San Antonio Spurs: Unprecedented cap space in 2021 is a game-changer
By Dylan Carter
Though the San Antonio Spurs haven’t historically made waves in free agency, money talks, and in 2021, they’ll have enough of it to make moves.
There’s been a lot of change for the San Antonio Spurs since the end of the Big Three era and while it’s mostly been looked at negatively from the fan’s perspective, there’s a whole new world of opportunity available for the team to tap into next offseason.
For months, star wing DeMar DeRozan’s future with the organization has been pondered as he nears the end of his current deal. He holds a $27.7 million player option for next season with the chance that he enters unrestricted free agency in hopes of signing a long-term deal that would leverage the Spurs’ future. He’ll be likely to earn that payday elsewhere with San Antonio trending younger with each passing year.
Assuming DeRozan takes his one-year deal this offseason and enters the free agency pool in 2021 when teams will have more cap space, San Antonio could have as much as $87.4 million in cap space to use in the open market. Seven of their players are set to hit the open market including two restricted players in Derrick White and Chimezie Metu.
If you thought 2019 #NBA Free Agency was crazy… 2021 could be insane ?
Who would you want your team to go after in 2021? pic.twitter.com/T0X0HpXDvc
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) July 10, 2019
The only players who are on-board for the 2021-22 season are point guard Dejounte Murray, wing Lonnie Walker IV and the two rookies: Keldon Johnson and Luka Samanic. Besides that, San Antonio’s front office has total flexibility for the next steps in this organization’s development.
That’s enough for two max free agents, though it’ll more likely be one max spot and some loose change after they re-sign players to contract extensions and sort out the 2020 free agency/draft periods. However, it’s looking like San Antonio can at least put fliers out and go big-game hunting in 2021 which they haven’t been able to do since signing LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015.
As of now, there remains the possibility that the following All-Stars or former All-Stars are available on the free market after next season: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Anthony Davis, Chris Paul, Rudy Gobert, Andre Drummond, Kyle Lowry, LaMarcus, DeMar and a few others who are fringe All-Stars and beyond.
After this hiatus and the financial implications of this season on the NBA’s revenue stream, players are going to try to get paid ASAP and certain teams may not be able to do that immediately. In an odd twist of fate, the league’s woes might play out nicely for small market teams since the cap is likely to trend down and players are more incentivized to cash in now as opposed to waiting for long-term deals later on since the league’s finances might keep trending downward.
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San Antonio isn’t traditionally a free-agent destination that gets talked about, but there’s something there for veteran players looking to make something their own might get enticed by.
If things don’t pan out as intended in Los Angeles, Paul George might look for a longterm max contract somewhere else and he’d fit wonderfully with Murray, White and Walker on the perimeter. If Milwaukee fails to reach the heights that Giannis needs them to, he could come looking for a team with a championship history and an infrastructure in place for him to thrive.
Of every team in the league, the Spurs have the most cap space of any team in 2021 and could easily keep it that way by holding off on contract extensions and longterm deals until they try their hand at luring a big-name free agent to the River City.
These are unprecedented times for the Spurs and while it might take a little bit of luck to make it all work, they could get back on top with a good sales pitch or two in the 2021 offseason.