San Antonio Spurs: Hypothetically clearing cap space for LeBron James
By Rob Wolkenbrod
LeBron James is still a dream for the San Antonio Spurs, but if he decides to reside in the Alamo City, this is what must first happen in one of multiple scenarios.
The San Antonio Spurs might lose their own superstar, Kawhi Leonard, pending what happens in this eventual meeting with upper management. If not, it begs the question: how will the organization tinker a team that failed to win 50 games and lost in five games in the first round of the playoffs?
In a pipe dream, or maybe just NBA 2K18, it would be the addition of a premier player, because superstars are the catalysts toward championships. The Spurs never needed to do this when Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were all in their prime at the same time, but it’s different in 2018, even if Leonard returns to the team next season.
So, in a hypothetical and unrealistic world, what if LeBron James signed with San Antonio in July’s free-agent period? According to Hoops Rumors’ projections for maximum salaries in the 2018-19 season, James could consume $35.5 million of the cap. The Silver and Black, though, do not have the room; how could they clear it and make room for one of the NBA’s all-time greats?
Cutting ties with all free agents
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It starts with the Spurs’ free agents for the 2018 offseason: Bryn Forbes, Danny Green, Davis Bertans, Joffrey Lauvergne, Kyle Anderson, Rudy Gay and Tony Parker.
If Gay, Green and Lauvergne, who all own player options for the 2018-19 season, back out of their contracts and hit free agency, it opens approximately $20.5 million and brings the team’s salaries to $79 million, $22 million away from the projected cap.
There’s Anderson, Bertans and Forbes, all of whom still could receive qualifying offers. If they do and the Spurs realize LeBron James can be had, then each deal can be rescinded from the respective player.
Parker might be the toughest choice. It’s unknown how much he will command in unrestricted free agency, but if it’s anything above the veteran’s minimum of $2.3 million, it only makes the task of squeezing James’ salary into the mix more difficult. That might force a break-up that Spurs fans won’t want.
Who takes Pau Gasol’s contract?
If the Spurs want an exact amount available to sign James, Pau Gasol’s contract makes the most sense to send away. He costs $16 million for the 2018-19 season and has a partially guaranteed salary for 2019-20.
Who takes on an aging, expensive center and helps a team acquire the NBA’s top player, though? That potentially takes the accompaniment of a young player or a first round pick to sway another team, which would be a tough pill to swallow for an organization that never gives away assets, even for the chance to acquire a star.
With Gasol’s $16 million out of the way there’s $36 million available on the cap. That’s just enough to sign James.
(Side note: the No. 18 overall pick receives a $1.8 million first-year salary. The Spurs can wait to sign this player after James joins them. If not, Brandon Paul’s non-guaranteed contract can be released and clear the necessary space, with the No. 18 pick in the fold.)
Next: 2018 NBA Mock Draft: After the lottery
This is only one scenario to acquire LeBron James, but it’s one that needs multiple variables to swing in the San Antonio Spurs’ favor. It seems unlikely that this partnership can work financially, but crazier things have happened in the NBA.