So the question in my mind is Matt Bonner worth keeping around at the salary he would most likely earn? He earned around $3 million last season, so I’m thinking it would take roughly the same amount to sign him going forward.
I’m not so sure the answer to that question is yes. I know that he rules when you look at his sabermetrics, and he is the definition of hustle, but if the Spurs could avoid the tax by going a different route I’d be for that.
See you on the other side for more on this delicate topic. Right now the Spurs are about $3.9 million under the 2010-2011 salary cap, though if they shed any of the un-guaranteed players currently signed to a contract they can increase that amount. If they went that route they could clear up to an additional #3.1 million. There might be a reason to do this, say if Splitter says he ain’t coming over for less than $6 million to start (which given what other people are signing for isn’t completely ridiculous).
However, doing that would severely limit the ability of the Spurs to fill out their roster for next season. Just for shits-n-giggles let’s say that the Spurs cut Hairston, Gee, Temple, and Jerrells; that would leave Parker, Ginobili, Blair, Duncan, Hill, and McDyess under contract and a minimum of seven roster spots to fill. One of those goes to James Anderson at the rookie salary for his pick so now the Spurs are at $52.1 million, leaving $5.94 million under the cap.
Continuing our game, let’s say that the Spurs sign Tiago to that starting salary, now the Spurs are capped out with a minimum of five roster spots to fill. So how does a capped out team that has given up its MLE and BAE go about filling those spots? Bird Rights and minimum salaries. If I am not mistaken, the Spurs hold full Bird Rights to Jefferson, Bonner, and Mahinmi and early Bird Rights to Mason. Realistically, we can expect Mason to sign elsewhere and most likely Mahinmi too, but you never know on that one. Lots of “experts” are saying the RJ could be in the Silver-n-Black again next season, so let’s give him a starting salary of $7.5 million. We are now up to nine players,$65.5 million in salaries, and 4 empty roster spots.
The luxury cap line is getting close as well at about $4.75 million dollars away. Signing Bonner to somewhere in the neighborhood of his previous contract practically guarantees that the Spurs would be tax payers in 2010-2011 and not that much better in terms of roster strength over the season that just ended. You know the one where the Spurs were swept in the Second Round, paid the tax, and lost $20 million? Of course the Spurs could let RJ walk and sign Bonner instead, but I’m not sure how that helps make the Spurs stronger. Now I’d like to look at the other scenario that could play out here in the near future.
So in this set-up, instead of cutting the young guys, they keep them and now can use Bird Rights, the MLE, BAE, and minimum salaries to fill out the roster; plus have fewer empty seats on the bench to fill. In this version of events, Spurs have 11 players on the roster, the ten under contract from last season plus James Anderson. I think it is reasonable to assume that at this point the MLE will be used on Splitter. I know that the Spurs have yet to make an offer, but it just makes sense to me that the Spurs thought three steps ahead when they found out Tiago would be staying in Europe and advised him to get a reduced buyout in his contract for this summer.
The salary outlook for next season at this point is right around $59.9 million, still plenty of room to add some talent to the team and stay tax-free. Again, I’ll put Jefferson down for a starting salary of $7.5 million to bring the payroll to $67.4 million and leaving just under $3 million before the Spurs are tax contributors next season. The good news here is that the Spurs now have a the required number of contracted players on their roster and still have access to the BAE to sign a player like Matt Barnes, Raja Bell, Louis Amundson, Rasual Butler, Devin Brown, or possibly Kyle Lowry and not yet have hit the tax line. As you can see, in this situation Matt Bonner is nowhere to be found. Which brings me back to the original point of this post: is it worth re-signing Matt Bonner and becoming part of the luxury tax paying crowd? After the “all-in-gamble” of 2009-2010, I say no.
I believe that a roster that includes an improved George Hill and DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, James Anderson, BAE player X, and a humbled and hopefully re-invigorated Richard Jefferson to go along with the Big Three is an improvement over last season. More improved that the first breakdown illustrated in this post. If either Hairston, Gee, Temple, or Jerrells proves to be a rotation player then the improvement is that much greater. There is still one sticky situation to contend with, a Big that can shoot, towards that end I propose Steve Novak. Little Stevie is as tall as Ginger and has very comparable career shooting percentages (.403 from three versus .405, and .868 from the stripe versus .787) and could be had for the League minimum of around $1 million for players of his tenure. “Look Ma, no tax!”
Sure, sure you could say that Novak is a lesser player than Bonner, but that’s a specious argument at best, his real problem is that he never played more than 8 minutes a game for Houston and then spent the past two years playing for a Mike Dumbleavy led Clippers squad. Given a chance to play Bonner type minutes for the Spurs, or even two-thirds of Bonner’s minutes I feel comfortable saying that the Spurs would be getting a bargain while maintaining or improving the expected output of the Red Rocket.
In a League that is as much about business as it is sport, I don’t see how this thought doesn’t at least cross the minds of those in the Spurs Front Office.