Written by Benjamin Bornstein
The San Antonio Spurs are like the kid in class who you know is going to screw your grade, because he’s going to set the curve, and he’s going to set it higher than you’d like. They went out and didn’t make any splashy moves, they got back all the guys who helped them win their fifth championship, and they did on pretty good contracts for both parties involved. I’ll start by giving the Spurs an “A” and they may get even better as I talk myself (and hopefully you) into how good their (re)signings were this offseason.
We’ll start with a guy many people consider to be a surprisingly good player in Boris Diaw. If you saw him play in Phoenix at all, you knew he could do this, he just had to have the right motivation. Well, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich recognized the greatness within him, when the Spurs signed Diaw after he was released by the Charlotte Bobcats (at the time) and rewarded him for his efforts with a 4-year, $30 million deal, with a team option in the last two years. Best of all, Diaw enjoyed signing the contract more than anyone else. That’s a great deal for a guy who fits so perfectly within the Spurs’ system and can play three or four different positions if needed. He doesn’t depend on athleticism (insert fat joke here), so getting up into his 30’s isn’t really a concern, and his game won’t deteriorate until he’s much older.
The fire spark off the bench, Patty Mills, got a re-up on his deal, and made a good chunk of change for a point guard many see to be a perennial backup. He inked a 3-year, $12 million deal that a lot of people see as a discount, and they would be right. However, the Spurs got the discount because of the news that Mills would be out for seven months with a rotator cuff injury (that he had been playing with all year by the way). The Spurs still keep finding ways to pay guys a decent amount of money without insulting them, and staying under the luxury tax all at the same time.
Everyone forgets about him until he gets into the game, but the “Red Mamba” (Matt Bonner) also re-signed with the team. He came back for one year at the veteran’s minimum because he knows better than to ask for more money than he’s worth. But since we’re talking about him, I’ll leave you with an awesome video about how Bonner is actually a secret super athlete.
Of course the Spurs also took part in the draft and had the last pick of the first round. They picked up Kyle Anderson out of UCLA, because he really was a steal at that spot. He was a 6’9” guy playing point guard for them and has a versatile and interesting skill set that clearly attracts Popovich and his staff. How can you not love this kid? He’s tall, maybe not one of the faster guys out there, but he can be a nice “microwave” type of guy for a second unit, and will certainly learn how to play better defense under Popovich.
There was one more signing player-wise and that was Bryce Cotton. He went undrafted and the Spurs gave him a two year unguaranteed contract (for now), so they are covered if he doesn’t pan out, but could look super smart if he does. He is a little small at 6’1”, but could be another high scorer for a second unit and will surely learn how to use his stature to his advantage with Tony Parker as a mentor.
Now we get to possibly the most underrated signing of the offseason and that involves a coach. Ettore Messina, formerly of CSKA Moscow among other teams, agreed to get on the bench with Popovich and could eventually become his successor. And speaking of success, he’s had plenty of it wherever he’s gone, and so it’s just another winning formula for both parties as the Spurs get a fantastic mind on the pine, and Messina is basically guaranteed a head coaching spot at some point, somewhere. Just ask Mike Budenholzer, Brett Brown, Steve Kerr, Monty Williams, or Jacque Vaughn. There are plenty more guys who went on to become general managers and take up other positions, but I think you get my point.
I’ve done it. I covered all the offseason moves for the Spurs despite them not landing Pau Gasol or anyone with their mid-level exception. They have managed to “squirm” their way into an “A+” from me. This doesn’t even include Tim Duncan opting in for his final year of his contract (and probably career), because that wasn’t so much the Spurs’ doing, as it was Timmy’s decision. So there you have it, the best grade you can get for an offseason of tumult from others, is just another one where the Spurs shore up their roster and keep on keeping on.
(Salary figures via BasketballInsiders.com)