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Spurs free agent options for remaining roster spaces
With the San Antonio Spurs reaching verbal agreements from unrestricted free agents Patty Mills and Boris Diaw, and with the team expected to sign rookie Kyle Anderson soon, the Spurs roster will stand at 13 players under contract.
By PAUL GARCIA
With the 13 players on the roster, the Spurs have at maximum two guaranteed roster spaces available. With the Spurs key free agents on the way to being re-signed, its time to take a look at some of the possible options the Spurs could explore, if they choose to fill roster spaces 14 and 15.
First, heres a look at the current depth chart once Mills, Diaw, and Anderson all sign. Remember not to focus on default labels like shooting guard, because in the Spurs system, most players can play multiple positions in different lineups.
|Point Guards||Shooting Guards||Small Forwards||Power Forwards||Centers|
|Tony Parker||Danny Green||Kawhi Leonard||Tim Duncan||Tiago Splitter|
|Cory Joseph||Manu Ginobili||Kyle Anderson||Boris Diaw||Jeff Ayres|
|Patty Mills (injured)||Marco Belinelli||Austin Daye|
When looking at what the Spurs might possibly need depth-wise, its likely a backup point guard (because Mills isnt expected to recover anywhere from January until March 2015), and possibly a backup small forward behind Leonard, in the event Anderson spends numerous stints in Austin with the Toros, or he has a shaky rookie year.
So now that weve covered what areas the Spurs might look at addressing, lets take a look at who could fill spots 14 and 15 on the roster.
The Spurs remaining free agents
Financial Situation: Even though the Spurs will sign Mills to a reported 3-year deal worth $12 million, and Diaw to a reported 3-year deal worth $22.5 million, because the team had cap holds on its own free agents, the CBA allows the team to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents. Like Diaw and Mills situation, the same can be said for both Bonner and Baynes. The Spurs will be allowed to sign each or both over the salary cap, so long as the deals are at reasonable figures.
Matt Bonner: If the Spurs and Bonner agreed to a veteran minimum deal, Bonner would earn $1,448,490 at minimum, though a potential contact could also be worth more than the veteran minimum. Bonner, 34, is still a quality piece to have on the roster for either matchup versatility (as displayed in the 2014 Western Conference Finals), or as a veteran piece who can be called upon in the event one of the Spurs big men is injured, or is resting.
One interesting note regarding Bonner in free agency, is that during Ginobilis recent press conference in Argentina, he had this interesting quote, The team (Spurs) will be the same, just need to renew Diaw and Bonner. Now this could just be what Ginobili thinks the Spurs need to do in the offseason, or maybe its a hint that the Spurs do intend to bring Bonner back. Only the future will tell what the quote by Ginobili really meant.
Aron Baynes: The Spurs have already tendered a $1,115,243 qualifying offer to Baynes since hes a restricted free agent, meaning if a team signs him to an offer sheet, the Spurs would have three days to match the offer. If the Spurs chose to match the offer, they would retain Baynes. However, if they decided to not match the offer or pull the qualifying offer, Baynes would be able to sign with another team. Baynes is a serviceable big who can be used for spot-minutes, very much like Ayres, but he hasnt displayed a specific skill set that would allow him to be a key rotation piece.
In wrapping up this scenario, the Spurs can go over the cap to re-sign all of their free agents, including Baynes and Bonner, to reasonable contracts, but in doing so, all 15 roster spaces will be guaranteed, and there wouldnt be any room for another addition.
The reported free agent candidates
Financial situation: When it comes to outside free agents like the ones that have already been reported, the Spurs mainly have the Full Mid-Level Exception worth $5,305,000 to use on free agents on the market right now. The team also has access to its Bi-Annual Exception worth $2,077,000, but would likely not use the exception so the team can stay below the tax line. Another resource is the trade-exception worth $1,463,000 from trading Nando De Colo for Daye last season, but the team would only have access to this exception if a sign-and-trade scenario was being put together.
Though there may be other free agents the Spurs have spoken with outside of the public, Im just going to focus on the reported names and discuss each option from most current, to last heard from on the free agent market.
Pau Gasol: As of Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote that the Spurs are still trying to pursue Gasol with the full mid-level exception. So in many ways, at the moment Gasol is a tentative priority for San Antonio, as far as outside free agents go, until he makes his decision.
Kent Bazemore: Bazemore is a shooting guard-small forward who could earn backup minutes behind Leonard, but hes being pursued by numerous teams. Bazemore is scheduled to meet with the Atlanta Hawks on Monday, Spurs on Tuesday, and Boston Celtics on Wednesday. The initial reports on Bazemore had him seeking a role where he could have a consistent role with consistent playing time.
Marvin Williams: Williams is an interesting case. He has the skill set and ability to either play the small forward or power forward position, but other contenders like the Miami Heat (who reportedly spoke with Williams) are also looking to sign him.
Caron Butler: The latest on Butler is that hes waiting on the decisions by LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade, before deciding which contender he would like to join. The Spurs were one of the contenders mentioned that had interest in Butler.
Josh McRoberts: As is the case with Rashard Lewis, the Spurs likely wont be pursuing McRoberts now that Diaw has been re-signed. To even sign a player like McRoberts, a majority or all of the MLE would likely need to be used.
Troy Daniels: Like Baynes for the Spurs, Daniels is also a restricted free agent for the Houston Rockets, with a qualifying offer of $1,016,482. If the Spurs tried to sign Daniels, the Rockets would have the option of matching the offer in three days to retain Daniels. If the Spurs are looking for another guard with an outside shooting skill set to play behind Parker and Joseph until Mills recovers, then this would be the most likely option why going after Daniels would be a consideration.
Rashard Lewis: The only report of the Spurs interest in Lewis came on the opening day of free agency, and since Diaw will be re-signed, one has to wonder if the Spurs still have interest in a player with the skill set of Lewis. If the Spurs bring back Bonner, then thatll likely be a clear sign the team doesnt have any interest in Lewis, since he and Bonner have a very similar skill set.
Overall, it seems like the Spurs will wait to see what Gasol decides, before looking at the other options in free agency. Theres a chance the Spurs could split the MLE, to sign two free agents, but that would mean both Baynes and Bonner wouldnt be re-signed.
The Summer League/Training Camp pool
Financial Situation: Like the free agent route, the Spurs could use a portion of the MLE to sign a player from the Summer League/Training camp pool.
Bryce Cotton: Thus far, the only player who is at least guaranteed a shot reportedly at a two-year deal is undrafted Providence point guard Bryce Cotton. The deal states that Cotton must make the roster after training camp, in order for his two-year deal to become guaranteed.
Spurs past draft picks: Whether its a player like Deshaun Thomas or Marcus Denmon, whom the Spurs hold their draft rights, in the scenario either shines in Summer League, then gets an invite to training camp, and then earns a roster spot, this would be another route the Spurs could go as far as filling a roster space.
Other Summer Leaguers/Camp invites: Since Gary Neal, there hasnt been a strong case where a Summer League player makes his way all the way to a roster spot with San Antonio. However, theres still a chance this could happen, so it must be proposed as an option.
If the Spurs do see someone that impresses them like Neal did years ago, then theres a chance Player X could also join the team, however if the Spurs do bring back one or both of Baynes and Bonner and have already signed a free agent, then there wouldnt be a roster space available.
The International route
Financial Situation: One other route the Spurs could use, is to bring in one of their draft-and-stash players from overseas. Outside of Davis Bertans from Latvia, most, if not all of the Spurs past draft picks stashed overseas are currently under contract with a team. If the Spurs were considering buying out one of their players under contract overseas, to bring that player on the team, the NBA would only allow the team to spend $600,000 on the players buy-out without it affecting team salary.
Davis Bertans: Bertans recently ended his contract with Partizan Belgrade, so technically he could be offered a contract and roster spot, however the expectation is hell seek another deal overseas. According to FIBA.com, hes expected to miss training with the Latvian National team to come workout individually in the United States.
So it is possible for the Spurs to bring over one of their international prospects, however the chances seem quite slim at the moment because most of the players San Antonio holds the draft rights to are currently under contract, outside of Bertans.
The Leave-a-spot-open approach
This is an approach the Spurs used last season, and it came in handy, especially in the times when the team dealt with multiple injuries. From players like Shannon Brown, Damion James, and Malcolm Thomas, the Spurs were able to use 10-day deals with D-League or unsigned free agents whenever the option was necessary. In this scenario, the Spurs would either sign just Baynes or Bonner, or just sign one free agent, and let Baynes and Bonner walk.
As free agents will be able to sign contracts after July 9, its probably best for the Spurs that their biggest obstacle in the offseason is trying to find players 14 and 15 for the roster. Theres a chance if player 14 or 15 is a player with the caliber of a Pau Gasol or Marvin Williams, that that player could be added to the rotation and be a key piece for next season. However, theres also a chance player 14 or 15 could also be a young developing piece that may have frequent visits with the Toros, or a piece that could just sit in a suit on most nights of the season. Either way, the Spurs have been able to do what they intended this offseason, bring their championship core back intact.
(Financial figures via the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement and BasketballInsiders.com)