Spurs Free Agency Day 1 Grades: Tre Jones, Julian Champagnie Stay in San Antonio

The San Antonio Spurs entered free agency with more than $30 million to spend. While they didn’t make a move for a player from another team, the Spurs successfully re-signed two of their own free agents: Tre Jones and Julian Champagnie. 

Last season, Jones started 65 games at point guard for the Spurs and finished the season with averages of 12.9 points, 6.6 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.3 steals. Champagnie, who was claimed off waivers on February 16th, played very well in 15 games with San Antonio. The 22-year-old averaged 11.0 points and shot 55.3% from two-point range, 40.7% from three-point range and 82.4% at the free throw line. 

Spurs Sign Tre Jones to a Two-Year, $20 Million Contract

This contract wasn’t exactly a surprise. In fact, the Spurs gave Tre Jones exactly what I estimated:

“I expect Jones to re-sign. A four-year, $40 million contract or a two-year, $20 million contract sounds about right.”

From San Antonio’s point of view, this was a very good outcome — and it’s an outcome head coach Gregg Popovich all but demanded from the front office. While Jones is probably not a long-term starter, he’s by far the best point guard the Spurs have right now. His low-mistake, team-first approach to the game will help those around him grow. 

Specifically, Jones is an ideal point guard to run next to Victor Wembanyama during the early parts of Wembanyama’s career. Jones will ensure everything is run in an orderly fashion while taking a minimal amount of touches and shots away from the French phenom. 

From Jones’ perspective, he has to be happy. The former second round pick got paid like a top of the line backup point guard. If he surprises and is able to prove he’s good enough to be San Antonio’s starter going forward, Jones will be able to cash with a major raise two years from now at the age of 25.

All in all, everyone wins with this contract. Getting it over and done with on the first day of free agency is also a win for both sides.

Grade: A

Spurs Sign Julian Champagnie to a Four-Year, $12 Million Contract

This was a bit of a surprise but it makes sense. Champagnie played really well in his 15 games with the Spurs. He seemed to get better and better with each passing game. His shooting stroke looked legitimate, he was more athletic than advertised and defended better than expected.

Apparently, Champagnie continued to impress during the offseason because the Spurs decided to keep him around for the long haul. If he continues to perform as well as he played last season, this will look like a great contract in hindsight. Importantly, the fourth season is a team option, which gives the Spurs an out if Champagnie takes a step backward.

The only possible critique is that the Spurs rewarded Champagnie for what was a tiny sample size. He shot better with the Spurs than he ever did in college or at the G League level. If his shooting cools off, it’ll be difficult for Champagnie to stay on the court.

But, overall, I’m pleased. Three million per season is a very small amount in today’s NBA landscape. Champagnie doesn’t have to do much at all to earn that money. Locking him in for four years goes down as a low-risk, medium-to-high-reward move by the Silver and Black.

Grade: A-

Raptors Sign Jakob Poeltl to a Four-Year, $80 Million Contract

Anyone who has been reading articles on SpursTalk over the last year should be very familiar with the idea of Poeltl landing a four-year, $80 million contract. It’s the exact contract I’ve linked to Poeltl since the beginning of last season.

“According to a source close to the team, there are whispers that Poeltl is not going to accept anything less than $80 million over four years this summer.”

“Whispers around the league indicate that Poeltl’s agent is very confident that his client will get at least $80 million over four years in free agency.”

For the past year, his camp has been telling anyone who will listen that the bidding for Poeltl starts at four years and $80 million.” 

So, yeah, Poeltl’s free agency played out as expected. Everyone I talked to around Poeltl knew this contract was going to be available to him. The only question today was whether the Spurs would offer him more to try to steal him back from the Raptors. According to a source, San Antonio contacted Poeltl but wasn’t willing to exceed Toronto’s $80 million offer.

I believe that was the right decision. Poeltl is really good and would have fit well next to Wembanyama but I didn’t see a need to throw a hugely lucrative offer at him. Zach Collins also fits next to Wembanyama — and might fit even better due to him being able to spread the court with his three-point shot.

Grade: A (For not succumbing to the urge to overpay Poeltl.)

Suns Sign Keita Bates-Diop to a Two-Year, $5 Million Contract

After three seasons with the Spurs, Bates-Diop is off to a new team. The 27-year-old got a two-year, $5 million deal to join Devin Booker, Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Deandre Ayton and the rest of the Suns. Reports indicate that Bates-Diop will be given a chance to become the team’s fifth starter, which obviously could turn out to be a lucrative proposition if he flourishes in that role.

The Spurs can’t be too sad to see Bates-Diop leave because there just wasn’t much playing time available for him anymore. Wembanyama and Jeremy Sochan will eat up most of the power forward minutes, which would have left Bates-Diop to fight for a couple minutes here and a few minutes there.

With the Suns, Bates-Diop will get at least $5 million and should step into an important role on a contending team. Congrats to him.

Grade: A (Letting KBD go was the right move.)

Where the Spurs Stand in Free Agency Heading Into Day 2

The Spurs still have somewhere around $30 million in cap space, which is more than any team in the league. Considering that the Spurs must reach the salary floor, what’s San Antonio’s plan for the rest of the summer?

Well, there’s still some big fish out there. Brook Lopez hasn’t signed anywhere yet and he’d be a great fit next to Wembanyama. Restricted free agent Austin Reaves is still looking for a contract and the Spurs could help him out by offering him $100 million over four years — if only to force the Lakers to match. 

If the Spurs want to hand out one-year contracts, useful players like Miles Plumlee and Jalen McDaniels are available. 

San Antonio could also add salary via trade. One rumor today had the Spurs acquiring Cedi Osman from the Cleveland Cavaliers. The one year and $6.7 million left on Osman’s contract would be helpful with regard to reaching the salary floor. 

Additionally, the Spurs could opt to give Sandro Mamukelashvili a contract similar to the one Champagnie got. Mamukelashvili wasn’t given a qualifying offer by the Spurs so he’s an unrestricted free agent, however San Antonio can still easily bring him back if they want to.

Day 1 was a success for the Spurs. Let’s see what they have in store for us as the free agency period continues to unfold.