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.

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