Idealism and pragmatism are two very different concepts, especially when it comes to NBA free agency. There are a lot of talented free agents that the San Antonio Spurs would love to acquire, but sufficient funds need to be available to pursue these players. How much cap space are the Spurs going to have in free agency to spend?
Excitement around the league about increased funds primarily from new TV deals is well justified. The salary cap projections for 2016-2017 exceeded original expectations, and it’s looking as if it will settle at $92 million, with the luxury tax threshold starting at $111 million.
Teams are going to have a lot of extra money to disburse on free agents. Any players looking for new contracts picked a great time to cash in on their performances.
The Spurs will have about $18.3 million in cap space if all of their non-guaranteed contracts come off the books.
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The Spurs have 8 players in total who can become free agents, and 7 of them would be unrestricted. Boban Marjanovic is their only restricted free agent.
Matt Bonner, Kevin Martin, and Andre Miller are all unrestricted free agents. Those 3 account for about $2.2 million.
3 other potential unrestricted free agents are David West, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili. They all have player options that they can opt into for next year.
Duncan and Ginobili are both contemplating retirement, so there’s a strong chance that their two contracts come off the books.
Considering that West famously forfeited so much money to come to San Antonio to try to win a championship, it seems extremely likely that he’s not going to opt out. His contract for next season is about $1.6 million.
Duncan and Ginobili represent about $8.4 million towards the cap. While their status is uncertain for next season, it appears as though both will come back or neither of them will, although that’s pure speculation judging from comments made regarding the decisions.
The Spurs also have a team option on Jonathon Simmons at a little over $870,000. Considering that he got a couple votes for the All-Rookie Team and represents very little hit to the cap, it seems probable that the Spurs will exercise that team option for next season.
The Spurs have 7 guaranteed contracts for next season: LaMarcus Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Kyle Anderson. Those 7 contracts combine to equal about $73.7 million. 92 million minus 73.7 million is 18.3 million, and that’s where the total stated above comes from.
That total assumes that all 8 free agents leave, however. West has spoken so positively about his experience in San Antonio that he’s almost certainly not leaving. That decreases their cap space to about $16.7 million.
Marjanovic is also due for a raise if the Spurs want to retain his rights. His value on the open market won’t be known until teams start formally negotiating for him, but he made $1.2 million last season while ranking 3rd in the NBA in Player Efficiency Rating.
Let’s estimate that he gets a raise of around $3.5-4 million for next season by signing an offer sheet with another team. The Spurs will have a big choice to make about how much he fits into their future plans. Would they match an offer like that? If they do, their cap space would likely come down to around $13 million.
Their ability to land a pricey free agent on the open market is largely dependent on Duncan and Ginobili’s statuses. If Duncan, Ginobili, Simmons, West, and Marjanovic all return, they’ll have about $4-5 million in cap space. If that group returns sans Duncan and Ginobili, then the Spurs will have about $13 million in cap space. Minus Marjanovic, Duncan, and Ginobili, it likely goes to about $16 million.
The exact figures are hard to quantify because the amount of money that Marjanovic would get offered on the open market isn’t known at this point, but since his contract isn’t on the books right now for the Spurs, it’s easier to determine what their cap space would be if he didn’t return.
It can be safely estimated, though, that the best case scenario is the Spurs would have enough money to lure one big-name free agent with a max deal to join the team. Mike Conley is a possibility. If they look for a center to replace Duncan, Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, or Al Jefferson are all plausible targets for the Spurs.
The Spurs need to make major upgrades at both point guard and center, but only one of those positions can be filled with the money on the free agent market the Spurs have in cap room.
It will certainly be an interesting offseason with the Spurs as they figure out how to spend their extra money.