San Antonio Spurs: 10 buyout candidates after 2018 NBA Trade Deadline
By Rob Wolkenbrod
There will be a handful of players that hit the free-agent market after a buyout. Do the San Antonio Spurs make sense for any of them?
The 2018 NBA Trade Deadline passed without any movement from the San Antonio Spurs. A surprise? Maybe not, as this organization’s history on deadline day remains nonexistent. Other teams made moves, though, to make for one of the NBA’s most chaotic trade deadlines in league history.
Other moves can still be made, though, despite the 3:00 p.m. ET cutoff. Not trades, but free-agent moves. This comes from the buyout market of players that get bought out by their respective franchises — usually veterans or those unhappy in their current situation.
Who could be available before Mar. 1? Will the Spurs make sense as a landing spot for any of them? Let’s take a look and rank the players available:
10. Derrick Rose
When Derrick Rose joined the Cleveland Cavaliers, he seemed like a low-risk, high-reward signing at just $2.1 million for one season. However, much like the past six years, he could not stay on the court due to a myriad of injuries, playing just 16 games.
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The return of Isaiah Thomas did not help Rose, either, who struggled to see the court for more than 15 minutes at a time. Poor defense and difficulties stretching the floor plagued him as well.
Well, at the NBA Trade Deadline, the former NBA MVP was traded to the Utah Jazz as part of Cleveland’s whirlwind-housecleaning job. It seemingly indicated he would play behind Ricky Rubio at point guard. However, according to The Athletic, Rose will have a suitor or two as a buyout candidate. One of the options is the Minnesota Timberwolves, reuniting with head coach Tom Thibodeau.
Unless Dejounte Murray‘s ankle sprain proves worse than expected, do not expect the San Antonio Spurs to target Rose, even if there was interest in the offseason. Someone that can score an extra bucket or two would not hurt, but an injury-prone player is the last thing this team needs.
Next: Andrew Bogut
9. Andrew Bogut
Andrew Bogut was one of the first players bought out, when the Los Angeles Lakers waived him in early January. It was the real start of their tanking in the 2017-18 season, along with the Jordan Clarkson–Larry Nance Jr. trade that followed at the deadline.
Bogut has bounced around since his departure from the Golden State Warriors. It’s included stints with the Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers and the Lakers. The Mavs gave him 21 starts in 2016-17, before signing with the Cavs, only to get injured in his first game for them. So, the Lakers picked him up just before the 2017-18 season started, taking on a backup role.
At this point of the Aussie’s career, he’s nothing more than a big body under the basket. Like Rose, injuries have followed him for years and does not make him the most reliable player on the market, so it’s a risk for anyone that signs him.
However, for the Spurs, Bogut might make sense. With Joffrey Lauvergne as the lone, backup big man to LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol, the team can use some insurance, in case of another injury.
Would Bogut even see the court in the playoffs, though? Maybe not, especially if the Spurs play teams that utilize smaller lineups.
Next: Boris Diaw
8. Boris Diaw
This name will be familiar to San Antonio Spurs fans. Boris Diaw played for the Silver and Black from 2011-16, including on the 2013 NBA Finals team and the 2014 title-winning squad. He stuck around for two more seasons, before a move to the Utah Jazz for the 2016-17 campaign.
This season, Diaw has spent it in France, on Paris-Levallois. There’s a chance he returns, though, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon, as the 35-year-old’s camp “touched base” with multiple playoff teams. McMahon did not specify which teams, but, given San Antonio’s No. 3 spot in the Western Conference, it would fit the bill.
Diaw’s potential return brings a familiar face to the squad, one who has playoff experience and can bring versatility to the team. Whether it’s as a backup power forward, small forward, or even at center, he can be a body to deploy in small lineups that can move the ball and find his shot from different spots on the floor.
Do the Spurs have room for Diaw, though? Even though he brings familiarity, the team has Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gay, Davis Bertans and Kyle Anderson to play the three/four role, even if half of this group remains injured. A potential wait on them may take the Spurs out of the running for the 14-year veteran.
Next: Shabazz Muhammad
7. Shabazz Muhammad
Shabazz Muhammad once appeared to be a long-term piece for the Minnesota Timberwolves. That was before Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Butler either emerged or joined the team and became the alphas of what will be a playoff team.
During this process, the NBA continued to become an outside-shooting league, something Muhammad does not provide. He’s a career 31.7 percent shooter from 3-point range, with a mark of just 21.1 percent in 31 games played this season.
In past seasons, the UCLA product showed efficiency from 2-point range, hitting at least 50 percent of his shots from inside the arc. It led to anywhere between 46 and 49 percent shooting from the field in his first three NBA seasons.
Muhammad’s stock is the lowest it’s ever been, though. So, if he pursues a buyout, will any team covet him?
With time ticking, Minnesota forward Shabazz Muhammad could get a buyout and become a coveted free agent if he isn't traded, a source said.
— Marc J. Spears (@MarcJSpearsESPN) February 8, 2018
There’s potential, however, if teams feel he just needs a change of scenery. That may not happen on a contender, but on a roster that has open playing time, allowing Muhammad to showcase himself for a free-agent opportunity this summer.
This should take the San Antonio Spurs out of the mix, barring a desire to see what he can do on a playoff roster. Otherwise this would not make sense.
Next: Vince Carter
6. Vince Carter
It’s hard to believe Vince Carter’s still in the NBA after 20 years. Even though he does not bring “Vinsanity” anymore, there’s still a spot for him across the league, whether it’s on the Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies or the Sacramento Kings, as of the 2017-18 season.
Carter still brings the veteran leadership to whichever team he’s on, along with the ability to shoot from behind the arc. That’s given him a cool 36.7 percent mark from 3-point range for the Kings, a team he probably will not make the 2018 NBA Playoffs with.
If it’s Carter final season, will Sacramento buy him out and search for a contending opportunity? There will be end-of-the-bench options for him around the league, whether it’s the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics or another organization.
As for the Spurs, they already have a 40-year-old shooting guard that provides veteran experience: Manu Ginobili. While another can’t hurt, it would take playing time away from Bryn Forbes and complicate an already-full rotation at shooting guard. It may even lead to Brandon Paul‘s departure, too, since he’s been on the short end of the playing-time stick this season.
Someone will take Carter if the Kings buy him out. Just do not expect it to be San Antonio.
Next: Tony Allen
5. Tony Allen
Tony Allen has long been a one-trick player in the NBA, known for his perimeter defense. This helped the Boston Celtics in the mid-2000’s and the Memphis Grizzlies on those “Grit-and-Grind” teams of the 2010’s. The latter run ended last offseason, though, when Allen left for the New Orleans Pelicans.
After 22 games, the Pelicans sent the veteran guard to the Chicago Bulls in the Nikola Mirotic trade, using his salary to offset the Montenegrin’s. It brought his 14 years of experience to Chicago, a location he probably will not stick at.
As of the NBA Trade Deadline, Allen has not been traded or released, so he remains a Bull. Do not expect that to last, however, especially if he desires to find a spot on someone’s bench for a playoff run.
A defensive-minded guard can help anyone, especially in the modern-day NBA’s style of perimeter players that shoot almost everything from 3-point range. Allen will not counter that scoring acumen, but can enter the game to lock someone down for a few minutes at a time, providing a breather for someone else.
Will this fit on the San Antonio Spurs? If they are willing to shed Brandon Paul’s salary and waive him, yes. However, it falls into the same category as Carter and the lack of room to bring someone in at guard. That’s unless something dire happens between now and Mar. 1.
Next: Joe Johnson
4. Joe Johnson
Just three or four years ago, Joe Johnson was seen as one of the NBA’s best shooting guards. He inevitably declined, though, along with the rest of that Brooklyn Nets team that underachieved. It led to his departure almost two years ago, which has since seen him play for the Miami Heat and the Utah Jazz.
Johnson was a trade casualty at Thursday’s deadline, however. He went to the Sacramento Kings as a salary to match George Hill‘s, who went to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the midst of the trade chaos.
A long-term stay in Sacramento does not make sense for a veteran like Johnson, who can find a spot on a contender’s bench. Anyone that can use an extra shooter or guard depth may look his way, even though a 27.4 percentage from 3-point range will not stand out. However, potential suitors can look at his 41.1 percent mark from 2016-17 as hope that it improves, along with having more talented players around him.
It’s no secret the San Antonio Spurs offense has struggled at times this season. That’s without Gay and Leonard for a chunk or most of the 56 games played. Would a player known for his isolation play fit on a team that frequently moves the ball? Anyone can be adjusted, but there’s also no clear-cut spot for him at the moment.
Next: Marco Belinelli
3. Marco Belinelli
Marco Belinelli will be another familiar player to San Antonio Spurs fans. He played on the 2013-14 and 2014-15 teams, winning a championship, before leaving in free agency for the Sacramento Kings. Post-stops also included the Charlotte Hornets and Atlanta Hawks, the latter of whom he’s on now.
The Hawks are awful, to say the least, record-wise. They have one of the worst marks in the NBA, with a roster that’s a far cry from the Al Horford–Paul Millsap–Kyle Korver–Jeff Teague days of two or three years ago. Now, it’s Belinelli, Taurean Prince, Dennis Schroder, former Spur Dewayne Dedmon and a handful of young players that make up Atlanta’s core.
The Italian-born guard will not see the playoffs anytime soon, so it’s possible the Hawks decide to cut him loose and give someone else a try at his minutes. And since he’s an outside shooter, expect other organizations to take a look at adding him to their roster.
Belinelli falls into the rut of other potential buyout candidates on this list. Where does he fit on the San Antonio Spurs? Who moves out for him? Having another outside shooter can’t hurt for this team, along with someone head coach Gregg Popovich familiarizes with. It’s just a matter of if he wants to shake things up at an unusual time for this team.
Next: Brook Lopez
2. Brook Lopez
The Los Angeles Lakers are in all-out tank mode, if Thursday’s NBA Trade Deadline was any indication. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. were dealt for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye, two players on expiring contracts that have no long-term future in Hollywood, along with a 2018 first-round pick that keeps the Lakers involved in this summer’s draft. Otherwise Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka will wait for July’s free-agent group and move from there.
If the Lakers want to continue their tumble down the standings, they will buy out more veterans. This would be difficult to do with Luol Deng‘s two remaining years, but Brook Lopez’s expiring contract may work.
Lopez joined Los Angeles in the Timofey Mozgov-dump deal that also sent D’Angelo Russell to the Brooklyn Nets. No one expected the 10-year center to remain on the Purple and Gold for long or past the 2017-18 season, so his time there will probably end after the final regular-season game.
If the Lakers buy Lopez out before this, he can provide an offensive presence for any team in need of under-the-basket production. He even developed a decent 3-point shot over the past two seasons.
Would this tempt the San Antonio Spurs? If they see the Stanford product as an upgrade and someone that fits into the rotation, maybe. He’s not known as an elite defender, but if the team wants to upgrade the spot behind Aldridge and Gasol, this could be an interesting gamble by Mar. 1.
Next: Tyreke Evans
1. Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evan was maybe the most surprising player to not be dealt at the NBA Trade Deadline. The 28 year old has enjoyed a rejuvenated campaign for the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging 19.5 points per game. It’s the highest mark since his rookie season in 2009-10, when it looked like the Sacramento Kings had a building block in the making.
Along with a 45.8 percent mark from the field and 39.2 from 3-point range, Evans’ numbers are tempting for anyone to add, except he’s on an expiring contract. Teams did not offer a first-round pick for his services, according to WWEI.com, so Memphis declined all offers, including ones that included second-round picks and players like Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets (later sent to the New York Knicks).
Without a trade, would the Grizzlies buy out Evans and let him leave? They did not play him for the past few games to avoid injury, so if the relationship was damaged, would he want out? If so, it would be the worst-case scenario for this organization and leave them with nothing in return from arguably their best player this season.
If Evans leaves Memphis, it’s difficult to not think playoff teams will be in on him, including the San Antonio Spurs. However, look for the 2009 NBA Draft pick’s current team to keep and try to re-sign him this offseason.
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Will the San Antonio Spurs be in on any of these players? If not, could it be someone else?