Joe Wieskamp will return to the Spurs. The sweet-shooting forward, who was a restricted free agent, agreed to a two-year, $4.4 million deal. It’s a reasonable contract for a young player with the potential to become a special floor-spacer, but it’s a little surprising that he got it, because the Spurs essentially had a full roster already.
The Spurs have 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts. They also have Tre Jones, who had $500,000 of his total $1.7 million deal already guaranteed, and Keita Bates-Diop on a fully non-guaranteed deal. Before the Wieskamp signing, they also added Alize Johnson, who is likely on a partially guaranteed deal. That means that now there are currently 17 players on non two-way or Exhibit 10 contracts on the roster, which is over the 15-man limit that is allowed during the regular season.
Now, it’s important to point out that during the offseason, teams can carry up to 20 players, so the Spurs are not breaking any rules and have plenty of time to make up their mind about who they want to keep. But eventually, someone will have to be waived, and it might be familiar faces. So let’s take a look at the roster as currently constructed and try to figure out what these signings mean.
The Spurs are going big
With Wieskamp back and the addition of Alize Johnson, San Antonio has nine players who are forwards or centers and only eight guards on the roster. Even if two forwards end up being waived, the team should have a lot of balance in terms of positions and size, especially considering that both two-way players that were signed are forwards as well. In recent years the joke has been that the Spurs were too enamored by guards, but that has clearly changed.
Is it an undeniably good thing that they have a bunch of forwards now? Not necessarily, since the goal should be to add as many high-ceiling players as possible regardless of position. But considering the team drafted three guards in the first round in the last two years, it’s good to see the front office making room for them without having to force them to play up a position.
Tre Jones is probably safe, KBD is probably gone
Every time a team has more than the maximum allowed of players on their roster, the guys on non-guaranteed contracts face some uncertainty. Tre Jones has already earned $500,000 but the Spurs could simply decide they want to part ways and can do it until the day before the start of the regular season when the rest of his deal becomes guaranteed. That seems unlikely to happen, though. Not only has Jones shown enough to warrant a spot, but since the team has so many forwards on the roster, shedding a couple won’t hurt, but losing one of the only proven guards would.
Speaking of forwards, the most likely first cut seems Bates-Diop, because of his contract situation. We don’t know the details of Johnson’s one-year deal, but if only a small fraction is guaranteed, the Spurs could just waive him as well, minimizing the amount of dead money on their books. That said, it’s entirely possible that San Antonio decides to waive someone with a fully guaranteed deal in order to keep someone else as they did with Luka Samanic years ago. Could the front office decide to waive, for example, Romeo Langford, who barely played and is on an expiring deal in order to keep someone who wows them in training camp? We can’t fully rule it out, going by how they acted in the recent past.
Making room for Wieskamp might be tough, unless...
Wieskamp's return is a little surprising because the roster is pretty full, but also because the Spurs have plenty of depth at his position. Doug McDermott, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, Josh Richardson, and Romeo Langford can all play small forward in different lineup configurations. So does two-way player Jordan Hall. It’s possible the Spurs simply brought Wieskamp back to continue to develop him in the G League, but at some point they need to let him show his worth at the highest level, and with the amount of competition he will have for minutes, that could prove hard to do next season.
Unless there’s a trade, of course. McDermott and Richardson are veterans that could help contenders, so they are the two names to watch. The Spurs should be in no hurry to move either right now, but it could simply make sense to trade one or both and go with an extremely young wing rotation in which Wieskamp and Langford get significant minutes behind the starters. It would be a shaky second unit with questionable depth if those two get significant playing time, but with San Antonio rebuilding, it wouldn’t really matter that much.
It will be interesting to see how the Spurs keep shaping their roster going into next season. There might be big moves coming, but even if all we get is more of these small signings, it will still be fun to speculate about who will be suiting up on opening night, and who will continue their career elsewhere once the inevitable cuts begin.