This upcoming offseason could be an eventful one for the San Antonio Spurs. There could be a lot riding on whether the Spurs make or miss the playoffs. If the Spurs miss the playoffs for the first time since 1997, there is a chance that they’ll look to rebuild.
If the Spurs decide to rebuild, some combination of DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay could be moved. Let’s take a look at each of these veteran players and determine whether they are expendable.
DeRozan’s strong season hasn’t translated into many wins — but he does hold value to San Antonio and other teams. DeRozan has a $27.7 million player-option that he is likely to pick up, however that doesn’t guarantee that he will be on the Spurs next season.
Uncertainty regarding whether he would opt in or out possibly limited his trade value this past trade deadline. That said, teams may be more willing to trade for him if and when he picks up his player-option. The Orlando Magic reportedly had interest earlier in the season and they could look at him again in the offseason.
Another option would be the sign-and-trade route. In that scenario, DeRozan opts out and agrees to join another team that can’t sign him outright. By signing and then trading him, the Spurs could get an asset or two in the deal.
Keeping DeRozan may not be out of question either. Signing him to an affordable one- or two-year extension gives the Spurs options. DeRozan would be a floor raiser, giving San Antonio a high-level playmaker to theoretically maintain a level of consistency.
The team faces an uncertain future. It can be argued that keeping DeRozan will help stop the Spurs from bottoming out until they figure out how to proceed. It would also give Dejounte Murray, Lonnie Walker IV, Keldon Johnson and the rest of the young players time to continue to improve before taking the reins full-time.
Verdict: Expendable but Complicated
Last season, Gay was the Spurs third best player and he had a career year shooting the ball. This season, Gay has largely disappointed and his struggles have even caused his minutes to drop.
Gay is under contract next season and he’s scheduled to make $14.5 million Despite his large contract, his role could continue to diminish depending on what the Spurs decide to do.
Should San Antonio rebuild, Gay’s large expiring contract could be used in a trade to net the Spurs an asset. It may not be a great asset, however, as Gay doesn’t hold much value beyond a potential swap with a playoff team.
A contending team that’s looking to move bad salary for a veteran who could possibly help them may have interest. In such a case, the asset could be one or two low-value second rounders.
Otherwise, Gay is likely to remain on the Spurs and he’s almost certain to significantly underperform the remainder of his current deal.
Verdict: Expendable but Finding a Buyer is Unlikely
Mills has the distinction of being the longest tenured member of the Spurs. Next season would mark his 10th season with the team — and the final season of his four-year deal. While Mills would also be an expiring contract, it’s much less likely that San Antonio would consider trading Mills.
Despite the controversy surrounding his large contract, Mills has largely lived up to his deal. The steady rise of the salary cap and Mills’ durability and consistency have made his contract far more palatable over time.
As an asset, Mills may hold value to a playoff team as a reliable sharpshooter — but likely not enough to get the Spurs to deal him. If the Spurs move in another direction next year, Mills has proven to be the ultimate team player and would likely accept a new role even if it means playing less.
Mills is valued just as much for his leadership and culture-setting as his on-court production. San Antonio would almost certainly rather keep him for remainder of his contract.
Verdict: Not Expendable
Aldridge hasn’t been quite as good as his two previous All-Star seasons. That said, he has held up remarkably well for a 34-year-old. Averaging 18.8 points per game, 7.5 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 39.2% on 2.9 three-pointers, it’s clear that he still has something left to give.
Aldridge is under contract next season and could hold value to the Spurs on the court or as an asset. They were reportedly listening to offers prior to the trade deadline, however their asking price was deemed too high.
San Antonio isn’t likely to get its next star by trading Aldridge, however they could receive a first round pick in return. Teams should still have interest, specifically the Miami Heat, who reportedly targeted him earlier this season.
There has also been talk about Aldridge eventually returning to the Portland Trail Blazers. Adding Aldridge to a core Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic could be enough to put them back into contention.
Aldridge returning to the Spurs next season isn’t out of the realm of possibility. San Antonio will likely want to remain competitive, even if they are destined to be a lottery team again. Even at 35, Aldridge is likely to be a top-flight starter in the league.
Verdict: Expendable if the Price is Right
The Spurs should strongly consider moving on from several of their veterans and relying more on the younger players on the roster next season. The decision to tear it down is not an easy one but, if San Antonio chooses to go in a new direction, many of their vets suddenly become more expendable than ever.