San Antonio Spurs: Early ranking of 2018 free agents

By Rob Wolkenbrod
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 11: LaMarcus Aldridge
HOUSTON, TX - MAY 11: LaMarcus Aldridge /
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San Antonio Spurs, HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: LaMarcus Aldridge
San Antonio Spurs, HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: LaMarcus Aldridge /

A way-too-early look at the San Antonio Spurs’ 2018 free agents, ranked.

The San Antonio Spurs may be done with NBA free agency in 2017. This saw them make a handful of moves, while losing players to other organizations. It’s the typical flow of the offseason, one that starts and finishes in a blink of an eye.

It started with Patty Mills’ new deal. He became a free agent on July 1, but chose to re-sign with the Spurs. He’ll receive four years, $50 million to potentially start at point guard while Tony Parker rehabs a torn quadriceps.

Rudy Gay was the biggest outside-the-organization splash that San Antonio made. He joined the team on a two-year, $17.2 million deal, with a player option for the 2018-19 season.

Joffrey Lauvergne joined the Spurs on a minimum-salary deal. He’s a center that played for three NBA teams, and could replace the outgoing Dewayne Dedmon.

More from San Antonio Spurs Free Agency

Pau Gasol was the latest and, potentially, last offseason move of San Antonio’s. After sitting on the open market for almost one month, Gasol re-signed for three years, $45 million. The third season is partially guaranteed.

By the 2018 offseason, the Spurs will have a new crop of free agents — and players from other organizations — to worry about. It’s the same cycle for every team but, for the Black and Silver, there’s the likelihood they have eight free agents for next offseason.

In an early ranking of the 2018 free agents, how does it look for the Spurs? Who’s the best player they could lose? Note this won’t include Manu Ginobili, who’s status has changed from year to ear.

Next: Bryn Forbes

LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 09: Bryn Forbes
LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 09: Bryn Forbes /

8. Bryn Forbes

While only the Summer League, Bryn Forbes stood out among the San Antonio Spurs’ team and the rest of the squads that competed. He had multiple 30-plus point games and was one of the Summer League’s leading scorers, which got his name on the map after one season in San Antonio. This saw him go back and forth to the D-League and the NBA.

Forbes’ performance could help him make the 2017-18 regular season roster, something that’s not guaranteed with his minimum salary. It’s an expandable contract that the Spurs could dump if they choose, or give him more time in the D-League.

However, if the Michigan State product comes through in his second season, then his price could be interesting in the 2018 offseason. He’ll be a restricted free agent, and could always accept a qualifying offer. If a team sees the potential in him as a more than a pure scorer (which his game is mostly wrapped around) or to become starting-caliber, then might he be snatched away on an offer, too big for the Spurs to match?

Otherwise, it’s difficult to place Forbes higher on the free-agent ranking, two months before the next season starts. By the three-quarters mark, his offseason value should have clarity.

Next: Kyle Anderson

HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Kyle Anderson
HOUSTON, TX – MAY 11: Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Kyle Anderson /

7. Kyle Anderson

Kyle Anderson, like Bryn Forbes, will be a restricted free agent in the 2018 offseason. His situation is slightly different, however.

Anderson will enter Year 4 of the rookie scale contract he signed in 2014, which pays him $2.1 million. Normally, restricted free agents are in line for a salary raise, but that may not be the case with the former No. 30 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Through three seasons, in just 14.3 minutes per game, Anderson averaged 3.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. The rebound numbers are respectable for that limited action, but the offensive game hasn’t come around for him.

The value lies in Anderson’s versatile defense. At 6-foot-9, with some athleticism, he can defend a power forward, small forward, and shooting guard. It’s a positive, but he hasn’t proven to be a well-rounded two-way player, yet.

For now, Anderson shouldn’t be a high priority. In a contract year, that could change and see his production suddenly soar, or get a bigger role with the wing spots having undergone some changes. Even then, that may lead to another team’s creation of an offer sheet to lure him away from the San Antonio Spurs.

Next: Joffrey Lauvergne

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

6. Joffrey Lauvergne

Joffrey Lauvergne became the San Antonio Spurs’ second outside-the-organization signing in the 2017 offseason. While his salary was never officially announced, Basketball-Reference has it down as a two-year deal, with a player option for 2018 of $1.6 million.

If Lauvergne, like Dewayne Dedmon, outperforms his low salary as the backup center, then the Spurs may need to search for another player to fill this role in 2018. He may command a multi-year deal, which Dedmon also did, and got, with the Atlanta Hawks (two years, $14 million).

It’s early for the Frenchman, though, as he hasn’t broken out in his three NBA seasons. He’s a career 47 percent shooter and averages 4.0 rebounds per game, but is hardly the shot blocker teams desire from their centers in the modern-day game. This is led by an average of 0.2 blocks per game through his career.

Unless Lauvergne breaks out next season, his inability as a shot blocker could limit him from earning more years and money. If the Spurs like what they see from the fall to the spring and think they need to retain him for the big man core, then he could be a low-to-mid priority for the team to bring back. Other minimum-salary centers should be around, though.

Next: Davis Bertans

SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 10: Davis Bertans
SAN ANTONIO, TX – DECEMBER 10: Davis Bertans /

5. Davis Bertans

Davis Bertans will enter the final year of his San Antonio Spurs contract, that pays him the minimum salary for the 2017-18 season, before hitting restricted free agency. He came over in 2016, six years after the organization traded for and selected him in the 2011 NBA Draft (the second piece in the Kawhi Leonard-George Hill deal).

In Europe, Bertans was always known as a big man that could stretch the floor, and provided just that in his rookie season. He shot 44 percent from the floor and 39 percent from behind the arc, which profiled him with the rising rate of bigger players that can shoot from the outside.

However, Bertans’ value is all around his 3-point shooting, which limits his value. 2.6 out of 3.5 attempts per game were from long distance. He also picked up just 1.5 rebounds in 12.1 minutes per game, so his ability as a big body, despite standing at 6-foot-10, isn’t there.

The Latvian native can push the envelope in Year 2, as he continues to get his NBA feet underneath him. That could come with added strength to battle under the boards and learn to trust his mid-range game, which saw him shoot just under 1.0 shot per game from this area.

If Bertans makes some improvements in his all-around game, then there’s the potential for him to earn extra cash in the 2018 offseason. Whether that comes from the Spurs or another team, remains to be seen since stretch four’s are more attractive than ever to NBA organizations.

Next: Danny Green

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 9: Danny Green
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 9: Danny Green /

4. Danny Green

Danny Green is the second San Antonio Spurs player to have a player option for the 2018-19 season. Given his recent performances, that could lead to him sticking with the team for an eighth year.

Green is owed $10 million for the 2017-18 season at age 30, with his player option the same for the year after. His value is around defense and 3-point shooting, which should keep him around the league for years to come (he made All-NBA Second Team on defense last season).

A low shooting percentage could halt Green’s value, as he’s gone below 40 percent from the field the past two seasons. That came after four consecutive seasons of 43 percent and above, including the career year of 2014-15.

If Green shoots below 40 percent again and sees his defense slip, he may easily opt into his $10 million for 2018. A multi-year deal could still be out there, and something he desires heading past 30-years-old. However, if next season doesn’t work out well, then the Spurs will have $10 million less to work with, pending there’s no trade before or after the use of the player option becomes a factor.

Next: Rudy Gay

SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay
SACRAMENTO, CA – JANUARY 15: Rudy Gay /

3. Rudy Gay

The third player option belongs to Rudy Gay, who signed his contract in July. He’s owed $8.6 million for the 2018-19 season, which given his long-term NBA success, could easily mean an opt out.

For 11 seasons, Gay proved to be one of the NBA’s most consistent scorers. He was never the leading man but provided 18.4 points per game as a team’s second or third option. That’s potentially the case on the San Antonio Spurs for the upcoming campaign.

So, why would Gay receive such a small deal? Well, he’s coming off a ruptured Achilles in January, something NBA players don’t return to themselves from. While he joined a winning team, it’s difficult to think that if he never got hurt, someone else would have given him a larger deal, even if it was the Spurs.

If Gay proves he can recover from the Achilles rupture and return to his 18.4 points per game, then his player option getting exercised is almost a formality. At age 31, he would get the chance to sign a multi-year deal, maybe the last of his career, for big money.

If Gay looks for a larger deal, the Spurs may move on and look to use the money on a younger, bigger name in free agency. He’s one of their most talented players leaving in free agency, but him staying or going all depends on recovery from the injury.

Next: Tony Parker

SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 1: Tony Parker
SAN ANTONIO, TX – MAY 1: Tony Parker /

2. Tony Parker

Tony Parker played 16 seasons in the NBA, and is still signed up for at least one more. He’s owed $15.4 million in the final year of his deal and, if he returns for an 18th season, it should be with the San Antonio Spurs.

At this point, like Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan before Parker, once his contract expires, it’s either re-sign with the Spurs or retire. The longevity is there, as he’s been part of the team since 2001, winning five NBA championships under Gregg Popovich.

Parker already said he wants his last deal to be with the Spurs, something that takes him to a 20th NBA season. That brings him to age 38. With declining stats and younger options at point guard, that pushes him to a backup role sooner than later.

It depends how Parker recovers from a torn quadriceps, however. This will cause him to miss a chunk of the fall and, potentially, into the winter of 2018. No matter how good or bad he returns, the Spurs should extend him a deal to come back. It may not be for a lot of money, but on a three-year, $30 million deal, this could work.

Next: LaMarcus Aldridge

OAKLAND, CA – MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge
OAKLAND, CA – MAY 14: LaMarcus Aldridge /

1. LaMarcus Aldridge

Rounding it out is LaMarcus Aldridge, who has a player option worth $22 million for the 2018-19 season. He’s owed $21.4 million in the final guaranteed year of his deal with the San Antonio Spurs.

Aldridge has been a disappointment on the Spurs. From disappearing in the playoffs to a decline in numbers, it’s been far from smooth sailing in the Alamo City. Add in the trade rumors that circulated around the NBA Draft, and it makes for an uneasy two years, something rarely said about a player that’s part of this organization.

The rumors around Aldridge vanished after RC Buford’s post-draft comments. That meant no more talk of him wanting to leave, which doesn’t usually just happen overnight, unless the organization got into the Texas product’s ear and fixed the situation.

If Aldridge is keen on departure, he can use his player option to leave and get a multi-year deal from another organization. That’s unless he feels the one year, $22 million is enough to stay in San Antonio and wait another year for a two-to-four-year contract.

Next: 25 forgotten players that were on the Spurs

Aldridge is the team’s most talented free agent for 2018, but may not be their highest priority if these rumors were true.

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