Trade Deadline Preview Part 3: The Spurs’ Bigs

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Project Spurs illustration

For part three of my trade deadline preview, I examine the San Antonio Spurs’ bigs and their trade value. I also look into the upcoming off-season and how each factor into the Spurs’ big picture this summer.

I highlighted the Spurs guards in part one, and wings and forwards in part two.

LaMarcus Aldridge

The Spurs have relied on LaMarcus Aldridge quite a bit over the past two seasons and wouldn’t trade him unless they were looking to start a rebuild. This is quite the turn-around from a couple of seasons ago when Aldridge had requested a trade and the Spurs were actively looking for trade partners.

If the Spurs were to move on from Aldridge, it would probably be during the summer of 2020, when Aldridge’s salary of $27,739,975 for the next season is only partially guaranteed for $7,000,000 according to ESPN. Aldridge is making $22,347,015 this season and $26,000,000 next season.

Davis Bertans

Davis Bertans has been an important rotation player for the Spurs this season. His shooting has given the Spurs more spacing even with another big on the floor. Because of his value to the team, the Spurs will probably not actively look to trade Bertans, but with his skills and his contract, $7,000,000 this season and next, he could be a valuable trade asset for the Spurs if they needed to make a trade.

Jakob Poeltl

Jakob Poeltl has become the center of a Spurs’ bench lineup that is performing well, and will probably continue to gain minutes, especially as Aldridge ages. The Spurs would have a hole at center if they traded Poeltl before finding another rotation center. While there may be some options for that this upcoming summer, Poeltl could be the Spurs’ starting center in several seasons. He is making $2,947,320 this season and $3,754,886 next.

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol is probably the one player that the Spurs will be actively attempting to trade. Trading Gasol would clear up $16 million from the books next off-season, giving the Spurs an estimated $15 million in cap space, not including cap holds. Trading Gasol during the off-season before his contract for the 2019-2020 season guarantees would be challenging, however.

According to Luke Adams at HoopsRumors, under the current CBA, trading a player with a partial guarantee for the following season is more difficult now. This is because the guaranteed portion of the contract will be used as the outgoing salary in the trade, but the entire salary, including the non-guaranteed portion, will be calculated in the incoming salary for the team receiving Gasol. Since Gasol’s full salary for the 2019-2020 season is $16 million but his guaranteed portion is only $6.7 million according to ESPN, matching salaries in a deal that includes Gasol will be challenging unless a team has $16 million in cap space to avoid having to match salaries.

Trading Gasol is probably less complicated before this trade deadline, then, but the Spurs would probably have to attach assets to do so. The more likely scenario is that they waive him this off-season if they do want to get off of his salary. Another difficulty, however, is that the guarantee date on Gasol’s contract is July 1, 2019, as discussed by our own Paul Garcia here.

This means that the Spurs would not be able to inquire with potential free agents before knowing if they need to open the space or not.  If the Spurs do waive Gasol, they could create nearly $4.5 million in additional cap space, but Gasol would be on the books for the next three seasons. If the Spurs knew that that extra $4.5 million would not be a difference maker for the free agents they are pursuing, it may be better to pay the $6.7 million in one season to clear their books for future seasons, if they do waive him.

These numbers do not account for cap holds, though. Rudy Gay will have a $13,113,360 cap hold next summer unless the Spurs’ are willing to waive his Early Bird rights. If they do that, they would either need to sign Gay with cap space, sign him using some or all of the Mid Level Exception, or let him walk in free agency. Assuming the Spurs bring Gay back, waiving and stretching Gasol’s contract would still leave the Spurs over the salary cap. The Spurs’ best option is probably to bring him back for his final season if they intend to re-sign Gay.

Chimezie Metu

Chimezie Metu is on a deal that guarantees the first two years. While this is not entirely surprising on its own, the fact that the Spurs offered the second round pick this deal before the NBA season began means that they believe he can become an impact player. This season has been a development season for him, as it is for most Spurs’ rookies, but he will probably get more playing time next season. The Spurs will probably not want to trade him until they know what he can contribute to the team unless it is absolutely necessary to make a deal work. He is making $838,464 this season $1,416,852 next season.

Nikola Milutinov

The Spurs may sign Nikola Milutinov, their 2015 first round draft pick, next season if they do make a trade that depletes their big man depth. Milutinov is receiving MVP consideration in the EuroLeague this season.

Salary information, aside from partial guarantee numbers, from BasketballInsiders

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