Spurs’ front office worked well at the start of the rebuild


It’s been a tough time for Spurs fans. Even those who support the approach of a complete reconstruction and agree with the project’s selections have probably struggled to find reasons for optimism in the short term. Moreover, the lack of success that has been correlated with a change in leadership at the front office level probably worries some when they think about the future.

While nothing (other than time travel) will ease anxiety about the future, a look at the little things the front office has been up to lately might allay some of the worries about those in charge. The Brian Wright administration has yet to score a single big victory, but it has chained a few minor ones. Let’s start with the biggest example and go from there.


The Dejounte Murray trade was well executed

People may disagree on whether the Dejounte Murray trade was necessary or if it was the right course of action, but looking back, the execution was undoubtedly good. Murray is a very good player in his prime, but getting three first-round picks and a pick trade without taking back long-term pay is impressive. The timing was also perfect, as many other stars became available afterward, which could have derailed conversations with the Hawks. Acting quickly was smart.

Speaking of this suddenly star-saturated trade market, it offers a good point of comparison to judge the Murray deal. The deals that have since been done or the rumors that other franchises are asking for better – or at least more accomplished – players indicate that Spurs have done well. A three-time Defensive Player of the Year commanded the return of four first rounds and a trade, as well as decent but unspectacular players. The asking price for Donovan Mitchell appears to be six or seven first rounds, but so far no team has been willing to offer that. The circumstances surrounding Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving’s trade requests are unique, but even two superstars with championship pedigrees have struggled to secure big payouts so far.

Murray is good, and he could eventually become a multiple All-Star, but he’s not at that level yet. Acting quickly and decisively, Spurs have salvaged what looks like a fair-at-worst and legitimately good-at-best package for him.

This is the perfect year to have plenty of cap space.

The biggest disappointment of Murray’s trade is that there were no actual players returning to San Antonio. Instead of being able to get excited and dive deep into the game of, say, Ognyeka Okongwu or John Collins, fans had to settle for watching scouting videos for prospects who might never wear silver and black, as the prioritized front office selects.

A byproduct of that decision is an abundance of cap space, which is normally considered a plus going forward, much like draft picks. This year, however, it might come in handy sooner rather than later.

Spurs are in a prime position to facilitate deals at a time when several stars could be on the move. Even if no deal materializes over the next few weeks, the cap flexibility could come in handy during the season and especially at the trade deadline, where teams will be trying to either cut pay or improve their roster by maybe even looking for the same stars that seem available. now but maybe not yet. The likely return San Antonio will get would likely be more draft picks, which will always be difficult to excite, but there could also be an opportunity to remove a young prospect with potential in those trades, or a veteran to provide leadership. . which can then be returned later.

Spurs could have focused on cap space next offseason, but they’ve made sure to have plenty available now, which opens up more options. At worst, they’ll overturn it, but not making big additions gives them valuable flexibility.

Contracts are well structured

Spurs only have a few guys who aren’t on their first contracts, and all of them have deals that have been well structured. The most impressive example is Keldon Johnson’s contract. The young forward will see his reasonable salary drop over the years, being paid $17.5m at the end, which will likely only be a tiny fraction of the cap. The downside is that it might be difficult to extend his contract if he becomes a star, but Spurs would still have the option of offering more money than anyone else once he reaches free agency.

Other less substantial agreements are also favorable to the team. Doug McDermott has a flat contract, which means he will earn $13.7 million this year and next, and with the cap set to increase, he will essentially be cheaper in practice as his contract runs out. , which might make it easier. trading. Zach Collins’ contract is fully unsecured next season, so Spurs could cut ties with him next summer if he struggles to stay on the pitch or keep him for a very reasonable $7 .3 million while getting full bird rights on him if he excels. Finally, making the second year of Keita Bates-Diop’s deal entirely unsecured and likely only securing part of Alize Johnson’s newly signed contract should allow them to determine which of them is best suited for the job. team for little or no cost.

Most fans naturally aren’t too concerned with the accounting facts, but considering the franchise’s problems in recent years with bad contracts that led to buyouts or were hard to move, it’s worth mentioning that the front office has been more cautious recently.

The front office did a good job on the sidelines of the roster

After trading their best player for a good shot, carving out a gigantic tier of cap space, and managing the veteran’s contracts well, the front office has also done a good job filling the roster with intriguing players on affordable contracts.

Claiming Isaiah Roby waivers was one of those little moves that makes sense for a rebuilding team. Roby isn’t going to be a star, but he’s only 24, has good physical tools and some experience under his belt, and is in the final year of a contract that will earn him less than $2 million. He also fills a needy position, as he can play as a power forward and in the center of the small ball.

Keeping Tre Jones past the deadline that guaranteed $500,000 of his $1.7 million contract was a no-brainer, but having the option to cut ties was smart planning in case the former second-rounder fails. would not happen. Likewise, giving him a three-year contract that will earn Spurs all the rights to Bird while making Jones a restricted free agent in 2023 gives them control of a young player who could be part of their future.

Alize Johnson for the minimum on a likely partially guaranteed deal is also a nice little bet. The forward has dominated G League play in the past with his all-around game and has a chance to stay in the NBA with his rebounds and assists.

Even something tiny like making Joe Wieskamp a restricted free agent for the chance to keep him or using the two-way lunges on two big forwards with potential are smart moves.

The success of a reconstruction is almost always determined by the big moments. A team can do all the little things well, but if the luck of the lottery isn’t there or they pick the wrong cornerstone, none of it will matter. A big move is more important than dozens of decents in the NBA. It’s just an unfortunate fact.

It’s always heartening to see a front office being proficient at what they can control, and Spurs look set to have one again. Hopefully Brian Wright and Co. will build on a solid few months and be ready to make the most important decisions that will come down the road.