San Antonio Spurs: Ranking the 2017 offseason moves

By Rob Wolkenbrod
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 03: Rudy Gay
DALLAS, TX - MARCH 03: Rudy Gay
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SAN ANTONIO – APRIL 18: The logo of the San Antonio Spurs in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at AT
SAN ANTONIO – APRIL 18: The logo of the San Antonio Spurs in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at AT

Every offseason move the San Antonio Spurs have made in the 2017 offseason, ranked.

The San Antonio Spurs only went through 14 days of the 2017 NBA offseason, but they’ve stayed busy. It’s part of the summer transition to become even more competitive, as they look to challenge the Golden State Warriors for the Western Conference crown after a sweep in the Western Conference Finals.

To start the offseason, the Spurs re-signed Patty Mills. They gave him a multi-year deal to return and keep the point guard position stable. However, was this the right move for them to do?

Along with Mills, San Antonio signed Rudy Gay, Joffrey Lauvergne and Brandon Paul to contracts. They’re previously from the Sacramento Kings, Chicago Bulls, and the Euroleague, respectively. How do these deals look?

The Spurs also lost two players. They had Dewayne Dedmon leave for the Atlanta Hawks, playing one season in San Antonio. Jonathon Simmons left as well, going to the Orlando Magic. He spent his first two seasons with the Spurs. Was in wise for the organization to let both of these players leave?

The offseason isn’t done for the Spurs’ remaining free agents, either, which could build a potential grade for their summer work. Pau Gasol and David Lee remain, both of whom have the potential to return, in starting or bench roles. Will they both be locked in, however? How much money would they receive?

There are six offseason moves to rank for the Spurs. Which one will top the list? Who sits at the bottom, with questions about this particular acquisition?

Next: Brandon Paul signing

MADRID, SPAIN – APRIL 7: Brandon Paul,
MADRID, SPAIN – APRIL 7: Brandon Paul,

6. Brandon Paul signs

The signing of Brandon Paul came as somewhat of a surprise. He never played an NBA regular season game, but showed promise in the Summer League for the Cleveland Cavaliers averaging over 16 points per game in the Vegas League.

Paul’s guaranteed deal went public as the Spurs renounced Jonathon Simmons. It came at an interesting time, but given both players play the same position, will Paul be taking Simmons’ rotation spot?

It’s an interesting move of the Spurs to give a guaranteed deal to a player that had multiple chances to make NBA rosters but never did. He also put up solid but unspectacular numbers in the Euroleague.

This deal is difficult to grade because Paul’s role is unknown. Is he guaranteed to take Simmons’ spot in the rotation? That would be around 15 minutes per game.

Will he even make it out of training camp? The roster space is there, with 15 players not under contract. What do the Spurs see in him? They’re questions that should be answered over the coming months.

What do the Spurs see in him? That’s something yet to be determined until he steps on to a court.

These are all questions that should be answered as the summer progresses and when the fall begins. Will Paul be a successful signing?

Next: Letting Dedmon go

LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 24: Dewayne Dedmon
LOS ANGELES, CA – FEBRUARY 24: Dewayne Dedmon

5. Letting Dewayne Dedmon go

In the 2016 NBA offseason, the San Antonio Spurs gave Dewayne Dedmon a one-year, $2.8 million deal. It led to him putting up career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, minutes, starts and games-played.

Dedmon played a key defensive role for the Spurs, getting the chance to anchor the post and be a shot-blocker off the bench. This faded during the playoffs, however, when he fell out of the rotation. That was partly due to the small-ball lineups the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors put on the court, which Dedmon doesn’t fit as a player in the paint.

Well, the USC product is no longer around. He signed a two-year, $14 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, and will anchor their defense for at least next season (2018-19 in a player option).

It’s somewhat of a gamble for the Spurs, as they replaced him with Joffrey Lauvergne, a capable center but not a rim protector like Dedmon. That doesn’t mean everything toward being a center, but no longer having that presence may be one the team misses for next season.

The fallout of Dedmon’s departure will be seen once the season opens in the fall, and if there are any significant differences with the swapping of bench centers.

Next: Signing Joffrey Lauvergne

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 13: Joffrey Lauvergne
WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 13: Joffrey Lauvergne

4. Signing Joffrey Lauvergne

Before Dewayne Dedmon signed with the Atlanta Hawks, the San Antonio Spurs signed Joffrey Lauvergne. He’s a three-year pro that played with the Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, and Oklahoma City Thunder.

Lauvergne won’t be the defensive presence Dedmon was last season, but provides intangibles in other areas of the game. This includes a decent post-game and the ability to stretch the floor. The Frenchman improved his 3-point shooting in each of his three seasons, going from 18, 24 and 33 percent, respectively.

Lauvergne won’t be a rim protector, however. He averaged just 0.2 blocks per game in his career despite being 6-foot-11. Is that a concern? Potentially, but LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, and Davis Bertans all have shot-blocking ability at the rim. That could make up for Lauvergne’s deficiency on defense.

The signing of Lauvergne is a gamble, even with a likely small salary. He may be asked to play a consistent bench role, something that was done in Denver, Chicago and Oklahoma City, but not with the efficiency Dedmon showed. However, if Gregg Popovich can coach Lauvergne to take smarter shots and use that 51 percent 2-point shooting mark to his advantage, then there’s some potential here.

Next: Letting Simmons go

WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 26: Jonathon Simmons
WASHINGTON, DC – NOVEMBER 26: Jonathon Simmons

3. Letting Jonathon Simmons go

The San Antonio Spurs had a chance to retain Jonathon Simmons, given he was a restricted free agent. The organization was able to match any offer he signed, but that changed on Thursday night.

The Spurs renounced the rights to Simmons, which made him an unrestricted free agent, able to sign with any team. It arguably came as a surprise since San Antonio had his rights and could have continued contract negotiations, but the stall in talks ended things and led to the USC product allowed to explore other options.

Simmons’ value came on defense as a lockdown player on the perimeter. He flashed offensive upside in the 2017 playoffs, but only averaged 6.1 points over two seasons.

Is letting Simmons go a negative aspect of the offseason? The three-year, $20 million deal he received from the Orlando Magic may rub Spurs fans the wrong way since it’s a number they could have re-signed him at. However, the in-house options are there to replace him.

From increasing Kyle Anderson’s minutes to seeing what there is to Brandon Paul, and even a different look off the bench with Bryn Forbes, there are ways of making up for the lost role of Simmons’. So while losing him may sting, San Antonio should be fine.

Next: Re-signing Patty Mills

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 20: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Patty Mills
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 20: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks with Patty Mills

2. Re-signing Patty Mills

Just minutes into 2017 free agency, the San Antonio Spurs re-signed Patty Mills. They gave him a four-year, $50 million deal to return, and as the only Spur free agent to officially return to the team. Pau Gasol is expected to come back but hasn’t agreed to a new deal yet.

Mills got paid like a starter, but was rarely asked to be one in San Antonio. He started 18 games through six seasons in the Alamo City, with the most (8) coming in the 2016-17 campaign.

Bringing Mills back is a wise move, however, given the state of the point guard position for the Spurs. It’s full of young players and an injured, aging star that could be on his last years.

It’s possible Mills starts at point guard to start the 2017-18 season, with Tony Parker out until at least January. That may lead to the Saint Mary’s product getting the biggest opportunity of his career to shine and break out of the sixth man role.

If not, Mills still represents a solid scoring option off the bench, as the first or second player to come off it. He’s been consistent in this role for six years and should provide greater value to a young Spurs team.

Next: Rudy Gay signing

DALLAS, TX – MARCH 03: Rudy Gay
DALLAS, TX – MARCH 03: Rudy Gay

1. Signing Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay was the best offseason move of the San Antonio Spurs, and by a country mile. There’s risk, but for the price they got him at (two years, $17 million), it’s worth it.

Through 11 NBA seasons, Gay failed to average more than 17 points per game just once, and that was in his rookie season in 2006-07. Other than that, he’s put up between 17 and 21.1 points per game as a primary and second or third option in the NBA.

On the Spurs, Gay will be a complimentary piece, something he’s never been before. He’ll play second, maybe third, fiddle to Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge, which has the potential to lead to a terrific outcome and scary starting lineup for San Antonio.

More from San Antonio Spurs News

The risk with Gay? Well, he hasn’t played since January, due to a ruptured Achilles. It’s arguably a reason for the short-term, lower-than-expected money he received in his contract.

Players struggle to return from Achilles injuries, and it doesn’t matter at what age. This happened to Wesley Matthews in 2015. He signed with the Dallas Mavericks just four months later and saw his numbers fall to its lowest point since his rookie season. Kobe Bryant’s career was never the same as well when he suffered this injury, leading to other ailments and retirement in 2016. There were other examples outlined in this CBS Sports piece. 

Next: Early storylines for the 2018 offseason

So the risk is there, but the reward could be terrific for the Spurs. Will he come back the same player?

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