So the Spurs were unable to acquire much coveted big-man Rasheed Wallace. He opted not to play with a team that would offer him a bigger role, a team that had another former Tar Heel, and opted finally to play on a team that went all out to get him. That's right, Wallace opted to listen to the pleas of his good friend Kevin Garnett, and is now going to be wearing green and white come the beginning of the season. While this brings a slew of questions, one of which being the floor time of improving young center, Kendrick Perkins, one of the few centers known to be strong enough to body up Dwight Howard, it's good to have options, and Wallace definitely gives the Celtics a lot of them. What are the Spurs to do now? It's a big question in my opinion, as I still think there's a huge falloff from Rasheed Wallace and the rest of the free agent bigs that the Spurs could reasonably land. Tanguay, the person who leaked the Wallace signing in Boston, is also reporting that it's possible that the Celtics let "Big Baby" Glen Davis walk in favor of signing Grant Hill. While it seems the Spurs have more than a passing interest in Davis, I hardly think he's the solution to anything that could be had in free agency. While Celtics still remain a relatively thin roster, they have found their ultimate PJ Brown replacement in Wallace, and potentially their James Posey defensive specialist replacement in Hill.
I digress though, this is about the Spurs. While the Spurs did sign Marcus Haislip from overseas, I believe that San Antonio's front office is still looking to make a big splash somehow. Let's look at the big men left available to San Antonio through free agency, and then maybe at a look at who's still actively pursuing big men too. The list is as follows:
With just a cursory glance at this list, I would say there are only maybe 4 players I would actually want from this list, and maybe tack on another 3-4 that I could actually live with, and might actually be worth an MLE, with about 50-60% of the list being scrubs most barely worth the veteran's minimum, and some not even being worth that much. Let's take a look at some of the Spurs' options:
Ht: 6-10 Wt: 230 lbs
Odom is one of those phenomena, where the personality doesn't match the talent on the player. While being one of the most athletically gifted and most talented players in the league, the biggest knock on Odom has been that he doesn't have the mindset to utilize those gifts and talents to their fullest. While that might be true, it only keeps Odom from being a superstar, it doesn't preclude him from being a well above-average player, one that was a crucial piece to the championship Lakers last season. His length and versatility make him an able help-defender, and while he's not stellar in his man-to-man defense, he has the ability to do so ably, especially with his larger frame. He has the versatility to play the SF position, his ball-handling and finishing ability and most of his offensive game show that he can be a nightmare to try to contain since he's bigger than most small forwards and faster than most power forwards. While a lot of pundits and scouts and GMs will consider Odom more than able at the SF slot, I actually prefer when he plays the PF, since that enables him to fully utilize one of his greatest assets, his rebounding. While he's not phenomenal, he's a decent mid-range to long-range shooter, and is able to keep defenses honest.
What Odom would add to the Spurs would be firstly, another able and long defender to the lineup. Pop would likely be finishing games with a five on the floor of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Richard Jefferson, Lamar Odom, and Tim Duncan. Like Jefferson, I feel Odom would thrive the most in a system where he doesn't feel the pressure of being one of the primary cogs in the engine, and the Spurs would provide a system like that. By adding another ball-handler and passer to the floor, the Spurs would then add another point of origin for their offense and enable Greg Popovich a large degree of flexibility with his lineups. While this could be confusing for younger players figuring out their roles (like George Hill), hopefully Pop would mix it up in a good way that would throw an array of looks at the opponents that they wouldn't be able to counter. While he doesn't necessarily spread the floor like Rasheed Wallace would, Odom's skills enable him to play effectively next to Duncan in the sense that he doesn't dwell in the paint like most other bigs that would play next to Duncan, he can work around Duncan and oftentimes, would probably set Duncan up for a lot of easy looks or vice versa.
While there looks to be a lot of good things about Odom, the continuing problem of whether or not he'll always be there with 100% focus is always a question. It's one I'd be willing to deal with though, and that makes the bigger issue of the improbability that the Spurs would be able to land a singular talent like Odom with their cap space, that is, with only the MLE (mid-level exception) or the BAE (bi-annual exception). Since the Lakers essentially swapped Ariza for Artest, I can imagine that the Lakers now have a strong claim on retaining Odom. Odom would be willing to play for less should he return to the Lakers. While having a starting gig might not sway Odom, what's to say that a larger contract wouldn't? Blazers might up the ante by offering Odom exactly what he wants, a $40 million, 4 year contract, similar to the $50 million, 5 year contract offered to Hedo Turkgolu (who turned it down last minute for a 5 year, $56 million contract in Toronto). Either way, the Spurs can't offer more than the Lakers, which is where Odom would stay if all else were equal, and neither can really offer as much as the Blazers, so it's either LA or Portland for Odom, assuming they make an offer.
Ht: 6-9 Wt: 245 lbs
This free agency seems like a 1995 draft-class reunion, I mean, 3 of the top 5 picks are free agents. With the 4th pick (Rasheed Wallace) and 5th pick (Kevin Garnett) joining forces, we now look at the 2nd overall pick of that class (McDyess), and possibly reunite him with fellow draftee Michael Finley (21st pick). Okay, okay, I'm sounding too much like a tacky newspaper sports column with nothing better to write about. I'm hard pressed to find an adjective for Antonio McDyess right now other than "able". I mean, this isn't the pre-surgery 2000-2001 Denver Nuggets' Antonio McDyess. He's not going to go out averaging 20.8 points and 12.1 rebounds per game for anybody lately. At best, he'll probably be putting up reasonable numbers, not great, but not horrid either, pretty close to 10 points, 10 rebounds per game, but probably realistically around 9.4 and 9.6 or something. He's a serviceable big who will hustle, put together a couple of big games and a string of decent ones. Certainly he can duplicate if not excel the output of Fabricio Oberto, Francisco Elson, and Kurt Thomas in years past.
However despite all his serviceability, McDyess isn't exactly someone I'd be jumping to spend my MLE on. Again, please note, this is the 34 year old, post-knee surgery McDyess, what you see is pretty much what you're going to get. While he can knock down the nice jump shot, grab a couple of rebounds, and defend reasonably well, is he really that big of an upgrade over Kurt Thomas? He certainly isn't a major shotblocking presence that the Spurs would like next to Duncan, and there certainly isn't any upside to him. Here's a solid respectable pro in his last legs, looking for a championship, McDyess is a hard-working, likeable guy, but I reiterate, he's not worth the MLE. Certainly nothing about McDyess jumps out at you, but that's both good and bad, he's not going to wow you with 20 points and 10 rebounds night in and night out, but you know he's going to consistently and quietly contribute what he can. The question then is; will it be enough? Personally, I'd rather not have to find out in reality.
Ht: 7-0 Wt: 255 lbs
The only player less deserving of an MLE than an aging player who was once great and now through the years has slowed being just serviceable, is an aging player who was only ever serviceable to begin with. While Rasho might have something left in his tank, he certainly isn't going to produce anything spectacular. We're talking about a guy whose best season was 6 years ago, averaging 11.2 points and 6.6 rebounds, there's nothing spectacular about it whatsoever. However, Rasho is the kind of guy that fits well next to Duncan. He's already won a ring with Duncan, so he knows how to play next to Timmy. However, with an aging Duncan, I don't know that it's the best idea to put an aging Rasho next to him. Certainly he's a known factor, Pop and the Spurs will know exactly what they're going to get out of Rasho and Rasho knows exactly what Pop and the Spurs are going to ask of him.
However, we're talking about an aging 33 year old center who has never really been known to be stellar in any way. Is he really still useful? I think he'd be solid as a backup center of some sort, but he certainly isn't spelling 28-30 minutes a night for me. Precision use of Rasho's minutes when needed, as a sort of Oberto/Elson/Thomas replacement is about the most I can see. If he signs for more than the veteran's minimum, then we know teams are still willing to overpay for washed up big men.
Ht: 7-0 Wt: 240 lbs
While Gortat's skillset isn't the perfect fit next to Duncan, he'd be a great young prospect for Duncan to develop and mentor. After flying into fame playing for the Orlando Magic behind Dwight Howard, several teams are taking a closer look at the once overlooked "big white guy with a Jordan tatoo". Among his suitors, Dallas is believed to be the one to land him, so I don't know that San Antonio legitimately has a shot at getting him. From everything I hear, there's a lot to like about the Polish Hammer. He's quick laterally, plays excellent and active defense, rebounds at a steady rate, and seems to have the basics down on the offensive end. No one's really sure what he'd do with starter's minutes, but it's only his second season, and he's only 25, so you'd presume there'd be a certain amount of upside.
Ht: 6-10 Wt: 235 lbs
Since Wilcox has been bounced around a bit, it's hard to remembeer that he's in fact only 26 (though he'll be 27 when the next season rolls around), there's still room for him to grow. Wilcox by all reports is freakishly athletic, but that athleticism just hasn't really translated into the game. Arguably, he hasn't had much of a chance since playing on a floundering Sonics squad in a season plagued with injuries to both of Seattle's then stars, Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis (not simulataneously, but still, he became the number 2 option). After getting buried in the bench at New York, I believe that Wilcox will be looking for a new chance to prove himself. While he won't make $6+ million per year, I think he'll still be a decent pickup for cheap, maybe the BAE.
Wilcox as of right now is just potential, but he could be another free agency steal (see Roger Mason) as he hasn't really gotten a chance to play since Seattle, and then he was on a bottom-feeder team that just couldn't get anywhere. He's not a shotblocking presence by any stretch of the imagination, but he could be one of those hustle players that makes a difference. He certainly does meet the criteria of youth and athleticism at the very least. I haven't heard a lot about teams pursuing Wilcox, but that doesn't mean GMs don't have an eye on him. Personally, I can see him as being the sleeper in this free agency, and could be had for cheap. Of course, it could always go the other way, and he could be a bust.