This is the first installment of a series, called Should He Stay or Should He Go, in which I will look at the Spurs' free agents and decide whether I think they should be re-signed or not. Of course, we are starting out with Manu.
The amount of Manu hate going on right now is at an all time high. And it should be! Ginobili had an overall terrible final series and an uneven playoffs and regular season. It's understandable to be angry at Manu and say he was not even close to the player he once was or even the player the Spurs needed this season. But we are not here to discuss the past but the future. Should the Spurs look to re-sign Manu? Abso-freaking-lutely.
Why should a player be re-signed?
First let's set some parameters as to why should anyone be re-signed. You obviously re-sign someone because they can play but also because you can't find a better or equal but cheaper replacement. And you don't re-sign them even if they can play because there is no role they can fill for your team or their market worth outweighs their contributions. Let's see how that applies to Manu.
There are not a lot of Manus out there
Contrary to other sports, replacing someone's production in basketball is extremely hard. You can bring someone that scores like Manu but that guy might not assist like him. A guy might defend better but might struggle handling the ball. Or maybe he is a low usage player. You see where I'm going here. Replacing someone's production is not easy.
But let's try anyway. We need to find someone that can do all Manu does. So this are the parameters I used. We are looking for someone that plays less than 30 minutes per game (to allow the Spurs to give plenty of playing time to Leonard and Green), scores more than ten points a game, get's more than four assists and pulls down at least three boards. Click here for the results.
Of those other three guys Jack seems like a suitable replacement, since he is available and has accepted the sixth.man role. He's a little too small, though, so the Spurs would need to find another wing. And he probably wants a big pay check or a bigger role than he had with the Warriors, otherwise, why leave? But we can pencil him in.
If we lower the standards by two points, an assist and a board we still get a lot of combo guards and out of the ones that are likely available, Jack still seems like the best bet. Here are the results.
So it looks like having a guard/forward that can score a bit and also rebound and especially assist is much harder than expected. But if Pop was confident that either De Colo or Joseph can emerge as a creative and prolific assist man that can hit a three, then the search is made easier. We just need to find a scorer that shoots the three well and often enough to be a threat while rebounding similarly to Manu. Who do we have?
Andre Iguodala sure would look nice on the Silver and Black but he is probably too rich for the Spurs' blood. Afflalo is available but matching salaries could be a pain considering the Magic are probably looking at good young players or assets like high first round picks that the Spurs just don't have. Other than those two, I don't see anyone available I'd rather have than Manu.
Look, all I'm trying to say here is Ginobili is not that easy to replace. Finding someone that can do a number of things well is much harder than finding a one trick pony. And despite making mistakes on defense, Ginobili still does a lot of things well enough to be an above average player.
Couldn't this be a case of addition by subtraction?
For it to be a case of addition by subtraction we need to be either discussing a terrible, terrible player or a situations where a better player is being blocked by the presence of the first guy. This is not the first instance, no matter how mad you are at Manu right now. Like I mentioned, by pretty much every metric Manu is an above average player so the Spurs would need another one of those to either join the team or be on the team already to justify cutting him lose.
Some of you mentioned that he was playing so poorly in some games that no one, not even McGrady could have done worse. In terms of individual stats, that's true. Neal would have never finished a game with eight turnovers, for example. But he also wouldn't have moved the ball and created for others like Manu does. If the Spurs already had or could get their hands on an elite scorer or an elite creator, you live with the lack of versatility. But they don't have either waiting in the wings and will have a hard time finding them in free agency for cheap. That means Ginobili, who can do a little of both, is still the best option for the Spurs.
So let's say the Spurs want him back. What about role and money?
Let's start with minute allocation. Unlike the previous year, Manu won't play summer basketball this season so he should be well rested when he returns. But keeping his minutes low seems to be the way to go.
Fortunately, the Spurs can do that and still compete. The emergence of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard makes the Spurs the perfect destination for a player that can still make an impact but can't play heavy minutes. There are 96 minutes on the wing and we can pencil Green and Leonard for at the very least 60 of those. That leaves 36. Neal (if re-signed) or De Colo can man the SG spot for a few minutes or ideally the Spurs will add another small forward. So it wouldn't be hard to give Manu both enough rest and enough minutes. And since the other two guys are cheap, re-signing Manu doesn't mean the Spurs are spending excessive resources on wing play.
As for his role within the offense, Manu should not be both the primary scorer and shot creator on a unit anymore. But again, the Spurs have the players to avoid that. Playing with another guard that can set him up, be it Parker or whoever Pop decides is the back up point guard, could help a great deal, as it would allow him to play off the ball. And if his outside shot is still inconsistent, the other wings can help soften the blow. Leonard will likely (hopefully) see his role get bigger within the offense and Green has emerged as a threat coming off screens. That means that one way or the other, the burden should be eased on Manu.
How about money? My opinion here is it doesn't really matter unless Manu wants it to matter. Ginobili never made a fuss about his extension and cited last year's situation with Tim Duncan as an example of why he was at ease with the subject. Unless he is out of touch with reality, Manu surely knows he won't get what Tim got. He probably also knows that taking a smaller salary would help the Spurs add someone else for a final push.
I can't say I'm privy to Manu's thinking but I'm not expecting money to be a big issue here unless the Spurs severely low ball him and I seriously doubt that happens. If you want a number, my prediction is a two year, $10 million dollar contract with the second year being a player option.
Bring back Manu. The cheaper you can get him, the better. But even if he costs what a player getting the full MLE would, lock him up short term. His skill set simply makes too much sense with the roster as currently constructed to let him go, unless the Spurs really feel they can get one of the big time free agents there, which is doubtful.
Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference