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Offseason In Review: San Antonio Spurs

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.



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Waiver Claims

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Draft Picks

Camp Invitees

Departing Players

Rookie Contract Option Decisions

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

Courtesy of USA Today Sports Images

The Spurs could have stopped with the LaMarcus Aldridge deal, and they still probably would have had the most successful offseason of any team in the league. Still, the true measure of San Antonio’s summer is reflected in the rest of the moves that the Spurs made. The addition of David West at the minimum salary and the retention of all three members of the starting lineup who reached free agency, plus Manu Ginobili, give this year’s Spurs team extra depth and weapons that could prove key, given the age of the team’s mainstays and the thin margin of error in the Western Conference. The signing of West, in particular, underscored the allure of the winning culture that coach/president of Spurs basketball Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford preside over, and it clearly played a role in allowing the team to snag Aldridge, too.

Family ties also swayed the former Trail Blazer, a Texas native, but regardless of his motivation, his arrival is as transformative for the Spurs as it is for him. Aldridge acknowledged that he had concerns about San Antonio’s egalitarian offense, given his long track record of high scoring in Portland, but assistant coach Ime Udoka reassured him that the Spurs wouldn’t ask him to make wholesale changes to the way he plays. Still, a significant on-court adjustment is taking place for the former No. 2 overall pick, who was averaging only 16.0 points per game through his first four regular season appearances with the Spurs, a mark that would be his lowest since he put up 9.0 points per game as a rookie. That’s a small sample size, of course, but the Spurs, as witnessed by Aldridge’s off-kilter 44.6% shooting in those four games, have yet to find a way to properly utilize their most talented inside counterpart to Duncan since they had David Robinson.

West presents yet another challenge, since the Spurs have to figure out to squeeze the most out of what he has to offer without that many minutes to go around. Much has changed on the inside, where centers Tiago Splitter and Aron Baynes are no longer around and Aldridge and West, who are power forwards, have replaced them. Splitter’s departure was necessary if the team was to both sign Aldridge and re-sign Danny Green, and thus San Antonio sent Splitter to the Hawks for virtually nothing aside from cap space. Popovich admitted it wasn’t a move he particularly enjoyed making, and he executed the trade without yet knowing that Aldridge would sign, making for a nervous few days in the Spurs front office.

Still, the salary cap math didn’t give San Antonio much of a choice, and the team had even less recourse with Baynes, who left for a tidy $19.5MM over three years with the Pistons. The Spurs recruited 7’3″ All-Euroleague First Team center Boban Marjanovic with a sliver of their cap room, but out of all the adjustments going on in San Antonio, none may be more profound than the ones Marjanovic must endure as the 27-year-old receives his first taste of the NBA.

The Green deal that played such a significant role in the team’s decision to shed Splitter was a surprise, given all the teams lined up to poach the swingman and the report that identified him as “a goner.” Green expressed platitudes toward the Knicks, about whom he told Marc Berman of the New York Post, “anybody turning down a meeting with them would be crazy,” but he doesn’t think the Knicks were as interested in him as he thought they’d be, Green said to Chris Mannix of The Mavericks, Pistons, Blazers and Kings were also linked to the Bill Duffy client, but the Spurs won out in part because he was attracted to the idea of playing with Aldridge, who consulted Green about his own free agency. Once more, the signing of Aldridge proved a catalyst for another of the team’s summer moves.

Of course, the Aldridge deal couldn’t have come about unless the Spurs had elected against signing Kawhi Leonard to an extension in the fall of 2014, a maneuver that kept his cap hold as small as possible and allowed the Spurs to use cap space until they circled back to re-sign Leonard for the max. Leonard could have sought out and signed a short-term offer sheet with another team to punish the Spurs for making him wait, and he even could have signed his qualifying offer, but neither such option was truly in play for the unassuming client of agent Brian Elfus. Such was Leonard’s commitment to the Spurs that he agreed to the framework of what would become a five-year max deal within the first 15 minutes of free agency. The Spurs waited to formalize the arrangement until after they’d used the cap space that the Leonard maneuver gave them the chance to create.

Like Leonard, Duncan and Ginobili weren’t going to make their respective free agencies competitive affairs. It was Spurs or retirement for both, and while it took until July for them to announce their intentions, publicly at least, they came back to San Antonio, with Duncan’s choice — the first among the two — seemingly influencing Ginobili’s to some degree. Each took a significant pay cut, with Duncan consenting to play for about half of his salary from last season and Ginobili taking just the $2.814MM room exception this season after he made $7MM in 2014/15.

Ginobili might have been able to command more, though his game, unlike Duncan’s, is showing its age. That underscored the importance of retaining Green, since Ginobili, at 38, probably isn’t fit for the starting job at two guard. The other incumbent, Marco Belinelli, seemed an unlikely candidate to inherit the job, and the Spurs never appeared in the mix to re-sign him as he departed for Sacramento.

The Spurs wound up with a guard in exchange from Sacramento, in a roundabout way, relinquishing only a second-rounder (and likely a late one at that) for Ray McCallum, who takes over the third point guard duties from Cory Joseph, who signed with Toronto. Most third point guards don’t see much playing time, but with Tony Parker, like Ginobili, seemingly in decline, and given San Antonio’s penchant for resting its veterans, McCallum figures to get his chance. So, too, should Rasual Butler, who made the team out of camp over Jimmer Fredette and others. Butler has played significant minutes for the Pacers and Wizards the past two years despite having signed non-guaranteed deals with them, too.

Butler is 36, and like so many of the Spurs, his days in the NBA are numbered. Yet Aldridge showed with his commitment of at least three years that the end for the team’s lengthy run as a title contender remains a ways off. Perhaps even more significantly, Leonard is locked in through at least 2019, when he’ll only be turning 28. The Spurs spent the offseason trying to build a champion for this season, but they also put together a bridge to championship opportunities in the future.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post. The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of it.

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