The biggest (and most anticipated) move the Spurs made yesterday was signing Derrick White to a four-year, $73 million contract extension, but that’s not the only business they took care of. Along with tying up one player they clearly want for the long haul at a good price, they extended the rookie contracts of another trio of players who they also hope will be a part of the new-look Spurs of the future.
By exercising the fourth-year team option on Lonnie Walker IV and third-year options on Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic, tying them up through at least the 2021-22 season, the Spurs have ensured they will still have the entire young roster they have sought to build in recent years intact next season.
With veterans DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills coming off the books next summer, the Spurs should still have around $50 million in cap space next offseason. Some of that could potentially be used on an extension for Walker after this season, who would otherwise become a restricted free agent in 2022. Assuming the Spurs exercise Johnson and Samanic’s options again, the same would be true in 2023 for them.
Here is more from the the Spurs:
Walker IV is entering his third year with the Spurs after appearing in 61 games last season and averaging 6.4 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 16.2 minutes. He started the last seven contests of the year and made a three-pointer in each game after earlier in the season becoming the youngest player in Spurs history to score at least 25 points off the bench when he had 28 points vs. Houston on Dec. 3, 2019. Walker IV has appeared in a total of 78 games since being selected by the Spurs in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft (18th overall).
Johnson begins his sophomore season after appearing in 17 games for San Antonio last year and averaging 9.1 points and 3.4 rebounds in 17.7 minutes. The Kentucky alum played in all eight games during the NBA Restart in Orlando and ranked sixth among rookies in scoring, averaging 14.1 points after recording multiple 20-point outings. Johnson also played 31 games for the Austin Spurs and averaged 20.3 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists after being selected by San Antonio in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft (29th overall).
Samanic enters his second season with San Antonio following his rookie year when he averaged 5.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 16.0 minutes over three contests, including the final game of the season when he posted 16 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 3 assists in his first career start. He also appeared in 33 games with the Austin Spurs, averaging 15.2 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists. Samanic became the fourth player born in Croatia ever to be drafted when he was selected by the Spurs in the first round of the 2019 NBA Draft (19th overall).
I know this new Houston transplant has been making fun of the Rockets broadcasters just a little, but they said something ahead of the first matchup that I hadn’t thought about: the Spurs currently have eight players on their roster that they drafted in the last five drafts (including two-way player Quinndary Weatherspoon). That is practically unheard of, and with these four plus Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl, and potential rookie sensation Devin Vassell in tow, it shows the Spurs really believe in the players they have drafted and their ability to develop them. The Youth Movement is truly on.