As I wrote two weeks ago, it seems like the San Antonio Spurs are lacking weaknesses in two positions, their frontcourt and guard lineup. Last week I wrote about where the team stands financially, before free agents can be signed on July 11. News broke today that Australian point guard Patty Mills will most likely be testing free agency, which means the Spurs would be down to nine players under contract.
Before I begin looking as some possible free agents the Spurs could look at, one must be aware that the Spurs’ first moves in the offseason will be to re-sign Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw. Danny Green and Mills are restricted free agents, and the expectation is that the Spurs will most likely match any offers thrown at Green so long as they make financial sense. The Spurs might also be bringing in some overseas talents as Slovenian forward Erazem Lorbek, arguably the best big man in Europe, and French guard Nando De Colo are both free agents in Europe and might be making their way to San Antonio if both sides have those intentions.
So now, here’s a fresh look at some available free agents the Spurs could possibly target. Again, this is very early as free agency hasn’t even started, and the Spurs still need to re-sign Duncan. In part one today I’m looking at attacking or tenured backup or starting guards, and in part two tomorrow, I’ll be looking at athletic or defensive minded forwards or centers that might or might not have a balanced offensive game to complement them. I’m also keeping the options realistic, there are some big name free agents out there who the Spurs most likely wouldn’t have a shot at like JaVale McGee, Deron Williams, O.J. Mayo, Brook Lopez, and Eric Gordon.
Attacking/ Slashing guards or backup point guards – the Spurs saw at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder how hard it was to stop a three-headed perimeter attack. The Thunder used Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden to continue to penetrate and drive to the basket, shoot jumpers, or find their open teammates. The Spurs only have Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili who possess this ability, but when either of them isn’t able to attack because of the opposing teams defense, the Spurs have to resort back to relying on Duncan in the post continuously, where he just isn’t as effective as he once was early in his career. The Spurs need another guard who can get into the lane and get to the free throw line, finish at the rim, or pass out to open teammates, and also a backup point guard. From what I’ve seen of De Colo, he’s more a of an outside shooter and distributor in the open court. Maybe his attacking skills got better with Valencia this past season, but if they didn’t, here’s a few free agents to look for with those capabilities.
Restricted Free Agents
- Rudy Fernandez: In 31 games with the Denver Nuggets, he averaged 8.6 points, 2.4 assists, stole the ball 1 time per game, shot 44% from the field, shot 33% from 3-point range, and got to the free throw line 1.4 times per game. The latest on Fernandez is that he wants a good deal and more playing time, or else he’s considering returning to play in Europe instead of the NBA. The positives as to why Fernandez might be successful for the Spurs is because he’s only 27 years old, he knows the international style of play as he plays with the Spanish national team and will be competing in the Olympics, and he could either be a reliable starting shooting guard or guard off the bench. The negative is his ego. He was traded from the Portland Trailblazers because he wanted more playing time and a bigger role with the team. The same thing happened when he was traded to the Nuggets. The Spurs can’t offer him a big deal, nor can Coach Gregg Popovich guarantee him minutes unless he shows production on the defensive end first.
- George Hill: In 50 games with the Indiana Pacers this season, the former Spurs guard averaged 9.6 points, 2.9 assists, shot 44% from the field, 37% from 3-point range, and got to the free throw line 2.3 times per game. Hill began as a backup guard for the Pacers, but late in the season he was given the starting point guard role where he averaged 13.5 points in the playoffs. It would be really hard the Spurs to pry Hill from Indiana because his head coach Frank Vogel wants him to return to Indiana and stay as the starting point guard. The Spurs won’t have a huge contract to offer Hill, even though Duncan stated earlier in the season that he wanted him back in San Antonio. Though Hill enjoyed playing in San Antonio, would he really want to leave home in Indiana to become Parker’s backup again after he has a starting job waiting for him back home?
- Aaron Brooks: In the 10-11 season, Brooks averaged 10.7 points, and 3.9 assists. The Phoenix Suns will be going hard after Deron Williams if Steve Nash leaves, and if they can’t sign Williams either, then Brooks might be a last option for them. Brooks would be a good reliable backup point guard for San Antonio, but offering a contract to him that Phoenix won’t match is unlikely.
- Jerryd Bayless: In 31 games with the Toronto Raptors, Bayless averaged 11.4 points, 3.8 assists, shot 42% from the field, 42% from 3-point range, and got to the free throw line 2.8 times per game. He’s only 23 years old, and knows the backup point guard position as he relieves Jose Calderon in Toronto. The question becomes is he ready to be a starter for a team, or would he be willing to play for the Spurs as Parker’s backup? The Spurs would still need to offer a contract that the Raptors wouldn’t match, so the chances of signing him are very slim.
J.R. Smith: In 35 games with the New York Knicks, Smith averaged 12.5 points, 2.4 assists, 1.5 steals per game, shot 41% from the field, shot 35% from 3-point range, and got to the free throw line 1.6 times per game. Smith is still undecided as to whether or not he’ll opt out of his contract with the Knicks. He has some pressure to stay in New York where he’s close to home in New Jersey, but he could also make a lot more on the open market. He recently had this to say about playing in New York, “I want to be here so I’m not really putting too much emphasis on it,” he said. “I got money now. It’s all about winning, and whatever is the best situation and the best fit really. If all things are equal, I’m staying.” This means that Smith might still consider opting out and playing for a contender at a less expensive price. Earlier in the season, Smith told me that the Spurs were definitely on his list of teams he was considering before signing with Knicks.
Unrestricted Free Agents
- Leandro Barbosa: In 64 games with the Pacers, Barbosa averaged 11.1 points, 1.5 assists, shot 43% from the field, 38% from 3-point range, and got the free throw line 1.9 times per game. The Pacers aren’t expected to re-sign him, so he’d still be a good shooting guard off the bench. His skills would especially mix well with the Spurs since they run a fast paced run-and-gun offense, plus his fellow Brazilian countryman Tiago Splitter is already playing in San Antonio.
- Jamal Crawford: In 60 games with the Trailblazers, Crawford averaged 14 points, 3.2 assists, shot 38% from the field, 31% from 3-point range, and got the free throw line 3.4 times per game. Right now, he has the Heat, Los Angeles Clippers, Sacramento Kings, and Knicks on his radar, but this shows that he’d be willing to play for a contender for less money. Crawford would be an excellent option for the Spurs as either a starting shooting guard or sixth man off the bench.
- Andre Miller: At 36 years old, Miller played all 66 regular season games with the Nuggets averaging 9.7 points, 6.7 assists, 1 steal, shooting 44% from the field, 22% from 3-point range, and getting to the free throw line 2.6 times per game. Felton wants to either play backup for a contender, or start as point guard for a playoff bound team. The Heat will be going after him in the offseason, but if they get Steve Nash, they might not need him after all. This would mean the Spurs could have a chance at signing him to backup Parker.
- Goran Dragic: In 66 games with the Houston Rockets, Dragic averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 assists, 1.3 steals, shot 46% from the field, 34% from 3-point range, and got to the free throw line 2.9 times per game. His teammate Kyle Lowry thinks Dragic is gone from Houston, and if the Spurs could find a way to sign him, he’d be a great pickup because as they learned from Dragic when he was with the Suns, he can attack the basket, play the backup duty and take over the momentum in a game quickly.
- Raymond Felton: In 60 games with the Trailblazers, Felton averaged 11.4 points, 6.5 assists, 1.3 steals, shot 41% from the field, 31% from 3-point range, and got to the free throw line 2.1 times per game. Felton was disgruntled during the season with the Blazers, and the question becomes will he be willing to be a backup point guard for a contender at 27 years old, or does he want his own starting gig?
Look for part two of my free agent list categorizing the big men the Spurs could possibly target for their frontcourt position tomorrow on Project Spurs.