Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Looking at Positional Needs: Assessing Wing Depth

Looking at the Spurs this off-season there are a lot of needs to be addressed. I'm hoping to put out a series of posts that detail some of the options we have at each position this off-season. However, before we get there, we have to understand the situation that the Spurs have on their hands. That means a quick (and casual) look at the Spurs' salary cap situation.

From a cursory glance, we can surmise that the salary cap for next season will be $101 million, which is the important number for us. Another slightly less important number is the $121 million luxury tax threshold. (Note: salary figures provided by HoopsHype). I'm not going to get into the cap holds for players on the Spurs' roster entering free agency, but will simply illustrate the best case scenario here. Let's also not forget that many are already looking towards the 2018 free agent class which includes both Paul George and LeBron James.
Let's assume Manu retires and all players with options opt out. This means that the Spurs will have about $72 million in salary wrapped up. Sounds good right? However, if we look at the roster under that assumption:
PG - Tony Parker, Dejounte Murray
SG - Danny Green, Bryn Forbes
SF - Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Anderson
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge, Davis Bertans
While we're technically still paying for Livio Jean-Charles, I don't know that he's coming back to the roster anytime soon.
As reference, let's look at all of the Spurs' draft-and-stash players they have available to them: Adam Hanga (SG/SF), Nemanja Dangubic (SG), Nikola Milutinov (C). We'll discuss them as their position comes up.
The one thing that was realized during the Warriors' romp to the NBA Finals was this: outside of Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs don't really have anyone big enough or fast enough to guard Durant. To be fair, many teams have nobody big enough or fast enough to guard Durant. Normally, when Leonard sits the primary on-ball defender falls to the effective defense of Danny Green or, as we found out in the Houston series, the energetic defense of Jonathon Simmons. Unfortunately, both of them are far too small and Durant's length and quick release make it impossible for them to stop him. If that's the case, the assignment would then likely fall to either Kyle Anderson or Davis Bertans, both of whom lack the foot speed and defensive awareness to stay in front of Durant.

That being said, the reaction to some of these ideas I might have could potentially be met with the argument that we already have a great SF in Kawhi Leonard. To which, I would argue that I would be perfectly comfortable sliding Kawhi to the SG position. Thus, for any sort of major upgrade, the question we have to ask is really more, is the potential player better than Danny Green and thus worth getting rid of Danny Green for.

One of the obvious, first places to look would be to the Spurs' draft-and-stash options. Without really looking too hard at the prospects laying around the 29th pick of this year's draft, we immediately have Adam Hanga, who is reportedly coming over from Europe to play with the Spurs this year. Hanga was the 59th pick of the 2011 draft and is a 28 year old, 6-7 SG/SF who averaged 11.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.4 assists last season according to DraftExpress. He does provide some added length to Danny Green, but I see him at best as a Jonathon Simmons-type replacement where he will be a cheap, solid backup.

This brings us to our list of free agents. I'm going to say in general, I'm never overly optimistic regarding trade scenarios since the Spurs typically don't have immensely good assets for trades nor picks that other teams want. So, as much as I would like for the Spurs to trade for Jimmy Butler or something like that, I'm not super optimistic about anything like that happening. Then again, with R.C. Buford, you sometimes just never know.

The natural assumption is that with a championship, Kevin Durant and Andre Iguodala are going to find some way to both be back on the Warriors again next season. Thus, the biggest wing name that I can think of would be Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz, who I would love to sign. He's a very real max contract candidate and I think can easily complement Kawhi, sliding him to the SG slot with Hayward at the starting SF spot. This would give us a tremendously long and potent wing combination with LaMarcus Aldridge at the PF spot. This would require us to find a taker for Danny Green (and Pau Gasol if he doesn't opt out), something I'm not too keen on, but for Hayward I think worth it. However, most rumors have Gordon Hayward reuniting with his college coach Brad Stevens in Boston to get away from the Western Conference and Golden State.

Danilo Gallinari is another big name on the list, and while he adds a lot of offensive potency, I'm not sure if he'll be able to keep up defensively. Granted, I'm sure Pop would figure out how to get the most out of him as he did with fellow Italian Marco Belinelli, but he's not really someone I would want to shell out big money for, at least not for this current Spurs' roster.

One name that has a lot of sentimental value to me, and also recovering from injury, which may make him a lot cheaper, is Rudy Gay. I think he's gotten the short end of the stick in that his game has experienced a lot of scrutiny, and some (to me) excessive and perhaps not entirely deserved criticism, particularly in the modern day of analytics. However, I think that Gay has the size and skill to succeed in the right system and he seems like a good team-first type player. I think he would thrive in Popovich's system playing next to Kawhi Leonard, and he would be an excellent secondary option and is undervalued defensively. Granted, Achilles tendon ruptures are iffy, but I think Rudy can return to a solid player given his age and physique (like Wesley Matthews and Dominique Wilkins).

Most of the other players that I can see would need to be cheaper than Jonathon Simmons, otherwise, we should just match Jonathon Simmons. I would honestly trade Kyle Anderson if he was worth anything to anybody. I want Kyle to succeed but he honestly is the worst kind of tweener there is. He's still not strong enough to guard the bigger PFs and too slow to guard most SFs well. He uses his length to help against smaller players, but my main point of concern with Kyle has just been that his shot mechanic is so slow that makes him a liability on catch-and-shoot situations. He's not good enough to demand the ball but he's not really very good without the ball either. We can call his game deliberate, but really, it's just slow, and unless he develops some way to punish defenses, he's not really adding anything when he's on the floor.

The guys that I'm going to list now, I think would be solid, especially as backups, and I think working through the year with Chip Engelland could improve their shooting to be respectable, which essentially is their weakness and what we would be looking for. However, as stated previously, it then becomes a character and availability issue which I can't wholly attest to (these guys all have reputations for being hard workers, but I think the Spurs have their own standards, and we have to see if Chip can work with all these players especially with Chad Forcier gone).

In no particular order:

Joe Ingles
Jonas Jerebko
Luc Mbah-a-Moute
Andre Roberson
Thabo Sefolosha
Brandon Rush
Jerami Grant
James Johnson

That's a lot of names. Now, I think Rush and Ingles have proven themselves to be at least serviceable shooters. Personally, I'm pretty intrigued at the idea of getting the most out of players like Jerami Grant or Luc Mbah-a-Moute. While I like James Johnson, the question of whether he's a Spurs-type player does pop up.

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