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Overanalyzing the Spurs’ final cut before the start of the season

We have to do something while we wait for opening night.

NBA: Preseason-New Orleans Pelicans at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Just as the season was about to start, the Spurs finalized their opening night roster by waiving Joe Wieskamp. We now know which 17 players will wear Silver and Black this year, at least for a while.

The last-minute waives teams make at this time of the year are rarely important, if we are being honest, and this case is not an exception, but there are some interesting tidbits to talk about while we wait for the season to get underway.

The Spurs “wasted” $2 million on Wieskamp

Waiving Wieskamp is not a shocking move at all, since the former second-rounder never really found a place in the rotation in his two years in San Antonio. What was surprising was that he was signed to a two-year deal back in August, with the first year fully guaranteed.

Wieskamp was a restricted free agent, which means the Spurs tendered a qualifying offer to retain rights of first refusal on his next contract. That qualifying offer would have been roughly $2 million, so instead of just having him opt into it, it seems like the front office offered a two-year deal with the second year fully unguaranteed. It made sense since they were essentially retaining Wieskamp for the same money for 2022/23 while also making sure they would keep him for cheap in case of a breakout year for the shooter. But was it reasonable to even attempt to keep Wieskamp? Not tendering the qualifying offer originally and simply bringing in a camp body on an Exhibit 10 contract — maybe even Wieskamp himself, since it’s unlikely he would have gotten a guaranteed deal elsewhere — would have gotten the Spurs the exact same opening night roster while saving them some money.

Now, the Spurs are still below the salary floor, so no matter what they have to spend at least $111 million, and they still have a lot of room below the salary cap, so this is not a big deal at all. Maybe they thought having someone who has been through two training camps would be valuable amid so much roster turnover or they really believed Wieskamp could beat someone else for a spot. Or maybe they were anticipating trading one of the veteran wing shooters and wanted more depth in case that happened. Who knows. It’s just curious that they operated in this way, but congratulations to Wieskamp for getting paid.

The Spurs now have a lot (too many?) power forwards

The battle for the final roster spot is largely understood to have been between Wieskamp and Romeo Langford, but there was another player that could have easily gotten waived without anyone batting an eye. Keita Bates-Diop was on a non-guaranteed deal, is older than both Langford and Wieskamp, and plays a position that is suddenly crowded.

Jeremy Sochan is set to start at power forward, which means Keldon Johnson will move to his more natural spot at small forward. Behind Sochan, however, the Spurs have Isaiah Roby and Doug McDermott to give them minutes, as well as Johnson himself when the team goes small, plus two other forwards on two-way deals. The chances that Bates-Diop gets significant playing time seem small, and it could be argued that if he does, something went really wrong. KBD will be 27 in January and doesn’t seem to have a lot of untapped potential. The goal this season seems to be to go young with just a few veterans with trade value, and Bates-Diop doesn’t fit either description. If he was a great shooter who could offer an alternative look to Sochan while providing more size and defense than McDermott, it would all make sense, but KBD is a 30 percent outside shooter on low attempts and Roby seems to be a better option for that role.

There are a lot of possible answers as to why the Spurs decided to keep Bates-Diop that are perfectly satisfying. He seems to be a good locker room guy who just works and is always ready, and maybe the coaching staff is not sold on Roby as the main backup. It’s possible KBD really impressed during training camp. We are talking about the 15th man on the roster, so none of this matters too much in general anyway. But the fact that KBD seemed to have a spot secured despite playing a position that is as crowded as the wing right now seems interesting and might suggest that a true switch to more traditional lineups after a few years of small-ball is coming, so that’s something to keep in mind.