Grading the Spurs’ Top-Five Free Agent Targets This Summer

May 30, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) dribbles the basketball during the third quarter in game seven of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
May 30, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant (35) dribbles the basketball during the third quarter in game seven of the Western conference finals of the NBA Playoffs against the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The Warriors defeated the Thunder 96-88. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are free agents this offseason. However, unless they release a one or two sentence press release unceremoniously announcing their retirement, the legendary Spurs aren’t going anywhere.

Air Alamo rates the likelihood of signing San Antonio’s top-five targeted prize free agents of the off-season:

Hassan Whiteside

Pop has always been a firm believer in discipline in the organization; he is the basketball prophet that his players follow, adhering to every x’s-and-o’s sermon he preaches.

Whiteside is a work in progress; his character flaws bounced him around teams, the D-League and international play before an impressive two seasons with Miami showcased his potential (averaging 13 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 blocks career with the Heat).

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The 26-year old center definitely fits into Pop’s desire to pad the bench with younger players, and he is a rim protector that’s reminiscent of prime Dennis Rodman. However, The Worm got the boot from the Spurs for his character flaws. What’s to stop Whiteside from failing miserable under the same circumstances, where his commitment has often been questioned?

Recently, Whiteside expressed his desire to live income or state tax free, as per Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinal:

Clearly briefed about free agency, Whiteside offered insight to the Heat’s perceived advantage over several teams because of the lack of state income tax in Florida.

“It factors in. It factors in when it comes to no state tax,” he said. “But, you know, you can get traded. Nothing is guaranteed.”

Obviously, Texas has no state tax; whether this is a positive sign for the silver-and-black, Dallas, or Houston was not specified.

The upside: San Antonio’s front court would be on par with the monoliths roaming the block in OKC. After shipping Serge Ibaka off to Orlando for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilynasova, and Domantas Sabonis, the Thunder got younger, and are expected to compete heavily for the one-seed against the Western Conference’s very best. With Whiteside, the Spurs can contend with the frontcourt of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter that feasted in the block during the semis.

The downside:  Whiteside and Aldridge could clog the paint; both players aren’t the quickest in basketball, contributing to a team that ranked 24th in overall PACE.

Additionally, as of this writing, Whiteside has not secured a face-to-face meeting with the Spurs, but will talk with the Mavericks.

Still, it’s hard not to salivate at his defensive and offensive prowess, untapped potential and remarkable ability as a finisher off the glass.

According to numerous sources, Whiteside will make his decision July 1st.

Possibility: C

Michael Conley

I’ve been quick to preach the accomplishments of Conley (I could be accused of nepotism, because of a distant relation, according to The Memphis PG possesses the qualities of a true silver-and-black great; his unassuming demeanor and willingness to sacrifice the rock could spread the floor for a Spurs offense that ranked third in assists (18.9).

As per Tim McMahon of ESPN:

A source said the Spurs and Mavericks are among the other teams that would interest Conley, who intends to explore his options in free agency. The Spurs would have to answer questions about how Conley would fit with Tony Parker, according to the source, who said that Conley has great respect for Dallas coach Rick Carlisle.

After posting lows since his rookie season in usage rate and points, Tony Parker has accepted his role is diminishing in the Spurs offense, according to Jeff McDonald with the San Antonio Express News:

Parker said he harbors no concerns about his future role, reiterating that his job is only to please coach Gregg Popovich.

“We talked about it all year long,” Parker said. “I am fine with it (a changing role), and going forward it’s going to be like that. As long as Pop is happy, I’m good.”

Conley isn’t great at pushing the pace like Parker, especially in transition, and isn’t as familiar with the system as the 13-year French veteran is.

The likelihood of attaining Conley’s services slightly wavered when the Spurs drafted point guard Dejounte Murray. In one year of play, the 19-year-old combo guard set a record for assists (151) at Washington, averaging 16.1 points and six boards in a competitive Pac-12.

If Conley signed, backup Patty Mills stock would diminish significantly, playing fourth fiddle behind Conley, TP, and the newly acquired Murray. Mills isn’t very effective at spreading the floor, but he is a fantastic shooter, averaging 42.5% fgm. At 6’0, he’s too small at the two, and could be demoted to towel twirler in a potentially stacked backcourt.Score: A-

Kevin Durant

The Kevin Durant publicity tour

The Kevin Durant free agency began this offseason after he narrowed the field down to six possible suitors, according to Sam Amick of USA Today:

Know this much about the Kevin Durant free agency sweepstakes that has already unofficially begun: He wouldn’t be taking a single meeting outside of Oklahoma City if he already knew what jersey he planned to wear next season.

So on July 1 when the Thunder, Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Clippers and Miami Heat start to come his way to discuss the prime years of his career, he will be all ears. The man isn’t one to waste anybody’s time

Imagining Kevin Durant in a Spurs jersey is like watching a unicorn frolic in a field of magic and dreams. Golden States best record would be shattered; San Antonio could lose maybe five games per season, only because Pop pulled his starters after Spurs nabbed consecutive first-place Western Conference berths. Their perimeter defense would be an impenetrable blockade of length and athleticism. The offense would endlessly facilitate and ceaselessly drain buckets from all angles.

This is a land of NBA enchantment, where the Spurs would easily be the first team in NBA history to earn four consecutive titles.

However, after Spurs fans finish gobbling the endless jelly beans of this dreamland, and do the backstroke in the chocolate falls of fantasy, they’ll realize how irrational this reality of make-believe really is.

Everyone knows KD will resign with OKC for at least another year. After a one-year deal, Durant can opt out, and make close to $220 million under the ballooned salary cap the Thunder will posses; other teams can’t come close to this amount.

David West declined a $12.2 million dollar player option with Indiana, signing a veteran minimum of $1.4 million with the Spurs; he opted out after one year of the decision. Money talks.

If the Thunder were smeared by the Warriors or Spurs in the postseason, a Durant departure would have been more likely. However, OKC crushed the heavily favored second-seed Spurs, and pushed the Warriors to a seven-game series that could have gone either way.Likelihood: C-

Al Horford & Pau Gasol 

If Tim Duncan were to retire, the Spurs have to name his successor during this summer’s free agency frenzy. The most likely: the Atlanta Hawks Al Horford and Chicago Bulls Pau Gasol.

Without question, Horford would be the better fit at the five in the absence of The Big Fundamental. Coupled with LaMarcus Aldridge, Horford has extended range away from the basket, and is a blocking and rebounding machine, averaging 7.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in the low post.

Additionally, he’s a player that averaged 34.3% from the 3-ball. Not a remarkably high number, but decent for a big man (in comparison, Aldridge’s 3p% was 0%).

If San Antonio can’t woo Horford, Pau Gasol is a solid alternative; brother Marc Gasol has been passionate about his big bro moving to the Alamo City. According to ESPN Radio’s Josh Martin:

Marc Gasol on Pau Gasol's future: "If I had to guess — not that I've talked to him about it — would be San Antonio."

— John Martin (@JohnMartin929) April 25, 2016

Gasol is an ageless wonder, a Spaniard that succeeded where Ponce de Leon failed in finding the Fountain of Youth. Gasol has dipped his palms into the immortal pool for 15-seasons, and is coming off his second consecutive All-Star selection (sixth overall) and is a year removed from All-NBA 2nd Team.

However — at 35-years-old — he likely won’t be a long term solution big in the low post, but will certainly be an upgrade for the next two-to-three years.The Spurs biggest competitor for Gasol is the New Look Knicks, who sacrificed Robin Lopez to acquire D-Rose, and have a gaping void at center. Gasol played under GM Phil Jackson in LA, and the Knicks have sizable cap-space.

Next: Washington Wizards Doubtful That They'll Sign Kevin Durant