The Spurs have done it again: they’ve managed to manufacture another diverse roster, with 14 potential contributors, while maintaining a modicum of financial flexibility — or, in other words, avoiding the luxury tax. While the luxury tax isn’t as punitive as it will be in the next few years, it’s still imperative to avoid paying extra money, especially in a small-market like San Antonio.
They’ve shaved off payroll by delving into the bargain bin and nabbing Boris Diaw and Danny Green for approximately $8.5 million this year; both players, who fit synonymously in the context of the Spurs’ system, are likely to exceed that value. Adding Patty Mills into the fold for $1.09 million this season, he has a player option worth $1.13 million for the 2013-14 season, was another cost-effective move designed to give them a valuable commodity without severely depleting their pocket books.
Of course the real key to the offseason was whether Tim Duncan would take a significant paycut, which would gift San Antonio with room to use the mid-level exception on either Diaw or Green. Had Duncan chosen to receive along the lines of $12 million per year, that would’ve made it a lot more difficult to sign Nando De Colo with the bi-annual exception. Bear in mind that the $12 million mark would still have been an immense coup for a player of Duncan’s caliber.
Duncan will net $9.65 million this season, fourth behind Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Stephen Jackson, before his salary hikes to a respectable $10.4 million in the 2013-14 season. His final year, a player option worth an even $10 million, was designed to give Duncan the ability to walk away should his skills deteriorate quicker than he’d like. If he picks up option, his salary isn’t significant enough to disrupt further financial flexibility.
San Antonio currently has 14 players on their roster; with their total payroll at $69.1 million, a slight notch below the $70.3 million luxury tax threshold for the 2012-13 season. Exceeding the tax will result in a team paying an extra $1 million for every $1 million over the tax. The Spurs can realistically sign a minimum player to fill out their roster and still prevent more financial expenditures.
This crafty example of cap maneuvering, however brilliant as it was, still hinged on a variety of outside factors — namely Duncan’s willingness to forgo a lot of money and the lack of interest in Diaw and Green — to come to fruition.
Call it luck, call it genius, call it whatever you’d like.
But the Spurs have put themselves in a good position to contend — at a relatively affordable cost.