San Antonio Spurs Free Agent Big Men Targets: Potential vs Experience
By Cory Vega
With the free agency window kicking off this Sunday, the San Antonio Spurs need to make some important decisions on who they can bring in this summer.
Obviously, the Spurs won’t make a giant splash in this window compared to teams like the Lakers, Nets, and Knicks, who are scrambling like madmen to capture the likes of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
Rather, San Antonio will look to make a calculated swan dive in this window as they lack the cap space to really let loose.
Specifically, according to Forbes, the Spurs have $11.3 million to spend this summer. They can, however, clear space if needed by trading one of their bigger contracts like DeMar DeRozan or Patty Mills.
One area on the depth chart that could see improvement is the center position.
Although Jakob Pöeltl showed some flashes this past season, the Spurs could use some more depth at the position, or even an outright improvement. T
hankfully, many of the big men in this free agency window won’t break the bank and there are a strong variety of players available.
San Antonio could either continue to develop younger players with an eye towards the future, or sign a veteran both for mentoring purposes and superior quality to help this team win right away.
Let’s look at some realistic options for the Spurs in the big man market.
Next: DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins has had a rough few years to say the least.
From his Achilles injury and the grueling rehab that accompanies it, to losing in the NBA Finals after taking a minuscule one-year contract to prove he’s worth another big contract, and a torn quad that nearly ended his year capped off the overall poor luck Boogie Cousins has had so far.
He showed some of the skills he’s become known for during the second half of the season, so there is optimism he can return to being a true All-Star center.
Thankfully, his nut case attitude from the early 2010’s seems to have disappeared, something Pop would have quelled no matter what. But he still remains a fragile, now injury prone player with tons of question marks.
However, when he’s at the top of his game, there are probably no better centers in the league than the four-time All-Star.
His strength, passing, and shooting ability combine to make him a truly gifted center when healthy. All of those skills make him a strong fit for the Spurs.
The 29-year-old would also provide some fun in the locker room with his antics, something the Warriors loved even when he was still hurt. He’d undoubtedly be a great fit for the Spurs’ HEB commercials.
Cousins’ market value is unknown at this point. Some teams will bid cheaply for him while the desperate Knicks could throw their cash at him if they miss out on KD.
As fellow Air Alamo writer Dylan Carter mentioned, the Spurs could offer Cousins their mid-level exception of roughly $9 million to join the team next season while implementing a rehabilitation process very similar to the one Rudy Gay went through to ensure that both his quad and Achilles are good to go come October.
Knowing the history and chemistry Gay and Cousins during their three seasons together in Sacramento, it could even help convince Rudy to stick around.
If the Spurs can manage to get the best out of Boogie, they could be a real threat atop the West once again.
Next: Cheick Diallo
This past Wednesday, the New Orleans Pelicans decided to decline Diallo’s qualifying offer, thus making him an unrestricted free agent.
At just 22 years of age, the third year big man has many years of development ahead of him.
Last season, he was a reliable contributor off the bench while serving as a backup to Anthony Davis, who missed a ton of time due to his trade demands.
Diallo’s work ethic and motor would be something Coach Pop would fall in love with quickly.
In the six games he played over twenty minutes, Diallo puts up a very productive 14.1 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while shooting 72.4% from the floor. His game versus the Raptors is especially notable as he racked up 16 points and 12 rebounds in just 24 minutes.
The third year pro from Kansas will probably come in at a pretty cheap price, so the Spurs could bring him in to compete with Pöeltl for those coveted frontcourt minutes.
Diallo shares many similarities to the 2019 NBA Most Improved Player, Pascal Siakam, and carries that kind of potential if properly developed.
San Antonio would be the perfect place for Diallo to continue his development. This is the sort of low-risk, high-reward deal the Spurs should be looking to make this offseason.
Next: Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez showed this postseason that he is truly one of the most reliable centers in the league, bar none.
While he’ll never carry the upside that a healthy Boogie Cousins would, Lopez will be a steady contributor no matter the situation.
Lopez had himself a nice year with the Bucks as he averaged 12.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 28.7 minutes per game while hitting 36.5% of his 6.3 three-point attempts per contest. The Spurs could desperately use that type of outside shooting from one of their big men.
The 31-year-old could become what the Spurs were hoping out of Pau Gasol, a reliable shooter with good screening ability and great overall defensive play.
Lopez’s age could mean that he’ll come at a decent price for the Spurs, but he’ll have plenty of suitors in this free agency window.
Teams like the Pelicans, Celtics, and Lakers would not hesitate overpaying him, something that the Spurs can’t wouldn’t do. But if Brook meets with Pop and buys into his plans, Lopez and LaMarcus would make a downright sexy duo in the frontcourt.
Next: Other Options
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It’s highly unlikely the Spurs will have their 19-year-old first round draft pick Luka Samanic backing up LaMarcus Aldridge from the get go. But if the Spurs prioritize re-signing Rudy Gay and make other transactions outside of the frontcourt, Samanic could see some minutes behind both LA and David Bertans.
If Samanic follows the route of San Antonio’s most recent first round picks and spends most of his rookie year in the G League, the Spurs will need some reinforcements in the frontcourt heading into next season.
Enes Kanter is available as an unrestricted free agent and was a critical piece for the Blazers after his departure from the troubled Knicks, but he’ll probably be unwilling to take a pay cut to play for the Spurs. The Blazers, Lakers, and Celtics are all reportedly high on Kanter, which could cause his market to be out of San Antonio’s price range.
Julius Randle is another fun name to speculate about after his fantastic season with the Pelicans, but his price may be a bit too high for the Spurs’ mid-level exception and his lack of defensive effort would give Pop with a migraine.
However, he and LaMarcus would be a handful offensively and perhaps Pop could instill a defensive mindset in the young Randle.
The Spurs have the flexibility to shed cap space, so if they decide one of these higher priced free agents is a perfect fit for them the front office could make it happen.
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It will be interesting to see whether San Antonio targets a proven big man who can help win right away, or if they try to add a young frontcourt player to their exciting young core.