May 7, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks with media before game four of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs against the Houston Rockets. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
With free agency approaching, who should the San Antonio Spurs target?
The San Antonio Spurs closed the 2017 NBA Draft with Derrick White and Jaron Blossomgame. However, NBA Free Agency is arguably the more important of the two for the franchise, especially after what happened in the 2017 Western Conference Finals (the Golden State Warriors swept the Spurs to reach the NBA Finals).
The Spurs have free agents, and while some may stick around, others will arrive from outside the organization. There are already names out there, which will be crunched on this list of the team’s top 10 free-agent targets.
Plenty of players will be available in July, but who’s realistic and makes sense to join the Spurs? Let’s look at some of the top options.
Mar 20, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Sergio Rodriguez (14) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic guard D.J. Augustin (14) defends during the second quarter at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
10. Sergio Rodriguez
The talk of Chris Paul, George Hill or Derrick Rose going to the San Antonio Spurs, will be the most appealing to the fans. That doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed, however.
If the Spurs want an option that may cost less, then Sergio Rodriguez could be an option at point guard. He’s a free agent after playing the 2016-17 season with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Rodriguez returned to the NBA in 2016, being away from the league for six years. He spent that time overseas, gaining experience and boosting his value. It resulted in a season of 7.8 points and 5.1 assists on 39 percent shooting from the Sixers. They’re not eye-popping stats, but enough to be a supporting player for a team.
If San Antonio targets Rodriguez, he can split time with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White at point guard. That takes the pressure off the youngsters, letting them ease into more playing time.
The Spurs can sign Rodriguez to a one or two-year deal, depending on what point of free agency this comes in. If it’s after the likes of Rose, Paul and Hill sign elsewhere, then two years could work.
Next: Tiago Splitter
Jun 12, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter (22) high fives guard Manu Ginobili (20) during the third quarter of game four of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
9. Tiago Splitter
From 2010-15, Tiago Splitter played a critical role with the San Antonio Spurs. He started as a role player that only received a little over 10 minutes per game. By Year 3, Splitter turned into a starter and played over 20 minutes per game, including on the 2014 NBA championship team.
However, after the Spurs dealt Splitter in 2015, he played a combined 44 games over the next two seasons, due to injuries. The second year, which saw the Brazilian play just 8 games, had him shooting three-pointers and making them for the first time, so is this the latest stretch four in the NBA?
Splitter will potentially come cheap as it is, but with added range, the Spurs could get a somewhat versatile big man to put on the bench. They’ll need someone after David Lee and Dewayne Dedmon opted out of their contracts.
There’s risk with Splitter, given his hip surgery from 2016 and lack of NBA reps since 2015. If Gregg Popovich sees enough in bringing him back, though, then a reunion could be in place.
Next: Tony Allen
Mar 27, 2017; Sacramento, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) during the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center. The Kings defeated the Grizzlies 91-90. Mandatory Credit: Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports
8. Tony Allen
Tony Allen is an interesting free agent candidate. This isn’t the old version that used to be a top defender in the NBA. At age 35, he can still provide quality minutes, as a defensive presence on the perimeter. Whether that’s with the Memphis Grizzlies (who will only offer the veteran’s minimum) or somewhere else, there should be a spot open for Allen.
What if Allen takes less money elsewhere, potentially to join a contender? If he can be had for a one-year, $1-3 million deal, then the San Antonio Spurs, Golden State Warriors, and Cleveland Cavaliers should be among his suitors.
Allen’s style of game is the old look of the Spurs, who used to be gritty and slow-paced, like the Grizzlies teams he’s played with since 2010. He’ll defend the opposition’s best shooter and get a few baskets of his own.
Do the Spurs need Allen? Maybe not, with Kyle Anderson in place and Adam Hanga on the horizon. However, this former NBA champion is smaller than these two at 6-foot-4, so he could be a better option to defend a point guard or undersized shooting guard.
An end-of-the-bench role for Allen is possible. He would join a contender and be tasked with some late-game defensive assignments.
Next: Kyle Korver
Jun 12, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyle Korver (26) reacts during the during the second quarter against the Golden State Warriors in game five of the 2017 NBA Finals at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
7. Kyle Korver
Kyle Korver could be too much for the San Antonio Spurs to take on, even though he’s a 36-year-old shooter who just played a bench for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Might Korver look for a multi-year deal, as the NBA salary cap increases? It’s possible, unless he takes less money to rejoin a contender, whether it’s the Cavaliers or the San Antonio Spurs.
Korver would work as a shooter off the bench, replacing Manu Ginobili’s minutes — if he retires. There’s potentially an opportunity to start, too, if the Spurs trade Danny Green and open up the shooting guard spot. That may not be ideal, to give a one-dimensional player a role like that, but if San Antonio acquires Chris Paul or another superstar in free agency, then veterans like Korver could receive a significant spot on the team.
Korver may not be an ideal fit for the Spurs, and if anything, a low-cost option makes more sense if the team wants another shooter. It can go deep into free agency for this, with players that go beyond this list. However, if the high-profile option is desired, then Korver makes some sense in the Black and Silver.
Next: Derrick Rose
Mar 22, 2017; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; New York Knicks guard Derrick Rose (25) dribbles up the court during the first quarter against the Utah Jazz at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
6. Derrick Rose
One of the previously-mentioned point guards is Derrick Rose. The Spurs already showed interest in him, but the concerns will be there.
Rose injured his knee — again — to end the 2016-17 season. He underwent surgery on his knee for the fourth time since 2012, which could scare teams off. Before that, Rose averaged 18 points per game with the New York Knicks — his most since the 2011-12 season — on 47 percent shooting. So the numbers were looking somewhat reminiscent of the old player, but after not seeing that full version for five years, it’s likely not coming back.
For the Spurs to show interest in Rose, they either feel he’ll be healthy enough to play next season or can get him on a reasonable contract. It shouldn’t be something beyond two or three years, and a one-year “prove it” dealt for the former NBA MVP may be too risky, given his extensive injury history.
Maybe the Spurs feel it can limit Rose’s time on the court, similar to what’s been done with veterans Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, in recent years. That may limit the wear and tear on the former Memphis star, especially if he plays just 25 minutes per game.
Apr 25, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; IHouston Rockets center Nene Hilario (42) smiles after scoring against the Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook (0) n game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
The backup center spot is open, or at least minutes to split with Pau Gasol. This could go to a fellow veteran, someone who has been around the league for years and adds a quality presence to someone’s bench. Nene is a free agent, and fits this profile.
In Nene’s only season with the Houston Rockets, outside of eight starts, he was exclusively a bench player. He filled in at 17.9 minutes per game and averaged 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds. This was one of the few players that didn’t shoot three’s on the Rockets, even though he hit three last season.
Nene is simply a big body that could come off the bench for the Spurs. He’s not a big name at this point in his career, but a realistic option for San Antonio to pursue. It may not take much money, either, especially after Houston paid him about $3 million on a one-year deal.
Similar minutes would be in store for the former Denver Nugget, as he continues transitioning into a full-time bench player on the back-end of his career. This is also his best chance of winning an NBA championship, so might there be enough appeal to go to another team in Texas?
Next: Ekpe Udoh
Jan 19, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) drives to the basket under pressure from Milwaukee Bucks forward Ekpe Udoh (5) during the first half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
4. Ekpe Udoh
Ekpe Udoh was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft of the Golden State Warriors. He didn’t last, though, flaming out after just two years and missing out on the golden age in Oakland, CA.
Udoh last played in the NBA in 2015, for the Los Angeles Clippers. He appeared in just 33 games and averaged just 3.9 minutes. It led to his departure from the league, entering the Euroleague.
Well, for the past two seasons, Udoh transformed himself into the defensive stopper he was known to be at Baylor. This includes averaging 2.2 blocks per game, establishing himself as a top rim protector in Europe. The Edmund, OK native also put up 12.3 points and 6.5 rebounds per game with Fenerbache.
If Udoh returns to the NBA, it could be on a cheaper deal, given his failed first stint. What about a one or two-year deal, worth over $3 million per season?
Like Nene and Splitter, Udoh would fill in as a backup big man to Gasol. The same goes for LaMarcus Aldridge, if he’s still a Spur by next fall. NBA teams are always in need of a rim protector, as well, as teams look for athletic presences to stop the quicker players in the league.
Next: Willie Reed
January 6, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Miami Heat forward Willie Reed (35) controls the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
3. Willie Reed
We previously noted how Willie Reed fits with the San Antonio Spurs, as a backup center or power forward. He’s only a two-year pro, but put up impressive numbers in limited minutes (5.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 14.5 minutes per game) for the Miami Heat in the 2016-17 season.
Reed can be brought in on a two-year, $3-5 million deal and replace Dewayne Dedmon’s backup center role. They put up similar stats in limited time, but Dedmon played starter’s minutes and showed an ability to handle more time on the court. Reed mostly came off the bench and hasn’t yet shown what he can do on a better team, with a bigger role. That could come in San Antonio.
There were flashes of potential last season, as Reed put up 22 points, 12 rebounds and 22 points, 18 rebounds against the Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns, respectively. That’s just a taste of what he can do in a larger sample, something that could even tempt a team enough to give a larger-than-expected deal. If so, that takes the Spurs out of the mix.
If Reed can be had for cheap, then he makes sense as an energy option off the bench. He can spell the big men and be part of the next incarnation of the Spurs.
Next: George Hill
Nov 4, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz guard George Hill (3) dribbles the ball as San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills (8) defends during the first quarter at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports
2. George Hill
After six years away, George Hill wants a reunion with the San Antonio Spurs, according to Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News. Hill has “long desired” to return:
Hill has long desired to reunite with Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich since 2013, when he re-signed with the Pacers, who traded him to the Utah Jazz last summer. Hill still maintains a residence in San Antonio, and frequently works out at the team’s practice site when in town.
The Spurs moved Hill at the 2011 NBA Draft, receiving the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard and Davis Bertans as compensation. He played with the Indiana Pacers for five seasons, until the Utah Jazz acquired him in a three-team trade in 2016. That saw the former IUPUI star put up a career-high in points (16.9 per game).
However, injuries have plagued Hill since leaving San Antonio. He’s played in 50 or fewer games in three of the past six seasons, including two of the last three. It’s something that could take money away from him in a potential free-agent contract. Couple that with a desire to play for Gregg Popovich again, and it’s a possibility the Spurs can get Hill for a salary a little north of $10 million per season. That wouldn’t require a salary cap reconstruction as much as the next player.
Next: Chris Paul
April 25, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) reacts after he scores a basket against the Utah Jazz during the second half in game five of the first round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
1. Chris Paul
Chris Paul spent the past six seasons in Los Angeles, trying to get an NBA championship with the Clippers. They came somewhat close to their goal, but had trouble reaching the Western Conference Finals. It’s led to uncertainty about the future of the franchise, as both Paul and Blake Griffin opted out of their contracts. They’ll look for bigger deals, but what about heading elsewhere?
Paul is a serious candidate to join the San Antonio Spurs. It will be a battle, though, with teams like the Houston Rockets in the mix. Factor in the Clippers looking to get him back, and there should be an interesting set of teams targeting one of the league’s top point guards.
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CP3 in San Antonio would see him team with Kawhi Leonard, in an effort to combat the Golden State Warriors. It may take a superteam to defeat them, so signing Paul would be representative of the times of the current NBA landscape.
The issue with signing Paul, is the redesign of the roster. The Spurs would have to let most, if not all, of its free agents, go. Danny Green’s $10 million contract would have to be dealt, while Tony Parker potentially takes a pay cut from the $15 million he’s owed. So if San Antonio badly wants Paul, they’ll have to redo a significant part of the roster.
Who will the Spurs target in free agency? Will Paul or another big name join the franchise?