Offseason Outlook for San Antonio Spurs

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The San Antonio Spurs’ 2019-20 season came to an end Thursday when the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns eliminated the Spurs from playoff contention with victories against the teams they were facing earlier that day.

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the offseason will no longer take place in the summer, but instead this fall, mostly in October.

Let’s go through the timeline of offseason dates for the Spurs.

August 20 – The Lottery

For the first time since 1997 when they drafted Tim Duncan, the Spurs will be participating in the NBA lottery, currently slotted in the 11th spot.

According to Tankathon.com, the Spurs have a 9.4% chance at moving up to a Top 4 pick and a 2% chance at moving up to the number one overall pick.

As Collin Reid recently explained on the Spurscast, after he ran 10,000 simulations, the most likely scenario is the Spurs land the 11th pick or fall back to the 12th pick.

So, as you’re watching the lottery next Thursday, if the Spurs’ name isn’t revealed from the 14th to 11th pick, it means they’ve moved past the expectations and moved up in the lottery for a better pick.

October 16 – The NBA Draft

Once the lottery concludes on August 20, we’ll know where the Spurs will be drafting in the first round and they will have the 41st pick in the second round. To get prepared for the upcoming draft, make sure you’re following the work of Benjamin Bornstein with his Spurs Prospect Watch pieces.

October 13 – DeMar DeRozan Player Option Decision

According to Bobby Marks of ESPN.com, DeRozan has until October 13 to decide if he’s going to exercise his $27.7 million player option or decline the option, and become an unrestricted free agent.

Though DeRozan hasn’t said what decision he’ll make, Andre Drummond of the Cleveland Cavaliers is in a similar position, where he has until October 17 to make a decision on his $28.7 million player option, and due to the circumstances of the league losing revenue due to the pandemic, Drummond already publicly stated he plans to exercise the option and stay with the Cavaliers.

If DeRozan does exercise the option, there’s different routes he and the Spurs could look at going forward. He can seek a trade after exercising the option or he could play out next season with the Spurs.

If he were to decline the option, he and the Spurs could also try to work out a sign-and-trade deal if the team he wanted to sign with was willing to cooperate through that method.

We don’t currently know how the NBA is going to set the salary cap, and we probably won’t until the Finals are concluded. But in the event they use the $109 salary cap number from last season, the Spurs are most likely going to be an over the cap team with access to the full mid-level exception, which is right now projected to be worth around $9 million.

Using the full MLE didn’t work out well last season for the Spurs, after they ended up signing DeMarre Carroll with part of it and he ended up getting bought out and signing with Houston by February. There was also the issue prior of trading Davis Bertans in order to sign Marcus Morris, who ended up not maintaining the verbal agreement he made with the Spurs.

October 17 – Qualifying Offer for Jakob Poeltl

The Spurs have until October 17 to make Jakob Poeltl a $5 million qualifying offer which would make him a restricted free agent. This means once free agency begins, if Poeltl found an outside team willing to give him a three year deal at minimum, he could sign the offer sheet and then the Spurs would have 48 hours to match the deal or decline the offer sheet. If the Spurs match the offer sheet, Poeltl would remain with San Antonio under the terms of the offer sheet. If the Spurs declined to match, then Poeltl would now be signed to that outside team under the terms of the offer sheet.

The Spurs got a glimpse of what Poeltl could do as the primary big, as he scored 8.3 points, collected 8.1 rebounds, and blocked 1.4 shots in his 25.8 minutes per game in the bubble.

October 18 – Free Agency Begins

Free agency begins this day, which means this is the day when the Spurs can start negotiating with their own free agents and outside free agents, as well as discussing any types of trades they want to initiate once the moratorium is lifted.

Any free agent or trade deals can be verbally agreed upon, but the official contracts can’t be signed until the moratorium is lifted a few days later.

October 18 is also an important date for a few other players on the roster.

Trey Lyles – The Spurs have until this date to decide if they’re going to keep Lyles on the roster for next season at $5.5 million, or if they waive him before that date, he’d earn a guaranteed $1 million and become an unrestricted free agent.

According to the San Antonio Express News, the Spurs are expected keep Lyles on the roster for next season.

As Reid and I discussed on the most recent Spurscast episode, keeping Lyles and trying to re-sign Poeltl could leave the Spurs with a crowded frontcourt next season when everyone is healthy. The team has LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Luka Samanic on guaranteed contracts for next season, then if they bring back Lyles, Poeltl, Drew Eubanks, Chimezie Metu, and want to continue to play small ball with DeRozan at the 4, the frontcourt could be crowded unless they let players walk in free agency or trade some bigs this offseason.

Drew Eubanks, Quinndary Weatherspoon – Before free agency begins, the Spurs will have to decide if they want to tender $1.5 million qualifying offers to either or both Eubanks and Weatherspoon to make them restricted free agents.

Both players were able to receive playing time in all eight bubble games, but even with Patty Mills resting most games, Weatherspoon only saw around eight minutes per game due to the team having a lot of guards and wings getting minutes.

Eubanks became part of the rotation off the bench in Orlando, where he logged 17.7 minutes per game and provided 7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and like Poeltl, 1.4 blocks per game.

As was the question with Lyles and Poeltl, it’s unknown what direction the Spurs want to go in with their frontcourt since bringing everyone back would clog minutes at the 4 and 5 when all players are healthy.

As for Weatherspoon, if the Spurs were to re-sign him, perhaps they could look at him to be the backup point guard of the future, with Mills entering the final year of his contract.

Marco Belinelli, Bryn Forbes – Both Belinelli and Forbes will be unrestricted free agents beginning on October 18. Belinelli played in five of the eight bubble games off the bench after sustaining an early injury, however, he had lost his place in the rotation to Lonnie Walker IV before the season was shutdown in March.

Forbes did not play in any of the bubble games due to injury but during the season prior to the shutdown, he was the Spurs’ starting shooting guard.

The Spurs have bird rights on both players if they wanted to re-sign them even though the team will likely be over the salary cap.

Keep in mind that the guard/wing positions are stacked already with Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Walker IV, DeRozan, and Keldon Johnson getting a lot of the minutes. Plus, the Spurs will be bringing in a lottery pick as well to the team.

Derrick White – Though White is not entering free agency, the Spurs have a chance this fall to extend his contract for up to four years, beginning on October 18. We saw the team make a similar move in extending Dejounte Murray to a $63.8 million contract for four years last October.

According to Marks, a four year extension for White projects to be in the $52 million for four years range.

White was one of the Spurs’ best players in the bubble, where he averaged 18.9 points, attempted eight 3s per game, collected five assists and 4.3 rebounds. Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich also called White the team’s top defender after one of the bubble games.

With White being 26, a four year extension would see him in a Spurs uniform during his prime years. He showed his game could go to another level if he maintains the increase of volume in 3-point shooting. Popovich recently said he would be fine with White taking at least 10 threes a game.

Chimezie Metu, Tyler Zeller

The Spurs will have until a specific date (unknown right now) in November to decide whether to waive Chimezie Metu or keep him on the roster for $1.6 million next season. If Metu is waived, $500,000 of his deal will be guaranteed, then he’d become an unrestricted free agent.

Since being drafted out of the second round and signing with San Antonio, Metu hasn’t been able to get into the rotation and he has spent a lot of time in Austin. Even before the shutdown of the season, Eubanks was usually ahead of Metu in being called to the San Antonio team despite being on a two-way contract.

Zeller will have his $2.4 million deal for next season become guaranteed if he’s not waived by a certain date this fall, though that date isn’t known at the moment. Zeller indicated when he was signed that the team will have him on the training camp roster.

Training camps are tentatively expected to begin some time in November.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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