Free Agents (Cap Holds)
While the Spurs' situation heading into the 2012 offseason is a little reminiscent of the Celtics', there are a few key differences between the two teams that will likely dictate San Antonio's plan of attack this summer. Whereas the Celtics have the opportunity to clear a ton of cap space if they don't re-sign the players that helped them win their title (Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen), the Spurs don't have quite the same flexibility. Plus, they only have one major contributor to their championship teams facing free agency -- Tim Duncan.
Because Duncan is unlikely to retire or play anywhere besides San Antonio, I think we can safely assume that the two-time MVP will re-sign with the Spurs. Even if he takes a big paycut on his next deal, retaining Duncan will likely ensure that the Spurs remain an over-the-cap team. Re-signing players like Danny Green and Boris Diaw shouldn't be a problem, but San Antonio won't have more than the mid-level to throw at other free agents in July.
Unfortunately, where a team like Boston has cap room and a pair of first-round picks to make solid improvements around its core, San Antonio doesn't have the same luxury. The team's only draft pick is at the end of the second round, and its options with the mid-level will be limited. A recent report suggested that the Spurs might kick the tires on the Celtics' Garnett, but it's hard to imagine how they could afford a player of that caliber with only the MLE at their disposal.
Still, $5MM is enough to land a solid player, and it's more than luxury-tax clubs like the Heat, Lakers, and Bulls will be able to offer free agents. Depending on which of their own free agents are re-signed, the Spurs should have some options -- if Green, Diaw, and Patrick Mills all return, there aren't any obvious holes in the team's rotation. Perhaps San Antonio's top target could be another big man, particularly if the team has any concerns about Tiago Splitter's development. On the other hand, if Mills were to opt out of his contract and sign elsewhere, a free agent point guard to complement Tony Parker could be the team's preference.
Outside of retaining their own free agents and perhaps signing one or two outside players, the Spurs shouldn't be too active this summer. They still have the amnesty clause available, but it can't be used on Stephen Jackson, who was acquired via trade. Matt Bonner, making $3.63MM, is an amnesty candidate, but cutting the Red Rocket wouldn't increase the team's financial flexibility much.
GM R.C. Buford proved a year ago that he isn't shy about making unexpected deals, when he sent George Hill to the Pacers in a trade that landed the Spurs Kawhi Leonard. You never know if Buford has another move like that up his sleeve, but I wouldn't expect San Antonio to make any major trades. Players like Parker and Manu Ginobili aren't going anywhere yet, and the Spurs don't really have any other players that would be as valuable elsewhere as they are in San Antonio.
A couple weeks ago, in the midst of a 20-game winning streak, it looked like the Spurs were on their way to another title. They may be a year older in 2012/13, but there's no reason to believe that the same group with a couple tweaks, shouldn't be a strong contender again. The prime of the Duncan/Ginobili/Parker era may be behind us, but I'd be surprised if the Spurs don't bring back Duncan and try to make at least one more run at the Finals.