The San Antonio Spurs have failed to defend their NBA title for a fifth time, and are heading into an offseason with most of their players unsigned, mostly waiting to hear the decision made by Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich and Manu Ginobili regarding their pending retirements.
Duncan might be old for an NBA player, but he isn’t playing like one. I referred to him as the 8th wonder of the ancient world. Just over 39, he averaging 13.9 points and 9.1 rebounds in under 29 minutes a night, and easily giving more to his team when necessary or when he had to play more minutes. The Spurs didn’t get through in the postseason, but Duncan was their most consistent and reliable player, averaging 17.9 points and 11.1 rebounds on 35.7 minutes a night. That doesn’t seem like a player who should be retiring.
On the other hand, there’s Ginobili, who has already made a hint or two about being tired of aching all over. Ginobili still averaged just over 10 points per game this season in 22.7 minutes and did get to play 70 games, but the difference between good and bad nights for him grows bigger, and he sometimes did more harm than good when he was on the floor during the postseason, which means that it might actually be time to leave basketball just before he celebrated his 38th birthday.
Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills and Kyle Anderson are the only players under contract for next season. That means a lot of cap space to re-sign Duncan (if he wants to come back), Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Marco Belinelli and maybe some more, although the Spurs might be able to find better players than Baynes, Bonner, Joseph and Ayres. Loyalty is important and fitting in matters, but maybe there are some upgrades to be made in the nether regions of the Spurs’ bench.
Leonard will be a restricted free agent, but the Spurs plan to offer him a new contract, possibly a max one, although he didn’t really look like the “max type” in the series with the Clippers, having too many off nights of not being able to live up to he accolades lavished on him, describing him as the team’s future. Leonard did average 20.3 points per game in the postseason, but considering all the money the Spurs are going to throw at him, that’s actually slightly disappointing. Maybe his performances in the final games were the biggest blow of all.
Danny Green made $4 million on his previous deal. Is he worth more? He’s going to try and get some. The combination of Green and Leonard as your wing defenders is a scary thought for opponents, but Green is often a limited offensive player. Can he find more in the open market? Can the Spurs find someone better? With potentially $34 million in cap space, the Spurs would also like to have a stab at some key players in the free agency market and not just keep the same core intact.
A name that keeps coming up is LaMarcus Aldridge, but it might be a bit soon. A lot of teams are going after him, and San Antonio has never been the free agency Mecca. R.C. Buford and Popovich work in different ways; go after different players. If Popovich does decide to stay, and his remark about the money being good is a sign for Spurs fans to feel optimistic, don’t feel too optimistic about max-signings from outside the team happening any time soon.