March 14, 2011; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat point guard Mike Bibby (left) applies pressure to San Antonio Spurs point guard George Hill (3) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Miami won 110-80. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE
Ok, let’s just get to the gist of this piece: The San Antonio Spurs are a model organization. They have developed a sufficient infrastructure, with Peter Holt, R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich acting as the foundation, and they consistently find the right players to uphold their organizational ideal. That, in turn, has led to winning — and often.
They wouldn’t be able to build a consistent winner, though, without a semblance of duplicity (a healthy amount without breaking the rules.) There is a reason San Antonio has only averaged $1.4 million in luxury tax payments in the nine years since the rule has been instituted, according to Mark Deeks of Sham Sports. The vast majority of their bill, though, came in the 2009-10 season where they shelled out an additional $8,810,302 in tax.
San Antonio has managed to forge some extra cap flexibility by not offering the usual 120% of the rookie-scale contract to their first-round picks. Instead they offer their incoming rookies incentive-laden contracts, whether they are realistic or unrealistic (Cory Joseph earned the full 120% even though he appeared in only 29 games last season) is irrelevant.
This isn’t a way to add oodles of cap flexibility, as Deeks notes in his recent column on Marquis Teague, but it can help create a slightly more palatable tax bill, if there is one at all. It’s a minor competitive advantage that only a team like the Spurs routinely take advantage of.
“In 2010, James Anderson got a contract that paid up to of 120% of the scale in the first year upon meeting incentives, but only 115% in the second year, and would have only paid 117% in the third year had he gotten that far (yet that option year was never exercised).
It will be apparent that three of those six instances have been done by one team – the San Antonio Spurs. Anderson, Mahinmi and Hill was were all Spurs picks, and all exceptions to the 120% convention – the other common thread between them is that they were all drafted late in the first. Of those six, the highest selected was Anderson and #20; the other five was all the 25th pick or below. The Spurs have done it thrice. And they’ve done it bloody quietly.”
This tactic doesn’t sit well with some clients, as the Memphis situation shows, and perhaps the clout of the Spurs organization allows Buford extra leverage. But the Spurs have shown it can be done.
And you wonder why everyone is pillaging the entire Spurs front office?