Hoops Rumors is in the process of looking back at each team's offseason, from the end of the playoffs in June right up until opening night. Trades, free agent signings, draft picks, contract extensions, option decisions, camp invitees, and more will be covered, as we examine the moves each franchise made over the last several months.
Trades and Claims
Rookie Contract Option Decisions
When the NBA returned from its lockout a year ago, much was made of the fact that teams would miss out on the usual training camps. With only a couple weeks between the free agent period and the beginning of the regular season, clubs that were undergoing major overhauls would barely have any time to develop chemistry before the season was underway. As such, teams that stayed relatively intact were considered to be ahead of the game, with the lengthy layoff and abridged preseason viewed as less of a handicap for players who had a history together.
While the 2011/12 season may not have followed precisely that template across the league, the rule certainly seemed true in the case of the Spurs, led as always by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. San Antonio, having been written off as too old by more than one pundit entering the season, cruised to the best record in the Western Conference for a second straight season. Were it not for a torrid stretch of shooting by the Thunder in the West Finals, it's not out of the question that LeBron James and Miami's Big Three could still be searching for their first title together.
Although the Spurs fell short of a championship last season, the team seemed to approach the offseason with the same attitude that prevailed following the lockout -- the fewer changes, the better. The Spurs were the only team in the NBA that didn't add a player via trade or waiver claim, and the majority of their moves in free agency simply involved re-signing their own players.
San Antonio had the least roster turnover of any of the Association's 30 teams, with Nando De Colo representing the club's lone addition, while only Derrick Byars and James Anderson were missing from last year's roster. Not only that, but a few weeks into the season, Anderson was already back in the fold, having been signed to a non-guaranteed deal to provide depth with Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson out of action.
Even the NBA's elite teams are always looking for ways to improve, with the defending champion Heat adding outside shooters like Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis over the summer. So what are we to make of the Spurs' relative stasis? Well, for one, players like Boris Diaw and Patty Mills were mid-season additions last year. With more time under their belts in San Antonio, they figure to only gain a better understanding of their respective roles with the Spurs.
Additionally, for all the talk about how "old" the Spurs are, the team has a pair of intriguing young players in Leonard and Danny Green. With Leonard only in the second year of his rookie deal and Green re-signed to an affordable three-year contract, San Antonio should expect improvements and increased contributions from both players, particularly on defense, where Green has exhibited the ability to be a lockdown defender on wing scorers.
Of course, without Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker, the Spurs wouldn't be in position to virtually stand pat with the current roster and still hope to contend for a title. Duncan took a significant pay cut this summer, and will earn $10MM annually over the life of his new deal, rather than the $21MM+ salary he was making in 2011/12. Such a cut makes sense for a player approaching the end of his career, but the Spurs clearly believe that the future Hall of Famer has plenty left in him, committing to a three-year contract. At 36 and 35 respectively, Duncan and Ginobili are probably a few years removed from their primes, but given how many players we've seen be effective into their late-30s, the Spurs' title window certainly remains open for now.It's not easy to enthusiastically praise an offseason that consists of so few moves. But at the same time, it's hard to argue that the Spurs made any mistakes in essentially retaining the same team that was on a 20-game winning streak and two games from the NBA Finals when the Thunder's shooters caught fire last year. By bringing back the same players that took them deep into the playoffs last year, the Spurs are betting on the power of continuity, and hoping a few more bounces go their way when they return to the postseason in 2013.