On Thursday afternoon, NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents. The San Antonio Spurs are one of the few teams in the league that is capable of creating a sizable amount of room under the cap. As a result, free agency is expected to be an extremely busy time for the Spurs — even if they aren’t currently linked to any of the marquee names.
1) Although the Spurs are entering free agency with the ability to open more than $30 million in cap space, the Dejounte Murray trade talks are understandably front and center. According to a source, John Collins is back in one of the deals being offered by the Atlanta Hawks. It’s unclear if Collins would be headed to the Spurs or to a third team.
2) On Monday, Atlanta’s proposed trade featured Danilo Gallinari and a slew of draft picks. The aforementioned source says Gallinari’s inclusion in the trade “hit a snag.” The Gallinari-centric trade isn’t dead but Collins has been added to the talks to provide an alternate option.
3) Gallinari’s contract becomes fully guaranteed if he’s not waived by the Hawks today. However, there are media reports that the Hawks and Gallinari may agree to push back the date.
4) The Spurs need to decide today whether to extend a qualifying offer to Lonnie Walker IV. If San Antonio does, the qualifying offer will take a big chunk out of their cap space but it will make Walker a restricted free agent. If the Spurs don’t give Walker a qualifying offer, he’d become an unrestricted free agent.
5) Scouts I talked to believe that Walker won’t return to the Spurs. In the draft, San Antonio selected Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley — two players who project to play a similar role to Walker. While Walker exhibited positive flashes at times last season, scouts say the Spurs are very likely to let him walk — or deal him in a sign-and-trade.
6) If the Spurs have $30-plus million to spend in free agency, who do they plan on spending it on? Nobody I’ve talked to has a clue. I’m told that the Spurs aren’t pursuing Jalen Brunson, Miles Bridges, Anfernee Simons or Mitchell Robinson — so that narrows it down a bit. But, amazingly, there are no rumblings regarding who the Spurs are actually targeting.
7) The Spurs going after Zach LaVine makes a lot of sense but he’s expected to re-sign with the Chicago Bulls. That said, if Murray isn’t traded and the Bulls fumble their chance to lock up LaVine by offering a max contract, the Spurs could try to swoop in.
8) Will the Spurs try to sign Deandre Ayton? I wouldn’t bet on it. While I haven’t heard anything concrete, Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams played for Gregg Popovich, began his coaching career as a coaching staff intern for the Spurs and also spent time in San Antonio’s front office. If Williams isn’t clamoring for Ayton to return to a Suns squad with championship aspirations, that non-endorsement will be heard loud and clear by the Spurs.
9) While the vast majority of the scouts I talked to agree that Ayton to the Spurs is a long-shot, one scout was more optimistic.
“If Ayton is there for the taking and the Spurs have the money, I bet they offer him the max and then figure out the rest later if they end up getting him,” he said.
10) Why are the Spurs so quiet? It’s hard to say. Perhaps they’re focused on figuring out Murray’s future. Perhaps they’re targeting a restricted free agent and the Spurs don’t want to tip their hand. Perhaps they’re simply taking a wait and see approach to free agency.
11) If the Spurs aren’t active in the free agent market, expect them to do what they did last summer: make trades in which they absorb unwanted contracts in return for draft picks. That worked out really well last offseason so it’s possible that the Spurs want to travel down that path once again.