The San Antonio Spurs have a significant opportunity to remake the roster, after missing the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Armed with nearly $50 million in cap space and what is likely to be the 12th pick in the NBA Draft, Spurs fans could be in for an exciting offseason. After many uneventful off-seasons, that would definitely be a welcome change. That said, it's entirely possible that few changes are actually made, likely frustrating fans.
San Antonio has a history of valuing continuity, with relatively few changes to the roster from season to season. Furthermore, they often opt to bring back players who they might’ve been better served to let leave in free agency. Former Spurs such as Pau Gasol, Matt Bonner, and Marco Belinelli are just a few examples.
The Spurs could opt to do the same this offseason and choose to re-sign DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, and Rudy Gay instead of using a good portion of cap space to move on.
Re-signing the three veterans would likely have Spurs fans up in arms against such moves. That said, the Spurs face a lot of uncertainty, and retaining their veterans could be seen as a way to provide next year’s team with a level of competency.
After all, DeRozan was the Spurs' best player last season and led the team in scoring and assists. Additionally, Rudy Gay and Patty Mills carried the Spurs bench, ranking first and second on the team in bench scoring.
With the three veterans, the Spurs were 16-11 at one point this season and appeared poised to make the playoffs. While perhaps ill-advised, the front office could convince themselves that they could replicate this season's early success and sustain it next season.
Without the veterans, there is a lot of unknown. It's likely, in fact, that the team could be less competitive next season, barring significant improvement among their young players and a key free-agent signing.
How should San Antonio Spurs fans react to bringing the vets back?
Despite some fairly legitimates reasons to re-sign DeRozan, Mills, and Gay, the Spurs actually doing so should be met with disappointment among fans. After all, San Antonio is likely better off without the veterans, in part because of the effect it would have on the remaining players.
Dejounte Murray, for example, showed legitimate improvement this season as both a playmaker and scorer. Furthermore, were the veterans gone next season, Murray would have a chance to take on an even larger role as both a player and a leader.
The same can be said for Derrick White, who showed star potential in the NBA bubble but struggled to stay healthy this season. With the veterans gone, he would have more of an opportunity to try and replicate that strong play going forward.
Additionally, other young players such as Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, Devin Vassell, and Luka Samanic could all benefit from the absence of DeMar, Patty, and Gay. The increase in playing time and usage could certainly make for a more exciting (maybe less consistent) team next season.
There are also financial reasons Spurs fans should consider. While Rudy Gay could possibly be retained on a short-term deal, Mills and DeRozan's potential deals could significantly affect San Antonio’s cap for several seasons. DeMar’s next contract, in particular, could be as much as $30 million annually, on a three or four-year deal.
As for Mills, he could command significant interest among title contenders in free agency. Therefore, for the Spurs to re-sign him, it could cost as much as $28 million over two years. San Antonio could afford to re-sign them in the short term but could significantly and negatively affect the team’s cap in the long term. This is especially true when factoring in upcoming rookie extensions to Walker and Johnson.
The thought of the Spurs being a tax-paying team in the near future just to keep most of the current team together makes little sense.
After missing the playoffs yet again, San Antonio would be financially committing themselves to a team that isn’t good enough to make the playoffs. Additionally, the Spurs likely wouldn't be bad enough to land a high lottery pick in the NBA Draft or be able to sign key free agents.
Ultimately, if Gay, Mills, and DeRozan are re-signed, fan reaction should be that of frustration. That reaction would be understandable because San Antonio would be unlikely to make the playoffs in the near future.