Welcome to the Sunday Wrap-Up for the San Antonio Spurs. Here’s some topics we’ll explore today:
- Spurs Official Signings
- Training Camp Begins in New Format
- The Many Options for the Starting Lineup
- The Veterans on the Roster
Spurs Official Signings
Over the weekend, the San Antonio Spurs announced the official signings for draftees Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, and Keita Bates-Diop to a two-way contract. Vassell signed his rookie scale contract while Jones signed a three year deal at the minimum, with the final season non-guaranteed.
The Spurs now have 14 players on guaranteed contracts going forward and both two-way roster slots have been filled.
The team has a late February decision to make regarding Tyler Zeller’s $2.4 million non-guaranteed contract and the Spurs were reportedly going to add Cam Reynolds on an exhibit-10 training camp contract.
Training Camp Begins in New Format
Going into training camp this week, the Spurs should have a roster of 18 players. They can add up to two more players for training camp and the preseason, but the final roster needs to be trimmed down to 15 players and two two-way players by the opening game of the season.
Due to the Covd-19 pandemic, training camp will begin differently this season. First, players can begin individual workouts from Tuesday December 1 through Saturday December 5.
On Sunday, December 6, teams can begin full group player workouts.
Instead of one media day, teams will engage in a new media “week” from Tuesday through Saturday. This will likely look like a few players each day speaking to the media virtually, like other press conferences have been taking place.
The Spurs will take part in three preseason games against the Thunder on December 12, and Houston twice on December 15 and 17.
This will give the team six days to practice and prepare as a whole group before their first game against an opponent.
The regular season schedule might also be released this week, since the NBA last indicated it would be out in the coming days when they announced the preseason schedule.
The Many Options for the Starting Lineup
The Spurs’ coaching staff will have many options for how they want to start the season with the starting five.
First, two players who were present in the starting lineup before the suspension of the season were LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles. Both players missed all eight bubble games in the restart due to injuries but now the coaching staff is faced with a decision of who starts, when the group that played in the bubble went to a small ball approach, that found success in Orlando.
During bubble play, the Spurs started Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker IV, DeMar DeRozan, and Jakob Poeltl.
The Spurs also had Keldon Johnson show that he might need an expanded role after his performance in the bubble, while Luka Samanic is also further behind in the depth chart with Lyles, Rudy Gay, and the team playing smaller units now at the 4.
There’s really only one starting spot available if you assume Murray, White, DeRozan, and Aldridge likely wouldn’t go to the bench.
That brings up the choice of who the fifth starter will be – Poelltl, Walker IV, Johnson, Lyles?
As far as determining who the 10 man rotation might be, that’s also going to be a position battle all season. Here are players who were in the rotation either last season before or during the bubble:
Murray, White, Walker IV, DeRozan, Aldridge, Poeltl, Patty Mills, Johnson, Rudy Gay, Lyles, Drew Eubanks
With Bryn Forbes now signed in Milwaukee and Marco Belinelli playing overseas in Italy, that leaves one player from the 11 players listed above, Samanic, Vassell, and Jones as the four players who will try to get into the rotation during the season.
Only 13 players can be on the active roster during regular season games, meaning one player each night from the group listed above will likely be in a suit behind the bench during games.
The Veterans on the Roster
Leading up to the draft, three Spurs veteran players in the final year of their contracts were involved in trade rumors – Aldridge, DeRozan, and Mills.
Though none of those players were traded, you might hear or see their names in the rumor mill as the season goes forward and the trade deadline doesn’t end until March, though the NBA hasn’t set a final deadline date yet.
If teams who are trying to compete for the playoffs and think they need a veteran player like Aldridge, DeRozan, Mills, or Gay on their roster to help, they might call the Spurs to see what offers they might listen to.
One thing to keep in mind if there are rumors involving the veteran players is the Spurs’ cap situation. Right now with Zeller, the Spurs are $1.1 million over the luxury tax. The question one might ask is does ownership want to go into the tax for a team that isn’t guaranteed to make the playoffs after the majority of last season’s roster is back?
If the Spurs were to waive Zeller by his February deadline, the team would be $1.2 million under the tax. This number, $1.2 million is important to keep in mind if there are anymore trade rumors for the Spurs, because any deal they might pursue would likely be to keep them under the tax when the trade is completed.
Keep an eye on teams with trade exceptions, because they can absorb a contract into their trade exception, but there may be restrictions on the team not to cross the hard cap.
Let’s look at Boston as an example.
The Celtics created a $28.5 million trade exception by signing-and-trading Gordon Hayward to the Hornets. This means the Celtics can absorb a contract up to $28.5 million into that trade exception, however, the Celtics are hard capped at the $138.9 million apron, which means during any transactions, they can’t cross that number.
Right now this would limit them to absorb a contract with up to $22 million in salary. This would mean for example, if the Celtics wanted to trade for one of the Spurs’ veteran players, they could fit either Mills ($13.2 million) or Gay ($14.5 million) into that exception, but not DeRozan ($27.7 million) or Aldridge ($24 million with 15% trade kicker).
If the Celtics wanted to absorb an even larger contract for more than the $22 million allowed and up to the $28.5 million of their trade exception, they’d need to create space by either waiving or trading other players on their roster.
This is not being reported as a rumor, it’s just something to watch in the event the Spurs’ veteran players end up in rumors as the season goes along. Watch for teams who have trade exceptions or have cap space, though at this point only the Knicks have over $15 million in cap space.