I don’t like writing about the offseason as much as you like reading about it, trust me. Usually it means the Spurs didn’t achieve their objective (a NBA championship) which sucks. I’m not yet ready to talk about the Western Conference Finals unless the conversation revolves around how awesome Stephen Jackson is. If we divulge from there and discuss the series specifically, I get sad, then angry. You won’t like me when I’m angry.
The offseason also sucks because it signifies the end of a basketball team. The 2011-12 San Antonio Spurs may look vaguely similar to the 2012-13 edition but they won’t be exact carbon copies of each other. There will be minor tweaks and, possibly, franchise altering decisions. It’s the nature of the business and, generally, I’ve accepted this facet of my favorite sport.
Following a team like the 2011-12 Spurs was an absolute joy. My love for the entire team was only surpassed by my love of peanut butter (and my family). They were a special team and, if everything went my way, San Antonio would be hoisting their fifth NBA Championship. Their offensive brilliance and adherence to Gregg Popovich’s system would be validated. I wouldn’t be crying myself to sleep at night, eating strawberry ice cream and watching Netflix until four a.m. Life would be great. Unfortunately (for Spurs fans) we don’t live in a perfect world. And just like we can’t always be happy with the end result, the Spurs’ front office will be pressed into a couple of difficult decisions this offseason. What should they do about Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson?
There are two perspectives that I would like to discuss. This is assuming, of course, that San Antonio won’t decide to retain both. For the purposes of this column, please ignore this important disclaimer. (Thank you.)
Letting Diaw walk.
Edg5 of Pounding the Rock eloquently explained the Spurs’ specific cap ramifications and potential scenarios.
“Boris Diaw is an unrestricted free agent to whom the Spurs don’t have Bird rights, meaning that they can’t go over the cap to re-sign him. To bring Boris back, the Spurs would probably have to spend the MLE or at least part of it. There will be a market for Diaw after what he showed in the Spurs this season.”
The MLE (mid-level exception) is generally around $5 million and if a team were to deem the 30-year-old Diaw more valuable than the MLE, San Antonio would probably be unable to match that kind of financial compensation.
Diaw is one of my favorite players on this Spurs team and an important player in the most proficient passing team in the league. He’s notorious for his impressive vision but his defense and rebounding improved in his tenure with San Antonio. He was also one of the most efficient options of the Spurs’ attack, averaging 0.95 points per possession and making 65% of his shots.
Given his inability to produce in Charlotte, the market for his services may be decidedly smaller. He does have a propensity to sulk, gain weight and be a detriment to the team rather than a positive force. We know he can succeed in San Antonio. The preposition of an entire year of Diaw, rather than two months, seems pretty appealing. The potential of utilizing one of the most unique weapons in basketball may be too tantalizing for a tactical genius like Gregg Popovich to pass up.
But it isn’t so simple. How could the Spurs flip Jack to another team after his herculean effort in Game 6? How could they turn their backs on one of the best teammates on the team and a player dedicated to filling any conceivable role? It sounds inconceivable. Jack filled in the role behind Kawhi Leonard admirably, brought intensity and fire to a team generally devoid of such qualities.
He was, in a sense, invaluable. From a sentimental standpoint it would be really hard to let go of Jack. From a basketball standpoint it would be really hard to let go of Jack. Not many players provide San Antonio with as much diversity as Jack.
Economically? It makes sense. Part of the incentive to trade Richard Jefferson was to increase financial flexibility. That way, if Jack imploded, there would still be an avenue of hope — Jack’s expiring contract for the 2012-13 season. The prospect of his $10.1 million expiring deal is valuable in the trade market.
If San Antonio really wanted to clear more space to re-sign Diaw, Danny Green and Erazem Lorbek, their best move would be to send Jackson on his way. Would you rather have Diaw, Green and Lorbek than Green, Jack and less flexibility? For reference, Lorbek is compared to Matt Bonner but younger (28) and more balanced.
The answer isn’t finite.
This solution seems to be gaining prominence after he failed miserably in the postseason. This would surely open up a spot for Lorbek, who seems ready to fill Bonner’s void. I, personally, don’t like the idea of paying someone to play somewhere else unless the contract is abominable (Rashard Lewis, Gilbert Arenas etc). Bonner is scheduled to receive approximately $7.5 million for two years, a very acceptable amount.
Obviously, I’d prefer a world where San Antonio retains Diaw and Jackson. It can still happen. But if I had to choose … I’d choose to keep Diaw although I’ve admittedly flip-flopped a couple of times while writing this piece.
Who would you rather keep Spurs fans? Both? Neither? Trade Bonner for Dwight Howard? (Just kidding.)