San Antonio Spurs: One free agent to watch in every Eastern Conference first-round series
There’s not a ton of cash to move around this offseason, but the San Antonio Spurs should be scouting difference-makers in the Eastern Conference.
Just because the San Antonio Spurs aren’t participating doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be enjoying playoff basketball — Especially in the current world climate. There are a handful of players competing in the postseason that have added incentive with their contracts set to expire. There’s really no telling what the free-agent market looks like this summer with the NBA’s cap situation in the air and lots of teams without enough money to seek free agents.
Still, the Spurs have a pretty hefty mid-level exception waiting for them that should be enough to lure a helpful piece on a one-year deal. There are going to be plenty of players who seek those deals to re-enter the free-agent pool with the hope that the cap will increase as more teams’ salary sheets clear up. This means that San Antonio can add a complementary piece to its roster on a one or two-year deal with little risk involved.
One would have to think the team’s priorities are to retain two of their Orlando starters who made a major difference: Combo guard Derrick White and center Jakob Poeltl. Additionally, star wing DeMar DeRozan has until October to make a decision on his player option worth $27.7 million. With the Spurs heading for the lottery without many big names on the market, bringing DeRozan back for one more season isn’t too bad of an idea.
However, they need some extra firepower to make it into the postseason. This is a team that direly needs some help defensively and would benefit from some added floor-spacing as well. There are a handful of players participating in the first round of the playoffs who can provide that.
Next: No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 8 Orlando Magic
The San Antonio Spurs could facilitate Wesley Iwundu’s potential.
In a confined role, we haven’t seen the full extent of third-year forward Wesley Iwundu‘s potential. The Orlando Magic have deployed a stacked lineup that features a handful of talented scoring guards and wings that forced Iwundu to be stashed at the back of the bench. His minutes per game increased by just two-tenths of a minute, leaving him on the back of the bench for most of the game.
It’s reasonable to suspect the backup small forward position will be open as Marco Belinelli remains on an expiring contract. The veteran played decently well in Orlando contrasted with his terrible stretch to begin the season but overall, is impact has been questionable. Replacing Marco with an athletic wing defender who can shoot the ball in team sets would be favorable for this franchise as it undergoes a retooling.
Iwundu isn’t expected to make a whole lot this offseason. It’s hard to suspect many teams will target him in free agency, which is why the restricted free agent could very easily land in the Alamo City on a one-to-two year deal. Orlando has its own cap space issues to tend to and keeping their backup on an unfavorable deal wouldn’t help that situation.
This is an example of the low-risk, high-reward move San Antonio could take this offseason. It’s similar to the Trey Lyles deal, which worked out marvelously in the last offseason. Maybe Lyles wasn’t the Spurs’ first choice, but he had a great season and fulfilled his potential in Pop’s system. The same could easily apply to Iwundu.
Next: No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 7 Brooklyn Nets
Big man Chris Boucher could wreak havoc for the San Antonio Spurs.
Spurs fans have some trust issues with the Toronto Raptors after their trade two offseasons ago. Regardless, the fact remains that Toronto is on-par with San Antonio in terms of player development over the course of the last five-to-10 years. This leaves them with a similar problem to the silver and black — Interesting players stashed on their roster leave for greater opportunity.
That could very easily be the case for big man Chris Boucher this offseason. The 27-year-old big was a late-bloomer, but after years of development within the Raptors’ system, he’s ready to take. a step in his progression. Toronto has spent most of the year stashing Boucher at the end of the bench despite proving himself as a capable rotation player and spot-starter.
CHRIS BOUCHER REALLY JUST DID THAT. (via @Raptors) pic.twitter.com/yRDrS7zMd1
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) August 11, 2020
During the Orlando restart’s seeding games, Boucher averaged nine points, five rebounds and 1.1 blocks on 56.4 percent from the field and 10-for-19 shooting from 3-point range. He’s a modern big who can switch between positions while bringing the kind of energy you need from a 6-foot-9 guy like that. Defensively, Boucher is a solid player who has a chance to get even better as he enters his prime playing years on a new deal.
San Antonio could use an energy guy like that off the bench to play an up-tempo, modern game. Plus, the Raptors have more pressing issues to tend to in free agency with eight players coming off the books. There’s a chance Boucher doesn’t get extended his qualifying offer at all, making it easier for a team like the Spurs to scoop him up.
Next: No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers
Wing Alec Burks could fill a role for the San Antonio Spurs.
After a tremendous start to the season with the Golden State Warriors, wing Alec Burks was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for a haul of second-round picks. Considering the Sixers’ massive cap sheet contrasted with the best season of Burks’ career, it’s not likely that he’ll return to the team unless he truly believes they can be a title contender next season.
The 29-year-old Burks is averaging 15 points per game this season while filling the gap as a shot creator and spot-up shooter from 3-point land. He made a commendable 36.1 percent of his triples off the catch-and-shoot this season and was even better on pull-up threes at 45.9 percent. Sometimes, the Spurs will need a guy who can simply get them a bucket from 3-point land and Burks could be that guy on a reasonable contract.
It's going to be rough when the #Sixers can't re-sign Alec Burks over the offseason because all of their money is tied up in Harris and Horford.
— Michael K-B (@therealmikekb) August 18, 2020
What makes him more valuable than someone like Bryn Forbes is that Burks is a commendable defender at 6-foot-6. He’s got some length that he used to hold opponents to just 33.7 percent from the mid-range and only 31 percent on above-the-break 3s, which is the best on the Sixers. That would be a tremendous upgrade for San Antonio at a position of need.
Maybe bringing in a veteran like that doesn’t sound ideal on the surface, but it takes some of the pressure off the Spurs’ young core as they transition from a veteran team to the next generation.
Next: No. 4 Indiana Pacers vs. No. 5 Miami Heat
Forward Justin Holiday fits all of the San Antonio Spurs’ needs at a low cost.
Indiana’s cap situation is going to get rocky fast with the lineup as currently constructed. Most of their young players’ extensions are in play, giving them a difficult cap situation to navigate for a team that’s title aspirations probably won’t be realized any time soon. The emergence of T.J. Warren and the signing of Jeremy Lamb make forward Justin Holiday‘s role a bit redundant.
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For the 6-foot-6 forward, a 3-and-D role on a fiery team is the perfect situation. An unrestricted free agent this offseason, Holiday is one of the few players that I expect to be targeted because his skill set is so valuable but his price tag isn’t likely to be very high. This season, he earned $4.8 million for his services, which the Spurs can exceed using part of their mid-level exception.
In San Antonio, Holiday would be a nice piece to compliment the young lineup off the bench with a knack for intercepting passing lanes and making shooters’ lives more difficult. That’s the kind of energy that San Antonio needs on the wing if it’s going to survive in the modern era. He can play three positions and defend one-through-4 decently well off of switches.
Bringing that kind of player in to bring balance to the bench squad would be huge. It’s been a while since the Spurs had a true small forward in their ranks with the rookie Johnson playing the power forward and multiple two-guards playing down at the three.
Putting a player like Holiday under Coach Pop would assuredly open up a world of possibilities for a guy who’s never been catered to by his team.