There’s a path for the San Antonio Spurs to clear cap space for 2020 free agency

Feb 11, 2020; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Trey Lyles (41) reacts after a call against him by officials during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. (Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports)
Feb 11, 2020; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Trey Lyles (41) reacts after a call against him by officials during the second half against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. (Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports)
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Believe it or not, the San Antonio Spurs have an opportunity to clear up some cap space to utilize during the 2020 NBA free agency period.

Those hoping that the San Antonio Spurs will make a splash in NBA free agency are looking ahead to 2020-21 as the expected launching pad for this team. As of now, the team is expected to have more than two max contract slots freed up as their four highest-paid players come off the books without extensions in sight. That could be accelerated if DeMar DeRozan opts out of his $27.7 million player option and signs a contract elsewhere, avoiding a sign-and-trade to help the Spurs.

Banking on DeRozan to opt out for cap space this year isn’t the proper route to take. The San Antonio Spurs would still need to make some maneuvers to ensure that they had enough money to go big-game hunting in a free-agent pool that doesn’t actually have any star talent. Instead, they’ll have to look at a more modest group of players who can help them compete now and in some cases, establish a core for the future.

An interesting note about the Spurs’ outlook: The team has three non-guaranteed deals they could get rid of to free up about $9.6 million — An amount that should help them get into conversations with key players including Christian Wood and Jerami Grant. To do so, they’ll need to cut three players: Trey Lyles, Tyler Zeller and Chimezie Metu, who combine for that amount exactly.

Expect Zeller to be cut because quite frankly, he’s not good enough to hold a roster spot with this team. Unless head coach and team president Gregg Popovich sees something that I don’t, Zeller is as good as gone and so is his salary. Metu, on the other hand, is a bit trickier.

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After being groomed within the San Antonio Spurs’ system for two seasons, Metu hasn’t done a whole lot for the actual team. He’s been effective in the G League and I personally called for him to play a greater role in the Orlando restart. Unless the Spurs are set on giving him a role in his third season with the team, they may as well cut him to open up space to pursue someone that would actually play for the team.

The most intriguing part of this equation just so happens to be the most expensive — Lyles and his $5.5 million team option. He’s a solid player who certainly belongs in this league and fits with the Spurs roster. However, he’s a bit redundant with Luka Samanic, who the Spurs need to give a decent role at some point after picking him 19th in 2019.

My best bet is the Spurs accept his option and bring him back. However, they wouldn’t be afraid to deal him if an opportunity arises to sign a key free agent and bring back a second-round pick or cheap player. Still, Lyles is a reliable rotation player and the San Antonio Spurs cannot afford to give up a good player for nothing as they did last offseason with Davis Bertans.

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Lastly, San Antonio has a cap hold worth roughly $5 million for this offseason. If he signs elsewhere or they renounce his rights, a decent chunk of change falls into their lap. Even with that being the case, there’s not much room to toy with unless DeRozan leaves the team.

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