The NBA season is almost over. The Warriors and Raptors are battling it out for the title in a series that could crown Golden State as one of the most accomplished dynasties in league’s history or give one of its newest franchises its first title. It could also have big repercussions in free agency, as both Kevin Durant and our old friend Kawhi Leonard are expected to explore free agency.
Fortunately for Spurs fans who are having some trouble getting excited to see those two particular teams play, the offseason is close enough to allow us to start focusing on the ways San Antonio can improve this summer. From establishing the stars as outside threats and figuring out whether to bring Rudy Gay back, to potentially making a deal with the Rockets (who are reportedly willing to move anyone for the right price), the Spurs will fortunately have options in that regard.
Pounding the Rock contributors Marilyn Dubinski, Mark Barrington, Bruno Passos and Jesus Gomez join Editor-in-Chief J.R. Wilco to discuss all that and more in this week’s edition of our staff roundtable, In The Bonus. Feel free to share your answers in the comments.
Who are you rooting for in the Finals?
Marilyn Dubinski: This is tough. Can I say neither? I just don’t like the Warriors (although the hatred has slightly softened since it peaked in 2017), and the better the Raptors do, the more emboldened lyin’ Uncle Dennis becomes about trash talking the Spurs to the too-easily-convinced media. If I had to find pros in either team winning, it’s that the Warriors winning at this point is an easy pill to swallow, and a championship is the Raptors’ best chance at keeping Leonard as rumors continue to swirl that he’s most likely headed to the Clippers. Even though him remaining a Raptor would cement the Spurs as “losers” in this trade (at least for now), I’d still prefer he stay East and only face him twice, so I guess my answer is Toronto (although it will be less painful seeing the Warriors hoist that trophy).
Mark Barrington: I think the Raptors won me over with their gutty play in the conference finals. Whatever happened with Kawhi Leonard last year, there’s no denying that he’s a transcendent basketball player, and he played even better under the pressure of leading his team to the finals, while Giannis seemed to be unable to rise to the occasion. Of course, Leonard has been in this situation before, and the Eastern Finals proved that experience matters. I don’t think I’ll ever know what happened between the Spurs and Mr. Leonard’s family last year, but I have decided to let my grudges go and just enjoy watching the best basketball player in this year’s finals, Kawhi Leonard.
Bruno Passos: The Raptors would be the more interesting story, by far, and it’ll mean much more to Toronto’s fanbase than the one that’s grown used to winning and weary of one of its own players, in Kevin Durant. In the long view as a Spurs fan, I’m also rooting for the result that gets Durant sick of being in Golden State and keeps Leonard in Toronto, which I think might happen if the series goes 7 regardless of who wins.
Jesus Gomez: I have to go with the Raptors. It’s impossible for me to root for a team as stacked as the Warriors. If Toronto somehow pulls off the upset we’ll probably have to read some misguided articles about Kawhi, but I’d take that over watching Golden State winning it all again.
J.R. Wilco: At this point, I'm so tired of Golden State that I’m unabashedly (although tepidly) pulling for the Raptors, and explaining to my kids my reasoning behind it. Bottom line, not even being jilted by Dennis and The Nephew is enough to overshadow my roiling distaste for the defending champs. I’d still feel as if Spurs fans had limited their losses as long as Toronto wins and Kawhi goes home as he said he wanted to. As long as we don’t have to stomach another Warriors trophy presentation, I’ll cheer for Danny Green and endure all the rest.
Should the Spurs re-sign Rudy Gay if he asks for a multi-year deal?
Dubinski: As long as he doesn’t ask for a crippling amount. It’s a fine line to walk because the odds are decent that someone offers him more than the Spurs are comfortable with (which I would say is $15 million max), and if those offers come from teams that represent better chances at winning, they run the risk of losing him. The Spurs should do what they can to keep him since they likely won’t sign anyone better, but only if it’s within reason.
Barrington: Depends on the cost, of course. Something like 12 million/year and 2 or 3 years would be great for the Spurs, but probably less than he could get on the open market. If the Spurs get locked into something like $17M for multiple years, it would mess with their future flexibility and they’d regret it. But he’s been great for the team and I hope they find a way to keep him in San Antonio.
Passos: I think so. He’s been a major difference-maker in games, seems to be loved as a teammate, and his game should age well — especially if we’re to buy into his recent svelte Instagram post. As long as they don’t go overboard on years or overall money, keeping him and adding another good player with the MLE should make this team pretty interesting next season.
Gomez: I won’t be mad if they do, but I think they probably shouldn’t. Gay has been fantastic and deserves one last big contract, but I’m not sure it makes sense for the Spurs to be the ones offering it. They won’t be a contender, so why hold on to a pricey veteran instead of maintaining flexibility? I think they can still likely make the playoffs with a replacement that gives them 70 percent of what Rudy produces on the court. I will say, however, that it’s entirely possible that I’m underappreciating his impact off the court. If the coaching staff sees him as a culture-setter, then that’s another story.
Wilco: The Spurs’ future is inextricably tied up with their young guys, which means that finding out who can do what is the overwhelming priority over the next couple seasons. I know that PATFO treasures continuity, but the last thing San Antonio needs is another long-term loyalty contract that takes robs the front office of the flexibility to make deals for talent to fill in the gaps around Murray, White and Walker.
The Rockets are reportedly willing to trade any of their players. Is there anyone on their roster other than James Harden that you’d like the Spurs to go after?
Dubinski: It wouldn’t necessarily be a trade since he’s a free agent, but Danuel House could help fill the void at small forward. PJ Tucker is also on an affordable deal and would be the 3-D wing the Spurs currently need while also being able to play both forward positions. He would definitely be a nice addition if the Spurs fail to re-sign Gay.
Barrington: Capela, Tucker, Eric Gordon, Kenneth Faried and maybe Danuel House. They have lots of valuable players that could fill a role on the Spurs, depending on the price. DO NOT WANT: Chris Paul—overpaid and past his prime, Nene—same reason, but not to the same degree.
Passos: Probably not for the Rockets would want in return but, in theory, sure. I’ve always liked Gordon and PJ Tucker is on a bargain deal — two years and $16 million left — but they were both vital to what Houston has been and won’t come cheap. Also, here’s a fun fact: the Rockets could stretch and waive Chris Paul and still have to pay him $17.7 million per year through 2026.
Gomez: Not really. They have some really good players but they would likely want one of White or Murray in return in any trade. Guys like Capela and Gordon would be great additions, but I wouldn’t give up one of the young guards for them.
Wilco: No team with a front office worth it’s salt is going to surrender value without receiving value in return, and there’s no one I want enough to give up DW, DJ or LW for.
LaMarcus Aldridge started taking more threes after the All-Star break and Pop mentioned that DeMar DeRozan will likely attempt more next season. Which of the two is likelier to become a league average shooter from outside next year?
Dubinski: Aldridge, just because he’s already so much closer to being there. He has also proven to be a little more versatile and adaptable to change, while DeRozan tends to get bogged back down in his ways when the going gets tough. That being said, if anyone can help him it’s the Spurs.
Barrington: Aldridge. If DeMar hasn’t to learned to shoot threes at this point in his career after nine years as a pro, I just don’t think he can. Prove me wrong, Chip Engelland, please!
Passos: Aldridge, and I don’t think it’s particularly close. I’ll be writing something on it in the next few weeks.
Gomez: Aldridge. He was already on his way to reaching that goal back in his last year in Portland, when he shot 35 percent — a shade under last year’s league average — on 1.5 attempts a game. If he gets the green light I think he can approach that efficacy again, especially on the type of open looks he’ll likely get. I’m not sure DeRozan can make that type of leap.
Wilco: If DeRozan hits threes at a higher rate than Aldridge next season, Chip Engelland needs a statue immediately.
Are there any other sports you are watching during the offseason? Is there another team that you are as passionate about as the Spurs?
Dubinski: I’ll be watching the FIFA Women’s World Cup, but other than that I’m simply waiting for August and college football to roll around. If there is one team that can match my passion for the Spurs, it’s the Texas A&M Aggies, both football and basketball.
Barrington: I grew up as a Dallas Cowboys fan, but I’ve kind of lost interest in pro football lately. The fact that many players ended up with severe head injuries and the league covered it up for years makes it hard for me to enjoy watching young men beating the crap out of each other for three and a half hours at a time once a week, and occasionally have to be carried off on a stretcher. I used to be a big bicycle racing fan, but Lance Armstrong ruined that for me. I can’t wait for the Olympics next year, where I can watch a bunch of crazy sports that you only see once every four years.
Passos: Nope. I’m using the offseason as a chance to get out and play basketball regularly for the first time in 7 years, so keep an eye out for a small ball 5 embarrassing himself at various parks in the greater San Antonio area. Outside of the Spurs, I intermittently follow and despair over my alma mater, North Carolina, who have a pretty fun recruit coming in next season in Cole Anthony (son of Greg Anthony), so I’ll probably be watching them a bit more come the fall.
Gomez: My beloved San Lorenzo of the Argentine soccer league is mercifully done playing for a while and Copa America hasn’t started yet, so I got League Pass for the WNBA to keep me entertained. It’s great value at just $16.99 and so far, the level of play has been impressive. Go Fever!
Wilco: My Houston Astros, who I’ve been cheering for since 1974, are getting all of my non-NBA, summertime, sports fan love — and they’re earning every bit of it.