Now that the Marcus Morris deal is uncertain, the San Antonio Spurs will need to look at alternative free agents to fill positions of need.
plans. It sounds like the veteran will break his verbal agreement with the San Antonio Spurs after failing to show for his physical and re-opening contract discussions with the New York Knicks.
This leaves the Spurs with a handful of interesting options to consider with their full $9.2 million mid-level exception remaining. Few players on the open market would even require a contract that large, so Buford could easily keep the roster as is and hope for some intriguing players to enter the buyout market later during the season. One name that’s been linked with the Spurs for quite some time is Andre Iguodala, who may end up available in that range.
Still, there are holes to plug on this roster and Buford in in a unique position because of the Morris situation. The remaining free agent pool consists of late-rotation players that can provide injury support and situational help. There are also a few boom-or-bust players that could rekindle their past ability.
One way or another, the Spurs should be looking to improve their front-court. Another small forward would be helpful, but San Antonio also needs to compensate for its lack of a defined backup center to Jakob Poeltl. With a steady rotation of guards in place for the coming season, it would be unwise to add another player to the back-court.
Next: 1. Kyle Korver
1. Kyle Korver
Through 16 seasons and 2,351 career-triples, Kyle Korver remains one of the game’s most proficient marksman. Standing at 6-foot-7 with the ability to play both wing positions, Korver could slide into the Spurs’ final roster spot with a battle-tested skill set that hands Gregg Popovich another option to throw at opponents.
Korver played just 16 games for Cleveland last season before getting traded to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Alec Burks and two second-rounders. During that time, he shot a spectacular 46.3 percent from behind the arc, but played a less important role for a non-competitive team. After moving to Salt Lake City, Korver played 20 minutes per night through 53 games and became a crucial member of a playoff team.
With Marco Belinelli occupying a roster spot, signing Korver could turn out to be redundant considering their comparable three-point prowess without offering a whole lot else. There aren’t many high-level options left on the market and you know exactly what you’re getting when you sign Korver to your team, so Buford could go in this direction if he wants to play it safe after potentially losing out on Marcus Morris.
Gregg Popovich positions his players to succeed and could use the help of an all-time great three-point shooter to win a few games.
Next: 2. Carmelo Anthony
2. Carmelo Anthony
This suggestion is going to cause some mixed feelings, but Carmelo Anthony remains on the open market and could fill a position of need. As an iconic member of the ’03 Draft Class and one of the most prolific scorers the game has seen, Melo’s Hall of Fame worthy career came to a screeching halt after his departure from the Mecca.
After countless summers of Hoodies and Instagram videos, the NBA has left Carmelo behind. The interstate rival Houston Rockets kept him around for only 10 games at the beginning of last season before deciding they’d seen enough. He averaged 13.4 points and 5.4 rebounds on poor shooting with unenthused defensive effort and eventually shot his way out of the rotation. In fairness, things weren’t peachy in Houston this season and his style of play never fit with D’Antoni’s coaching style.
It’s hard to thrive as a pure scorer with a player as dominant as James Harden running the show, but the Spurs could offer Melo a much more accommodating style of play. Integrating someone with his scoring instincts to the second unit could provide a spark of energy to a team in need of some versatility and depth.
If anyone is going to tap into whatever gas Melo has left in the tank, it’s Pop. The potential upside of this signing could end up being worth the risk, especially in the face of a barren free agency landscape.
Next: 3. Jonathon Simmons
3. Jonathon Simmons
Stemming from the Spurs’ culture and development, Jonathon Simmons has yet to find a long-term role that truly suits him. His story is notorious – after paying to register himself for a G League tryout, Simmons worked his way into a contract with the Spurs and eventually entered Gregg Popovich’s lineup.
As he came into his own, Simmons emerged as a creative two-way wing with underrated athletic ability and a devotion to hustling on both ends of the floor. He averaged 13.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in his first season in Orlando and saw his role decrease in the following year.
Simmons landed in Philadelphia, where he played hard and failed to give the Sixers the added depth they desired. The career 31.7 percent three-point shooter hit 42.9 percent of his triples in Philly and improved his effective field goal percentage to 52.3 percent, showing a dedication to evolving his game to match his team’s needs. Simmons left the Spurs on good terms and won’t command a large payday, so the Spurs could look at bringing him home and hoping to revitalize his career.
If he was able to run in the Pop’s offensive system while less developed as an all-around player, he’ll certainly be able to contribute something as an experienced veteran.
Next: 4. Kenneth Faried
4. Kenneth Faried
In his short time as a Houston Rocket, positionless big man Kenneth Faried showed that he still carries the same intensity and primal basketball instinct that earned him the title of ‘Manimal’ years ago. Through 25 games, including 13 starts, Faried averaged 12.9 points and 8.2 rebounds on an efficient 58.7 percent shooting.
Faried’s 45.6 contested rebound percentage ranked 20th amongst players logging 18 or more minutes per game last season, placing him ahead of Clint Capela, LaMarcus Aldridge and Karl-Anthony Towns. Needless to say, Faried provides tremendous energy around the basket and could add valuable backup minutes for Pop.
Scoring isn’t necessarily his most prevalent skill, but he’s no slouch in the half court. Faried is an excellent screener and an equally deadly roller that would benefit hugely from the Spurs’ handful of playmakers. He’s not afraid to take the ball strong to the rack and fight for his own rebound off of a miss.
Rim-running has become one of the most coveted skills for a big man in today’s game and Faried can provide it from both the power forward and center slot. His leaping ability and imposing physical frame make him a solid rim protector with the hustle and attention to detail needed to close out on shooters or ball handlers off of switches.
Plus, it never hurts to sign a valuable rotation player away from a division rival, and the Spurs are going to need all the juice they can get this season.
Next: 5. Dwight Howard
5. Dwight Howard
This will be considered a taboo entry for his long history of off-court issues, but the fact remains that Dwight Howard is a risky option for the Spurs’ backup center slot.
D12 has displayed a fresh attitude since the end of the season, invoking his admiration of Draymond Green’s leadership and cutting a reported 25 lbs. since the end of the season in hopes of fixing the conditioning issues that plagued his late-career. In an interview with Shams Charania of The Athletic, Howard claimed that his most recent string of injuries put things into perspective for him.
“This last injury that I had with my back, I really got a chance to step back and get structure for myself. I have completely changed who I am,” Howard said.
If Howard is committed to finishing his career on a high note, the Alamo City would be a great place to do it. The era of load management is alive and well in today’s game and the Popovich-led Spurs were one of the first teams to rest players. They’ll be able to manage Dwight’s regimen to ensure a healthy season for a highly productive player.
Battling through injury with the Wizards, Howard managed to post 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds on an average of 26 minutes per night. He only logged nine games and faded to the background of a losing squad. We’re in the zone of free agency when reclamation projects have highest upside on the market, so Howard wouldn’t be a terrible addition.
Next: 6. Justin Holiday
6. Justin Holiday
Journeyman Justin Holiday has seen his fair share of NBA play styles, but none that truly catered to his skill set. It’d be easy to disguise Holiday as a 3-and-D wing, but his playstyle is more specific than that. Holiday is a capable ball handler and shot creator, two skills he’s learned with underachieving teams over the last four seasons.
Holiday is a career 35 percent three-point shooter with a high release point and quick trigger, but he’s not a sharpshooter in the way he’s often portrayed. Instead, Holiday is a seasoned all-around scorer with slashing ability in his back pocket to compliment the aforementioned jumper.
On the defensive end, Holiday uses his lanky build and wide reach to disrupt passing lanes and chase shooters off the perimeter. Listed at 6-foot-6, Holiday makes up for his lackluster height for a small forward with effort and physicality. He had 39 games with at least two steals last season and had 28 games with at least five boards.
With limited ball handling responsibilities in the Spurs’ system, Holiday would receive many catch-and-shoot opportunities that’d likely result in a higher three-point percentage on the season. He had at least three triples in 27 games and set a new career-high in single game scoring with 30 including six threes against Dallas in April.
Even though Memphis wasn’t the best place for Holiday to showcase his ability, he showed enough to earn a portion of the Spurs’ mid-level exception.
Next: 7. Trey Lyles
7. Trey Lyles
Spurs Twitter seems enthused with the idea of bringing relinquished forward Trey Lyles along in free agency. The 6-foot-10 big man has shown the ability to defend in traffic and carve apart defenders at the rim. The 23-year-old put up 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds per game on just 41.8 percent shooting.
A 47-percent EFG is not something to be proud of for a fourth-year power forward, but there are still plenty of raw skills to be intrigued by with Lyles. He’s an excellent heads-up passer with a keen knack for finding cutters from the post. For a player of his size, Lyles oftentimes takes over in short bursts as a pick-and-roll initiator and capable ball handler.
It shouldn’t be overlooked that Lyles learned under many capable coaches thus far in his career. Between John Calipari, Quin Snyder and Mike Malone, Lyles should have no trouble adapting to the expectations that are required from him in a Gregg Popovich-led unit.
His shooting percentages are off-putting and there’s no telling just what kind of player he’ll turn out to be, but Lyles might have enough natural talent to carve out a role similar to Boris Diaw off the bench for San Antonio. Versatility in the frontcourt is this team’s bread and butter, so the Kentucky product could find himself as a backup for the Spurs.
Next: 8. Cheick Diallo
8. Cheick Diallo
In limited opportunity, 22-year-old Cheick Diallo has shown a lot of ferocity as a rim runner and high-energy rebounder. He averaged six points and 5.2 boards in 14 minutes per game for the New Orleans Pelicans last season and was a beneficiary of Anthony Davis’ trade request. Once the team realized it’s playoff hopes were gone, they turned to the team’s young core and allowed them to flourish with expanded roles.
Diallo is only 6-foot-9, which hedges on the shorter side for a center in today’s game, but his activity on the backboard and massively broad shoulders make him a wrecking ball in the paint. Charged by an unrelenting motor and an ambitious attitude, Diallo could make the move to San Antonio and learn from the team’s expert training staff to hone his potential.
There’s no need to waste a roster spot, especially with plenty of able-bodied free agents left on the market. Diallo would not command a significant portion of the Spurs’ mid-level exception, leaving the door open for a trade or player release once the buyout market becomes active.
Rebounding was one area that the Spurs struggled with last season and adding a big body like Diallo to the end of the rotation could plug in a positional need at a decent price.