NBA free agency remains just four-plus months away, with continued speculation around the San Antonio Spurs and LeBron James.
The San Antonio Spurs rarely make a big offseason splash. Sure, it happened in 2015, when LaMarcus Aldridge signed a multi-year contract, which moved him from the Portland Trail Blazers. Otherwise a build-through-the-draft process has been used by the Silver and Black.
For the 2018 offseason, will that change? Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James will hit free agency and obviously be the biggest name of anyone that has their contract expire. Any team with cap space may pursue him, including the Spurs, even though their situation will not be as clear-cut as others, due to a lack of available money.
Despite this, the conversation between James and the Spurs will not subside, along with other teams mentioned for his services. So, ESPN.com broke down the “how” and “why” this can happen:
Why LeBron would pick San Antonio
James has never made his respect for Spurs coach Gregg Popovich much of a secret, and he’d likely jump at the opportunity to play for Pop and potentially end the Warriors’ stranglehold on the Western Conference. Plus, if James is thinking about prolonging his career, he’d certainly have to take a look at the organization that has gotten more years out of its stars than any other in NBA history.
How the Spurs could make it work
Freeing up the cap space to sign James outright would almost certainly mean saying goodbye to Tony Parker, hoping Danny Green and Rudy Gay don’t pick up their player options, and likely trading Pau Gasol to a team with cap space on top of that. The path of less resistance would involve having James opt in, then working a trade with Cleveland, either for All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge or former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard — the latter of which would be a seismic move even by recent NBA standards.
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James plays heavy minutes for the Cavaliers, even at 33 years old. Eventually, this may catch up to him and be a cause of a potential decline, so the prospect of minutes management in San Antonio could be intriguing.
As for the route to acquire James, that’s a different story. That means the departure of franchise legend Tony Parker. Even though he does not play at an All-Star level anymore, it seems surreal this relationship would end while Parker remains an active player.
Danny Green’s contract can remain on the books for the 2018-19 season if he opts into $10 million. The same goes for Rudy Gay and Joffrey Lauvergne, whose contracts make up approximately $10 million, too.
Trading Pau Gasol’s $16 million salary for 2018-19 and partial guarantee for 2019-20 will not be easy, either. Attached draft-pick compensation, likely a first-round pick, would go with Gasol to the team that takes his contract.
There are hurdles for a Spurs-James connection to even be plausible. Factor in other teams that will make an attempt, and it’s nothing close to a guarantee that this will happen.