Mar 1, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts after getting a technical foul during the first half against the Indiana Pacers at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The San Antonio Spurs will be after multiple targets in NBA Free Agency, but who should they avoid?
The San Antonio Spurs will head into NBA Free Agency in July. They’ll be after players at multiple positions, from point guard to center and even an outside-the-box signing for depth on the bench.
Teams tend to make regrettable decisions in the free agent market. Soon after, they try to unload the player that didn’t live up to their end of the contract they signed. Timofey Mozgov is one of the latest examples, after he signed a $64 million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2016. The organization then traded him to the Brooklyn Nets before the 2017 NBA Draft, but had to package D’Angelo Russell with him.
The Spurs won’t want to make a mistake in free agency, especially as they chase the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. Who should they avoid this summer?
Mar 21, 2017; Brooklyn, NY, USA; Detroit Pistons shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (5) reacts after being called for a technical foul during the third quarter against the Brooklyn Nets at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
5. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
If the San Antonio Spurs move Danny Green and lose Manu Ginobili to retirement, then Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could be a backburner option to use at shooting guard. He’s a restricted free agent, after spending four seasons with the Detroit Pistons.
Paying Caldwell-Pope is a risk, especially with needing an offer that makes the Pistons pass on matching it. It goes beyond that, though.
Through four seasons, Caldwell-Pope has improved as a free throw shooter and can defend on the perimeter. However, he’s never shown to be a dynamic player at the shooting guard position, or at least someone with flashes of being the next best thing at the two spot.
This 2013 first-round pick has a career line of 40 percent shooting, 33 percent from three-point range and 11.7 points per game. It mostly came in starter’s minutes, too, as he’s played in 31-plus per game over the past three seasons.
Like Sports Illustrated notes, Caldwell-Pope is best at a role player for a team. Given his age (24), potential upside and an annual salary that’s likely beyond $10 million, he’ll become a starter for someone. This shouldn’t be with the Spurs, if the shooting guard spot opens. Otherwise, it will be stuck with a limited player that’s being paid to perform in a role he’s not best fit for.
Next: Tyreke Evans
Mar 8, 2017; San Antonio, TX, USA; Sacramento Kings shooting guard Tyreke Evans (32) shoots the ball against the San Antonio Spurs during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
4. Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans doesn’t stand out as an option for the San Antonio Spurs, unless it can get him on a cheaper deal. He could be depth at a wing position, but just isn’t a reliable player and should be someone the team avoids signing.
Evans dealt with injuries for much of his NBA career, including the past two seasons. This saw him play a combined 65 games for the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. Even before that, Evans sat out a handful of games in three of his first four seasons in his first Sacramento stint.
While battling with injuries this past season, Evans shot just 40 percent and played 19.7 minutes per game. It led to just 10.3 points per game, which is a career-low. Being off the court so much could have made this a one-year drop-off, and judging by his consistent Per 36 Minutes numbers, everything looks the same from previous seasons.
However, if these injuries are a sign of what’s to come for the rest of Evans’ career, then it may be best for the Spurs to pass on him. It could be difficult to keep him on the court, along with his minutes being reduced like they were throughout last season.
Next: Mason Plumlee
Apr 7, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee (24) in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
3. Mason Plumlee
The Denver Nuggets took on Mason Plumlee when they dealt Jusuf Nurkic and a first-round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers. Nurkic had struggled through two-plus seasons in the Mile High City, but broke out with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nearly 2 blocks per game for Portland. Plumlee only put up 9 points and 6.4 rebounds, and will look to be paid in free agency.
Given that this former Duke star will likely receive a sizeable contract as a restricted free agent, it should take the Spurs off the table. That’s unless the team trades LaMarcus Aldridge and doesn’t receive a starting-caliber big man in return.
Plumlee has mostly stayed healthy in his NBA career, playing 245 of a possible 246 games these past three seasons. He’s never received full-time starter’s minutes, however, only hitting 28.1 per game with the Blazers.
Why could this be? Well, Plumlee is a career 58 percent free-throw shooter and not much of an outside-the-post presence, either. His game is mostly in the post, something that’s found in fewer NBA players by the year, even for a center like him.
Could Plumlee fit as a starter, while Pau Gasol moves to power forward? Possibly, but the cost to get a limited player will be high, along with someone who won’t play the usual 30-plus minutes per game, as a starter, due to a skillset that doesn’t mesh perfectly with the NBA’s current landscape.
Next: Kyle Lowry
May 3, 2017; Cleveland, OH, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) walks to the locker room after injuring his ankle in the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game two of the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
2. Kyle Lowry
The San Antonio Spurs need a point guard. Options will range from Chris Paul to George Hill, but Kyle Lowry’s name is also out there. He’s a free agent after posting a career-high in points (22.4), a high mark in assists (7) and the second-best field goal percentage of his 11 years in the NBA (46 percent).
The performance is there, but there is an issue: do the Spurs want to commit four years and a large sum to a player that will be there until age 35?
Lowry was terrific in his five seasons with Toronto, looking like a top-10 point guard in his last three years there. However, the best numbers came in his “peak” seasons. At 31-years-old, he may get at least one more season of a 20-point average, with solid numbers from the perimeter, but at what point does it start to catch up with him?
By Year 3, when Lowry enters his age 34 season, he’ll likely be earning an annual salary of around $33 million — if he looks for the max this summer. It’s a lot for a player that had his best seasons at ages 29-31, compared to someone like Chris Paul that’s been dominant for most of his NBA career. So if Lowry’s numbers drop by the 2019-20 season, the Spurs would have an aging point guard on its hands, who’s receiving one-third of the salary cap. It doesn’t ideal for a team that’s mostly handled player salaries well.
Lowry is still one of the better-skilled point guards in the NBA, but a long-term deal presents its risks. If the Spurs could get him for one or two years, then it would make more sense, but at this stage of the former Villanova star’s career, he shouldn’t look for that.
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
1. Derrick Rose
The biggest risk the San Antonio Spurs can take, is by signing Derrick Rose. The organization already showed interest in him, as the starting point guard position is open for at least the first few months of the season. It doesn’t mean Rose will become a Spur, and if anything, the team should avoid bringing him to the Alamo City.
Rose’s injury history is well-documented. Since his NBA MVP season of 2010-11, he’s struggled to stay on the court. This includes undergoing four knee surgeries, the latest of which came at the end of the 2016-17 season. Rose actually had his highest point total since his first knee injury, posting 18 per game with the New York Knicks, along with a 47 percent field goal percentage.
Even with the respectable stats, it’s difficult to trust Rose, with his extensive injury history. He struggles to play more than 60 games per season and is a risk to go down with a fifth operation on his balky knees.
If the Spurs sign him, then it needs to hope Tony Parker will get healthy sooner and that Dejounte Murray takes a step forward in his development. That’s only for Year 1, though, as it’s possible Rose looks for a multi-year deal. Can he be relied on for multiple seasons?
What players should the Spurs avoid in free agency? Will the franchise sign one of those that were previously mentioned?