Manu Ginobili has accomplished a lot over his long and storied basketball career, but he's set for a new milestone in 2016-17.
For the first time ever, he's going to be overpaid.
"Now hold on there, hot-take guy," you're saying. "You obviously haven't been keeping up with the NBA's rising salary cap and economic structure. How can you call a future Hall-of-Famer and supposedly your favorite player overpaid when he'll still be making less than people like Timofey Mozgov and Kent Bazemore, while dudes like Chandler Parsons and Harrison Barnes are getting the max?"
Easy. A hundred wrongs don't make a right. Relative to his expected production as a 39-year-old, 65-game, 20-minute reserve, Ginobili's going to be making too much scratch.
I don't begrudge him the money, though. Not in the slightest. The way I see it, it's back-pay for taking less than he was worth for the lion's share of his career. He made "only" $2.8 million last season, which was obscenely low for his market value, and was necessary for the Spurs to have cap room to sign LaMarcus Aldridge. Tim Duncan made similar sacrifices. So really, we could look this as a two-year, $16.8 million contract, which would be totally fair.
The interesting part of this whole thing is that Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical is reporting that the Spurs initially offered Ginobili "around three million," which I'm assuming is the "Room Exception" of $2.9 million, and that a monster offer by the Philadelphia 76ers, believed to be in the two-year, $30 million range, forced the Spurs to up their bid considerably, costing them the ability to match restricted free agent Boban Marjanovic's offer sheet from the Detroit Pistons.
It makes for a sexier narrative to pit Ginobili as the selfish villain here, depriving Spurs fans of Boban-a-palooza, but I don't necessarily think it's fair, but I'll get to that in a second.
First, it makes absolute sense for the Sixers to make that offer. What have they got to lose, besides another 60 games? Their roster is woefully lacking in veteran leadership, Ginobili obviously has a relationship with coach Brett Brown, the two of them having worked together for years, and Philly doesn't really have anybody making much money. Their highest paid guys next season, according to Spotrac, will be Gerald Henderson and Jerryd Bayless, both of whom will be making a little over $8 million. Every team has to reach to the salary floor of $84.7 million regardless, and currently the Sixers are about $17 million shy of that. Why not bring in someone like Ginobili as an example to all the kids on the roster of how to work and be a pro on and off the floor?
That said, I'm taking an educated guess here that both sides --meaning Ginobili and the Spurs-- were quite aware that he was never going to accept an offer from the Sixers, or anyone else. His agent, Herb Rudoy, told the San Antonio Express-News that there was no point in even trying to test the market, essentially, that his client had made it plain that the Spurs were the only option.
"He was committed to coming back (to the Spurs)," Herb Rudoy said. "Those were my marching orders."
So what compelled R.C. Buford to make the face-saving counter-offer to keep Ginobili in the fold rather than holding firm and calling his bluff? After all, the Argentine has stated, repeatedly, that the Spurs will be the only NBA team he plays for.
I think "family business," more than anything. As mentioned above, Ginobili was certainly due some back pay. But more than that, he was still a franchise cornerstone willing to come back for another season. It might have been too much of a culture shock for both the organization and the fans to lose both Duncan and Ginobili in a single off-season. It might have caused too much of a leadership strain on Kawhi Leonard or even on Gregg Popovich himself. At least now, Ginobili can still take some of that burden from them.
Also, it's worth noting that Ginobili took less last year so that the team could add a star in Aldridge. It is my fervent belief --but let's be clear, I'm just speculating-- that he would have done it again for someone like Kevin Durant or perhaps even Mike Conley. But with all due respect, Marjanovic, a solid big-man, is no Durant or Conley. It's not really fair or appropriate to expect Ginobili to swallow another below-market contract just to keep Boban around, when there's no guarantee he'll even develop into a difference-making player.
The way the team's cap room was structured, once it was apparent that Pau Gasol was on their radar and they had the parameters of what it would take to acquire him --including having to trade away Boris Diaw-- the choices were either Marjanovic, with Ginobili taking the Room Exception, or giving Ginobili a market-value deal and signing Dewayne Dedmon with the Room Exception. There was no way to get all three of them, so either way, the team was going to be a big-man short (pun intended).
Sure, theoretically they could've asked Ginobili to take less, but why should he? Why not ask Gasol to take less in that scenario, or Marjanovic? It doesn't make any sense for any of the parties involved. No, technically Ginobili didn't have the franchise over a barrel, but it wouldn't have been horrible for him to point out the barrel in the room.
Or how about this hypothetical for you? What if Gasol made clear that he'd only sign with the Spurs if they could assure him that Ginobili would be around for at least a year? That's a possibility, no?
In the end, we're left with just these facts.
- Ginobili will be slightly overpaid next season, but who cares, it was a 1-year deal and they used his "Bird" rights to go over the cap to re-sign him. They could've given him a 1-year max and it wouldn't make a tangible difference.
- It'd be swell if Dedmon plays as well for the Spurs as Marjanovic does for the Pistons. It's likely he'll be a defensive improvement.
- They still need to sign another big for the veteran's minimum, which would've been the case even if they could've kept Marjanovic instead of signing Dedmon.
- Manu Ginobili will be a Spur for at least one more season, and that's awesome.