The San Antonio Spurs are now in the afterglow after winning a fifth NBA Championship, but the great feeling could be short lived with some important decisions to make in the offseason.
The main decision after the draft is what to do in free agency. The main topic on people’s minds is what happens with Patty Mills and Boris Diaw now that they will become unrestricted free agents? They had important roles throughout the playoffs, but especially in the NBA Finals.
Mills performed at the perfect time for a player with an expiring contract. His stock could be quite high with several teams looking for point guard help, and he could get a contract offer from a team like the New York Knicks. Spurs fans hope his heart is here in San Antonio, but this could be a once in a life-time opportunity for the 25-year-old Australian.
Boris Diaw, on the other hand, should not see as much attention from suitors in the free agent market as Mills, and unless he is looking for a major upgrade in his contract, most expect him to return to the Alamo City.
Assuming Mills leaves, Cory Joseph has proven to be a capable backup point guard. With the exception of his shooting ability, Joseph is not a downgrade and was in serious contention for the backup role last summer before Mills won the spot in the rotation. If Mills decides to leave, the Spurs are still left with a serviceable backup. If Diaw and the Spurs were not able to come to terms on a new contract, that could leave a big hole in the Spurs’ rotation.
While a backup small forward was an issue, the first-round pick from UCLA Kyle Anderson, could potentially address that. But if Diaw does fill out a change of address card over the offseason, the free agent market is stockpiled with big men. Pau Gasol, Marcin Gortat, and Jordan Hill will all become free agents. It’s just a matter of who the Spurs are willing to sign and for how much. According to HoopsHype.com, the Spurs have $53 million used on their players as of right now, including the big 3. If the NBA decides to raise the salary cap by $5 million, then that gives the Spurs roughly $10 million to work with and sign players that will fit well with the system.
Most Spurs fans know Gasol and the fact he is a Laker will not sit well with some, but as far as skills go – he could be a nice fit. He is still arguably a top five big man as far as scoring from the block is concerned, and he also has the mid-range shot in his arsenal. Gasol made $19.29 million in 2013 with the Lakers, and showed an interest in joining the Spurs, in May. He has a high basketball IQ and is one of the best big men in the league, his presence on the court could also help the Spurs’ defense. That being said, he would have to take a substantial pay cut to come to San Antonio, if Diaw and Mills re-sign, or only one returns.
Gortat is a big guy who will not get pushed around on the low block by anyone, he is a defensive presence, and is underrated as a low post scorer. He got $7.7 million in 2013 and his performance in the playoffs could cause his stock to go up. At age 30, he averaged 13.2 points per game, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks in the regular season. Right now, every team is looking for a big guy that can have that kind of effect for a team. Like Gasol, the Spurs likely wouldn’t have the type of cap space to lure Gortat, if Mills and Diaw re-signs.
Hill could fit in well with the Spurs, he is a big man that can handle himself and he’s affordable. He earned $3.5 million from the Lakers this past season and in 20 minutes per game averaged about 9.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and shot 55% from the field. Although, it is hard to say if the Spurs are able to afford him at his stock value.
As far as guards go, not too many players that would be affordable stand out. Two players caught my eye as I was looking down the list of free agents, D.J Augustin and Kirk Hinrich.
If Mills decides to leave, Augustin would be a great addition to the Spurs, as he showed this last year for the Bulls, playing big minutes in the absence of Derrick Rose. Not to mention his salary this past season was only $650,215, and to help the Bulls as much as he did after Rose left is saying a lot. He is the prototypical backup point guard because he can defend, run the offense and score when needed.
As many veterans have done in their career, Hinrich is coming to the end and is probably looking to get a ring sometime soon. Seeing how Chicago is trying to clear cap space for a potential Carmelo Anthony or Lebron James signing, Hinrich might be the first one shipped out. 12 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds are his career averages, as an intelligent point guard, he could come in and learn the system at a fast rate. Desperate for a championship, Hinrich could be willing to take a pay cut.
With all that said, if the Spurs lost Mills or Diaw, that could make a significant change in their offseason priorities and where they decide to spend the money they have left after signing any remaining free agents. The Spurs do have options, but it’s unlikely they are looking at a backup plan with hopes of getting Diaw and Mills to put pen to paper and focus on a title defense.