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Talking Spurs Draft and Free Agency

Livio Jean-CharlesNote: Quixem Ramirez and I completed this email thread during the NBA Draft, specifically following the selection of Livio Jean-Charles

Trevor Zickgraf: Alright, the San Antonio Spurs draft Livio Jean-Charles from France. What was your first reaction to this pick, Q?

Quixem Ramirez: Full disclosure: I knew next to nothing about Livio Jean-Charles prior to his selection. Does that make me a bad Spurs fan? (Maybe? Kinda? Actually don't answer that.) But after reading some stuff from much smarter basketball people, including some of your own analysis, I'm not terribly angry with this pick. Jean-Charles's per-game averages overseas (3.3 points, 2.7 rebounds) don't incite much excitement but he did crush the Team USA junior select team to the tune of 27 points and 13 rebounds. He's also reasonably athletic, and a refined jumper could make him an interesting stretch forward in the NBA. Yet Jean-Charles didn't conduct a single workout with a NBA team, which may have hurt his draft stock. But Draft Express — a site I trust much more than my own analysis — has him pegged as the 37th best prospect. The dude's only 19, too. What do you say, Trevor?

TZ: Well, I'll admit I was disappointed they didn't grab a wing like Jamaal Franklin or Allan Crabbe, but this wasn't surprising at all.  Having said that, I think he gives the Spurs what they need, which is a guy who can back up both forward spots.  How his handles and shot develop will determine which position he primarily plays.  I think he didn't work out with any teams because he looked so good at the Hoop Summit he didn't want to leave teams with any other image in their heads but that performance. Or the Spurs told him to shut it down given their connection to him through Tony Parker.  I hope he turns in to Darrell Arthur 2.0, but definitely going to reserve judgment on him.  Was there any type of player you wanted them to draft?

QR: Well, I was looking at either Reggie Bullock (nabbed by the Clippers three picks earlier), because he can shoot 3's and defend opposing small forwards competently. Allen Crabbe fits the same mold. I also thought shot creators like Jamaal Franklin and Erick Green represented cost-effective options in the event that the Spurs lose Gary Neal this offseason or just need another body that can facilitate points for himself. There aren't many of these guys available and because A) the Spurs are severely bereft of these guys already and B) Manu Ginobili can't sustain his typical excellence (if a small sample size is to be believed, that is), it would've been nice to snag a guy like this. The Spurs reportedly promised Green prior to the draft, but he slid to the 46th pick instead. (Doh.) And had Denver passed on 7'2" center Rudy Gobert, a fellow Frenchman, maybe the Spurs go that route. There's a lot of ways to  a draft and I didn't feel comfortable pegging one guy as the only solution. Basketball is a dynamic sport by its nature, a complex calculus equation really, and so solutions were abound. Jean-Charles? I guess he could work. Maybe not, though. There's good news, though: the 28th pick is an inherently low-risk pick (28.8 percent of these guys don't even sniff the NBA according to Basketball Reference) that it may not even matter anyway.

TZ: I think the fact that all those guys were either available or nearly available speaks to the depth of this draft. Few stars, so many potential role players. Bullock seems like such a Danny Green clone it's not even funny.  Crabbe reminds me of Allan Houston. No telling if he'd be that good, but that's what he looks like to me. I'm fine with them not getting Gobert. The size is there, but something about him made me weary.  Can't quite put my finger on it.  Anyways, one thing the Livio drafting does mean is that the Spurs save about $900,000 in cap space.  Do you think they're planning something big?  I know $900,000 isn't a lot, but every little bit helps.  Is there anyone you want them to pursue?

QR: You read my mind completely. The Spurs are also presumably shaving $893,500 off their salary ledger next season, according to San Antonio Express-News beat writer Jeff McDonald, if Jean-Charles begins the year overseas. So, that obviously means one thing. San Antonio is making a legitimate run at Dwight Howard! 

Just kidding. But every dime saved is invaluable. San Antonio could potentially garner boatloads of cap space this summer if they play their cards right — Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter's cap holds put a temporary damper in these possibilities, of course. Plus, the extra roster spot they don't have to dedicate to a draft pick might, and this is a seriously speculative maybe, lead to guys like David West, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Carl Landry and restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic. Low-end guys like Andray Blatche and Brendan Wright are possibilities, too. A draft and stash isn't exciting, but the Spurs are already damn good as currently constructed. I'll stomach the pick.
 
TZ: If Boris opted in and they bring back Tiago, is getting another wing more important then another big?  I'm a fan of both Andre Iguodala and J.J. Redick, and while Iggy may cost a pretty penny, I think he's worth it for his ball handling skills, defense and ability to finish at the rim.  Redick will be more affordable, is a better shooter and also a good ball handler.  He could start or come off the bench.

 

I also really like Chase Budinger as a back up small forward. He's restricted, but I'm not sure the T-Wolves are going to spend too much money to keep him.  I love the idea of Brandan Wright, maybe some Earl Clark action.  Al-Farouq Aminu is an option too. Martell Webster is another wing I like.  Ideally, give me Iguodala and Budinger or Wright and I'd consider this offseason a massive success.  That's also pretty pie in the sky on my part.  Thoughts on my crazy ideas?

QR: Definitely. I was operating under the assumption that Tiago Splitter would not be re-signed, but there is no way of knowing his market value. Or the likelihood the Spurs bring him back. He could go for as few as six million but his size and proficiency in the pick-and-roll also may make him worth a much larger deal. Splitter was genuinely terrible in the Finals, but the Spurs were excellent defensively when he and Tim Duncan shared the floor together during the regular season. Splitter deserves a bunch of credit for making that pairing work. You can't dismiss him because of a poor stretch of basketball.

Say they bring Splitter back? Then a wing player makes much more sense. Andre Iguodala is a long shot — a really appealing long shot — and I'm not sure if any team would ever score with him, Duncan and Kawhi Leonard sharing the floor. (Imagine the defensive efficiency. /drools/) J.J. Redick will be a valuable rotation piece since he can shoot and occasionally chip in points on timely dribble drives. Not a bad option. I'm with you on Brandan Wright, too — he's long, not especially gifted offensively, but he can protect the rim and run the floor well. I don't think he'll go for a ridiculous amount either. I know it's kinda dumb to get excited about free agency … But I can't help it. San Antonio was five seconds away from their fifth title, and perhaps a few additions could prolong their championship window. A healthy Oklahoma City is a formidable opponent, if not the downright favorites in the Western Conference, so we'll see how the Spurs respond.
 
TZ: I still think that if a team is willing to give Omer Asik $8 million a year, even if it was under odd circumstances, someone's going to give Splitter the same. And really, $8 million a year for a starting center on an NBA Finals team isn't terrible.  Anything higher gets a little dicey.  I don't think you should feel dumb about getting excited about free agency.  Outside of winning a title, I don't think there's a more exciting time for a fan base than coming close to winning and having the cap space to make big improvements on a team.  Even if we're talking turning Gary Neal into Redick. That's a massive upgrade to me.  I'm not going to get my hopes up about names like Iggy and Josh Smith. It's nice to know those options are there though.  Free agency negotiations start July 1!
 
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