The first day of the 2019 NBA free agent bonanza ended up being a busy one for the San Antonio Spurs. While the Spurs didn’t do anything too surprising, San Antonio has to be pleased with how things have shaken out thus far in free agency.
Spurs Re-sign Rudy Gay
The Spurs were able to bring back Rudy Gay on a two-year contract. According to a tweet by Shams Charania of The Athletic, Gay will make $32 million over the life on the deal. According to a source with direct knowledge of the contract, the actual dollar amount is closer to $36 million.
Regardless of if it’s $32 million or $36 million, it really doesn’t matter. Either way, the Spurs aren’t in danger of bumping into the luxury tax threshold. As things stand, cap room isn’t realistically achievable until after the 2020-21 season, so the specifics of Gay’s bank account don’t matter much at all.
In fact, the Spurs wouldn’t have opened even a single extra dollar by letting Gay walk. It was literally either sign him or lose him for nothing.
What mattered was the fact that it was only a two-year contract. That keeps Gay on the same timeline with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan, while keeping open the possibility of a massive windfall of cap space in the summer of 2021.
Gay, who will be 33 when next season begins, is coming off of a quietly outstanding campaign. A player known for being an inefficient scorer during his prime has turned himself into one of the most efficient players in the NBA. Last season, he set career-highs in two-point percentage, three-point percentage and rebounding rate.
On a per 100 possessions basis, Gay tallied 25.1 points, 12.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Only nine players in the entire NBA matched Gay’s production rate in each category: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Karl-Anthony Towns, Russell Westbrook, Nikola Vucevic, Julius Randle, Jusuf Nurkic and Domantas Sabonis. That is, obviously, impressive company.
If he can stay reasonably healthy, the Spurs should get good value out of their investment, whether it’s $32 million, $36 million or any dollar figure in between.
Spurs Sign DeMarre Carroll In Free Agency
The Spurs signed DeMarre Carroll to a two-year contract believed to be worth $12-13 million. At first blush, it’s a rather ho-hum transaction. However, signing Carroll does check a lot of boxes.
Firstly, giving him a two-year deal fits the timeline. Someone like Al-Farouq Aminu is arguably better, but he ended up getting a three-year contract worth $29 million. With the summer of 2021 in mind, Carroll is a better fit.
Even in the short-term, there’s a lot to like about the combo forward out of Missouri. While he first carved a niche in the NBA as a hardworking, ever-hustling defender, he has actually become a very capable offensive player in his later years.
Last season, Carroll scored 20.8 points per 100 possessions. To compare, that’s more than Bryn Forbes and equal to Patty Mills, a player whose main job it is to provide instant offense off the bench. Carroll shot 8.8 three-pointers per 100 possessions, a rate nearly identical to Forbes.
Carroll is a career 38.9% three-point shooter from the corners. Expect him to spend plenty of time there, particularly when he’s at power forward. Doing so should help spread the court and make penetration easier for the slashers.
On defense, Carroll isn’t what he used to be but he’s still prideful on that end. He can defend both forward positions and there remain flashes of brilliance. While his age will show at times, his energy as a three and his mobility as a four will help the cause.
The only downside to the Carroll signing is it eliminates the chances of the Spurs doing something more exciting with their mid-level exception. San Antonio could have signed a high-risk, high-reward option with the MLE who could have even become part of the young core. But, then again, the Spurs don’t lack young players who desperately need minutes.
The best case scenario is Carroll undergoes a Gay-like transformation and increases his efficiency on offense and turns back the clock a few years on defense. But even if he simply plays at the same level as last season, he’ll provide enough value to justify his contract — a contract that fits the books perfectly.
Not Extending DeMar DeRozan
One thing the Spurs didn’t do on the first day of free agency: give DeRozan a contract extension. He’s currently eligible for an extension worth $149.1 million over four years.
As discussed, the option that makes the most sense for the Spurs is to sit tight. Sure, DeRozan could opt out after this upcoming season, however that’s a risk worth taking. A year from now, San Antonio will have a much better handle on his long-term value to the team.
In the meantime, as the dominoes fall in free agency, it appears as if DeRozan’s trade value could be rising. What happens if Kawhi Leonard re-signs with the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks are still wanting to make a splash? I’d imagine those teams would have to at least call the Spurs to check on whether DeRozan is available.
Should the Spurs trade DeRozan? That has become more difficult to justify due to all the free agent signings that have already taken place. For example, the Spurs shouldn’t salary dump him now because that no longer makes sense. Not only have they added salary to their books, many of their potential free agent targets are gone. To trade DeRozan, the Spurs would now require what they perceive as equal value in return.
As it stands, a DeRozan trade still looks unlikely. But never underestimate how desperate big market teams can be after they strikeout in free agency. We shall see. There might just be some more action ahead.