Pau Gasol’s tenure with the San Antonio Spurs came to an end Friday, after the Spurs and Gasol agreed to a buyout on the estimated $10.3 million he was owed for the remainder of this season and next season.
Now that Gasol is gone, let’s look at what the Spurs’ roster and financial books look like for the future of this season and next season in a question and answer format.
Question for this season: Will the Spurs add another player before the end of the season?
With Gasol off the roster, the Spurs now have one open roster spot to sign another player for the remainder of the season. With the free agents currently available, it is unlikely that if they added someone, that player would be good enough to crack Head Coach Gregg Popovich’s nine-man rotation of Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Jakob Poeltl, Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, Rudy Gay, and Davis Bertans.
If PLAYER X was signed, they’d likely be more of a backup plan in the event a core player got injured during the season or in the playoffs, should the Spurs make it. I don’t have any knowledge if or who the Spurs would sign, but instead, I’ll just list some of the notable available unsigned free agents right now.
Jodie Meeks – 6’4” Wing
Tim Frazier – 6’1” Point
Greg Monroe – 6’11” Big
Malachi Richardson – 6’6” Forward
Marcin Gortat – 6’11” Big
Milos Teodosic – 6’5” Point
Wade Baldwin IV – 6’4” Combo
Zach Randolph – 6’9” Big
Carmelo Anthony – 6’8” Forward
Omri Casspi – 6’9″ Forward
Questions for this summer
Right now, not counting their unrestricted free agents in Gay, Quincy Pondexter, and Dante Cunningham, the Spurs already have 13 guaranteed roster spots when you include their projected 19th first round pick and the Toronto projected 29th first round pick. With Gasol gone, the Spurs have Aldridge, Poeltl, and Metu as three players who can play the 5 in today’s NBA. They will also have a decision to make this offseason on whether to bring 2015 first round draftee Nikola Milutinov over, which would then give them four centers on the roster in a league that continues to go smaller.
Let’s now tackle a few financial questions that I’ve been getting with Gasol off the team.
How much cap space will the Spurs have if they re-sign Gay?
First, we don’t know the exact amount of money Gasol gave up on his buyout, but, according to Shams Charania of the Athletic, it was around $2.5 million. According to Bobby Marks of ESPN.com, 35% of the amount Pau gave up will be applied to the remainder of his contract for this season and 65% will be applied to the $6.7 million he’s owed next season. So, for this example of answering these salary questions, I’ll assume Gasol will be on the books for $5,075,000 million next season. The Spurs will have the choice to either take the whole cap hit next season or stretch it out over three years.
Now, assuming Gasol is on the books for around $5 million and the Spurs don’t bring back Pondexter and Cunningham, while keeping Gay’s $13.1 million cap hold to re-sign him, the team would be around $7.1 million OVER the salary cap. This would allow the Spurs to operate over the cap and have access to the projected $9.2 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception. From a number of roster spots open standpoint, this would only leave them one slot left to add one more player assuming they keep both of their first-round picks.
In this scenario, the Spurs’ upgrades to the roster would be keeping Gay, adding a healthy Dejounte Murray, and signing FREE AGENT X to the mid-level exception. Last year, FREE AGENT X was Marco Belinelli.
How much cap space will the Spurs have if Gay leaves elsewhere in free agency?
Keeping the scenario where Gasol is on the books for around $5 million, and all free agents walk, including Gay, the Spurs would be around $5.9 million UNDER the salary cap. They’d have two roster spots open with only $5.9 million in cap space and access to the room exception projected to be around $4.7 million.
While the Spurs would have more flexibility to add two players to the roster in this scenario, they wouldn’t have the money to get a free agent who could provide Gay’s level of production for the salary amounts they can offer. If the plan is to bring back the bulk of the team with a healthy Murray, the Spurs must hope they can re-sign Gay in the offseason.
We should know within the next week how much money Gasol gave up in his buyout and whether the Spurs will take a full cap hit next season or stretch it out over the next three seasons. While they won’t have to worry about trying to find a trade partner for Gasol’s contract next season anymore, one of their main priorities this offseason has to be to re-sign Gay if the plan is to bring the core of this season’s team back with a healthy Murray.