With the start of the NBA’s free agency on July 1st, the rumor mill has been in complete overdrive since the clock struck midnight on the east coast. And even with the lack of roster space and cap room, the San Antonio Spurs have been no exception to the madness.
The Spurs haven’t achieved their level of constant success by making major roster changes or toying with their core, but San Antonio’s front office always does their due diligence with free agents. We already know Tim Duncan, Austin Daye and now Patrick Mills will be back for the 2014-15 NBA season, but now the question remains, does Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford fill the last few roster spots with familiar faces or does he bring in new blood?
Looking at this from a position by position basis, the list of guards the Spurs have interest in is long. Shaun Livingston can be crossed off the list, as it’s been reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein that the 6’7″ point guard will join the Golden State Warriors on a 3-year/$16 million dollar deal. We can also forget about the 29-year-old Sebastian Telfair, as he’s reportedly reached a deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the veteran’s minimum. That leaves us with Troy Daniels, Kent Bazemore and Bryce Cotton.
Cotton reportedly has a deal in place with the Spurs, according to a report from RealGM, but the deal is only guaranteed if he makes the roster after training camp. Barring a Gary Neal-esque showing in Summer League, Cotton will just be a ‘Las Vegas Summer League’ roster filler.
In the case of Daniels, (If you’re asking who that is, you might remember him from this) he’s another guard that can shoot absolute lights out from beyond the arch. Daniels only appeared in five contests last season, but shot a blistering 48% on three’s on 25 attempts. Daniels also broke records at VCU with his sharpshooting ability, setting a VCU and Atlantic 10 record with 11 three pointers made in one game, and also made a VCU record 124 three pointers in a single season.
Bazemore is an interesting prospect. The 6’5″ shooting guard has bounced around between the D-League and NBA, primarily coming off the bench for the Golden State Warriors, and most recently with the Lakers. Bazemore’s best attribute is also his biggest knock; He’s good at practically everything, but not exactly great at any one particular aspect. Bazemore dribbles well with both hands, which helps him take advantage of his defender by going right or left. His defense is slightly more questionable, but with his nearly 7-foot wingspan, opponents don’t exactly blow by him.
With the Spurs keeping tabs on these different guards, it’s obvious Buford’s erring on the side of caution in regards to Mills’ torn rotator cuff. Though Mills has been reported to be out until at least March, the Spurs need someone to fill in the void off the bench offensively until his return. And it’s hard to imagine Cory Joseph being part of San Antonio’s contingency plan.
On the other side, with Mills back in the fold, maybe the Spurs can find a way to survive without the Aussie from within the organization, while focusing on getting Kawhi Leonard a backup. Or have the Spurs found a replacement for Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw?
After being an absolute thorn in San Antonio’s side in the NBA Finals, why wouldn’t the Spurs be interested in bringing Rashard Lewis aboard? Though he’s not the player he once was, at 34 years old, Lewis can still be effective when called upon. The 6’10” power forward averaged 8.6 points against the Spurs in 23 minutes, while shooting 46% from beyond the arch in the 2014 NBA Finals
In addition to Lewis, another “stretch-four” the Spurs have reportedly contacted in free agency is Josh McRoberts. The 6’10” power forward averaged 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists for Charlotte last season. McBob’s versatility is one of the reasons why he’s one of my personal favorites. His ability to play inside the paint and/or shoot the occasional three pointer would be vital to the Spurs in the scenario where they lose Diaw, or would be an upgrade if they lost Bonner. Either way, keep an eye out for him in the future. McRoberts is another person in a long line of players that fit the Spurs mold.
Lastly, but not least, we have Caron Butler and Pau Gasol. Two players who the Spurs have had interest in for quite some time, but might not be able to snag in free agency.
At 33 years old, Gasol may not be an elite power forward anymore, but he’s still an All-Star talent who nearly averaged a double-double last season on an abysmal Lakers team last season. Adding Gasol isn’t a question of does he make the Spurs better. It is, is he willing to take a significant pay decrease to play in a great situation like San Antonio? The soon to be 34-year-old is reportedly asking for $10-12 million a season after averaging 17.4 points and 9.7 rebounds over 60 regular season games where he averaged 31 minutes a game.
Add the Spurs infatuation with Butler as things that have lasted longer than Kim Kardashian’s marriage to Kris Humphries. Is that joke still funny? Anyway, the 34-year-old Butler, as you know, most recently played for the Oklahoma City Thunder after spurning the Spurs in the buyout market back in March. Butler averaged 9.7 points and shot 44% from three in 22 games for the Thunder, but saw his numbers and minutes slightly decline during Oklahoma City’s playoff run. There’s no reported dollar amount attached to Butler’s free agent status, but we do know that no decision will be made until on his behalf, until Miami’s “Big Three” make their choices, as Butler has an interest in rejoining the Miami Heat.
Though Gasol could be seen as a replacement for Diaw, adding Gasol would be more of an embarrassment of riches for the Spurs. Great roster and cap management by Buford is the only reason why San Antonio is in a position to add the Spaniard. In the case of Butler, not only does San Antonio get a savvy veteran who they’ve long coveted to play small forward, but it gives Leonard a true backup at small forward, that the Spurs filled with a patchwork combination of Danny Green, Marco Belinelli, Diaw and Manu Ginobili last season.