San Antonio Spurs: 2017 NBA free agency grades
By Rob Wolkenbrod
The San Antonio Spurs signed three players and re-signed one in the 2017 offseason. How do they grade out?
The San Antonio Spurs entered this offseason with the opportunity to make changes to its roster, following up on getting swept in the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors. This came via the 2017 NBA Draft, selecting Derrick White and Jaron Blossomgame, as well as free agency. The latter provided three players for the roster.
It started with the signing of Rudy Gay, formerly of the Sacramento Kings. He’s an 11-year pro, having spent time with the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, too.
Joffrey Lauvergne was the second free-agent pickup. He’s a big man that’s played in the NBA for the past three years, splitting time with the Denver Nuggets, Chicago Bulls, and Oklahoma City Thunder.
The last signing saw the Spurs add Brandon Paul, a guard who spent time in the Euroleague and the D-League (now the G-League). He has no NBA regular season experience.
These players will help fill out roster spots that were left open by Dewayne Dedmon and Jonathon Simmons. Both players signed elsewhere, going to the Atlanta Hawks and Orlando Magic, respectively.
Before these signings happened, the Spurs re-upped point guard Patty Mills. He stands as the only free agent San Antonio officially brought back, while Pau Gasol and David Lee are among those that remain.
How do these signings (and re-signing) grade out for the Spurs? Did they make the right move on the following four players?
Next: Patty Mills
To start 2017 free agency, the San Antonio Spurs re-signed Patty Mills to a four-year, $50 million deal. It helped eased the team’s point guard problem for the upcoming season, mostly for depth.
If Mills hadn’t re-signed, the Spurs would have been left with Dejounte Murray and Derrick White at point guard, barring another signing. Tony Parker is still under contract, but will miss the first few months of the season. That’s not to say Murray and White can’t get the job done, but the inexperience could hurt on the court.
This gives the Spurs insurance for those young point guards while Parker heals. It comes at a tune of an expensive contract, however. Especially for someone that hasn’t averaged double-digit points per game since 2014.
For when Parker comes back, and if Murray of White develop this season, the Spurs can move Mills back to the bench, where he’s succeeded for most of his career. That could give the Spurs a solid seventh or eighth man off the bench, providing depth at the guard position.
This deal is slightly expensive for Mills, but if he can capitalize on a potentially expanded role to begin the 2017-18 season, then this will look better. If not, 20 minutes per game should work for him.
Next: Brandon Paul
On the same day the San Antonio Spurs let Jonathon Simmons go, they signed Brandon Paul to a guaranteed contract. He received it after never playing in an NBA game, but getting experience in the D-League and the Euroleague for the past few seasons.
Paul’s ability on the court for a regular season game is an unknown. He has the wingspan to be a capable defender for his size, at 6-foot-10 for standing at 6-foot-4. The Illinois product’s 3-point game also flashed upside in Europe with the following stats:
- 2013-14: 39.1 percent
- 2015-16: 35.3 percent
- 2016-17: 41.3 percent
Is that where the Spurs see the upside, along with the potential on defense? It will be difficult to replace Simmons’ defensive presence, but if Paul can add a stronger 3-point game at a cheaper price, then San Antonio may have a worthy investment.
However, it’s hard to know how good of a player this is, as well as a grade for him being brought in. It’s something to pick up on about 1-2 months into the season when Paul would have made an impact or a large enough sample size. We’ll see how he produces, (likely) off the bench, for the Spurs.
Next: Joffrey Lauvergne
Before the San Antonio Spurs lost Dewayne Dedmon, they signed Joffrey Lauvergne, who can play either center or power forward. His deal hasn’t officially been announced, but it will potentially be at the veteran’s minimum.
Lauvergne provides production in multiple aspects of the game. From post skills to rebounding and the ability to stretch the floor, he covers some of the basics that a center/power forward should be able to do in the modern-day NBA.
Lauvergne as a stretch four developed over the past two years. He went from shooting 18 percent from beyond to arch, to 24 percent and, finally, 33 percent. So the Spurs should be able to get more of an outside shot from their next backup center than Dedmon.
What the Frenchman doesn’t provide is rim protection. He’s blocked a total of 31 shots through 153 games, which is low for a 6-foot-11 player that mans the paint. Improvement is always possible, but the career numbers don’t indicate that it’s imminent.
Will the Spurs be able to get the most out of Lauvergne? If so, this could be a solid, cheap investment as a backup center.
Next: Rudy Gay
The biggest signing of them all was Rudy Gay, who inked a two-year, $17.2 million deal with the San Antonio Spurs. This was their full Mid-Level Exception, which will pay Gay around $8.6 million per year.
Gay is an interesting fit in San Antonio. He potentially won’t start at small forward, as Kawhi Leonard has this spot locked in. However, if Gregg Popovich wants to get creative, he can go in a variety of directions with the former Memphis Grizzlies player.
If Popovich wants Gay and Leonard to start, he can push the latter man to shooting guard. That will allow them to play the wing positions, while Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray or Derrick White start at point guard.
The second option for Gay to start at small forward, is pushing Leonard to point guard. That puts LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol at power forward and center, respectively, while Mills, Murray, and White come off the bench.
The Spurs can even go small, with Gay as the stretch four of a lineup. That would make Aldridge the center, while the Spurs leave one of the previously mentioned point guards and Danny Green as the starters.
The lineup possibilities are plentiful for the Spurs. It comes with a risk, though, as Gay is coming off an Achilles rupture from January. Past recovery from this injury doesn’t make it promising that he’ll return to his previous form, but at that contract, it’s worth the risk.
Next: Ranking the 2017 offseason moves for the Spurs
Which move should grade out the best for the San Antonio Spurs? How about the worst?