San Antonio Spurs: Does salary cap upside exist this offseason?

SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMEBR 18: R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich and Manu Ginobili
SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMEBR 18: R.C. Buford, Gregg Popovich and Manu Ginobili /

The San Antonio Spurs have the chance to open some cap space, but it partially depends on factors they can’t control.

An unusual season for the San Antonio Spurs clouded their future in a rare instance. It started and ended with Kawhi Leonard, at least for a few months, but now that the NBA Draft and free agency will arrive in a matter of weeks, it puts the status of players with expiring contracts in question.

The Spurs have seven players that can hit the open market which, on the surface, should mean salary cap flexibility. However, this can disappear with the snap of a finger.

The focus will be on Danny Green, Rudy Gay and Joffrey Lauvergne, all of whom have player options for the 2018-19 season for approximately $20.5 million. There’s no indication of their potential decisions, but if all three decline their options and hit free agency, it brings the Spurs to $79 million in salaries. That’s $22 million below the projected cap of $101 million, according to Eric Pincus of BBallInsiders.

$79 million, without trades or other transactions, is the lowest San Antonio’s salary cap figure can go. But it seems unlikely that it will ever reach that number, given the rest of the free-agent bunch.

Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans and Bryn Forbes will all hit restricted free agency, so the Spurs can match any offer sheet that these three players sign. It can become a blessing or a curse, though, as another organization can offer a deal that’s outside what the Silver and Black want to pay.

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Bertans and Forbes can each receive $1.5 million qualifying offers, and if they accept it brings the salaries to $82 million. Anderson’s qualifying offer, given he was a first round pick and will no longer be under a rookie-scale contract, should be around $3.2 million. Although, the UCLA product is the likeliest candidate of the group to sign an offer sheet. But if he accepts the qualifying offer, it brings the salary to $85.2 million.

Finally, there’s Tony Parker, the only unrestricted free agent of the seven. It seems unlikely he will make a $15 million salary, after coming off a torn quadriceps, losing the starting point guard job to Dejounte Murray and watching his numbers decline. What’s the magic number, though? There might be one, with the Frenchman’s willingness to play elsewhere for the first time in his NBA career.

Parker’s salary, if he returns to the Spurs, is the wild card. He could receive the Manu Ginobili special, which was a two-year, $14.5 million deal in 2013 for his age 36 and 37 seasons, the ages Parker will be in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, respectively. That seems more likely, for now, than taking a discount down to $2.5 million that Ginobili accepted in 2015-16 and 2017-18.

So let’s say Parker receives a $7.25 million salary for 2018-19. Along with the three qualifying offers and without the player options, that takes the Spurs salary-cap figure to $92.45.

The contract for the No. 18 pick can’t be forgotten, either, with a $1.7 million projection, according to RealGM. That brings the number to $94.1 million, just $6.9 million below the cap. Adding the accepted player options to this total causes it to soar and only straps what the Spurs can do, aside from a few player exceptions.

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It comes down to this: If the Spurs let everyone walk this summer, flexibility will exist to sign free agents and in potential trades. Don’t count on that, with the decision out of the organization’s hands for most of these free agents and a fair expectation that at least one, if not more, returns to the team this summer. Then it’s about creativity to tinker with the roster.