For the first time in seven years we haven’t heard anyone talk about whether this was the last we saw of the current San Antonio Spurs. When you win a championship, suddenly the age of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker don’t matter anymore. Suddenly it’s more about what decisions Gregg Popovich needs to make in order to keep this team stocked and ready to make another title run.
The true value of player development and their ability to scout and pick the right guys has been brought forth over the last three seasons. Since winning the NBA title in 2007 until 2012 the Spurs had some rough seasons. First round playoff exits with Ginobili and Duncan struggling with injuries, while the supporting cast around them was getting older or simply not satisfactory to what Popovich wanted.
But slowly but steadily, the Spurs made the right moves. Adding Boris Diaw and Danny Green, drafting Tiago Splitter and trading for Kawhi Leonard after he was drafted by the Indiana Pacers. The Spurs got young and suddenly looked like a genuine title threat for reasons other than the big three. And there was the progression graph – Conference finals in 2012, NBA finals in 2013 and now a championship in 2014, as it seemed like the hardest they had to go through happened early in the playoffs, not at the end of it.
So what changes for the Spurs in the offseason? Duncan has a player option of $10 million. Some have suggested he might opt out of his deal to clear cap space and sign a much lower one, making the Spurs a potential contender for one of the big names in free agency. LeBron James playing for the Spurs? Chris Bosh? That’s going to be very weird considering the Spurs have never been massive players in the free agency market, but there are options available.
Aside from the yes/no Duncan situation, there are players who need to be addressed. Boris Diaw, one of the heroes of this NBA title, or as some call him Mister Plus Minus, becomes a free agent. The 32-year old Frenchman made $4.7 million last season. He took a big pay cut to play for the Spurs when he signed on in 2012. They’re hoping he doesn’t ask for the same contract ($9.2 million for two years) again.
While Kawhi Leonard is signed on for another season, it’s time to discuss and extension. On first glance, Leonard doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who lets the success or an NBA Finals MVP go to his head. However, this is the last year in which he makes only $2.8 million a season, and the Spurs are going to have to double that in order to sign him for the long term. On the other hand, both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili hit free agency in 2015. Ginobili will likely retire and so might Tim Duncan. Parker will take less than the $12.5 million he is making now, or simply move somewhere else if the big three does actually break off.
Patty Mills hits free agency. He made $1.1 million last season. The Spurs are going to need a better deal for him in order to keep him on board. However, some teams might beware adding him for a big deal after what went down with Gary Neal this offseason. Some players only thrive under Popovich and under a different head coach seem far less likely to succeed. No one is saying Patty Mills will bomb on any other team, but leaving the Spurs’ warm and comfortable greenhouse is always dangerous.
The immediate future – next season – looks bright. Beyond that? Too many different factors, but assuming no one suddenly becomes too overwhelmed by getting older and the potential to add players through free agency, the Spurs might actually be better than they were this season in 2014-2015.