Feb 10, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich with guard Marco Belinelli (18) and guard Bryn Forbes (11) in the 4th against the Nuggets at Pepsi Center. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)
Free agency is crucial for the San Antonio Spurs as they enter their rebuild, so they need to make quick decisions regarding this free-agent class.
This isn’t your typical offseason and the San Antonio Spurs have to make some tough decisions to sort through. While the focus is primarily on the 2020 NBA Draft, the most prevalent of the Spurs’ franchise since the turn of the century, free agency looms with massive implications for the future. With an open cap sheet that signals for a run at excellence in 2021, San Antonio may shift course if the right opportunity presents itself.
However, the organization must be smart with its money. An extension draws near for combo guard Derrick White; San Antonio’s leader in the Orlando restart. Their star, DeMar DeRozan may decide his own future with a $27.7 million player option for the 2020-21 season. Given the circumstances of this season, many believe he’ll accept a payout this year and seek his next big deal next offseason, but nothing is confirmed for the time being.
Should DeRozan opt-out, San Antonio will have more cap space to play with in a free-agent class that has lots of potential without true star power at the top. This way, the team may be able to make low-risk, high-reward signings using its mid-level exception and potential cap space.
Mind you that some of these players would only be plausible to pursue if DeRozan opts out.
Next: Pass No. 1
Jan 8, 2020; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward (20) controls the ball against San Antonio Spurs guard Bryn Forbes (11) during the first half at TD Garden. (Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs should pass on Gordon Hayward in free agency.
This one is tricky for several reasons beginning most prominently with the fact that Gordon Hayward is never going to make $34 million in a single season again. Therefore, he’s more than likely going to opt-in and stick with his contract, which is why his name has been linked with the Spurs in potential trades moving forward.
However, Hayward isn’t someone the Spurs should pursue regardless. He’s a fantastic player with a high scoring threshold despite thriving without great usage. Hayward is a plug-and-play guy who can make an impact in any situation, but he’s not worth the contractual commitment for the silver and black. If he enters free agency, it’ll be with the intention of drawing a long-term deal and leveraging the future for a solid player today isn’t worth it for San Antonio.
Hayward is a fantastic player, but context is extremely important in situations like this. San Antonio has two players who’re expected to compete for minutes at the small forward — Lonnie Walker and Keldon Johnson. At this stage of their respective careers, the Spurs would be better off learning what they’ve got in their young guys instead of investing in someone with a higher floor and a lower ceiling.
If San Antonio were to buy-in on this season, I could see Hayward being a valuable addition. However, that doesn’t seem like the more likely outcome for this San Antonio Spurs squad.
Next: Pursue No. 1
Dec 1, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Pistons forward Christian Wood (35) points up after a play during the third quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at Little Caesars Arena. (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs need to pursue Christian Wood in free agency.
We’ve been beating this drum here at Air Alamo for a long while, but the time has come for the San Antonio Spurs to get an offer to Detroit Pistons free agent Christian Wood. After taking over for the traded Andre Drummond near the end of the season, Wood exploded. In 12 games as a starter, Wood averaged 21.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game on 56 percent shooting from the field and 40.8 percent on 4.1 3-pointers per game.
These are exceptional averages for an up-and-coming big. A multi-faceted player with relentless energy and a knack for filling in where needed, Wood is the perfect type of player to invest in at this stage of his career. A 25-year-old who’s traveled the league to make a name for himself, Wood fits the needs of San Antonio’s roster with his defensive upside, rebounding and versatility on offense.
The market for Wood is mostly unclear at this point with his expected value landing between $9-$16 million per season. If the mid-level exception is enough to get the job done, he’d be a wonderful acquisition for the San Antonio Spurs. If they need to use cap space alone to land him, it’d more likely take a twist of fate to make everything work. If Wood is coming to town, San Antonio could simply relinquish the rights to Jakob Poeltl and open more space.
They should excercise every option to bring Wood to the team — Even if it means parting with guys currently employed by the team to make it work.
Next: Pass No. 2
Feb 8, 2020; Sacramento, California, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Bryn Forbes (11) gestures after scoring a basket against the Sacramento Kings during the first quarter at Golden 1 Center. (Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs should pass on Bryn Forbes in free agency.
After all he’s been through with the organization, it’s hard to think parting with Bryn Forbes is an easy outcome for the San Antonio Spurs’ front office. The loyalty they display to those who grow within the system is a foundational building block for one of the league’s strongest cultures. However, they need to know when time is up and Forbes has run his course with this group.
One of the better shooters in the class, I suspect Forbes will get a contract offer from another team. However, it may take a bit of time for groups to make their trades and go after their top options before they turn around and pass ol’ Sparty a contract to fill out the bench of a team fighting for a playoff position. For as frustrating as watching Forbes has been for San Antonio Spurs fans as of late, it’s easy to imagine him knocking down crucial 3-pointers in the postseason.
With all of that said, Forbes is clogging minutes in a guard rotation that’s better off without him. Statistically speaking, he’s one of the worst defenders in the game. Part of that is amplified by the fact that San Antonio fell off a cliff defensively last year and Forbes isn’t the root of their issues, but he made things dramatically worse on that side of the game. It’s a detriment that the team can’t afford to continue buying into.
No one would be surprised if Forbes lands in silver and black next year, but he simply shouldn’t.
Next: Pursue No. 2
Feb 23, 2020; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari (8) dunks against the San Antonio Spurs during the second quarter at Chesapeake Energy Arena. (Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports)
San Antonio Spurs may want to pursue Danilo Gallinari in free agency.
If the San Antonio Spurs feel the need to find a replacement player in the case that DeRozan opts out, OKC forward Danilo Gallinari is a logical fit to replace him. A surefire shooter and perimeter scorer with size, spacing and athleticism, Gallo should come in at a fraction of the price of DeRozan and provides better off-ball impact that’ll allow the young guys to cook.
Even in this season with the Thunder, Gallinari managed to impact his team and contribute winning plays without getting the ball in his hands too often. He ran plays, set screens, popped out for threes and took over when he needed to. A three-level scorer with range that extends beyond the 3-point line, Gallinari is a decent investment at 32-years-old. If San Antonio offered him a major deal for only one season, I’m sure he’d accept it and help the young guys adjust.
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The reason this makes sense above all is that DeRozan finished the season playing power forward for the San Antonio Spurs. It wasn’t a natural position for him, but it worked because of the talent that entered the game when he moved down a spot. Gallinari is a better defender for the positon than DeRozan is, though he’s not known for that facet of his game.
However, Gallinari also modernizes the offense regardless of what happens with Aldridge. Each of the two possesses size and knows how to make his presence felt in the paint. If Aldridge is the team’s center, banging bodies in the paint and scoring off of hooks and short jumpers, Gallo can space the floor out and provide an easy kick-out candidate with impeccable spot-up shooting.
Investing too much or for too long would be even worse for the Spurs, as DeRozan is the better player by a decent margin. Regardless, Gallo may be a more logical fit for the next generation of Spurs basketball led by lengthy guards and wings who make their presence felt most with the ball in their hands.
Believe it or not, this is a move that benefits the young guys more so than anything.