Evaluating the Spurs' Cap Situation for upcoming summer

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With the excitement and drama of the trade deadline ending on Thursday afternoon and the buyout deadline for playoff eligibility less than a week away, many teams are scrambling to make the final changes to their rosters before heading into the final stretch of the season. While the San Antonio Spurs are unlikely to make a trade, they have made moves on the deadline before, most recently trading Nando De Colo to the Toronto Raptors for Austin Daye in 2014. Rather, the Spurs are more likely to sign a player that was bought out by their former team as they have done in the past with Kevin Martin, Andre Miller, and, what may be the most successful example in recent Spurs history, Boris Diaw. However, every move that the Spurs make between now and the end of the season will surely be with their current cap situation in mind.

The most recent estimate of the salary cap for the 2017-2018 season is $102-103 million. Currently, the Spurs have nine guaranteed contracts on the books for next season: Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Tim Duncan (stretched for two more seasons at $1,881,250 each season), Livio Jean-Charles (although the Spurs waived him, his contract is still on the books next season), Dejounte Murray, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes for a total of $72,220,443 against the cap. The consensus is that Pau Gasol will opt into his contract, adding an extra $16,197,500 in salary, bringing the total salary for next season to $88,417,947.

Both Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee have player options next off season. After having a down year last season, Lee has had a successful stint with the Spurs. With the veteran’s minimum rising under the new CBA, Lee could opt out of his current deal with the Spurs and re-sign with them or another team for the veteran’s minimum again to benefit from that increase. Dedmon, who will make $3,028,410 if he opts in to the final year of his contract, will almost certainly opt out. Rim protection is at a premium in the league and Dedmon has continued to improve despite having increased responsibilities as the season has gone on.

The other members of the second unit are unrestricted free agents. While Manu Ginobili has had a fairly successful season, every off-season brings an increased chance of retirement. Patty Mills is likely to receive a pay raise this summer, whether it’s from the Spurs or otherwise. Jonathon Simmons has also probably played his way to a pay raise this off-season.

The Spurs may have to retool their second unit this off season. If Mills were to leave, the Spurs could make Murray their full-time backup point guard. Murray has shown a lot of promise and growth this season, and while it may take a while for Murray to become acclimated to what would amount to a much larger role, it is a role he is certainly capable of growing into. The Spurs could certainly re-sign Mills, even to a larger deal. Because Mills has been with the Spurs for more than 3 seasons, the Spurs could sign him using his Bird Rights. Using Bird Rights to sign Mills would mean that the Spurs could offer Mills a raise despite being over the cap. The Spurs could wait to sign Mills until after they have signed any new free agents and use his Bird Rights to re-sign him. The issue with this plan is that Mills’ cap hold would count against the cap until he was renounced or re-signed. Mills’ cap hold this off-season will be about $6 million, or a little less than half of the Spurs’ current cap space.

Bertans has shown this season that he would certainly be capable of  having an increased workload off the bench next season. However, if Lee were to stay and Dedmon were to leave, the Spurs may look to sign another big who primarily plays center, as both Lee and Bertans primarily play power forward.  While the third and fourth big men in the rotation being power forwards worked during the regular season last season with Diaw and David West, it hurt the Spurs in the playoffs, when the bench unit had difficulty rebounding against the Oklahoma City Thunder bigs.

Kyle Anderson filled in for Danny Green as the starting shooting guard spot at the start of the season, but he has struggled to find consistent playing time since then. He could certainly take on an increased role in the second unit, especially at the small forward position if Simmons does sign elsewhere. Despite this, the Spurs may look to sign a shooting guard who can also play small forward if the situation calls for it. If Ginobili does retire, the Spurs’ depth at that position will probably be one of the biggest priorities this off-season. Another route the Spurs could look at in the event Ginobili retires and Simmons leaves in free agency is through the international route, as they currently have the draft rights to Adam Hanga, a 6’7″ wing who is playing with Laboral Kutxa in a premiere role in the Euroleague.

While the Spurs have been successful at finding veterans to play for the minimum or using their salary cap exceptions exceptionally well, having cap space gives the Spurs much more flexibility to find quality bench players. While the Spurs have months to make many of the decisions outlined here, any moves the Spurs make in the next several weeks may affect their cap space, and in turn their flexibility. Don’t be shocked if, despite moves being made around the rest of the NBA, the Spurs stay quiet.

Salary information obtained from http://hoopshype.com/salaries/san_antonio_spurs/
http://www.cbafaq.com provided a reference for cap and CBA information.

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