NBA

How Spurs should approach Free Agency

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Now that the dust has settled on the 2022 NBA Draft, teams are looking to free agency to fill out their rosters. The San Antonio Spurs have the ability to free up enough cap space to be major players in free agency, but it’s important they don’t overplay their hand by committing long-term money to players. that won’t move the needle or that can hinder the development of the young roster.

Spurs’ current squad

I’ve already detailed Spurs’ salary cap situation in a previous article, but now that Spurs have officially made all three first-round selections and have fully guaranteed Zach Collins’ salary for the upcoming season, Spurs will have 12 fully guaranteed contracts. heading into free agency. This does not include the unsecured contracts of Keita Bates-Diop, Tre Jones and Jock Landale. Jones is expected to be a lock on his salary being guaranteed for the coming season, especially with rumors circulating that Spurs are potentially swapping Dejounte Murray. Jones is the only other natural point guard on the roster and will be inexpensive relative to his production on the field. Lonnie Walker IV is the only other major question mark from Spurs’ own impending free agents, and we’ll get to that later.

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Assuming Spurs guarantee Jones’ contract, waive the rights of all their free agents and exceptions, and there are no additional trades, Spurs are expected to enter free agency with 13 players under contract and approximately $32 million cap space, as the NBA has set the salary cap for next season at $122 million with the tax line set at $139 million. That’s a lot of available ceiling space, but not a lot of available spots on the listing.

Avoid Marquee Free Agents

Spurs are not “one player away” from being a title contender. Murray is a star, and Keldon Johnson’s current trajectory could lead him there in the future, but adding a max player like Zach LaVine or Bradley Beal to this young roster doesn’t make much sense. It would eliminate much of the financial flexibility Spurs currently have and hamper the development of young guards already on the roster.

There are a few restricted free agents in Deandre Ayton and Miles Bridges who would be a better fit for the roster in terms of timing and roster construction. The problem with Ayton is that it will be difficult to build a championship-caliber team with him earning over $30 million a year and without a pick-and-roll maestro like Chris Paul giving him the ball. It would also likely require signing and trading with the Suns, unnecessarily cost Spurs more assets at a time when they need to collect them.

Decks are a bit undersized at 4 and probably wouldn’t move the needle much for Spurs. Additionally, the Charlotte Hornets appear to be interested in clearing some cap space to ensure they are able to re-sign decks at all costs.

Consolidate the central position

Many in NBA circles expected Spurs to take over a center, with Jalen Duren’s name regularly attached to the Spurs as a 9-year-old. Personally, I’m glad Spurs went in another direction. With Jakob Poeltl as a starter and Collins backing him up, the center is not a short-term need for Spurs. That said, they could afford to seek some depth and versatility in the position, especially as Poeltl enters the final year of his contract and Collins’ full salary is not guaranteed next season.

Forget Ayton. The big one Spurs should be aiming for in free agency is Ayton’s former teammate Jalen Smith. He has been linked with Spurs since Spurs acquired Thaddeous Young from the Chicago Bulls last offseason, although a trade never materialized. That’s probably a good thing considering the Suns turned down Smith’s third-year option, meaning if Spurs had traded him during the season, the most they could offer him this summer would be $4.67 million.

The next question is whether Smith is even worth that much money in the market. While that remains to be seen, I can guarantee the Suns regret not choosing his option last summer. He played pretty well for Phoenix when given the chance, and when he was traded to the Indiana Pacers at the deadline, he averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds and 1 block in 24 minutes per match. He also shot 37% from range on about 4 attempts per game. Smith was number 10 overall in the 2020 draft and is just 22 years old. I believe there is still a lot of untapped potential in his game, and I would love to see the Spurs development team go after him.

I’m not saying Spurs should live or die by this signing, but he’s young, has high potential, can space the floor, matches Spurs’ roster timeline and can play in both positions 4 and 5 He should also be relatively inexpensive to sign, especially compared to what it would cost to steal Ayton from the Suns. A big rotation of Poeltl, Collins, Smith and Jeremy Sochan would be really solid. These are the types of players Spurs need to target.

Let Lonnie Walker IV Walk

From a personal perspective, this one is a bit painful for me. I love Lonnie. I think everyone does, but the sad reality is that in his first four seasons with Spurs he never displayed a level of consistency that would make the Spurs front office comfortable invest in him beyond his rookie contract. Even if the price is right, I would let Lonnie try to relaunch his career with another franchise.

Spurs don’t have many available roster spots this summer, and they have more pressing needs than a goalkeeper off the bench. Primo will be looking for an increased role, and Spurs have just signed two more guards. Blake Wesley will almost certainly spend the majority of next season in the G-League, but there’s a real possibility that Malaki Branham could break the rotation. He’s probably the most ready in the NBA of the three rookies and can naturally fill Lonnie’s role as a bench scorer who occasionally plays defense. Even though Branham ends up spending most of his time in the G-League, Spurs still have Josh Richardson and Romeo Langford to soak up Lonnie’s minutes.

Make exchanges on the sidelines of the list

These Murray trade rumors are making my ears bleed. I don’t understand why a small market team would consider trading someone they drafted and developed into a star. I get that no one on the roster should be truly untouchable, and maybe Spurs are just trying to see if a sponsor offer exists, but trading Murray only makes sense if Spurs have decided to move on from stealth tanking in open tanking.

I also strongly believe in keeping Poeltl, at least until the deadline. I also recognize that a future starting line-up of Poeltl, Sochan and Murray could present some spacing challenges on offense. Maybe Spurs sign Jalen Smith and he turns out to be a solid center whose skills line up better with Sochan’s. At this point, Spurs could consider trading Poeltl.

Doug McDermott and Richardson, meanwhile, are expected to be on the trade block all summer and through the trade deadline. If a playoff team thinks one of them is worth a first-round pick, then I expect a deal to be done. Otherwise, having them on the roster to help youngsters on and off the pitch is a great consolation prize.

Take salary for asset projects

The New York Knicks have made it painfully clear that they will do whatever it takes to sign Jalen Brunson. They just acquired a bunch of first-round picks by trading the 11th pick in the 2022 draft, so Spurs should be looking to take the remaining salary for Nerlens Noel and/or Alec Burks in exchange for one of those picks. first round.

The Charlotte Hornets would be another option, with Gordon Hayward being the most obvious candidate. The Hornets want to free up space to re-sign Miles Bridges, and keeping Bridges and Hayward would almost certainly put them over the tax line, which might not be acceptable for a marginal playoff team in a small market. . Hayward still has two years left on his contract, so trading for him would be a much harder pill to swallow, but if priced right it should be something Spurs are considering.

I’m sure there will be other options, but these two teams come to mind as the most obvious choice if Spurs go this route.

Final Thoughts

While it doesn’t exactly have to do with free agency, Johnson’s extension has to be one of Spurs’ top front office priorities this summer. At just 22, he’s far from a finished product, so locking him in at a reasonable price seems like a no-brainer at this point.

I know this summer wouldn’t be very exciting if it turned out this way, but I believe this list can become something in the future. Murray is a star. Poeltl is one of the best traditional centers in the NBA. Devin Vassell and Johnson are two wings that showed a lot of promise early in their respective careers. Additionally, Spurs have four 19-year-olds on the roster. All of these players need time to develop. They can’t afford to sit on the sidelines as a high-priced veteran comes in just to get Spurs a few more wins next season.

Spurs have given us championship-caliber teams for two decades. As fans, it is now our turn to return the favor by being patient during this rebuilding process. It’s not always pretty, but I believe it will be worth it in the end.

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