With training camp beginning in just under two weeks, the Spurs will finally get a chance to look at the new, young roster, but they aren’t done making moves just yet. With the roster still sitting at 17 guaranteed contracts, they still must make some more moves to get that number down to 15 by October 20, which leads to the question:
Who do you think will be the last cuts to get to the roster to 15? Or do you see a trade coming?
Marilyn Dubinski: The signing of Keita Bates-Diop to guaranteed contract instead of two-way was a surprise and makes this a bit more complicated since they’re back to 17 contracts. For a while Drew Eubanks seemed like a possible candidate to be waived since his contract was non-guaranteed before August 20 (although it seems like the Spurs would have done it already if they didn’t see something in him), and Al-Farouq Aminu is another considering he’s the least likely to have a role with the team going forward, and his salary won’t be on the Spurs salary cap after this season.
The KBD signing does make it feel like a trade might be coming together, otherwise why sign him and then face possibly having to waive two players? Thaddeus Young is getting a lot of interest from contenders. Maybe he and Aminu end up being another package deal, or another two-Spurs-for-one-player deal comes together, leaving them only having to waive one player. Or maybe KBD was signed to be trade fodder. Time will tell.
Bruno Passos: The low-hanging fruit here are Eubanks and Aminu, the former because of his low salary and bigs are more expendable these days, the latter because he feels like the odd man out of the wing rotation. You can quibble with cutting either, though. Releasing Eubanks would leave the Spurs weirdly thin at center until Zach Collins is healthy (I’m not sure anyone knows when that may be) and reliant on newly signed Aussie Jock Landale. Aminu and his $10 million remaining could be waived and stretched, a move PATFO have proven not to be shy about making, but it would seem to be wasteful given he could still be a valuable contributor at one of the game’s most important positions. While I think they’re doing their best to make a consolidation move (for Ben Simmons or otherwise), my guess is some team takes Aminu into their cap space or trade exception for a future second rounder, and Eubanks is cut.
Mark Barrington: Judging by who’s on the roster now, it would be Aminu, but I don’t think the Spurs have made all of their player moves yet. If they are able to trade Thaddeus Young, then they’ll likely get a player in return, and then the final cut would still be ... Aminu. Drew Eubanks could be cut, but with all of the improvements we’ve been seeing to his game, I still think he’s got a spot as an energy guy off the bench.
Jesus Gomez: The Keita Bates-Diop signing suggests the Spurs are probably not planning on having Aminu and potentially Thaddeus Young around by the time the season starts. Right now they have four power forwards on the roster in the three aforementioned players plus Luka Samanic, and have to account for either Doug McDermott or Keldon Johnson getting minutes at the spot in small lineups. That’s too many players for not enough playing time.
My guess is they are trying to trade Aminu but will buy him out at some point if there are no offers, and are open to flippíng Young for a draft pick and someone they can just waive. Releasing Eubanks and keeping Young for now as a small center — a role he played in Chicago next to Lauri Markkanen — could also make some sense and would be my preferred plan, but if someone offers assets for Young, I would not blame the Spurs for moving him.
The Spurs are deep at most positions. If you had to guess, what’s the biggest name that won’t start the season in the rotation?
Dubinski: I would like to hope the Spurs young guard has done enough to keep Bryn Forbes out of the main rotation, but he still provides shooting that few others on the roster do. I think it will come down to two of the Spurs recent draft picks: Tre Jones and Luka Samanic. Jones has at least earned a chance, but can he take advantage and beat out the Spurs’ deep group of guards? And the pressure is on for Luka to prove himself this season or face the possibility of the Spurs not picking up the 4th year of his rookie contract. (Honorable Mention goes to Jock Landale, who should be good enough to beat out Eubanks for backup center, but you never know with Pop and “rookies”.)
Passos: I’m going to assume Primo starts things out with Austin and Collins is in street clothes, which, also assuming Eubanks and Aminu aren’t on the roster next month, puts them at the max of 13 active players. In terms of the biggest name that’s left (and not longest, which would probably be Bates-Diop), I’ll say Samanic, if only because I think Young (assuming, again, that he’s not traded) makes more sense off the bench than alongside Poeltl and I’m not sure where he slots in.
Barrington: Zach Collins is injured, and Primo and Wieskamp are rookies, so they really aren’t in this competition. My guess is (and I really, really, really hope I’m wrong) is that Luka Samanic isn’t going to make the leap that everybody seems to expect from him, and he’ll continue to be a fringe player. Prove me wrong, Luka!
Gomez: It all depends on how they trim the roster. If Young is gone, Samanic will get minutes. If there’s a logjam at power forward, he probably won’t. I’m really interested in what happens with Devin Vassell and Lonnie Walker IV, too, if all these power forwards push Johnson to small forward. In that situation, with White and Murray likely to get close to 30 minutes a night each, taking up some shooting guard minutes, there might not be a lot of playing time left for at least one of the young wings if the Spurs also play a backup point guard. Hopefully Vassell and Lonnie will push Bryn Forbes and Tre Jones out of the rotation, but it will be interesting to see how Pop tries to get everyone minutes.