During our "Should he stay or should he go?" chats about Spurs free agents J. Gomez occasionally challenges me to come up with potential replacements the Spurs should look at for the guys I would cast off into the wilderness. I usually beg off or come up with some witty way to change the subject when he does this because to me the NBA outside of the Spurs is like global warming. I know it exists and that a lot of people care passionately about it, but it makes me sad and I'd prefer not to think about it.
Yet Gregg Popovich has claimed that the Spurs roster will look different, perhaps dramatically so if a couple of legends decide to hang 'em up. So I'm coming up with a list of 20 free agents, four from each position, that are realistic bets to enter the market. Some of them wouldn't even necessarily be upgrades from what the Spurs have now, but the premise we're operating under is that the Spurs are losing all of their guys except for Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. Adjust your personal hypothetical scenarios accordingly. All salary info comes to us courtesy of HoopsHype.com.
The Point Guards
Cory Joseph is only a restricted free agent, but the guess here is the Spurs will renounce him because his cap hold is over $5 million. If he can't get an offer from anyone, they can simply bring him back for a 1-year deal at just north of $3 million, but I'm sure he'll have suitors. Patty Mills is on the books and he's probably not going anywhere, but the Spurs could always flip him to save money elsewhere. Regardless, he's not really a backup point guard and the Spurs will need to find a backup for Tony Parker, either in free agency or through the draft.
Goran Dragic, a longtime fascination of mine, is the top point guard of the free agent class, but he's likely to re-sign with the Heat. He'd be an interesting guy for the Spurs to go after as a combo guard to replace Danny Green, but one of the main reasons he left Phoenix was because he didn't want to share a backcourt with another point guard. The other guy whom I like is Patrick Beverley, who has the kind of temperament and competitiveness Pop loves, but I doubt he's leaving the Rockets and he'd balk at a backup role anyway.
These four make more sense:
Last team: Pacers
2014-15 Salary: $2,077,000
Has been very solid for the Pacers the past two years, with career-bests in Win Shares, WS/48 and PER last season. A career .383 three-point shooter who shot 40 percent on the nose last year and averaged 14.4 points and 5.3 assists per-36 minutes. Watson isn't much of a penetrator, but he has been a fill-in starter throughout his career, including 21 games last year, and the Spurs wouldn't lose much with him if Parker is dinged (especially if it's last year's version). The Pacers will be keen on keeping him, but David West and Rodney Stuckey are higher priorities.
Last team: Pelicans
2014-15 Salary: $2,150,188
Cole is the rare mid-20's veteran with deep playoff and championship experience, which you figure would interest PATFO. Cole's defensive reputation is pretty much the opposite of his numbers, which have him as a minus in his own end, but he did a credible job against Stephen Curry in the opening round of the playoffs last month. He shot a career-high 44.4 percent and 37.8 from three last year. He's not much of a distributor, either. Basically, he's a poor man's version of Joseph, though he's more well-known, thanks to his haircut and the fact that he played next to LeBron James for four years.
Last team: Blazers
2014-15 Salary: $2,100,000
Blake's a good defender and someone PATFO wouldn't have to worry about fitting in from a teammate and culture standpoint, and he'd make sense for a short-term deal. Pop has always valued Kobe Bryant's opinion and Bryant described Blake as a "psycho competitor." Blake also changed his uniform number from 25 to 5 midway through last season when Jerome Kersey passed away, feeling it wouldn't be proper for any Blazer to wear his number just then. It was a classy gesture that probably didn't go unnoticed in San Antonio, where Kersey won a ring in 1999. He had a down season last year in Portland, but he's a career .385 shooter from downtown and a rugged defender in short spurts.
Last team: 76ers
2014-15 Salary: $1,838,615
He's already been a part of eight different NBA teams in five years and hasn't logged more than 70 games for any of them. He can't shoot. Like, at all. His career percentages are .307 from 10-16 feet, .302 from 16-22 feet and .256 from downtown, according to basketball-reference.com. He's also undersized and a poor defender. What Smith can do though is get to the cup and pass. He averaged 16.0 points and 8.1 assists per-36 minutes in his recent stint for the Sixers, and those aren't numbers to scoff at considering how poor the cast around him was. By all accounts one of the speediest players in the league, Smith can be a decent drive and kick guy, though opponents will play far off of him. As a third point guard, you can do worse.