San Antonio Spurs: Projecting 3 potential buyout candidates
By Dylan Carter
With the trade deadline just a week away, the San Antonio Spurs have an opportunity to round out their roster in the buyout market shortly after.
It’s easy to suggest that the San Antonio Spurs seek out additional help before the trade deadline, but the front office’s best opportunity to acquire talent may not come until after the deadline has passed. Many tanking teams will agree to buyout the contracts of players who have lost rotation spots or fit outside of their plans for the future.
Teams near the bottom of the standings are more likely to get rid of their veterans, opening up the opportunity for other teams to fill a roster spot down the stretch of the season. Although the Spurs have a capped roster and a deep rotation, there are still issues that need to be addressed before the playoffs.
San Antonio is a mediocre rebounding team and could use some fortification on the defensive end. Their best wing defender is combo guard Derrick White, who is often tasked by Gregg Popovich with the toughest defensive assignment on any given night.
Adding some depth on the perimeter would certainly help combat the explosive small forwards of the Western Conference. Roster space could easily be cleared by waiving Quincy Pondexter or another backup, paving the way for the Spurs to make a move.
The buyout market has the potential to be especially spicy considering the sheer volume of players on bad teams with oversaturated contracts. Cap spikes in previous years left GMs overspending on free agents that are set to re-enter free agency this summer, meaning that tanking front offices will look to clear cap and cut their losses.
Here are some particularly intriguing buyout candidates that the Spurs should monitor in the coming weeks.
Next: Enes Kanter
New York City certainly amplified the media circus that seems to follow center Enes Kanter, but the fact remains that he’s one of the more talented rebounders in the game today in spite of his off-court antics. Kanter was a strong acquisition for a budding Knicks team before Kristaps Porzingis tore his ACL and derailed New York’s playoff hopes in 2018.
With Porzingis traded and the Knicks in full tank-mode, Kanter is a likely candidate to receive a buyout – especially when considering DeAndre Jordan’s impending arrival. After starting in 71 games for New York in the 2017-18 season, Kanter has started in only 23 games this year and has received many DNPs at the hands of head coach David Fizdale.
Kanter is averaging 14.1 points and 10.6 rebounds per game in only 26 minutes on 53.9 percent shooting from the field. In the face of adversity, Kanter remains one of the game’s most talented rebounders with a distinctive ability to score in and around the paint. His defense is lackluster, and he always manages to attract attention, but San Antonio would provide him with the chance to buckle down and begin competing.
If Kanter would be willing to adapt his personality and play style to fit the needs of the Spurs, he could provide a massive boost to a team seeking home court advantage in the playoffs. Depth is everything for the Spurs and center Pau Gasol is growing increasingly ineffective, so Kanter could slide into a starting role for this young squad.
Next: Wesley Matthews
It’s been a quietly efficient year for shooting guard Wesley Matthews, who is considered a buyout candidate following the aforementioned trade between New York and Dallas. The 6-foot-5 veteran has shown an innate ability to knock down triples and defend at a high level in spite of his physical limitations.
Not only does Matthews know how to operate under complex systems of play, but his natural scoring ability and team-first mentality would fit in excellently with San Antonio.
It helps that franchise cornerstone LaMarcus Aldridge already has a connection with Matthews from their days in Rip City, so chemistry and integration wouldn’t be too much of an issue. His minutes would probably take away from Bryn Forbes and Dante Cunningham, but his on-court value could help propel the Spurs’ defensively. Matthews would provide Popovich with an alternative to his guard duo of Bryn Forbes and Derrick White, who tend to give up threes to opposing guards.
I would circle DeAndre Jordan and Wes Matthews as two potential buyout players to keep an eye on. Players need to be waived by March 1 to become playoff eligible.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) January 31, 2019
Matthews doesn’t necessarily propel the Spurs into championship contention, but he’s seen his fair share of playoff basketball and never backs down from a challenge. In 44 games this season, Matthews is posting an average stat line of 13.1 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 29.8 minutes per contest.
His shooting averages are respectable 52 percent effective field goal percentage while hitting 38 percent from deep. There’s no guarantee that Matthews hits the free agent market this season, but Popovich and R.C. Buford should keep him in mind when making these decisions.
Next: Iman Shumpert
The Sacramento Kings have been a surprisingly competitive bunch this season, holding pat at the 10th seed in the West; only two games out from a playoff bid. Led by a dynamic backcourt of De’Aaron Fox and Buddy Hield, the Kings are one of the fastest-paced teams in the league with a large emphasis on spacing the floor and accelerating tempo.
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A large reason for their success has been guard Iman Shumpert, who is known for his defensive prowess and offensive versatility. Through 40 games this season, Shump is averaging 8.9 points, three rebounds and 1.2 steals in 26 minutes per night. At 28-years-old, Shumpert has made the complete transformation from hot headed young gun to poised veteran leader.
At 6-foot-5, Shumpert can guard both guards and small forward without hesitation. His intensity is unwavering and his dedication to the game is clear to see. Although his ceiling is seemingly capped, there’s still plenty of ways for Popovich and the Spurs development staff to unlock new aspects of his game.
Buying out Shumpert’s contract makes sense for Sacramento because of the continuous growth displayed by rising star Bogdan Bogdanovic, who has shown incredible flashes of development over the last month. For as wonderful as the Kings’ playoff hopes have been, they’re still unequipped to handle a heated postseason in the Western Conference.
Popovich would respect and appreciate Shumpert’s passion both on and off the floor. His championship experience and particular dedication to winning would be beneficial to a team hoping to balance talented youth and veteran experience.