After Dejounte Murray signed a four year extension Monday with the San Antonio Spurs, one of the frequent questions I received was why didn’t the Spurs extend Jakob Poeltl too?
Another question I got was what’s the latest on DeRozan and a possible extension?
Let’s tackle the Poeltl question first.
By signing Murray to the four year extension, the Spurs have him as their one of their future cornerstone pieces for the next four years, but he also fills a position of need in today’s NBA. Murray is one of the better defensive point guards in the league with his length, athleticism, and instincts, yet there’s also the benefit that he could grow in all sorts of directions offensively, as he demonstrated in a few preseason games.
For Poeltl, the center position hasn’t been an area of need on most NBA rosters unless a team has Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, or any other All-Star level center. There will be some games this season when Poeltl doesn’t start or play much because an opponent is playing small and a solid, defensive rim-running center can’t play in all lineups in today’s NBA.
Since centers each summer aren’t in demand as much as wings and guards, the Spurs can let Poeltl see what types of offer sheets he can get from outside teams, and then they can choose if they’d want to match it.
One safety net the Spurs have in keeping Poeltl this summer is the fact that they can make him a restricted free agent by tendering him a $5 million qualifying offer by June 29. This means if Poeltl gets an offer from another team, the Spurs will have the option to match the offer up to $11.2 million in year one of a contract and keep Poeltl for the three or four year deal, or allow Poeltl to sign with the other team. This was the case with Kyle Anderson to Memphis a few years ago.
The only two ways Poeltl likely wouldn’t return long-term to San Antonio is if he gets an offer that’s too much for San Antonio to want to match, or if he signs the $5 million qualifying offer, which would then let him return to San Antonio for one more season before becoming an unrestricted free agent the following summer.
Being a role player, Poeltl likely wouldn’t get a deal from another team worth more than the mid-level exception (projected to be worth $9.8 million this summer).
As for DeRozan, the latest regarding his current contract extension negotiations with the Spurs were reported Tuesday by Marc Stein of the New York Times in his latest newsletter.
Stein reported that the Spurs and DeRozan aren’t close at the moment to reaching an extension. The Spurs reportedly want a short term deal if there is an extension while DeRozan is seeking a long term contract.
For San Antonio, they have a young core of young wings developing in Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, and down the line, Keldon Johnson. DeRozan, at 30, could limit the development of those players becoming key playmakers if he were to sign a long term deal.
Time is an ally for both sides in this negotiation since an extension can be signed up until June 30, 2020. However, as Stein noted, should DeRozan and the Spurs not reach an agreement, then DeRozan could decline his $27.7 million player option and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. DeRozan would also have the option to opt into the player option and play with the Spurs for one more season, then test unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2021, when more teams will have cap space.
Something former Project Spurs writer Trevor Zickgraf noted about DeRozan possibly declining his player option this summer is that there are only young teams projected to have serious amounts of cap space.
Here are the team’s projected to have over $10 million in cap space this summer according to EarlyBirdRights.com, depending on roster choices those teams make.
Hawks $78.7 million
Knicks $42.8 million
Grizzlies $42.7 million
Cavaliers $33.1 million
Hornets $27.3 million
Blazers $17.9 million
Wizards $10.6 million
All in all, it’s still wait-and-see mode for the Spurs and DeRozan. For Poeltl returning to San Antonio, all signs look like that relationship can continue next season barring Poeltl getting an unexpected offer from an outside team in free agency.