The Offseason: Asking What, Why, and WTF

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The NBA offseason isn’t officially over. NBA training camp is slated to start in about a month. But for all intents and purposes the moves that were going to be made and the shifts that were going to slide have slid and stopped and found their place and before the dust even settles, we’re already trying to measure the effects it’s all going to have – if any.
This kind of deal is usually a simple shakedown. I list all those masterful personnel moves the front office made during the summer months, and make the obvious assessments. But my I think my the first reaction to the Spurs’ offseason moves, when looking back on them a whole, was to ask, “Why?” Obviously there are some benefits that will come, now and down the road, from some of the moves the Spurs made, but a majority of the decisions made this offseason have to be met with some skepticism, after all, that’s what I’m here for.


The Re-Signings

  • Jacque Vaughn signed a two year, $2.5 million deal. I’ll be the first to admit that Jacque Vaughn surprised me with how valuable he was to the Spurs last season. And certainly he’s not a bad piece to keep around, but he is a 32-year-old journeyman, and that $2.5 million could have been put towards getting younger and deeper. I’m not proposing this was a bad move, but I really expected the Spurs to try and improve at point guard behind Tony Parker.
  • Matt Bonner signed a whopping three-year, nine million dollar deal. I refer to that roughly three million a year as whopping because Bonner played just under twelve minutes a game last season, averaging under five points. I like Bonner, I really do. They say he likes to ride his bike, and he’s a nice guy, and I’m sure he is, but to be absolutely clear, there’s no way in an upside down frozen over Oklahoma he should have gotten that much money. He should have been resigned, no doubt, but not for that kind of coin. Science fiction novels don’t stretch reality that much.

The Draft
The natural reaction to hearing the name “Tiago Splitter” called out as the Spurs first round draft pick was about the same as it has been for every draft pick the Spurs have made in the past few seasons, “Who?” And then, for those of us who actually pay attention to the draft a little bit, you remember there was talk of him as a lottery pick a couple seasons back, before he pulled himself from the draft. All of a sudden, your faith feels restored.
Then you become enlightened to another very important fact, he plays for the Spanish club, Tau Ceramica, the same club that held Luis Scola hostage for several seasons. I don’t recall exactly, but I believe my reaction after that involved a blinding rage and several expletives uttered repeatedly so that it sounded like I was having a seizure… a very angry seizure.
Ultimately, if the Spurs can ever bring Splitter over, which I believe they will in the next season or two, he’ll be a fine addition. Of all the moves this offseason, this one may have actually been the most risky (see: how Houston stole Scola), but it could also have the biggest pay out. In an offseason that felt laden with safe moves, I’m down with some risky business.
The Signing
You’ll notice this heading is not “The Signings”, plural. It reads, “The Signing”, singular. One. Because in two months of free agency, the Spurs only made one real free agent signing, and that was Ime Udoka. If drafting Splitter was risky, Udoka is the sure thing. He’s a hustle player, tough nosed, defense first kind of player and he should fit in with the Spurs just fine, provided Pop can find him some minutes every now and then. Signing Ime Udoka isn’t exactly a prime time move, but it doesn’t have to be, it works.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
Let me be entirely honest, Ian Mahinmi has as a good a chance of becoming a good NBA player as the toilet seat in my restroom has of growing legs and climbing Mt. Everest. In fact, that’s in insult to my toilet, with the proper equipment I’m sure that piece of porcelain could get higher up on Everest than Mahinmi could get on an NBA depth chart. The list of things that have a better chance than Mahinmi has in the NBA include the universe instantaneously filling up with jello and Lindsay Lohan tripping and falling on some class.
Now, yes, if you watch this kid play you’ll see a long, lean, athletic big man, and your mind starts to wonder about the “what ifs”. Now take your mind, stick in a glass jar, and tell it to shut up – it’s lying to you. Beyond size and athleticism you need things like coordination, basketball IQ (or just general IQ), timing, vision, and a host of other intangibles, and Mahinmi hasn’t proven to have any of those things. If he’s ever going to have a chance, he needs more time to develop and even that may not do it. He never stops fouling people. I don’t even know if this is possible, but I swear this kid is going to find a way to foul himself. Next he’ll concoct a way to foul the ball, and the basket – at the same time. I wouldn’t be surprised if he invented a time machine and fouled Aristotle and Moses, just to broaden his horizon a little bit. At this point, it’s not impossible to consider Ian Mahinmi may be out to foul space-time as we know it. He must be stopped.
And if you thought it couldn’t get any worse than signing the human baton stick, it does. Last, but most certainly not least, is the most significant, and unfortunately also the worst move the Spurs made all offseason – trading the rights to Luis Scola to Houston, essentially for nothing. When Jeff first broke the news the Project Spurs blog, he described accurately as “a stupid ass move.”
There are two levels of stupid to this move, the first is that the Spurs were never able to work things out between Scola and arrange a buyout of his contract so they could sign. Houston went and did this in a couple of days. I can understand if there was a simply a dollar amount the Spurs refused to budge on, but that then leads me to my next point.
Why trade him to a division rival? Trade him to the Eastern Conference if you have to. But Houston? That’s moronic. The Spurs traded a viable asset to a team they will see at least four times a year, a team that will be directly jocking with them in division and conference standings, and a team they may face in the playoffs. This isn’t some third string scrub, this is a major piece for an Olympic gold medal team, a potential starter. Multiple times a game, Scola is going to grab a rebound, or get a put back, or make a pass against the Spurs, instead of for the Spurs, for no other reason than the Spurs giving him away. How I am supposed to watch that this season and not have my stomach churn?
Well, I suppose we have Mahinmi as a consolation prize. Seriously, WTF?