Lost in the chaos created by the Dejounte Murray trade was an interesting piece of news. Hours before the deadline to do so, the Spurs tendered qualifying offers to Lonnie Walker IV and Joe Weiskamp, making them restricted free agents.
To understand why the Spurs did that despite not likely having either young wing in their future plans it’s necessary to know what restricted free agency is. It essentially allows the team that holds the rights to a player the right of first refusal, which means the ability to match any offer sheet that player signs. Getting that power involves very little commitment, as the offer tendered is only for one year and can be rescinded unilaterally at any time before July 13. Essentially the Spurs get the chance to retain Walker and Wieskamp if they decide to do so while still maintaining all the cap flexibility they already had..
In all likelihood, both players will ply their trade elsewhere next season. Being restricted doesn’t change that. The Spurs have traditionally tendered qualifying offers to everyone, including players they didn’t intend to retain. Jonathon Simmons, Cory Joseph, Kyle Anderson and Boban Marjanovic were all restricted free agents, and the front office either rescinded the offer to let them find a new home or simply didn’t match the offer sheets they got. The Silver and Black tends to keep its options open, but they normally make up their mind about whether someone will return before restricted free agency hits.
The Murray trade makes a return from either player even more unlikely. There was a case to be made for continuity if the Spurs decided to try to build on the moderate success they had last season, but it’s now clear that’s not the direction the team is going. Heading into a full rebuild, it makes no sense to bring back someone like Wieskamp, who has a very limited ceiling and might not be a viable NBA player. Walker remains intriguing because of the glimpses of brilliance he’s showed as a scorer, but he never developed the consistency needed to warrant a long-term commitment. The Spurs also loaded up on shot creators with potential on draft day, which makes Lonnie even more expendable.
We’ll know soon enough what the ultimate decision on either player will be, as free agency begins as 5 p.m. CST on June 30.