The draft has come and gone. Now the most exciting part of the NBA offseason is set to start. Free agency is almost here, and unlike most years, the Spurs could be one of the major players in the market.
San Antonio could carve out some serious cap space, which would allow the front office to make all sorts of transactions. Things could get hectic soon, so here’s everything you need to know about where the Spurs stand heading into free agency, to help you keep up.
Spurs roster and cap space
The first question in everyone’s mind is how much cap space the Spurs will actually have. While there are some factors at play that could change things, here’s a basic cap breakdown:
Guaranteed or likely to be guaranteed contracts
*Assuming all rookies are signed to their rookie scale number and not to the 120% of the scale number, which is the maximum allowed.
**Assuming the Spurs keep Jones, which seems like a safe bet.
After signing the rookies and provided they keep Tre Jones, the Spurs will have 13 players under contract for around $88 million. The cap is set at $122 million. San Antonio could have around $34 million in cap space, which would be enough to sign a player with up to six years of service to a max contract. They should also be able to carve out enough room to offer a player with between seven and nine years of service a max salary starting at around $37 million by making a minor trade. Creating enough space to offer a 10+ year veteran a max starting at around $43 million, however, could be hard to do. Fortunately, in the state of the rebuild San Antonio is in, targeting older stars wouldn’t make sense anyway.
Spurs’ own free agents
Missing from that list above are a few players that could still be in the Spurs’ plans, some more notable than others. All of them would have to be renounced for the Spurs to maximize their cap space.
Joe Wieskamp will be a restricted free agent if the Spurs offer him a qualifying offer, but retaining him won’t likely be a priority. The same goes for Keita Bates-Diop and Jock Landale, who are in non-guaranteed contracts. Some of those guys might return, if the Spurs don’t make a big free agency splash, but they would quickly be renounced if the team needs all the room that it can get.
The big name to watch is Lonnie Walker IV. The Spurs can make Walker a restricted free agent by tendering a qualifying offer. If they do, they’ll be able to match any offer sheet Walker signs and retain him. They will have to do it before June 30, so we will know what they decided soon enough. Even if they don’t tender the QO, which would make Walker an unrestricted free agent, his cap hold worth over $13 million will still count against the cap unless they renounce him.
The good news is that the Spurs could test the waters before having to make a decision on Lonnie. Qualifying offers can be rescinded unilaterally by the team unless they are accepted, and it’s hard to imagine Walker immediately opting to do so, considering it would be worth around $6 million for just one year. Surely he will try to get more than that in the market. The Spurs can also wait until they figure out how they will use their cap space before renouncing the rights to Walker, so there is no huge rush.
There are three players who could command the max that made the most sense for the Spurs, considering their timeline, but two might be staying with their current teams. The Hornets are apparently determined to keep Miles Bridges, and it seems likely that Zach LaVine will re-sign with the Bulls. That leaves only Dandre Ayton as a potential max contract target, but it’s unclear how interested San Antonio is in the big man.
Ayton, a 23-year-old center who has already been to the Finals with the Suns, will be a restricted free agent. Rumors suggest Phoenix might not be willing to offer him the full max, so trying to pry him away could be worth a shot. He has shown the ability to be a valuable offensive player who can take up space inside on defense. His lack of range extending to beyond the arc and his limited ability to defend in space are the biggest concerns on the court, but he has undeniable talent. Off the court, there have been some rumors about his focus, but the biggest potential red flag revolves around a reported clash with coach Monty Williams during Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals.
Other expensive but talented young players that could be targets are guards Jalen Brunson (unrestricted) and Collin Sexton (restricted). Neither would make sense on a big contract if Dejounte Murray stays in San Antonio, but with reports that the Spurs are listening to offers regarding their All-Star point guard, both could be interesting replacements if a deal goes through. Brunson, 25, is two years older than Sexton but also more accomplished after helping the Mavericks make a deep run in the playoffs. Sexton is a more prolific scorer who averaged over 24 points in 2020/21 before missing most of last season with injury. If toughness and experience entice San Antonio, Brunson would be the right pick. If potential and go-to scoring is what the front office wants, Sexton would be the better option.
Beyond those three, there are players who might not be as exciting but could help plug holes or provide depth. If the Spurs want youth and athleticism at center, Nic Claxton, Mo Bamba and Mitchell Robinson could be good options option. If for some reason they want more guard depth, Donte DiVincenzo and Anfernee Simons could provide it. All of those young players will likely be restricted free agents.
If instead the Spurs want veterans to round out the roster, there will be plenty of unrestricted free agents available at every position.
Here’s a list of all the free agents from this class.
Right now there are not a lot of rumors involving the Spurs, except for the one about the talks with the Hawks and their interest in Dejounte Murray. We’ve already covered why nothing seems imminent, but things could change.
We’ll keep you updated if things progress or other credible rumors crop up.
The next few days could be key to determining what direction the Spurs pick going forward. They have cap space to make a big splash to improve their current core, and there are some interesting names available.
At the same time, they already have a lot of players under contract and they might decide to take a longer view in their rebuild. If that’s the case, there might some big moves coming, likely involving the veterans.
Whatever path they choose, it’s good to know they will have options.