Typically at this time of year, the Spurs are on the phones trying to woo free agents while simultaneously pondering major trades. This summer, however, is different. Even after the disappointing end to the 2012 playoff run, I don't think the Spurs need to do anything drastic. In fact, I think Plan A is rather straightforward.
1. Agree with Duncan on a ballpark figure. There's no rush to hammer out specifics right this second. For example, both sides could say something around $11 million per season will be adequate and leave it at that for now.
2. Contact Boris Diaw's agent. Aggressively try to finalize an agreement. Next to Duncan, Diaw is the most important piece because without him, the Spurs would be left without a player capable at starting at power forward. Yes, Diaw has flaws but he fits and there's a chance he can be inked to a reasonable deal.
3. Figure out what it's going to take to convince Erazem Lorbek to sign. Lorbek is the next most important piece because the Spurs need a backup power forward after Matt Bonner flamed out again. Since he can only negotiate with the Spurs if he wants to come to the NBA, he's another player who might be relatively inexpensive. While there are other bigmen on the open market, Lorbek's skillset is a fit and the Spurs could wrap up negotiations quickly.
4. Allow Danny Green to set his market value. It's a little bit risky because a team may get desperate and throw a lot of money at him but that's pretty unlikely. Once the market is set, the preference from San Antonio's end would be to give him a multi-year contract starting at about $3 million. While the Spurs can be patient here, they shouldn't let it drag on too long. Eventually, a team could convince themselves that Green is worth the effort to try to steal.
5. Complete the deal with Duncan. By this time, the Spurs should have a good idea of how much they can pay him without going too far into the lux tax.
6. Select a backup point guard. Patrick Mills and Nando De Colo are the two leading options. If the Spurs have given up on Cory Joseph, signing both of those players is a possibility. The Spurs need a backup point guard but the Spurs don't need to act desperately. They have time to see what Mills is offered elsewhere, scout De Colo even closer and see if any veteran PG falls through the cracks.
If the Spurs can successfully complete the first six steps of Plan A, their depth chart would look like this:
Patrick Mills (or Nando De Colo or a cheap veteran)
7. Decide what to do with Gary Neal and DeJuan Blair. Both are on cheap deals and are thus valuable to the team. The problem is that Neal may be overqualified to be the fifth guard and Blair may be overqualified to be the fifth bigman. However, given the long season, the advanced age of key players and their experience in the system, the Spurs may opt to keep both players.
8. Get rid of Matt Bonner. This is just something that has to be done. Yeah, he'd help you win regular season games but the time has come to remove him. He can't handle playoff pressure; it's indisputable at this point. Either amnesty him or salary dump him somewhere. Hypothetically the Spurs could keep him around as extreme depth but his salary is too high for such a role. Goodbye, Matty.
9. Add a project bigman. The Spurs need to make room on the roster for a project big -- preferably a center -- with some sort of athleticism. Being able to block shots and run the floor is a bonus. It'd also be nice if he is eligible to be sent to the Toros. This isn't a huge need obviously but the Spurs need this type of player somewhere in their pipeline.
10. Fill out the rest of the roster with youth and players with upside. The Spurs don't need any end of the bench veterans. Between the Big 3 and Stephen Jackson, the Spurs have the leadership and the veteran know-how.
It looks easy on paper. Let's hope it proves to be easy in real life. However, if something goes wrong, that could create a domino effect of chaos. At that point, the Spurs may have to change course and start looking elsewhere. Hopefully it doesn't come to that.
I know this question is coming: Do these moves make the Spurs a championship contender? Personally, I think they are longshots to begin with but I actually like the resulting roster this plan would create. It's deep, versatile and has a relatively high ceiling. The Spurs could go a splashier route but I think it'd be unnecessary. This plan allows the Spurs to compete while also building for the future and keeping the books clean of any toxic contracts.
In other words, the more boring this summer, the better.