Tuesday, June 30, 2009

What If I Were RC Buford?

I promise it will only be a quick look at the cap situation, but perhaps a more extensive look at the possibilities that Spurs might have with the free agency this summer. The more that I think about it, the more I realize, there really isn't a whole lot to discuss in terms of the salary cap. This past year, the salary cap was set at $58.68 million. It's presumed to go down. AusTechSpur at Pounding The Rock has created a pretty good primer on the Spurs' offseason situation, so I'm not really going to rehash a lot of the nitty gritty details that he already plays out. As you can probably see, my approach to this offseason on improving the team is a little contrary to what most people envision the Spurs best approach to improving the roster.

I know AusTechSpur already wrote about it, but let's again look at the current roster under contract:

Tim Duncan
Ian Mahinmi
Richard Jefferson
Tony Parker
Manu Ginobili
Roger Mason
Michael Finley
Matt Bonner
George Mason
Marcus Williams (unguaranteed)

That's 10 players, where the Spurs need no less than 13 and no more than 15. Let's break it down by position quickly:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill
SG - Roger Mason, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley, Marcus Williams
PF - Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner, Ian Mahinmi

Okay, so Duncan and Mahinmi probably could fill in the center slot, but generally speaking, they're not really centers persay. Nevertheless, let's just say for all extensive purposes, we have three big men. That's our current roster situation, the Spurs would need anywhere from 3-5 players with only trades and exceptions to fill the voids.

Here's where I start playing GM. First, I would sign two of the draft picks, DeJuan Blair and Jack McClinton, leaving Nando De Colo to grow a little more overseas. At the very least, I would sign Blair and send McClinton to Austin. However, from what I hear, McClinton (the next Eddie House) is supposed to be a bonafide lights out shooter. That brings the roster size up to 12, making the roster look something like:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - Roger Mason, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley
PF - Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair
C - Tim Duncan, Ian Mahinmi

That's not bad, but certainly, if we've learned anything from last season, is that Matt Bonner shouldn't be getting starter's minutes. Sure he can shoot the three, but that's about it, he can't really defend the paint, in fact, he can't really defend at all. How then should we proceed? Well the general consensus is to try to sign Rasheed Wallace in free agency, which I think is a reasonable solution. Wallace adds everything that Bonner lacks, that is, defense and toughness, while still being able to drain the three. The only time I heard Wallace having problems with his teammates was when he played with Scottie Pippen on the Blazers, Wallace also adds veteran leadership to the floor. So, let's say we land Wallace for a year or two at the full MLE (something between $5 million to $6 million). Then we'd end up with a respectable roster that looks something like:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - Roger Mason, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley, Marcus Williams
PF - Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair
C - Rasheed Wallace, Ian Mahinmi

We have the 13 players we need, and all's well. The big question then is, what if the Spurs can't land Wallace? I don't really like the remaining free agent big men, but if the size need is to be answered in free agency, this is my order of preference:

Antonio McDyess
Lamar Odom
Rasho Nesterovic
Marcin Gortat
Chris Wilcox
Chris Andersen
Joe Smith
Anderson Varejao
Charlie Villanueva
Drew Gooden
Brian Skinner
Zaza Pachulia
Juwan Howard
Fabricio Oberto

Everyone else falls after that somewhere, the important ones are probably the first 5 or so. Realistically speaking, I highly doubt we land Gortat, Andersen, Varejao, and Villanueva from that list, as they'll probably be paid more than the Spurs would be able to shell out for them. In terms of Varejao, he'd probably be paid way more than he's worth.

As you can see, I'm not entirely enamoured of the idea of pursuing a big in free agency. Should we not be able to land Wallace there's not a lot that I would really like. My idea, is that we still have tradeable assets, namely: Roger Mason, Matt Bonner, and the expiring contract of Michael Finley. Now the problem is that we'd probably have to package them somehow, which would deplete the roster somewhat. Okay, so let's say we start with the roster under contract, plus the two rookies (so 12 players):

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - Roger Mason, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley, Marcus Williams
PF - Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair
C - Tim Duncan, Ian Mahinmi

Trade Scenario 1

Say a trade like this goes through, because they just want to cut cap space and jettison excess players. What trade am I talking about? One of the trades discussed before the trade deadline: Mason, Bonner, and Finley in a 3-for-1 for Marcus Camby. The roster is now back down to 10:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Marcus Williams
PF - Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair
C - Marcus Camby, Ian Mahinmi

I recognize that the entire bench: Hill, McClinton, Williams, Blair, and Mahinmi are young and unproven, so that might make our bench rather thin, but Marcus Camby is a solid center who has 1-2 years left on his contract and in his tank. Talent-wise I think the trade is comparable. Clippers now add a legit backup/contingency to Eric Gordon, a backup to Blake Griffin and enable them to move Zach Randolph and possibly Al Thornton, on top of that, they're all expiring contracts. I don't know if the Clippers would go for it, but let's say they do. The Spurs have added about $1 million in salary but still have the MLE and bi-annual ($1.9 million?) exception as well as veteran's minimum to work with in filling their rosters.

Reserves too young? Fine, let's try this, $2.5 million for 2 years for a SG and $3 million for a backup SF. Maybe get veteran's minimum for another big. Three names off the top of my head: Anthony Parker, Grant Hill, and Brian Skinner, maybe see if Chris Mihm or Juwan Howard have anything left. Parker and Hill take up the MLE and Skinner maybe takes the bi-annual. This gives us a roster of:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - Anthony Parker, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Grant Hill, Marcus Williams
PF - Tim Duncan, Ian Mahinmi, DeJuan Blair
C - Marcus Camby, Brian Skinner

If then Spurs land an impact big at veteran's minimum like Chris Mihm or Juwan Howard or Rasho Nesterovic or someone of the like, then that's 14 players on the roster not counting possible D-League call-ups like James Gist or Malik Hairston. Not bad.

Say some of the above mentioned players aren't available, fine, replace Grant Hill with Matt Barnes, Walter Herrmann, Rodney Carney, Jamario Moon, or Desmond Mason, replace Anthony Parker with Von Wafer, Fred Jones, Dahntay Jones, or Gerald Green.

Trade Scenario 2

I'm all for the killing of two birds with one stone. It's hard to tell whether or not the Wizards are trying to win now or cut costs, it appears to be some freakish combination of both. An interesting idea might be to try to trade Matt Bonner and one of Roger Mason or Michael Finley for Andray Blatche and DeShawn Stevenson. While Blatche isn't really a premier big man by any stretch of the imagination but he adds length and athleticism and youth. Of course, does that make him redundant with Mahinmi? Possibly. However, if he can develop, he's more of a known quantity. With the trade for Randy Foye and Mike Miller the Wizards now have a glut of wing players including of course Foye and Miller but also Caron Butler, Nick Young, and DeShawn Stevenson. Out of all of those, Stevenson seems to be the odd man out. Likewise, there would be a pickup or two from free agency, so the roster after the trade would appear like so:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - DeShawn Stevenson, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley, Marcus Williams
PF - Tim Duncan, DeJuan Blair
C - Andray Blatche, Ian Mahinmi

The free agents listed in the first trade scenario are also options at this point as you'd have the same amount of money to throw at people. It's not a huge upgrade, maybe this is a huge lateral movement, which in this case is usually not worth it, but thought I'd throw it out there.

Trade Scenario 3

I know there might be a problem of him dominating the ball, but with the arrival of Darko Milicic and fierce pursuit of David Lee, Al Harrington doesn't seem to have a spot in the rotation in New York. He's a one year rental in essence, so a 3-for-1 for him would provide similar opportunities as that of trading for Marcus Camby. Let's say idea scenario from 1, just replace Camby with Harrington:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - Anthony Parker*, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Grant Hill*, Marcus Williams
PF - Al Harrington, Ian Mahinmi, DeJuan Blair
C - Tim Duncan, Rasho Nesterovic*

The asterisks denotes a free agent pickup. The two big questions would be firstly, how much would he sulk since he's way down on the pecking order in terms of offense again? Secondly, how motivated will he be on defense. I like Harrington's game, it's just hard to find a good place to implement it, and his attitude doesn't help a lot either. However, I think his skills fit next to Duncan's fairly well, and he does add some athleticism to the roster.

Trade Scenario 4

Here goes, last one: Mason and Bonner for Nick Collison. Collison isn't by any stretch of the imagination a sexy player, but he's a banger that grabs rebounds and hustles on defense. I kind of always had a soft spot for him, and I've dubbed him the "white Udonis Haslem". Anyways, given the youth movement in OKC, I don't know that Collison has ever fit very well, though they needed him because their frontcourt has always been so thin (Nenad Kristic). Sam Presti hopes he answered that need with the drafting of BJ Mullens. While they drafted James Harden for his shooting, I don't think OKC would mind having a couple more 3 pt threats in Mason and Bonner, additionally, Bonner adds a big body up front. For the Spurs, Collison is a solid role player guy that plays effectively in almost any system because he's such a hustler. Lineup would probably look like:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill, Jack McClinton
SG - Anthony Parker*, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley, Marcus Williams
PF - Nick Collison, DeJuan Blair
C - Tim Duncan, Ian Mahinmi, Rasho Nesterovic*

Collison isn't premier talent though, so I might be a little wary about trading for him if I think I might be able to get comparable talent from free agency, which is why this is the last trade scenario I'd go with.

I might have overlooked something or someone, maybe something unrealistic (like a 3-for-1 for Zydrunas Ilgauskas) or something. Regardless, I have to trust that Buford and Popovich make the best decisions for the team. However, were I given the opportunity, this is how I would upgrade the Spurs this summer. If you think of anything that might be worth discussing, feel free to post your comments.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Taking the Next Step Forward

San Antonio Spurs
54-28 in 2008-2009
Lost 4-1 to Dallas in 1st round of playoffs

For those of you that read my original NBA blog; Poor Man's GM then you'll note that this is a redundant post from there. I might start with this at first, that is, posting Spurs related things in both pages, but eventually, I hope to be able to do make this more Spurs dedicated, and possibly changing Poor Man's GM to a trade speculation forum type of place.

For those of you getting here for the first time, this is a simple analysis of the moves Spurs have made so far via trades and draft, and how they look moving forward.

Richard Jefferson

First thing we need to discuss is the Richard Jefferson trade. I believe the package ultimately ended up as Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto (who was later traded to Detroit for Amir Johnson, and will likely be waived) for Richard Jefferson. If you've read any of my posts in the past, I haven't been entirely kind to Richard Jefferson, and you'll read a lot of posts talking about how Jefferson's +/- and PER aren't really telling since Milwaukee was such a shoddy outfit, especially after the loss of Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd to injuries midway through the season. I also believe that the type of game Jefferson has tends to thrive the most when he's not a focal point of the offense. He's only one season removed from his best statistical season, where he came into the season averaging 22.6 points per game as the third offensive option behind Vince Carter and Jason Kidd during his final season as a Net in 2007-2008. He's a potent offensive option, and honestly, is basically a Vince Carter-clone, as he brings much of the same things, perhaps not as effectively, but his offesnive game is similar. He can hit the open three, not proficiently, but well enough to keep defenses honest, he can create his own shot, he can finish at the rim, being traded to Milwaukee he immediately spiked up to the 2nd option behind Michael Redd, and once Michael Redd was out for the season he soon became the focal point of the offense for the Bucks, which isn't something he's super comfortable with as it seems. So now, on the Spurs, he doesn't need to be, he just needs to let his game come to him. I think overall it's a smart move by the Spurs, while Jefferson's contract isn't exactly pretty, being owed about $29 million through 2011, he does add something the Spurs have needed for a while, athleticism. While Jefferson now becomes less of a focal point in the offense, that doesn't mean that his offense isn't to be respected, playing in the Spurs system is going to get him good looks and ample scoring opportunities, though Ginobili, Duncan, and/or Parker are no Jason Kidd in terms of setting up teammates, they do a solid job of it. Additionally, Jefferson is a known enough offensive threat to really take some of the defensive pressure off of the Big 3, so it's definitely a step in the right direction, as Greg Popovich can afford to rest his Big 3 more, without sacrificing as much on the offense, Jefferson, has shown to be fairly resilient over the past years, playing all 164 games over the past 2 regular seasons.

The big question comes down to how well Jefferson plays defend. All in all, this is a fairly difficult question to assess. Jefferson has never been known as a lock-down defender by any stretch of the imagination, but just how good (bad) is he? In comparing him to the players he would effectively replace (Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Ime Udoka), it's hard to say based on defensive winshare and points allowed, since usage of said players are so different. Michael Finley (surprisingly) has the highest defensive winshare with 2.7 while Richard Jefferson has 2.5, however, Jefferson also allows the most points per 100 possessions (at 110). It's hard to dictate that Jefferson is a horrible defender but it can't be said that he's a stellar one either. HoopsHype calls him, "A tough defender when he's into it." Whatever that means. I think ultimately it means you don't need to hide him on the defensive side, he won't be a liability, but it also means that he probably isn't your best bet to be chasing Kobe and LeBron around the court for 35+ minutes. I think this might be an issue that needs to be addressed as the Spurs move forward, because a wing pairing of Roger Mason and Richard Jefferson or Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson might leave the defense somewhat lacking and I don't believe that Greg Popovich should sacrifice that much defense for the offensive improvement. I'll talk about this later.

The Draft

In this year's draft, the Spurs showed us, as a friend of mine put it, that first round picks don't matter. DeJuan Blair, slotted by some mock drafts to be taken in the lottery, projected by DraftExpress to be taken at the 20th pick in the first round, somehow fell, all the way into the Spurs' laps at the 37th overall (2nd round 7th pick). There's a lot of speculation on how it might be because of his two surgically repaired knees, though not having any ACLs hasn't stopped him from being competitive at games and attending every practice (and game save one DNP), or from averaging 15.7 points and 12.3 rebounds in his last season at Pittsburgh. If you take a look at his pace-adjusted per-40 minute statistics (the NCAA equivalent of pace-adjusted per 36), this guy is a scary monster: 23 points, 18 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 2.3 steals, and 1.4 blocks on 1.8 turnovers, shooting 59.3% from the field. 18 rebounds per 40 minutes. I'll let that sink in a little.

At the very least we know, despite being 6-7, he can rebound, and he can hustle, and he's everything you want in a PF. He was ranked 3rd overall for rebounding in the NCAA, 1st for offensive rebounds (5.6 per game). DraftExpress lists his best case scenario as being Paul Millsap (sweet) and worst case as being Reggie Evans. Even then, at the worst case, you get a guy who you know is intense and hustles and will grab you rebounds, everything you want in a reserve big. Given how well Blair has played, it's pretty apparent that his game can translate into the NBA, if only at 10-15 minute intervals, which is all the Spurs are really asking of him. Both Jack McClinton and Nando De Colo look to be like long-term projects, and I would suspect they get thrown to Austin and left in France respectively.

More to come

Obviously this can't be it for the Spurs. The roster as currently constructed would look something like:

PG - Tony Parker, George Hill
SG - Roger Mason Jr, Manu Ginobili
SF - Richard Jefferson, Michael Finley?, Ime Udoka?
PF - Matt Bonner, DeJuan Blair
C - Tim Duncan, Ian Mahinmi

There definitely is something to be said about continuity and chemistry, but I'm still of a mind to trade Roger Mason and/or Matt Bonner if possible to improve on the roster. I have question marks behind Finely and Udoka simply because they have a player option and team option respectively. Were I the Spurs front office, I'd let Udoka walk, but I don't know why Finley wouldn't take his player option, unless he wants to retire. I believe that the Spurs are going to be willing to pay the luxury tax this season, and therefore even with the addition of Blair and Jefferson, there should be a fairly significant amount of the MLE left available for whatever free agents San Antonio might be pursuing.

The most immediate need to me, is simply finding a defender. There are enough options for scoring, what the Spurs need is someone on the wings to chase the Kobe Bryants, LeBron Jameses, and Dwayne Wades around the court, and make open threes. This could be either via trade or via free agency, now ideally this would be something of a Raja Bell in his prime type of player, but Raja Bell is neither available nor in his prime anymore, so let's look around for someone else. One name that's a possibility might be DeShawn Stevenson, not sure how the Wizards are going to work out their backcourt glut of Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young, Mike Miller, Randy Foye, DeShawn Stevenson, and Dominic McGuire, I'm going to assume that either Mike Miller or McGuire slide to the SF slot, and then Foye would be the backup PG? Hard to say, since the roles aren't really defined, but he's worth a look at. From free agency, I'd still say maybe Marquis Daniels, though he doesn't really shoot very well. Dahntay Jones, made famous after tripping Kobe Bryant, is another possibility, he plays solid defense. Trevor Ariza would be awesome, though I doubt the Spurs would be able to offer anything close to what he'd command. Maybe Anthony Parker? Though it's possible that they look to younger talent for their needs, like someone from Austin or something.

The second need would be the need for a center to play next to Tim Duncan, or rather, a true big that can spread the floor, doesn't have to be center, though it would be nice if he were center eligible. I'm still not sure as of right now that Ian Mahnimi or Matt Bonner are the answer. Maybe Mahnimi develops, but I'm definitely not sold on Bonner. The ideal would be Rasheed Wallace, but if he's asking for at least $8 million, then he's both unaffordable and not worth the price, not at the ripe age of 34. The kind of big that is ideal is one that is able on defense and can spread the floor with some midrange shooting, leaving Duncan alone in the paint. While Duncan can ably hit those 15-19 foot wing jumpers, it'd still be nice to have someone do that for him so that Duncan can operate where he's most effective, in the paint. Another option would be to bring back Rasho Nesterovic for cheap, but perhaps better could be had. I can't really think of anything available, but those are the immediate needs that the Spurs still need to address. Otherwise, looking good.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Hello World!

Hey everyone, just wanted to start getting some content on this blog. It's probably going to be a pretty slow start. I mentioned at my other basketball blog Poor Man's GM that I'd be starting a Spurs blog and this is it. I'll start siphoning most of my Spurs related posts and attention to this blog, meaning that Poor Man's GM will likely start to phase out. Hopefully next year I'll be able to follow one team a little more closely. Thanks in advance to the readers for their support!