The NBA draft lottery is done, and the Spurs have the 9th, 20th, 25th, and 38th picks. Who knows whether they make all those picks, but it’s still worth taking a look at where the Spurs stand in terms of salary cap heading into the free agency period.
When reading through the numbers below, keep in mind that the NBA has projected the salary cap for the 2022-2023 season to be $122 million with the luxury tax line set at $149 million.
Fully Guaranteed Salaries
The Spurs have eight players with fully guaranteed contracts for the 2022-2023 season, with their combined salary totaling just over $70 million.
It should be noted that both Keldon Johnson and Romeo Langford are extension eligible this offseason. While those potential extensions will not have any direct impact on the Spurs’ salary in the upcoming season, it could impact how much long-term salary the Spurs are willing to offer to other players in free agency.
Partially or Non-Guaranteed Salaries
Zach Collins is the only player with a partially guaranteed contract. With the combination of the flashes he showed coming off a major injury, the potential to have a full offseason to get into better game shape, and the fact that half of his salary is guaranteed for next season, Collins seems like a safe bet to have his salary fully guaranteed.
Tre Jones did an admirable job in the backup point guard role once given the opportunity. It’s fair to critique his floor spacing on offense, but his gritty defense, ability to get to the rim, and incredible assist-to-turnover ratio make him the most likely to have his salary guaranteed for next season.
The decisions on Keita Bates-Diop and Jock Landale could go either way. While they both had their moments last season, neither of them are anything beyond depth pieces at this point in their respective careers. That might be enough to retain them for one more season, but it will depend heavily on how the draft goes and who the Spurs are able to sign in free agency.
Keeping Collins and Jones, as I’m predicting, would bring the Spurs’ salary up to roughly $79 million with ten players under contract. Keeping all four of these players would bring the Spurs’ salary up to $82.5 million with 12 players under contract.
Additional cap figures
Beyond the player salaries already discussed, there are other factors that will affect the Spurs’ salary for the upcoming season.
Roster Cap Holds
|Roster Cap Holds
|Roster Cap Holds
|Lonnie Walker IV
|D.J. Stewart Jr.
|Robert Woodard II
Most of these cap holds will be inconsequential in terms of the Spurs’ plans this summer. Joe Wieskamp is a candidate for a two-way contract. Two-way contracts do not count against the Spurs’ salary in terms of salary cap calculations. The Spurs may simply renounce their rights to Devontae Cacok, D.J. Stewart Jr., and Robert Woodard II, thus removing their cap holds from the Spurs’ overall salary.
The only major decision from this group of players is Lonnie Walker IV. His cap hold of over $13 million should be higher than his expected salary for next season, so he will likely be one of the first decisions made by the Spurs’ front office. They will either renounce their rights to him, making him an unrestricted free agent or they will re-sign him so that his new contract is used in salary cap calculations. The Spurs could also wait to see what kind of offer sheet another team gives him, though if that gets drawn out too long it could potentially impact the Spurs’ ability to sign additional free agents. If the Spurs end up drafting somebody like Bennedict Mathurin or AJ Griffin with the 9th pick, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that they are moving on from Walker. My prediction is that the Spurs will let him walk in free agency. The Spurs still have a glut of guards on the roster and have the ability to add more during the draft and free agency.
Draft Pick Cap Holds
|Roster Cap Holds
|Roster Cap Holds
|Round 1, Pick 9
|Round 1, Pick 20
|Round 1, Pick 25
As previously mentioned, the Spurs currently own the 9th, 20th, and 25th picks in the 2022 NBA draft. They also own the 38th pick, but second round picks do not have cap holds. I do not expect the Spurs to make three first round picks in this draft, but if they do, the Spurs will need to add just over $10 million to their overall salary. Depending on what the Spurs do with their partially or non-guaranteed contracts, that could put the Spurs overall salary somewhere between $90-93 million with 13-15 players under contract.
Incomplete roster charges
If the number of players under contract plus the number of cap holds the Spurs currently have is under 12, then for each spot under 12 they are required to add a rookie minimum salary to their overall salary as an “incomplete roster charge.” This amount is projected to be $1,004,149 next season. Once the Spurs’ roster goes at or above 12, these roster charges are removed from their overall salary. Given the Spurs’ relatively full roster, I don’t expect this to come into play this summer.
My expectation is that the Spurs will have the eight players on guaranteed contracts, Zach Collins, Tre Jones, and two first round draft picks on the roster heading into free agency. This would leave the Spurs with 12 players under contract and close to $87 million in salary, depending on whether or not the Spurs end up standing pat, moving up, or moving down in the draft. This number also assumes that the Spurs renounce the rights to their non-taxpayer mid-level and bi-annual exceptions. With the salary cap projected to be $122 million, that would leave the Spurs with around $35 million in cap space. They would also have access to the room exception if they use up all their available cap space, which will be worth around $5.3 million and can be used to go over the salary cap to sign players.
The Spurs may certainly look to trade Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott, or even Jakob Poeltl in an attempt to move up in the draft or to acquire future draft assets, but those types of moves are extremely hard to predict and are outside the scope of this article.
With the Spurs being one of the few teams with the ability to generate a lot of cap space this summer, I expect them to go after a couple of the big-named free agents. If they strike out on them, don’t be surprised to see the Spurs shift towards signing players to one-year contracts or agreeing to take on other teams’ bad contracts for future draft assets.