Roster turnover is commonplace in today’s sports world.
The San Antonio Spurs are not an exception, but R.C. Buford’s ability to retain a majority of his roster has allowed for continuity, to be a major attributing factor to the Spurs’ success.
San Antonio’s ability to perform as a team allows a large cast of players to share the spotlight and receive their respective share of praise. But “thank you’s” and “NBA Inside Stuff” special features don’t pay the bills. Money is the deciding factor on where a player signs about 90% of the time. Okay, I made that statistic up, but it’s not a new concept. Money will more times than not, influence a player’s decision to re-sign or sign elsewhere.
Of course you have your exceptions to the rule…your Duncan’s, Ginobili’s and LeBron’s, that will sacrifice the almighty dollar for the flexibility of adding a more impactful player to their roster, to maximize their overall talent and chance of winning.
The superstars may be willing to sacrifice their bank account for the good of the team, but what about the role players? Nothing is guaranteed with or to those players, so it’s rare to see them sacrifice a little less to stay with a contending organization.
Looking at the Spurs salary cap situation next season, San Antonio has roughly $43 million committed in guaranteed salary for next year (that’s assuming Tony Parker doesn’t get waived before June 30th, which R.C. Buford would have to be clinically insane to do). That leaves Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, Patty Mills, Austin Daye and Aron Baynes in a potential free agency limbo. Let’s go through each player’s options on a case-by-case basis.
#21 Tim Duncan
The Big Fundamental has all but opted into his contract for next season, which will pay him exactly $10 million. For the third time in his career, Duncan didn’t crack the 30 minutes per game mark, while still averaging 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. $10 million for that kind of production is an absolute bargain.
Verdict: He says that as long as he’s healthy and can feel like he can contribute, he’ll play. If he can still do this, then he’s alright.
#23 Austin Daye
The 25-year-old forward found himself a new home in San Antonio, after a last minute deadline deal swapped him for guard Nando De Colo. The 6’11 forward only appeared in 14 games, but made the most out of his eight minutes per game, averaging 4.1 points and shooting 41% from three. Unless one of the many foreign assets the Spurs have overseas becomes available, (example: DeShaun Thomas), Daye could see himself returning as another stretch-four in the fold. At 25, his development is slightly limited, but he could forge himself into a more athletic Matt Bonner-esque role.
Verdict: He’s only due a hair over $1 million next season. He stays.
#15 Matt Bonner
Bonner’s in a peculiar situation. He’s developed a nice pump fake and dribble drive late in his career, and showed that he can still be productive when called upon. But, his minutes have steadily declined each of the past four seasons, and at 34, you wonder if the “Red Mamba’s” career is at a crossroads. Could coaching be in his future? Matt is a brilliant basketball mind, with an absolute cult following among Spurs fans. But at nearly $4 million a season, he could be an expendable piece in order to re-sign Mills and/or Diaw.
Verdict: I hope Adidas can make Bonner some “Crazy 8’s” in any colorway. After eight sandwich hunting seasons, I can’t see him staying in a Spurs uniform. But I hope I’m wrong.
#16 Aron Baynes
Once a virtual unknown, Baynes was a consistent presence off the bench for the Spurs during this championship run. Though he didn’t see the floor until Game 7 versus the Dallas Mavericks, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich used Baynes as somewhat of a secret weapon in spurts versus the Portland Trail Blazers and Oklahoma City Thunder. Baynes’ qualifying offer would only cost the Spurs $1.1 million, which would make him a restricted free agent, which is an absolute bargain for a 27-year-old center, who averages a double-double when his stats are adjusted per 36 minutes. However, there is still the chance another team could offer Baynes more than the Spurs’ $1.1 million dollar offer, and San Antonio would have to make a decision if they would like to match the offer, to retain Baynes.
Verdict: He’ll be back. Just to see what breaks first, your spirit or your body.
#8 Patty Mills
The Spurs let Gary Neal walk last off-season, to give Patty Mills a chance to prove himself. But don’t expect Pop and R.C. to let Mills walk in favor of Cory Joseph. Mills played in 81 regular season contests, averaging 19.5 points, four rebounds and 3.5 assists per 36 minutes. And at only 25-years old, Mills is reportedly already drawing interest in the free agent market.
Verdict: The Spurs are going to have to fight to re-sign Mills. Neal received 2 years/$6 million last season, so the market value for Patty should be along those lines, possibly extending to 2 years/$10 million. They might be forced to overpay slightly, but Mills should definitely be in a silver and black uniform for a little while longer.
#33 Boris Diaw
Before you start dreaming about Pau Gasol in a Spurs uniform, I’m here to crush those dreams. This is not the time, nor the place for that conversation. You already know the impact Diaw had this season, and how Diaw revived his career from a Charlotte castaway to potential NBA Finals MVP. But what matters are his thoughts on the situation.
When asked about his impending free agency, Diaw simply stated, “I don’t know yet. I wouldn’t mind (returning). The style of play and philosophy is something that I like.”
Diaw’s Per 36 Minutes regular season numbers were 13.1 points, 5.9 rebounds and four assists per game – statistics he hasn’t achieved since his 2008-09 campaign with the Phoenix Suns and Bobcats. Add in his near triple-double in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, plus his versatility that allows the Spurs to play him in a big or small lineup, and thus the “point forward” is born.
Verdict: It’s hard to gauge the market on what Diaw will probably receive in free agency. My guess would be anywhere in the neighborhood of $5 to $7 million per season, and given his history, teams may be scared away to overpay Bobo. San Antonio has revitalized him and his career. Playing alongside his childhood best friend, while competing for championships year in and year out? Pay the man, whatever he wants. He’s earned it.
(Salary data via BasketballInsiders.com and ShamSports.com)