How the Pandemic May Have Altered Free Agency Plans for the Spurs

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all aspects of life, with the NBA and the San Antonio Spurs being no different. The season has been suspended and there is uncertainty surrounding its possible return. 

As a result of the suspension in play, the salary cap could see an unprecedented reduction of between $8 million and $15 million. Teams are expected to lose tens of millions of dollars in revenue. The NBA as a whole could lose $1 billion.

Unless the NBA world figures out a way to make up that lost money, the financial ramifications will drastically affect free agency and the decision-making process of all the teams. Let’s take a look at how the current situation could impact the Spurs specifically.

Does DeMar DeRozan Have a Future with the Spurs?

According to recent reports, DeMar DeRozan is unhappy in San Antonio. In fact, he was also reportedly willing to opt-out of his contract unless the Spurs gave him an extension. However, with the season suspended, it’s very likely that he’s strongly reconsidering turning down his $27.7 million dollar player option — even if he is legitimately unhappy in South Texas.

Still, DeRozan’s return to the Spurs is far from certain. His fit with the Spurs remains an issue. Despite his impressive individual production, San Antonio hasn’t been able to translate the production into team success.

DeRozan could opt-in and work with the Spurs to find a suitable trade. Another option is that he could still opt-out — but only with the assurance that he’ll receive similar money from a new team. The New York Knicks could have interest in DeRozan and will have the ability to create enough cap room to sign him in the offseason.

Considering DeRozan was the centerpiece of the Kawhi Leonard deal, it could be difficult to lose him for nothing. Then again, without DeRozan, San Antonio can officially start their rebuild. Players such as Walker and Keldon Johnson could potentially flourish with a significant increase in minutes. Other players, like Dejounte Murray and Derrick White, could benefit by having a chance to run the offense more often.

The Spurs were on pace to win just 35 games before the season was interrupted. The break in play could give the Spurs time to reassess the outlook of the team and possibly change course — a course that may not include DeRozan on the team. 

Bargain Shopping with Jakob Poeltl

With a drastically lowered salary cap, this offseason will almost certainly be the worst possible time to be a restricted free agent. Unfortunately for Jakob Poeltl, he will be a restricted free agent.

Only a handful of teams were expected to have enough cap space to even seriously pursue restricted free agents — even before the pandemic. Factor in a cap reduction along with the fact that centers aren’t nearly as valuable as they once were and it seems highly unlikely that Poeltl will get a big offer in free agency.

This turn of events is obviously unfortunate for Poeltl, who has emerged as one of the NBA’s best backup centers, but possibly great for the Spurs. San Antonio could have significant leverage in contract discussions with the Austrian big man.

Without a compelling offer on the table, he could have little choice other than to return to San Antonio. Ultimately, the Spurs may be able to re-sign a starting caliber center in Poeltl to a very team-friendly deal.

Why Trey Lyles is Likely to Return to the Spurs

Despite being the Spurs fallback option after the Marcus Morris debacle, Trey Lyles had a surprisingly large role this season. Averaging 6.4 points, 5.7 rebounds and shooting 38.7% from three-point range, Lyles provided the Silver and Black with capable minutes at power forward.

Lyles played his best basketball of the season after the All-Star break. In the six games prior to the season being suspended, he averaged 15.3 points and his confidence was soaring.

Lyles’ team option of $5.5 million seems very likely to be picked up by the Spurs. Still only 24 years old, it’s quite possible that he could improve next season, which makes his signing look much better in retrospect.

That said, it remains to be seen whether Lyles is in the Spurs long-term plans. In the meantime, he should continue to provide San Antonio with a solid and relatively cheap stopgap option at power forward.

Will San Antonio Stick with Bryn Forbes?

After a breakout season last year, Bryn Forbes has struggled to replicate his success this season. His three-point shooting dipped, while his poor defense was a major reason why San Antonio is ineffective on that end of the court.

Despite his flaws, Forbes has become entrenched as a starter, leaving open the possibility of his return. Given his exemplary work ethic and his popularity with the coaching staff, the Spurs could always bring him back.

Forbes’ down season has likely done little to attract much interest from suitors. As a result, it’s definitely possible that he could be retained on a short-term deal for around his current salary.

Then again, Lonnie Walker IV will be entering his third season and is likely to have a much bigger role. Walker has also flashed a two-way ceiling that Forbes simply can’t reach. For that reason, it’s possible that the Spurs may let Forbes leave in free agency with the intention of starting Walker in his place next season.  

Ciao, Marco Belinelli

It’s fair to say Marco Belinelli has had an especially bad season. His shooting touch abandoned him for long stretches, making him virtually unplayable, especially when factoring in his awful defense.

Despite that, he still had a consistent role on the team — to the team’s detriment. Belinelli doesn’t appear to have much left in the tank and San Antonio would be wise to let him walk in free agency. With younger and better options already on the team, the Italian likely won’t be missed.