Following the recent flurry of moves, the San Antonio Spurs can only offer a minimum contract when wooing free agents. One area the Spurs may want to address is an addition bench bigman. While San Antonio currently has five bigs, the future of DeJuan Blair -- who has been in trade talk -- is murky. Additionally, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner may all become free agents next summer.
The Spurs could opt to sign a sixth bigman from their summer league roster or fill the void via trade. However, if they look elsewhere, here are my top 15 candidates who may be available for a minimum salary.
1. Luis Scola
The Rockets used the amnesty provision to make Luis Scola's contract disappear. On Sunday afternoon, we'll know whether Scola was claimed in the amnesty waiver process. While I expect him to be claimed, there's a chance he'll fall through the cracks and become an unrestricted free agent. If that happens, he should absolutely become priority No. 1 for the Spurs. Although his level of play fell off drastically last season, he's still an above average bigman who can score in the paint, nail open jumpers and, most importantly, compete with a fiery edge. Scola doesn't bring much on the defensive end of the court but he'd be a very useful player and an absolute bargain at the minimum. And while he may get offered more money on the open market, in San Antonio he'd be able to join a couple close friends (Tiago Splitter and Manu Ginobili) and step into a defined role immediately.
2. Kenyon Martin
When Kenyon Martin returned to the U.S. after playing in China in the middle of last season, he nearly signed with the Spurs before inking a deal with the Clippers. Now that the Clippers have cut ties with him, don't be surprised if Martin again enters San Antonio's cross-hairs. While he doesn't score much or rebound at an especially high level, the 34-year-old theoretically fits rather well. Defensively, he's a great pick-and-roll defender who can also guard the post and protect the rim. On offense, his jumper is good enough to space the court moderately well. Martin is also regarded as a tough guy who plays with contagious confidence.
3. Jon Leuer
Jon Leuer isn't a free agent yet but he could be soon. He got traded to the Rockets earlier in the summer and has a contract that becomes fully guaranteed if he isn't released by the end of July. With Houston looking to clear salary cap space, it's not too likely they'll keep him around. If Leuer is indeed released, the fit with the Spurs is virtually seamless. At 6-foot-10 without shoes, Leuer is a very good mid-range shooter who should be able to develop a three-point shot. He's comfortable out on the perimeter and is a plus passer, above average ballhandler for his size and plays a smart brand of basketball. In his rookie season last year with the Bucks, he wasn't very good defensively but he's an adequate rebounder who has the size and mobility to become average on that end once he adds more strength. The 23-year-old fits now and still is young enough to improve.
4. Ronny Turiaf
With three Frenchmen already on the roster, a fourth won't hurt anybody. Turiaf is injury-prone and isn't overly skilled but he fits in many ways. Offensively, he's a strong finisher around the basket and an underrated passer. He used to have a good jumper so that ability might return in San Antonio's system. On defense, Turiaf is basically just a 6-foot-10, 245-pound ball of energy. He's not a very good rebounder but that's mostly because he tries to block every shot in his vicinity. He can defend pick-and-rolls and even stop out on the perimeter, however he also fouls a whole lot. Turiaf isn't good enough (or durable enough) to start but he could be a strong role player off the bench.
5. D.J. White
Even though he's 25 and was drafted back in 2008, it's difficult to figure out what exactly D.J. White is as an NBA player. He began his career buried on the Thunder's bench and then got traded to Charlotte where he has been mired in the Bobcats misery the last two seasons. At 6-foot-9 and 235 pounds, White can sink mid-range jumpers, pass reasonably well and he doesn't make many mistakes. Defensively, he's not a world-beater but he has the wherewithal to become capable in the Spurs system. The main drawback with White is he's coming off of a poor season that was by far the worst of his career. But, in my view, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk that up to him being stuck on the worst team in NBA history. Thus, White could be one of the better buy-low free agents on the market.
6. Jermaine O'Neal
Jermaine O'Neal is just about the most injury-prone player in the NBA. He hasn't been able to play more than 70 games in any campaign since the 2004 season. And it seems to always be a new body part that is breaking down. All that said, O'Neal makes some sense for the Spurs. They can make him a full-time bench player for the first time in his career, which may help him stay healthy. When he's on the court, O'Neal is a very good defender; there are still only a handful of players who defend the rim better. He can defend the post and is blessed with quick defensive reflexes. Offensively, the 33-year-old can't do much anymore but he has a jumper that can't totally be ignored and he finishes strong at the basket.
7. Anthony Tolliver
Since leaving the Spurs, Anthony Tolliver has carved out a decent career. He's bounced around a bit but he looks like a legit NBA player. At 6-foot-8, Tolliver is undersized for power power and he doesn't rebound or block shots especially well. However, he's a very good passer for a bigman who also hustles endlessly, plays smart and is deceptively quick. The main reason why Tolliver could be available for the minimum is that his three-point touch vanished last year. After shooting better than 40% from deep in 2011, he was less than 25% last season for the T'Wolves. (The Spurs know all about how streaky he can be from beyond the arc. He basically made the Spurs by shooting lights out in summer league and then got waived because he couldn't hit a shot in the regular season.) If Tolliver hits three-pointers at a decent level, he's a quality bench player. If not, he doesn't do enough well to counterbalance that weakness. The Spurs may take another look at Tolliver if they think he can hit threes consistently enough.
8. Shelden Williams
Shelden Williams is the prototypical banger who doesn't hurt your team as a fifth bigman. He lacks skill but he can defend the rim decently and rebound well. Williams doesn't back down from contact and is also regarded as a good chemistry guy in the locker room. Other than those positive traits, though, he's a bland player. Offensively, his hands aren't good and he lacks a feel for the game. If he scores, it's usually a simple shot right at the rim. Defensively, his reactions can be slow and his lack of speed from baseline to baseline can be detrimental.
9. Josh Harrellson
Like Leuer, Josh Harrellson is currently property of the Rockets. Also like Leuer, he has an unguaranteed contract that will probably end up being torn to pieces. As a rookie last season for the Knicks, Harrellson flashed some potential. He's a big dude (6-foot-10, 275 pounds) who can defend the post on defense and shoot three-pointers on offense. Harrellson's rebounding and shotblocking are also above average. However, it should be noted that most of his success came with Mike D'Antoni at the helm and his bulk hurts his mobility on the defensive end. Overall, though, Harrellson is a relatively unique prospect who could be worth a look if he becomes available.
10. Louis Amundson
Offensively, Louis Amundson is a train wreck. He struggles to finish even the simplest of shots and he can't shoot free throws or pass. But defensively Amundson is good enough that he may enter the picture. He plays with great energy, rebounds well and blocks shots. Amundson is also mobile enough to defend pick-and-rolls and fast enough to play quality transition defense. But, again, his offense is just so bad that he might not be able to hang.
11. Darko Milicic
As you can guess by his placement on this list, I'm not a Darko Milicic fan. Unless he's getting consistent minutes, he's a horrible teammate who refuses to work hard. He may not be a chemistry killer -- but he's close. Even when he gets minutes, he's just not that good. Offensively, he clogs the lane and forces bad shots. While he's a talented passer when he looks to share the ball, he's selfish more often than not. Defensively, Milicic's combination of height (7-feet), bulk (275 pounds) and agility makes him attractive in theory, but it has never materialized into consistent production. Add in his shaky rebounding, his often questionable effort level, his cancerous attitude and I'd prefer the Spurs look elsewhere. Milicic's ceiling is undeniably high but I highly doubt he'll ever come anywhere close.
12. Yi Jianlian
Before Yi Jianlian agreed to join the Mavericks last season, the Spurs were said to have interest in him. While with the Mavs, Jianlian dominated in two games on the D-League level but failed to make an impact once called up to Dallas. The 24-year-old is the ultimate workout wonder. He can run, jump and shoot the lights out in drills. It's obvious he's been trained very well on his individual skill. However, the native of China really struggles to incorporate his skills into a team setting. Jianlian is the most robotic player in the league and lacks any semblance of basketball IQ or natural feel for the game. It's rare that a 7-footer who is relatively strong and exceedingly talented isn't a wanted man in the NBA -- but Jianlian is the exception. Maybe he can learn how to play basketball outside of drills but I wouldn't bet on it.
13. Hamed Haddadi
Hamed Haddadi is 7-foot-2 and longer than Ali Khamenei's reign. He's also a great rebounder and a very good shotblocker. Offensively, he's a high percentage shooter with good touch. Unfortunately, his weakness are extreme: He's very slow, very immobile, gets tired quickly and isn't a smart player. Haddadi is somewhat useful on the right team but he'll never be much more than a niche player who can go for a couple minutes at a time. If he ever averages ten minutes per game over a season, I'd be surprised. Haddadi wouldn't be a horrible signing but his ceiling is low and it takes unique circumstances to even put him on the court.
14. Nazr Mohammed
We've officially reached the "Well, he has six fouls" portion of this list. The stats suggest Mohammed fell off a cliff last season. Subjectively, I agree. Considering it's been a while since he was a decent player even when he was on sturdy ground, I don't see much value in him now. Mohammed is a good teammate who brings experience but his weaknesses (bad hands, slow reactions, lack of mobility) are even more pronounced now that he's old.
15. Joel Przybilla
The Spurs have shown interest in Joel Przybilla in the past -- as recently as last season. But after numerous knee injuries, it looks like Przybilla has reached the end of the line. He can still rebound and block shots decently well but he's probably the worst offensive player in the league right now. With his drop in athleticism, it's difficult to imagine Przybilla as more than a 12th man. He's a good teammate who can come in and knock people around so he'd be a serviceable 12th man -- but that's about the extent of his usefulness these days.