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Grading the San Antonio Spurs’ decisions in 2020 NBA free agency

Apr 25, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris (14) moves the ball against the defense of San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes (left) and Jakob Poeltl (25) at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
Apr 25, 2019; San Antonio, TX, USA; Denver Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris (14) moves the ball against the defense of San Antonio Spurs shooting guard Bryn Forbes (left) and Jakob Poeltl (25) at AT&T Center. (Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports)
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San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Jul 2, 2019; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Keldon Johnson (3) is congratulated by teammates after beating the buzzer against the Memphis Grizzlies at Vivint Smart Home Arena. (Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports)

Although the San Antonio Spurs didn’t do a whole lot in free agency, addition by subtraction and high-quality deals made up a solid offseason.

A modest approach to the offseason is what we all should’ve expected from the San Antonio Spurs organization. The front office isn’t quite ready to blow it up because the team missed out on the postseason for the first time since the turn of the century. While there’s certainly plenty of movement around the league which the Spurs could’ve gotten in on, it’s nothing to panic over.

With solid re-signings and a strong core in place, San Antonio looks to play out the next season and assess their group as they go. My inclination is that DeRozan and Aldridge will be hot names around the trade deadline for teams hoping to hit another level in their progression. Any team on the cusp of title contention would be happy to have DeRozan or Aldridge for the right price; now it’s a matter of determining what the Spurs’ price will be.

There’s really not enough information on Josh Reynolds to make a judgment call. The San Antonio Spurs are taking a flier on someone who showed promise as a microwave scorer and volume shooter in the G League, inviting him to training camp on an Exhibit-10 deal. We’ll see what comes of it, but bringing another potential firestarter who can drain threes is never a bad idea.

Let’s see how the rest of their transactions played out in the 2020 NBA free agency period.

Next: Re-signing Jakob Poeltl

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Jan 24, 2020; San Antonio, Texas, USA; San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) takes a selfie with fans before a game against the Phoenix Suns at AT&T Center. (Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports)

San Antonio Spurs re-sign center Jakob Poeltl to a 3-year, $27 million deal.

In bringing defensive-minded center Jakob Poeltl, the San Antonio Spurs persisted with the theme of their offseason: A commitment to the future. After building a defense-oriented program for the last 20+ years, the team finally fell off defensively in their first year outside of the playoffs since the late 90s.

Poeltl hasn’t been given too many opportunities to let loose and when he has, it hasn’t gone perfectly. However, this strong value for a player whose defensive metrics suggest he’ll be a defensive game-changer for years to come. At just 25-years-old, Poeltl has plenty of time to expand his skillset offensively and unlock the tools that make him an intriguing fit.

Working on best and worst values from 2020 NBA free agency for an article, and man the Spurs quietly (almost silently!) got one of the best of the offseason in Jakob Poeltl. $9M AAV for a player who projects to be a nightly double-double with some shot blocking? Spurs stay good!

— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) November 25, 2020

While $9 million per season isn’t necessarily a bargain, it’s a contract that will look very nice if he ends up taking the reigns as starting center for the team. During media availability after inking his contract, Poeltl noted that he spoke with the team briefly about his future role and how he’ll play into their future.

Considering the current roster construction, having a starting center who can dominate the boards, block a ton of shots, set groundbreaking picks and pass from the post will go a long way. It was a smart decision at a reasonable price — Just what we’d expect from San Antonio.

Comparable transactions: Tristan Thompson (2 years, $19 million), Dario Saric (3 years, $27 million), Derrick Favors (3 years, $30 million), Christian Wood (3 years, $41 million).

Final Grade: B+

Next: Drew Eubanks gets his rookie deal

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Aug 5, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Drew Eubanks (14) dunks against Denver Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. (1) at Visa Athletic Center. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

San Antonio Spurs re-sign PF/C Drew Eubanks to a 3-year, $5.29 million deal.

With hindsight at our disposal, it’s clear to see that the San Antonio Spurs actively pitted Drew Eubanks and Chimezie Metu in a developmental battle with each other. Obviously, the team didn’t spark animosity on purpose, but there’s one rotation spot for those two players and with Metu getting waived, it’s clear that Eubanks is the player worth investing in.

Re-signing Eubanks was a smart deal, but the contract they signed him to is marvelous. After sustaining minutes in the Orlando restart as a backup five, it’s become evident that Eubanks is a legitimate NBA player. His development in Austin has gone smoothly and when the team needed someone to fill-in spot minutes, Eubanks left it all on the floor.

A fantastic rebounder with a ton of heart, Eubanks plays a smart brand of basketball that doesn’t extend too far outside of his comfort range. However, the 23-year-old has plenty of room to grow including untapped potential with a jump shot that should be explored in the 2020-21 season.

The biggest win for San Antonio is that general manager Brian Wright brought him back on a nearly inconsequential contract. In today’s game, $5.29 million over three years is chump change. This deal is cheaper than what most rookies are getting these days and they’ll pay it to a player who’s been developing in their system for two years.

Eubanks isn’t going to shatter records, but he’s a valuable and serviceable player who essentially just signed his rookie deal.

Comparable transactions: John Konchar (4 years, $9 million), Mason Plumlee (3 years, $25 million), Nerlens Noel (1 year, $5 million), Willie Cauley-Stein (2 years, $82 million).

Final Grade: A-

Next: Q returns for another go at it

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Aug 7, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; Quinndary Weatherspoon #15 of the San Antonio Spurs moves past Georges Niang #31 of the Utah Jazz at HP Field House. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports)

San Antonio Spurs re-sign PG/SG Quinndary Weatherspoon to a two-way deal.

Another player who had an opportunity to get his feet wet in Orlando, Quinndary Weatherspoon is making a name for himself in the San Antonio Spurs’ developmental system. A stocky combo guard with defensive chops and a good feel for facilitating the offense, Weatherspoon has the promise of a rotation guard in his future.

OFFICIAL: @IAM_QUINN11 will remain a Spur and return to San Antonio on a two-way contract!

MORE: https://t.co/RK3lni6yOc pic.twitter.com/5Ov4cGAOI8

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) November 24, 2020

Drafting  No. 41 pick Tre Jones signals that the organization isn’t ready to commit to Weatherspoon long-term, so putting him on a two-way contract was a smart decision. This will create a similar dynamic to the one between Eubanks and Metu. Friendly competition amongst teammates is a good way to gauge a player’s progression and ability to step up under pressure.

Perhaps the method should change since Metu never got a fair shot in the pros, but the concept is strong. There’s legitimate potential for Weatherspoon to become the backup point guard of the future for Spurs lineups. Only time will tell.

Comparable transactions: Ty-Shon Alexander (Two-way), Tacko Fall (Two-way), Jaylen Adams (Two-way)

Final Grade: B-

Next: Spurs add Keita Bates-Diop on a two-way deal

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Dec 9, 2019; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves forward Keita Bates-Diop (31) against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

San Antonio Spurs sign SF/PF Keita Bates-Diop to a two-way contract.

Those two-way contracts are a limited commodity and in a season like this one, it’ll be more valuable than ever. Using it on forward Keita Bates-Diop is an intriguing move that leaves San Antonio Spurs fans with more questions than answers. During the course of his time as a pro, Bates-Diop was never given a proper opportunity to flourish.

When injected into NBA lineups, Bates-Diop was set up for failure without much structure to set him up for success. With that being the case, it’s hard to make a judgment call on him as a player. However, seeing him signed by the San Antonio Spurs signals that there’s something more than meets the eye with Bates-Diop.

Assistant coach Charles Klask is working on jump shot mechanics with Keita Bates-Diop.

He was the coach who worked with Malik Beasley during his shooting leap & always seems to help players with heir jumper. I’m curious if he can work the same magic with Keita. pic.twitter.com/IaDFGnyNAH

— T.J. McBride (@TJMcBrideNBA) February 10, 2020

His primary skills are those that the Spurs need desperately. He’s a solid 3-point shooter within the confines of a proper system and while he’s never had a high volume of shot attempts, his shot selection leads me to believe he has a high basketball IQ.

Comparable transactions: Theo Pinson (Two-way), Gabe Vincent (Two-way) Amir Coffey (Two-way)

Final Grade: B-

Next: Forbes and Marco move on from San Antonio

San Antonio Spurs
San Antonio Spurs

Feb 10, 2020; Denver, Colorado, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich with guard Marco Belinelli (18) and guard Bryn Forbes (11) against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. (Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports)

San Antonio Spurs lose Bryn Forbes to Milwaukee and presumably Belinelli too.

Quick note: Italian sharpshooter Marco Belinelli is still an unrestricted free agent and while it’s still possible he ends up back with the San Antonio Spurs, it’s not likely. With depth at his position and young talent flourishing, Belinelli no longer fits the Spurs’ needs. Even if this free-agent period passes and he doesn’t have a team, Belinelli is someone who could easily get picked up midway through the season by a team in need of shooters.

However, the big transaction of this group was Bryn Forbes signing a two-year contract with the Milwaukee Bucks. Playing for Spurs alumni Mike Budeholzer’s intricate offensive system offers great perks for a shooter like Forbes. Expect him to have some fantastic games off the bench for Milwaukee, lighting up second units with pull-up mid-range jumpers, catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and the occasional drive to the basket.

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Forbes is a serviceable player and this feels like a strong situation for him, but he was no longer the right fit for the San Antonio Spurs’ needs. Defensively, he’s a non-factor coming from a team that desperately needed more than he could give in that category. Milwaukee can afford to manage his defensive liability without it being quite so detrimental, so it’s a win-win.

From the San Antonio Spurs’ perspective, this might’ve been the best aspect of free agency. Allowing these players to walk despite the continued loyalty to one another is best for everyone involved. There’s a premium on shooting these days that San Antonio cannot offer to these players since neither of them has what it takes to defend as the Spurs need.

Final Grade: A

Ultimately, the San Antonio Spurs had a strong offseason despite remaining stagnant with their decisions. Not a whole lot has changed up to this point, but minutes have opened up for younger and more important players to fill a role and get their feet wet. Doing this makes the youth movement more of a reality, which needs to happen for the Spurs to push into a new era.

Next. Grading the Spurs' 2020 NBA Draft

Therefore, the San Antonio Spurs get a B+ on their free-agency overall. For as inconsequential as it may have seemed, this was a decent way to proceed for this moment in Spurs history.

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