Rebuild or reload?
What does the future hold for the Spurs after early playoff exit?
The future can be a scary thing. Uncertainty, fear of the unknown, staring off into the distant space with only a lack of knowing what’s to come staring back at you, that’s how its got to feel like to be a Spurs fan this offseason. Father Time has caught up to the remaining pieces of the Spurs previous championship regime and the new pieces haven’t quite gelled like the old guard did. Visions of a reload pairing Lamarcus Aldridge, Kahwhi Leonard and Patty Mills with Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and bringing in Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Rudy Gay was supposed to stretch the window a few more years and give Gregg Popovich something to do besides grow a beard and bask in his retired greatness.
But Father Time and life had other ideas unfortunately and Coach Popovich and his family have been dealing with a terrible loss and he was unable to finish the season coaching his team. Injury took its toll and Leonard spent the whole season essentially on the shelf dealing with a quad injury that according to all forms of information is still bothering him and his camp feels like he isn’t ready to return regardless of what the team doctors are saying. Suddenly the quiet superstar has become a malcontent, one of the greatest coaches of all time seems out of touch and one of the most consistently successful franchises seems to be flailing wildly.
Here’s the simple math, Parker made $15 million this year but is not under contract for next year and I think is likely to retire. Ginobili is due $2.5 next year but my personal opinion is he is going to retire as well. This season has shown the old dogs that this isn’t their team anymore and they just spent a whole year answering questions about a guy who hasn’t done half of what they accomplished in their day. The frustration actually started to show by the end of the regular season as news of players-only meetings and locker room conversations started to leak. So with the savings of $2.5 million, and a projected cap of $108 million dollars (yikes!) the Spurs come into the off-season about $11 million under the cap and don’t have a lot of obvious answers in front of them.
Leonard is a massive question mark, the “will he, won’t he” drama will circle this team all summer and with his $20 million dollar salary guaranteed and an opt out for the 2019 season, he has all the leverage. Aldridge ($72 million over the next three years) played well this playoffs and all season but he isn’t enough on his own and Mills ($37 million over the next three years), Green ($10 million for 2018), Gay ($8.8 million for 2018) and Gasol ($32 million for two more years) are not the pieces to move forward with. The Gasol deal especially is confusing and watching Gay this postseason was painful. These aren’t the players you’re looking for.
So how do the Spurs fix this? Two solutions: a reload or a rebuild. If it’s a rebuild, Pop retires, the GM starts over and they try to recapture the magic without taking as long as Philadelphia has. If it’s a reload then they have the chance to do something this off-season but it would be bold and I’m going to preface this with I’m simply looking at the pieces out there. So you take the $11 million dollars in cap space and you call up free agent Isaiah Thomas and you offer him minutes and a chance to learn under Pop and clean up the mess that was 2017. You then try and get Carmelo Anthony, not because he’s great or a leader, or anything other than the fact he can score a bunch and it’ll take the pressure off of Aldridge.
You bribe someone to take Gasol with some picks and the Gay and Green contracts for future cap space in some thre- team trade to bring in Carmelo and some combination of Will Barton, Avery Bradley, J.J. Redick and if they’re affordable Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and/or Rajon Rondo. If the basketball gods are friendly, you wind up with Aldridge, Thomas, Anthony, Mills, Barton, Rondo and the typical bench guys that the Spurs find at the end of free agency. Would this beat the Warriors? The Rockets? Wherever LeBron goes? Maybe not, but it gives them another chance at the playoffs which is more than they will have coming into next year if they stand pat.