With the re-signing of Patty Mills, Matt Bonner, and Boris Diaw made official this offseason, the San Antonio Spurs roster now stands at 14 players, including rookie Kyle Anderson. That leaves one single spot to remain filled.
The question is, what do the Spurs do with that opening?
There are essentially four different options to consider. The Spurs could bring back the “banger” Aron Baynes, a fan-favorite and contributor to the Spurs championship run. Bryce Cotton, an undrafted guard from Providence, has an unguaranteed contract that will become guaranteed (and thus taking the final roster spot) if he makes the team out of camp. The Spurs still are in possession of their MLE (Mid-Level Exception) that they could pay to fill that 15th spot. Lastly, the Spurs could leave that spot open, start the season with 14, and wait for buyouts during the season to finish the roster.
In case you’ve missed it over the past month, here is the current look at the Spurs roster:
PG: Tony Parker, Cory Joseph, Patty Mills (out with shoulder injury)
SG: Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli
SF: Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson
PF: Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, Austin Daye
C: Tiago Splitter, Jeff Ayres
Aron Baynes: Baynes is a restricted free agent. Essentially what that means is that, as the Spurs have tendered their qualifying offer, the Spurs would have three days to match any team that tries to sign Aron Baynes. As of right now, the market has been very quiet on Baynes, which is somewhat surprising. Comparatively, Udonis Haslem and Baynes were about the 10th person off the bench for their respective teams in the NBA Finals. Haslem, an aging veteran who has clearly shown signs of slowing down, just re-signed with the Heat for 2.7 million dollars per season. Baynes qualifying offer is only $1.15 million. Haslem’s win share total last season was 1.1. Baynes’ total was .6, on a team where nobody has a high win-share total. Per 36 minutes, Baynes would average 11.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per game. Just a quick list of players that he stacks up better than, in points and rebounds (all currently under contract): Carl Landry, Tyler Hansbrough, Larry Sanders, Jason Thompson, Josh McRoberts, Andrew Bogut, and Udonis Haslem, amongst others. Essentially, Baynes, with a winning background and large body, deserves a roster spot, whether it’ll be with the Spurs or another franchise. The problem with returning to San Antonio is that Baynes does not necessarily fill a roster need.
The San Antonio Spurs would go over the cap with the addition of Baynes’ current qualifying offer, but that situation is allowed under the current CBA rules since Baynes is the Spurs’ free agent.
Bryce Cotton: As stated above, Cotton is currently under contract with the San Antonio Spurs for two seasons. However, he is not currently taking up a roster spot, because his contract is non-guaranteed. It becomes guaranteed if Cotton makes the roster out of training camp. Cotton will likely have to execute a better performance in training camp and preseason in order for his NBA dream to come true this season in San Antonio. During the Las Vegas Summer League, Cotton averaged 8.8 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, and 2.8 assists per game. Averaging only 21.5 minutes per contest, those are pretty respectable numbers. Where Cotton hurt himself was three-point shooting (23 percent) and defense off the dribble. In summer league contests, Cotton had some difficulties going through screens and trying to stay with his man off the dribble. The NBA is a learning process, one that I don’t doubt Cotton will learn defensively.
However, with Patty Mills out until approximately halfway through the season, point guard becomes somewhat of a need. Cory Joseph is more than a serviceable backup to All-Star Tony Parker, but a third guard to run the show is always a nice thing to have. If Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford feel the same way, Cotton probably has the best shot out of anyone to make the roster. If they believe Manu can spell some minutes with Joseph and Parker, then Cotton may be the odd man out.
Free Agents: Like every offseason, the Spurs were linked to a handful of free agents. Out of the all the names rumored, only one name remains (Ivan Johnson) in the rumor mill. That’s not to say we haven’t heard the end of free agency for San Antonio. With the Full MLE in tow, there are a number of intriguing candidates that would fill a need.
Shawn Marion just seems like the perfect fit. While there haven’t been any rumors linking the Spurs to Marion, he definitely fills a need and provides more veteran leadership. Marion is all about versatility, and shot one his best three-point shooting, statistically, of his entire career last season. If the front office feels that Kyle Anderson is not ready to contribute right away, Marion would be a nice backup small forward, a big need for this roster.
Chris Douglas-Roberts and Francisco Garcia could also be nice small forward additions that could come cheaper, but would not fit nearly as well as Marion.
Leave the Spot Open: Here’s the most interesting option. The Spurs usually roll into the season without a full roster, because injuries and buyouts happen. Injuries are part of the game, and buyouts can significantly improve the team.
With injuries, the Spurs frequently fill the void with ten-day contracts. Amongst ten-day contracts that have faired well with San Antonio have been Shannon Brown, Steve Novak (later turned into a full season), Garrett Temple (later turned into a full season), and Danny Green (we know where that went). Having that wiggle room on the roster could become vital if (knock on wood) a major injury occurs. Even then, some ten-day contracts have turned into good to great players down the line.
Buyouts are a whole different animal. Every season, right around February and March, a slew of veterans get their contracts bought out. Notable Spurs players that have joined the Spurs after a buyout have been Boris Diaw, Drew Gooden, and Damon Stoudemire. Couple that with players who signed midseason (Mills, Baynes), there is clearly talent to be found late in the season before that final playoff run. Roster flexibility is a gigantic tool in this league, so this seems to be the most likely route the Spurs will take.
What do you think the Spurs will do? Let us know below and keep checking Project Spurs for news related to the 15th and final spot.