The news coming out of New York on Tuesday was so depressing, it got me thinking about really anything besides stubborn, idiotic owners like Dan Gilbert and Robert Sarver wanting a hard cap in the new CBA.
At the same time, a nice, healthy debate sparked on Project Spurs over James Anderson and Kawhi Leonard. Several readers threw out several different names for the San Antonio Spurs to target this offseason. There has definitely been a sense of urgency for Spurs fans about getting this team, specifically Tim Duncan, another title in the twilight of his career since the Spurs got swept by the Suns in the 2nd round of the playoffs in 2009. At the same time, it’s critical to think about the future. Many fans have called for the Spurs to find a way to sign Nene or Tyson Chandler, but signing either of those two would be make or break moves because it would cripple their salary cap room for at least the next two years when you have both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili off their current contracts and Tony Parker and Richard Jefferson in the final years of their deals.
I agree with past columns that suggest the Spurs sign someone like Aaron Gray, but only to a one year deal. The best move they can make is keeping an eye on both the 2012 free agent class as well as the 2012 draft class.
We know about the big guns in the 2012 free agent class. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul & Deron Williams. All three of those guys are more than likely out of reach no matter what. So let’s go from there. This past season the Spurs were $17 million over the cap. With Tim Duncan set to earn $21.2 million next season that number jumps an additional $3 million. They have two expiring contracts, Duncan’s $21 million and McDyess’ $5 million. That’ll give the Spurs roughly $6 million in cap space going into the summer of 2012 depending on what the new CBA looks like.
Aside from the big three, there are quite a few excellent free agents available. That list includes Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Ramon Sessions, Andre Miller, Goran Dragic, Chris Kaman, Randy Foye, Darrell Arthur, OJ Mayo (both restricted), Steve Nash, Jason Thompson (restricted) and Brook Lopez (restricted).
Even if the Spurs don’t pursue any of those free agents, they can still look to make some a trade or two to try to move up in the NBA Draft, which is loaded. Anthony Davis from Kentucky, Andre Drummond from UConn, James McAdoo from UNC, Perry Jones from Baylor, Jared Sullinger from Ohio State, John Henson from UNC, Patric Young from Florida and Tyler Zeller from UNC are all power forwards or centers rated in Chad Ford’s top 20. Any one of those guys would be fantastic building blocks for the Spurs moving forward. Point Guards Marques Teague from Kentucky, Myck Kabongo from Texas, Josiah Turner from Arizona and my favorite, UNC’s Kendall Marshall are all projected first round picks.
2012 looks like it has opportunities abound. Assume you can unload a contract or two for a draft pick (yes, I’m looking at your deal Tony Parker) and that also frees up cap space to go after a bigger name free agent. Assume you’re New Jersey/Brooklyn and you get Dwight Howard to sign there. There is virtually no chance you’re matching any significant offer for Brook Lopez because you still have to sign Deron Williams to a new deal (or you could be really shrewd and court Chris Paul instead of D Will). Lopez idolizes Tim Duncan, so why not make Lopez a $10 million a year offer and then use your high draft pick for either another big or a point guard depending on who’s available?
For example, Tony Parker, DeJuan Blair for Amir Johnson and Jerryd Bayless and a lottery pick saves you roughly $5 million in cap space and gets you a lottery pick. I think you could even make that trade after the season is over but before the draft. That way you’ve made your run for another title in a lockout shortened season and then move in to rebuild/reload mode. This gives the Spurs about $11 million in cap space & a likely mid to high lottery pick. So you make a run at Lopez, a legit 7 footer who can score 20 points a game & hopefully you can make him remember what grabbing 7 or 8 rebounds a game is like.
A lot of things have to happen for that dream scenario to take place. Actually, the dream scenario is trading Parker for a lottery pick, drafting one of the prized big men and then you sign Chris Paul or Deron Williams, but you get the point. All I’m saying is making a hasty decision about a weak 2011 free agent pool may not be the best decision. Why not find a big to be your stop gap solution for 2011-2012 and hope that next season becomes like 1999, where the lockout helped older teams with enhanced continuity had an advantage over other teams? The 2012 free agency pool and draft classes are the real prizes that the Spurs should focus on. Realistically, with enough cap room the Spurs have a pretty good shot at a Brook Lopez, Chris Kaman or maybe two guys like Darrell Arthur and Goran Dragic. Something to think about when you’re trying to think of ways to sign & trade for Nene or Tyson Chandler.