San Antonio Spurs Free Agency

Spurs Rumors: San Antonio is the perfect destination for Kristaps Porzingis

By Andrew Ites
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 31: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks and Marcus Morris #13 of the Boston Celtics look on during the game on January 31, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 31: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks and Marcus Morris #13 of the Boston Celtics look on during the game on January 31, 2018 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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PHOENIX, AZ – JANUARY 26: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ – JANUARY 26: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The latest of the Spurs rumors involves San Antonio making a move for Kristaps Porzingis this summer. Is that a realistic proposition and should the Spurs pull the trigger?

According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, the Spurs are “viewed as a team with significant interest” in Kristaps Porzingis as he is set to enter restricted free agency this offseason.

The Latvian center will surely command more than his $7.5 million qualifying offer, which will allow teams to tender offers for Porzingis and force the Knicks to match in order to keep him.

New York may be big game hunting this offseason with Kevin Durant in mind, and surely Porzingis would be in their future plans if they want to bring in another superstar.

However, the All-Star big man has had a rocky relationship with the organization during his four-year career and he may be looking for a change of scenery if the right offer comes in.

Here’s how the Spurs could become legitimate contenders in the Kristaps Porzingis sweepstakes and whether they should take a chance on the versatile center:

EDIT: According to Woj, Zach Lowe, and Ramona Shelbourne, Porzingis wants out of New York in a trade, and the Spurs are reportedly in the running for the Latvian big man. — 1/31/2019

It would be easier for the Spurs to trade for him at the deadline than signing him in restricted free agency this summer, which makes this a more conceivable scenario than it was when rumors of San Antonio being interested in Kristaps first started to surface.

Next: Kristaps Porzingis' injury history

NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 6: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks is carried off court after tearing his ACL in his left knee during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 6, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – FEBRUARY 6: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks is carried off court after tearing his ACL in his left knee during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on February 6, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Kristaps Porzingis’ Injury History

The reason Porzingis may hit the market this summer is not for a lack of talent because he’s shown he can be a dominant player on both ends of the floor in his first four NBA seasons.

His checkered injury history is why the Knicks could be hesitant to give him the max offer he desires this offseason.

Porzingis is currently recovering from a torn ACL he suffered last season, and that wasn’t the first injury he’s suffered in his brief NBA tenure.

Related Story. Should the Spurs take a chance on Jimmer Fredette?

He’s also dealt with multiple other leg injuries, back soreness, shoulder and elbow issues, and several illnesses and infections since entering the league in 2015.

His durability has the Knicks questioning whether he is durable enough to become the centerpiece of their organization for years to come, and could factor in their decision to match a big offer this summer.

Next: Kristaps Porzingis' contract situation

PHOENIX, AZ – JANUARY 26: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PHOENIX, AZ – JANUARY 26: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on January 26, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

Kristaps Porzingis’ contract situation

Porzingis will become a restricted free agent this offseason, which makes his market a little bit trickier than your typical unrestricted free agent.

The Knicks are reportedly not planning to offer Porzingis a true max deal. According to the New York Daily News’ sources, New York will look to sign the Latvian center to an incentive-based deal similar to the one Joel Embiid signed with Philadelphia because they each share concerning injury histories.

Related Story. Orchestrating a Spurs trade for Nikola Vucevic

However, the Knicks may be forced into matching a max offer if one of the league’s 29 other teams signs Porzingis to an offer sheet this summer.

We don’t know if New York would be willing to match a max offer or something close to it, which makes’ Porzingis’ situation extremely interesting to monitor.

If these reports are true, what kind of offer can the Spurs make to acquire him this summer?

Next: Spurs salary cap analysis

NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 30: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on January 30, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – JANUARY 30: Kristaps Porzingis #6 of the New York Knicks looks on during the game against the Brooklyn Nets on January 30, 2018 at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Spurs salary cap analysis

It isn’t realistic for San Antonio to make Porzingis an offer while staying under the salary cap for the 2019-20 season, but they do have some room to maneuver under the luxury tax.

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According to Spotrac, the Spurs are currently projected to have a little over $21 million in space under the luxury tax next season. However, that number assumes they won’t re-sign Rudy Gay who has been an integral piece of the team this year.

If they choose to move on from Gay, they could also cut Pau Gasol to clear more space under the luxury tax.

Only $6.7 million of Pau’s $16 million salary is guaranteed next year, so San Antonio could save around $10 million by waiving him before next season.

That move would give the Spurs about $30 million of room under the luxury tax, which would be enough to give Porzingis a projected max offer of $27.25 million per year this summer.

The Spurs are hoping that a max offer is enough to convince Porzingis to leave New York while also discouraging the Knicks from matching that offer this summer.

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San Antonio would have to decide that they are all in on Porzingis this offseason because playing the restricted free agency game could tie up their money for a while if the Knicks take their time in deciding to match the offer, and they have to do extensive research on Porzingis’ durability concerns.

I think taking a chance on a player with Porzingis’ level of talent at such a young age is a worthwhile risk, but it’s going to be extremely tricky to get him to San Antonio this summer.

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