San Antonio Spurs News

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili Hold Keys to Kawhi Contract

By Erik Lambert

Dec 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (21) forward Manu Ginobili (20) and forward Kawhi Leonard (2) against the Phoenix Suns at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

For years the success of the Spurs franchise has run through Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.  That may prove truer than ever even as they near the end.

San Antonio Spurs in the dark about Duncan and Ginobili plans

Even as preparations continue for the San Antonio Spurs to execute their first successful NBA title defense as a franchise, a cloud looms over the procession.  That cloud represents the lingering questions regarding the futures of veteran stars Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.  At ages 38 and 36 respectively, they are very close to considering retirement.  So close in fact that many were surprised both elected to return for the 2014-2015 season, spurning the chance to go out as champions.  While their presence is much welcomed by fans and teammates, it does create a slight problem for the front office.

Kawhi Leonard poised to become restricted free agent

There is no question the biggest thing on the agenda for Spurs management is the contract situation for reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard.  The young forward looks like the next great San Antonio star and the team would love to lock him up long-term.  The problem is in the number.  Do they extend him outright on a long deal or take a serious risk by letting enter free agency in 2015 as a restricted free agent?  Part of the problem rests on the status of Duncan and Ginobili.

As long as they stay on, the Spurs want to keep the championship roster they’ve built intact.  So if the two returned again next season the team would want to extend Leonard outright and re-sign key players for another run.  However, if it was unmistakeable that both planned to retire regardless of what happens this season, then San Antonio would have to alter strategy.  Losing that sort of front court depth would mean they’d need to find help at power forward and center.  For that they’d need cap space.  There are certain other details, but basically it would require them allowing Leonard to hit the open market.  In the meantime they would use their extensive cap space to go after a top big man.  The hope would be they find one quickly enough so they can match any offers made to Leonard.

The problem is the Spurs can’t employ any sort of strategy because they have no clue what Duncan and Ginobili plan to do.  Until that changes, the Leonard contract situation can’t be resolved.