season. Tim won't get the $20 million a year he got this season, 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 at $59,117,361 and above the salary cap.
Danny Green, as best as I could nail down, is a restricted free agent. The Spurs can either renounce their rights to Green or extend him a qualifying offer of $3,342,175. If they do so, the Spurs have three days (down from seven in the old CBA) to match any offer sheet Green might sign. The Spurs should be expected to re-sign Green unless the offer sheet he signs is ridiculously high. Since Danny is a good, young, low usage-high efficiency player and a character guy, it wouldn't be far fetched to assume he could get MLE-level 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.
Boris Diaw is an unrestricted free agent to whom the Spurs don't have Bird rights, meaning that they can't go over the cap to re-sign him. To bring Boris back, the Spurs would probably have to spend the MLE or at least part of it. There will be a market for Diaw after what he showed in the Spurs this season. If Mills declines his player option, hell be in the same situation as Diaw.
With Duncan and Green's new contracts on the books, the Spurs would have $5 million to sign three more players to get to the league-mandated 13 without paying tax. They 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 on Diaw or any other free agent, the Spurs will be close to the tax line next season, but they probably won't cross it.
Free agent signings
By having so much of their cap space committed to guaranteed salaries, the Spurs' chances of making a free agent signing or retooling their roster are reduced. Most impact players will probably command more than the MLE. But can the Spurs get creative and make a big signing? Not really, unless they send Stephen Jackson to a team with cap space and don't re-sign Green and Diaw.
As he's showed with the Spurs this season, Jackson can still contribute to a team and his expiring contract might make him a better option for under-the-cap teams to meet the minimum 90% cap requirement than to sign a veteran to a multi-year contract. By doing that, the Spurs would clear an additional $10 million dollars and, depending on the amount of Duncan's contract, could have anywhere from 8-12 million, with the lower figure being a more probable scenario.
It's not very likely that the Spurs would go this route, since nothing guarantees that a free agent will sign with them and Jackson has adjusted to his role well, being one of the few bright spots in the Thunder series. His expiring contract should also improve in value as the season progresses. Teams with cap space are usually rebuilding and Jax has been disruptive in those situations, which would probably dissuade most front offices from considering such trade.
I will only try to provide salary-related opinions.
I'll attempt to divide the Spurs' contracts into good and bad deals.
Good large deals: Parker, Ginobili.
Bad large deals: Jackson
Good medium deals: Splitter, Bonner.
Bad medium deals: none
Good small deals: Leonard, Mills (player option), Neal (team option), Blair.
Bad small deals: Cory Joseph
Parker and Ginobili are getting paid less than most stars and pretty much every team would be more than happy to trade for either. Their contracts are big, but not big enough that matching salaries poses a real problem.
The Spurs have only one overpaid player with a large deal, and that is Jackson. Cap'n Jack revived his career in San Antonio, which makes the $10 million he'll make next season less ridiculous, but he's still overpaid. The bad news is, Jack has made it clear that he doesn't want to play for non-contending teams, so that shrinks the market for him. The good news is that the deal is expiring so there should at least be a market for his contract.
The Spurs have done a fantastic job of sidestepping one of the more common mistakes front offices make: overpaying for mediocre talent. Bonner and Splitter are rotation bigs on affordable contracts. They won't be the centerpiece of any deal, but the inclusion of Bonner won't likely be a deal breaker for the other team and the inclusion of Splitter would be a good pot-sweetener.
The Spurs also have some players on smaller contracts that produce incredibly well for what they are paid. Those contracts are too small to be anything other than fillers, but could come in handy come draft time to get in the first round if the Spurs decide to do so. These guys are proven players on short term contracts, so a number of teams might be interested in the lower half of the draft. The only one of those players who probably won't be sought after is Cory Joesph.
So now you have the information you need. What do you think the Spurs should do this off-season?