The San Antonio Spurs’ 2017 NBA season concluded Monday evening when they were swept in four games by the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. For the Spurs, the Kawhi Leonard ankle injury in Game 1 of the series will have them pondering the ‘what if’ question going forward, but, the next season will be approaching soon, so the team needs to refocus for the draft and then free agency right afterward.
In this Q & A, I’ll look at some of the pondering questions regarding the Spurs’ offseason based on questions I’ve gathered from Twitter and I’ll continue to update frequently asked questions.
What are the cap implications of the Spurs’ first round draft pick?
The Spurs will have two picks in this year’s draft on June 22. The 29th pick in the first round and the 59th pick in the second round. The Spurs’ first round pick is an interesting one to watch because there are some immediate financial implications with that pick. Under the 2011 CBA, the Spurs’ 29th pick would earn $1.0 in Year 1. However, with the new 2017 CBA that will become effective July 1, first round pick salaries will increase by 45% over three years, so an estimated number is that the Spurs’ 29th pick will earn about $1.2 million this coming season. On the cap sheet, 120% of the 29th picks salary needs to be included in the team salary as a cap hold, so, an estimation is this 29th pick will have a cap hold of around $1.4 million. Should the Spurs select a player that will play in the NBA next season, then that player’s cap hold will stay on their books until they eventually sign him. However, to save some money on the cap sheet, don’t be surprised if the Spurs go with the draft and stash route, which would allow them to withhold that first-round picks cap hold on their books until he eventually signs with them in the future beyond next season.
Of the three players with player options that need to have a decision made by June 29; Pau Gasol, David Lee, and Dewayne Dedmon, which of those players is likely to opt in or out?
Gasol – At age 36, with the ability to opt into a salary of about $16.2 million next season, the odds are probably high that Gasol will opt into his contract next season. What if he did opt out though? That would obviously give San Antonio more cap flexibility in free agency. Can his contract be traded? Yes, but it would have to happen after July 6, when the moratorium period ends.
Lee – It’s a little tougher to read what Lee might do because of the knee injury he sustained in Game 3 against the Warriors. Does that type of injury effect his market value? That’s unknown at the moment. If he opts in, Lee would earn $2.3 million next season with the Spurs. However, he could opt out both for himself and the team. For Lee, if he opted out, he could try to see if his value has increased in the free agent market after a very productive season as a backup big on the Spurs’ roster that made it to the Conference Finals. If Lee can’t find a deal higher than the veteran minimum, then he can always re-sign with the Spurs or another team for that same amount ($2.3 million), because that will be the veteran minimum for a player like Lee next season, who has more than 10 years in the league under his belt. For the Spurs, if Lee opted out, his $2.3 million cap hold would come off the books and he could provide some extra cap relief for them.
Dedmon – Dedmon will likely opt out of his $3.0 million player option by June 29. Dedmon saw his playing time decrease in the playoffs during the opening round against the Memphis Grizzlies and by the Conference Finals, he was only playing when games were already decided. If he does opt out, Dedmon’s $3.0 million salary for next season would come off the Spurs’ books, providing them with more space to operate.
What moves would the Spurs have to make to sign one of Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry or Paul Millsap?
Assuming Paul, Lowry and Millsap all want the projected max, the Spurs would need to open about $35.3 million in cap space to get in their price range. Here are a few scenarios in which they can do that.
First, let’s say Dedmon and Lee opt out, and the cap holds of Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons are off the books. At this point, the Spurs have only opened $9.2 million in cap space. They could make the next following moves: find trade partners for a combination of players: Gasol and Danny Green, Aldridge and Green, or Tony Parker and Green.
As you can see, the Spurs would have to gut a majority of their roster that just made it to the Conference Finals to sign one of these players, where Paul would be 36 years old in the final year of a potential deal, Lowry 35, and Millsap 36. It doesn’t seem like San Antonio would move one of their cornerstones in Parker, and Green’s value at just $10 million for his defense and shooting is something San Antonio wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere at that price. While there will most likely be interest between the Spurs and Paul, a sign that the Spurs are seriously considering making that drastic of a move would be if they make it to free agent meetings with Paul and you see pieces start to get traded, much like how the dominoes fell when San Antonio signed Aldridge in the summer of 2015.
What are the options if Ginobili doesn’t retire?
At the moment, Ginobili has a $21 million cap hold. That will stay on the Spurs’ books until they renounce his rights. Last summer, Ginobili took all the way until July 3 to publicly announce he would return for another season. Because the Spurs still had his cap hold on their books, they could pay him over $10 million this past season. They’d most likely need know by before July 6 what Ginobili’s decision will be, that way they can maneuver their cap situation by either keeping his cap hold on the books (to re-sign him over the cap) or to renounce his rights and either signing him with the mid-level exception, cap space, or the veteran minimum.
How might Simmons being a restricted free agent affect the Spurs’ cap situation?
The Spurs have until June 30 to tender a $1.2 million qualifying offer to Simmons to make him a restricted free agent heading into free agency. Now, FOR EXAMPLE ONLY, let’s say the New York Knicks, who might have $26.9 million in cap space, sign him to an offer sheet for three years, for $39 million, meaning Simmons would earn about $13 million annually. Because Simmons is under the ‘Arenas Provision,’ as Bobby Marks of the Vertical noted, the Spurs can match that Knicks offer, BUT, in Year 1, San Antonio can only sign Simmons for either $7.7 million, or use their Mid-Level Exception of $8.4 million, which would mean the rest of that $31 million of Simmons’ deal would have to be back loaded in years 2 and 3.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Even though Simmons might sign that deal on the opening day of free agency July 1, the clock for the Spurs to match begins ticking on July 6, when the moratorium period ends. San Antonio then has two days to decide if they’ll match the offer or allow Simmons to sign elsewhere. While San Antonio is deciding for 48 hours whether or not to match, Simmons’ cap hold will still stay at $1.2 million. But, if they decide to match by July 8, Simmons’ cap hold jumps either to $7.7 million or $8.4 million through the use of the MLE, which is basically adding an additional $6 million to the Spurs’ cap sheet by July 8.
So, for the Spurs, Simmons signing an offer sheet quickly could put them in a bind going forward with their cap space and with some of the other moves they may want to make in free agency.
How much cap space will the Spurs have in the summer of 2018?
In the summer of 2018, Green and Aldridge each have player options. If they opted in, at the present moment with just Kawhi Leonard, Aldridge, Green, Bryn Forbes (Qualifying Offer), Kyle Anderson (QO), Dejounte Murray and the 2019 first round pick cap hold, the Spurs would have an estimated $37 million in cap space in the summer of 2018. If both Aldridge and Green opted out of their deals, the Spurs could have about $69 million in cap space in 2018.
Having this much cap flexibility next summer in 2018 is why it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Spurs not make many splashy moves this summer and have a limit to how much they’re willing to re-sign Mills and Simmons for. Plus, with Leonard making the All-NBA team, the Spurs can extend him to a 5-year deal for $217 million next summer, which won’t become effective until the 2019 summer (per Marks of the Vertical). Knowing that Leonard has a super max extension coming next summer is why the Spurs don’t want to go too far over the cap this summer.
What about the Derrick Rose rumor?
With free agency getting closer July 1, rumors will start swirling in with this player and that player who the Spurs will reportedly have interest in. When reading rumors, it’s always important to pay attention to how the rumor is written. An ESPN article written on May 24 had the following paragraph in their story on the Minnesota Timberwolves having interest in Rose.
It is unclear at this point which other teams besides the Timberwolves view Rose as a potential free-agent target. Some rival executives believe that the San Antonio Spurs may have interest in Rose, depending on how the free-agent market for point guards develops.
Look at the key words there. “unclear which other teams”, “some rival executives believe”, “SA Spurs may have interest”, “depending on how the free-agent market develops.”
It could be as simple as General Manager A telling GM B and C, “the Spurs need a point guard since Tony Parker might be out for most of next season.” GM B and C might suggest Rose could be a good option for the Spurs.
The conversation could also be way more complex than that, but for now, a Rose to San Antonio signing is way too far down the line at this point. The factors in play for San Antonio are if they want to open cap space to sign Rose, then what happens with Mills? Also, if they give Rose the MLE, what if Ginobili wants to keep playing or they use that MLE with Simmons? As for Rose, it’s unclear what number he and his agent are searching for on the market.
What if Parker decides to retire early?
This question is only being answered because several followers have asked on Twitter, though in my opinion, I think this option is very unlikely. But, should Parker decide he would want to retire early because of the quad injury, the Spurs could stretch his contract, meaning he’d be on their salary cap for close to $5.1 million for the next three seasons, very similar to how Tim Duncan and Livio Jean-Charles’ contracts are still on the Spurs’ books even though they’re not on the team (Duncan retired, Jean-Charles waived) anymore.
How can the Spurs sign George Hill?
If Hill is seeking a max, San Antonio would need to open $30.3 million in cap space. If he’s seeking a deal in the ball park of $25-28 million, then San Antonio would need Dedmon and Lee to opt out, and have the cap holds of Ginobili, Mills, Simmons and Forbes off their books, as well as trade one of Gasol, Parker or Aldridge. This all depends on Hill’s market value and the deal he’s seeking.
How much can the Sixers offer Mills?
According to ESPN 97.3 FM, the Philadelphia 76ers will have interest in signing Mills once he becomes a free agent July 1. How much can the Sixers offer Mills? Well, anything up to $26.9 million annually with their cap holds still on the Sixers’ books, and if they renounce their cap holds and non-guaranteed salaries, Philly can offer Mills a max contract of $30.3 million annually.
Now, before getting too far ahead, Mills’ free agent market isn’t expected to be anywhere near the max, but he could command anything over $12 million annually. Philly could comfortably give him a rewarding offer to leave San Antonio and rejoin forces with former Spurs assistant coach Brett Brown.
What’s the latest on Adam Hanga?
Hanga will be a free agent this summer overseas and he’s already reportedly getting interest from Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. According to reporter David Pick, Hanga could look to join San Antonio if Ginobili decides to retire.
However, considering there’s a chance the Spurs could lose one or both of Ginobili and Simmons this offseason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Hanga make the leap to the NBA and join San Antonio.
Hanga is already 28 and playing the best basketball of his career, after he was named the best small forward in the Spanish League, since he made the Top-5 team. And then over in the Euroleague, Hanga was rewarded for his defense with the Best Defender award.
In 33 games with Laboral Kutxa this season, Hanga averaged 10.5 points, 2.4 assists and 4.4 rebounds in 28 minutes per game. Assuming the Spurs don’t have any cap space to sign Hanga, they could offer him a two-year deal worth close to $1.6 million.
If you have an offseason questions regarding the Spurs, send me a Tweet @PaulGarciaNBA or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Financial data via BasketballInsiders.com and RealGM.com. Cap and salary numbers are estimated to the hundred thousands.