San Antonio Spurs

Florida Notes: Gay, Whiteside, Magic, Augustin

Rudy Gay might have been a better free agent target for the Heat than Kelly Olynyk, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. In response to a reader’s question, Winderman notes that Gay was rehabbing from his Achilles injury in Florida and expressed interest in coming to Miami before winding up in San Antonio. Gay got a little more than $17MM over two years, with about $8.8MM of that as a player option for next season. Olynyk received $46MM over four years from the Heat.

Gay would have given Miami a proven alternative at small forward when Rodney McGruder was lost to a left tibia stress fracture. The Heat couldn’t have known in July that McGruder would be unavailable, but Winderman says depth at that position would have been desirable if the plan all along was to move Justise Winslow to power forward. Gay is averaging 11.8 points and 5.3 rebounds through 16 games with the Spurs, while Olynyk is putting up 9.2 points and 5.5 boards in 15 games.

There’s more this morning from the Sunshine State:

  • In the same piece, Winderman questions whether the Heat will be willing to make another max offer to Hassan Whiteside if he opts out of his current deal after next season. As small-ball continues to spread throughout the league, some teams are re-evaluating the worth of traditional centers. Whiteside will have an early-termination option on his salary of slightly more than $27MM for 2019/20.
  • After being one of the league’s early-season surprises, the Magic already face a crossroads to their season after Saturday’s 40-point loss to the Jazz, writes Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Orlando came out of the gate at 6-2, but is back at .500 after dropping four straight games. Coach Frank Vogel hinted that changes might be on the way and called last night’s performance “unacceptable,” a sentiment shared by many of the players. “I think we lost what made us good at the beginning of the season: playing together, having fun out there, enjoying the game,” Nikola Vucevic said. “Over-dribbling, over-trying to get stuff instead of just playing simple basketball, like we did earlier in the year, it just affects us little by little. It just takes away from our energy. It’s like it’s taking little bites [out of us]. By the end of the game, there was no energy left.”
  • The Magic got some good news Saturday with the return of veteran guard D.J. Augustin. An important part of Orlando’s surprising early-season success, Augustin missed seven games with a hamstring injury. He was held scoreless in 17 minutes yesterday, but was averaging 8.3 points and 5.1 assists through his first eight games and shooting 39% from 3-point range.

2018 Salary Cap Outlook: Southwest Division

NBA rosters will undergo some changes over the course of the 2017/18 season, particularly around the trade deadline, and those changes may have an impact on teams’ cap sheets for future seasons. Based on the NBA’s current rosters, however, we can identify which teams are most and least likely to have cap room in the summer of 2018, which will dictate the type of moves those clubs can make in the offseason.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the NBA’s 30 teams by division this week. Today, we’re finishing up our series with the Southwest division. With the help of salary information compiled by Basketball Insiders, here’s how the summer of 2018 is shaping up for the five Southwest teams:

Memphis GrizzliesMarc Gasol vertical
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $101,105,736
Projection: Over the cap

Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons, and Marc Gasol will earn a combined $78MM+ in 2018/19, so unless the Grizzlies trade one of those players, the team is extremely unlikely to create any meaningful cap space. If Memphis struggles and misses the playoffs this season, I could see trade rumors surrounding Gasol begin to intensify, but for now, we’re assuming the Grizzlies will begin the 2018 offseason over the projected $101MM salary cap.

New Orleans Pelicans
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $91,577,138
Projection: Over the cap

With nearly $92MM committed to just seven players, the Pelicans would need to account for cap charges for five empty roster spots. Once those cap charges are added to team salary, New Orleans is left with about $5MM in potential cap room, which is less than the value of the mid-level exception. So even if the Pelicans don’t end up keeping DeMarcus Cousins‘ cap hold on their books to try to re-sign him, they’ll likely function as an over-the-cap club.

San Antonio Spurs
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,410,994
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Spurs ultimately don’t have any cap room at their disposal for 2018. The team has three veterans holding player options, in Danny Green ($10MM), Rudy Gay ($8.8MM), and Joffrey Lauvergne ($1.7MM), as well as three potential restricted free agents (Kyle Anderson, Davis Bertans, and Bryn Forbes).

It’s entirely possible that all three of those players with options turn them down, and it’s also within reason that the Spurs will let their RFAs go. Still, I’d expect at least two or three of those six players to remain in San Antonio. And if guys like Green and Gay are among those returnees, either on their options or on new contracts, then the Spurs’ cap space will evaporate in a hurry.

Houston Rockets
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $78,123,448
Projection: Up to approximately $18MM in cap room

Like the Spurs, the Rockets could create a modest amount of cap room by parting ways with all their potential free agents, but the more likely scenario will see them stay over the cap. Chris Paul, Clint Capela, and Trevor Ariza will be among the most coveted free agents in the NBA, and re-signing even one of the three would likely take Houston over the cap, or close to it. Re-signing two, or all three, could push Houston into luxury-tax territory.

Dallas Mavericks
Guaranteed 2018/19 team salary: $41,269,318
Projection: Up to approximately $35MM in cap room

Based on their current team salary projections for 2018/19, the Mavericks could theoretically create up to $53MM in cap space. However, that’s probably an unrealistic estimate, since it doesn’t include Wesley Matthews‘ $18.6MM player option.

The 31-year-old guard has failed to make more than 40% of his field goal attempts in any of his three seasons with the Mavs, and his .359 FG% so far this season is his worst mark yet. He’s also averaging just 11.2 PPG despite playing 34.6 minutes per contest. Simply put, Matthews isn’t going to find an $18MM salary on the open market if he turns down his option.

As such, our projection for the Mavs assumes that Matthews will exercise that option, which still leaves Dallas with about $35MM in cap room. That would be more than enough to bring back Seth Curry and Dirk Nowitzki – if he doesn’t retire – and still have space left over.

Previously:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Popovich: Kawhi Will Return 'Sooner Than Later'

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said injured superstar Kawhi Leonard is “gonna be back sooner rather than later” as he recovers from a right quadriceps injury, Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News writes. Leonard has not played this season due to the injury but the Spurs have performed well — they currently sit in third place in the Western Conference with a 9-5 record.

San Antonio has relied heavily on role players while Leonard recovers. Popovich explained the Spurs’ need to operate as if Leonard does not exist because other teams will not feel sorry for their temporary loss. Thus far, at least, the team has made good on that goal.

Tony Parker Could Be Back By The End Of November

  • The Spurs will have Tony Parker back soon, according to a post by Michael C. Wright on ESPN Now. Coach Gregg Popovich said his point guard continues to make progress in rehab, and Parker has expressed hope that he will be cleared to play by the end of November. He was originally expected to be out of action until January after rupturing a left quadriceps tendon during the Western Conference semifinals.

Cavaliers Have ‘Strong Interest’ In Greg Monroe

With a shortage of big men, the Cavaliers have turned their attention toward Greg Monroe and are considering an offer to the Suns, according to Sam Amico of AmicoHoops.

The veteran power forward/center was shipped from Milwaukee to Phoenix this week as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. The Suns reportedly don’t have any long-term plans for Monroe and would consider a buyout if they can’t move him in another deal.

The 27-year-old is in the final year of his contract with a $17.8MM salary. In addition to providing an inside presence, Monroe is a “team-first player,” according to Amico, who would be willing to sacrifice his stats for the chance to rejoin a contender.

Monroe appeared in just five games with the Bucks before the deal and had his minutes cut sharply to 15.8 per night. However, he is a proven scorer and rebounder who averaged 11.7 points and 6.6 rebounds in 81 games last season, then raised those numbers to 13.2 and 7.3 in the playoffs.

The Cavaliers need inside help after losing starting center Tristan Thompson to a strained left calf in a November 1 game. He was projected to miss three to four weeks, which puts him out for most of the month.

It’s not clear what the Suns might ask in return for Monroe, but Iman Shumpert [$10,337,079] and Channing Frye [$7,420,912] provide an almost perfect salary match. Shumpert, who was on the trading block throughout the offseason, has a player option for next year worth slightly more than $11MM, while Frye, who spent three seasons with Phoenix early in his career, has an expiring deal.

Amico adds that the Spurs and Nuggets have also expressed interest in Monroe.

Latest On Kawhi Leonard’s Return To The Court

Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played since sustaining a serious ankle injury during last season’s playoffs and coach Gregg Popovich said the small forward is “coming along more slowly” than initially expected, Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com relays. Popovich added that “It’s just been more difficult for him to get through the rehab routine.” 

The franchise has still hasn’t given a definitive timeline for Leonard to return to the court.

The two-time All-Star was phenomenal for San Antonio last season, scoring a career-high 25.5 points per game and posting a player efficiency rating of 27.6. He trailed only Kevin Durant in Win Shares and while he didn’t win the MVP, he proved he belonged in the conversation.

The Spurs certainly miss his production, though they are chugging along and taking an optimistic approach to the situation. The ageless Manu Ginobili believes that playing without the team’s top star gives the younger players a chance “to step up and gain confidence.”

I think it’s a great thing for guys like [Bryn Forbes], [Brandon Paul], even [Kyle Anderson] having to be more responsible offensively, have more possessions, make more decisions,” Ginobili said. “So I think it’s going to end up being a great thing for the team in the long term. In the short term, we miss [Leonard]. We need him out there. And when he comes back, we are going to have to readjust. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but at this point, it’s making those guys step up and play a bigger role.”

Ginobili: Leonard's Absence Has Allowed Other Players To Play

  • While the Spurs have a respectable 6-4 record without Kawhi Leonard, veteran Manu Ginobili feels that Leonard’s absence has been good in terms of giving young players more playing time, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes. “Every time a team has to adjust to playing without its main player, others have to step up and gain confidence, and they end up being better players,” Ginobili said.

Spurs Recall Tony Parker From G League

  • The Spurs have recalled Tony Parker from the G League, the team announced today in a press release. Parker has been bouncing back and forth between San Antonio and the Austin Spurs as he recovers from surgery on his quadriceps.

Spurs Send Tony Parker Back To G League

  • The Spurs have assigned veteran point guard Tony Parker back to the G League, the team announced today in a press release. Parker, recovering from quadriceps surgery, has been back and forth between San Antonio and Austin as part of his rehab process.

Spurs Rookie Derrick White Fractures Wrist

Rookie guard Derrick White, the Spurs’ 2017 first-round pick, has suffered a fractured right wrist, the team announced today in a press release. No timeline for White’s recovery and return has been deterimed at this point, according to the Spurs.

The 29th overall pick in this year’s draft out of Colorado, White has played sparingly for the Spurs so far, appearing in four games for the team. San Antonio has been assigning him frequently to the Austin Spurs for additional work, and White’s injury actually took place during his most recent G League assignment — he fractured his wrist during Saturday’s game against the Texas Legends.

The injury won’t have a major impact on the Spurs’ NBA rotation, since White hadn’t yet earned a spot in that group. Still, it will cost him at least a few weeks of valuable developmental time in San Antonio and Austin. As we’ve seen this season with Dejounte Murray and Kyle Anderson, the Spurs have a habit of taking things slow with their first-round draft picks, gradually easing them into larger roles.

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