The San Antonio Spurs will need to make some changes before too long. Heading into their final week of preseason games, they have 17 players under contract. The only problem? That number needs to be down to 15 by October 18th.
It's clear Coach Gregg Popovich has been using the tune-up games to figure out his rotations and see who deserves minutes over others. He used vastly different lineups in the first two preseason games, with mixed results. He also told the media after the loss to Detroit that the team will be giving rest to some of the "older" guys on the team in the remaining games, as he did with Dejounte Murray on Wednesday.
While most of the roster can be considered safe, there are some guys likely on the chopping block for the Spurs to meet the NBA's maximum allowed before the regular season tips off on October 19th. Let's take a look at them, from most likely out the door to least.
1. Al-Farouq Aminu
All signs point to the acquisition of Al-Farouq Aminu being purely transactional as part of the DeMar DeRozan deal with the Chicago Bulls. Although he got a few spot minutes against the Pistons, there simply isn't room for another big forward on the current roster.
While he can still contribute to an NBA team, Aminu's stay in San Antonio is likely going to come to an end via being waived or a buyout fairly soon. If that happens, another team that fits better with his timeline will likely snatch him up.
2. Thaddeus Young
The situation with Thaddeus Young is less straightforward than that of Aminu. There's certainly plenty the 33-year-old could bring to the table in San Antonio: a veteran presence, defensive versatility, and solid facilitating being among them.
On the other hand, giving minutes to Young would mean yet another setback in developing someone like Luka Samanic or could limit playing time of Devin Vassell. If the Spurs want to fully embrace their youth and go all out with them this season, Young should be considered expendable. So far, it seems like that's the direction they're headed.
There's interest from other teams in the league for Young -- the Phoenix Suns being the name most frequently popping up. San Antonio may use some preseason games to showcase him and bring up his trade value right up until the October 18th deadline. Ideally, a return should include a future asset or two.
While I could see a way Thaddeus would work in San Antonio, I'm not sure the front office has that in their plans.
3. Keita Bates-Diop
Although the Spurs recently signed him to a two-year, $3.61 million contract, that doesn't mean Keita Bates-Diop is safe. His deal is one of the cheaper and shortest on the team, so waiving him wouldn't impact things too much.
Yet another mid-sized forward, Bates-Diop is at the end of the rotation and won't likely see meaningful minutes in San Antonio this year. I like his overall game, but it's hard to think of who he should bump on this team. If Young sticks around to begin the season, Keita is probably going to be the unfortunate casualty.
A Dark-horse candidate
Although he does enough to warrant backup time, I see Drew Eubanks as the only other name in contention for being let go before the season starts. The additions of Zach Collins and Jock Landale particularly have me iffy about his future in San Antonio.
I think Eubanks does have some things going for him though -- particularly his energy and hustle. He also has put in the work and paid his dues with the Spurs. That should be enough to keep him around, but if some expected departing players end up staying, he's one to watch.