The offseason for the San Antonio Spurs had been productive and refreshingly calm. The rookies were playing well in summer league and the Spurs had completed salary cap gymnastics to acquire both DeMarre Carroll and Marcus Morris. Unfortunately, San Antonio’s calm has been replaced by trepidation after it was revealed that Morris may change his mind and instead sign with the New York Knicks.
It’s not unheard of for NBA free agents to change their mind after verbally committing to a franchise. However, this is different. To create the money needed to pay Morris, the Spurs traded away Davis Bertans to the Washington Wizards. If Morris reneges on the deal with San Antonio, it’s too late to reverse the Bertans trade.
The Spurs offer to Morris was reportedly $20 million over two years, with the second season a player option. After free agent signing Reggie Bullock apparently failed a physical, the Knicks suddenly have approximately $15 million to throw at Morris.
Reports indicate that the Spurs and Morris are still attempting to work toward a deal — and there is even said to be optimism on that front. However, the Spurs are also said to be contacting other forwards in case Morris ultimately decides to take the $5-6 million extra next season and go to New York.
If Morris goes back on his word, the Spurs will have approximately $9.2 million to spend in free agency due to retaining their mid-level exception after acquiring Carroll as part of the Bertans trade.
Who would the Spurs target with the $9.2 million? Most every free agent of value is already off the market. However, there are still a few options.
Trey Lyles To The Spurs? Why It Makes Some Sense
At the beginning of the free agency period, Trey Lyles was a Denver Nuggets restricted free agent. However, the Nuggets have since allowed Lyles to become unrestricted, so he’s free and clear to sign with another NBA team.
While Morris a combo forward, the 6-foot-10, 235-pound Lyles is strictly a power forward. And while Morris is a finished product, the 23-year-old Lyles is still a project.
Last season, Lyles struggled with injuries and was eventually dropped from Denver’s deep and talented rotation. But if you look at his stats from two years ago and compare them to Morris’ numbers last year for the Boston Celtics, the two players look strikingly similar on a per 100 possessions basis.
Obviously, Lyles doesn’t have much of a track record and he lacks the defensive flexibility and the toughness Morris would provide, but he’s an interesting prospect in his own regard. In fact, he’s some I highlighted prior to the start of free agency.
Why has the market dried up on Lyles? Last season, he hit only 25.5% of his three-pointers. A stretch big who may not be able to stretch the floor is not a priority signing. That said, if he bounces back and regains his production rate from the prior season, he’d be very valuable — especially factoring in his age and corresponding upside.
One rather large caveat: Lyles is represented by Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, the very same group that represents Morris. If Morris burns the Spurs, it’s questionable — to say the least — whether San Antonio would turn around and make a deal with another one of Paul’s clients.
Justin Holiday Plan B For The Spurs?
While Justin Holiday is only 6-foot-6 and 180 pounds, a majority of his minutes last season were spent at small forward. He’s an active defender who shoots a lot of threes. Unfortunately, the career percentages for the 30-year-old leave a lot to be desired: 34.9% on threes, 43.9% on twos.
The fact that he’s a bulk three-point shooter helps keep his efficiency out of the gutter. Holiday shot 8.8 threes last season per 100 possessions, the same exact rate as Bryn Forbes.
Last season, which he split between the Chicago Bulls and Memphis Grizzlies, advanced stats graded Holiday as a poor defender. However, the two previous seasons, he was safely above average — so the hope would be that his struggles last season were due primarily to his lottery-bound surroundings.
Holiday, like Lyles, isn’t worth the entire $9.2 million MLE. However, if the Spurs want small forward depth in the form of a three-point shooter with a history of being an adequate defender, Holiday is worth a look.
Switcharoo: Reggie Bullock Signs With Spurs?
An issue is said to have popped up during Reggie Bullock’s physical with the Knicks and reports say New York isn’t confident about his ability to play all 82 games next season. Even if Bullock might miss the beginning of the season, he’s someone who the Spurs could decide to sign. The result would be an unofficial swap of Morris for Bullock.
Prior to the supposed health issue, Bullock was prepared to sign a two-year, $21 million deal with the Knicks — and that’s almost exactly what the Spurs are offering Morris. It’d make sense for Bullock to have to take a few million dollars less if the injury concerns are legitimate.
The 6-foot-7, 205-pound Bullock is basically a bigger, better version of Holiday. He’s a 39.2% career three-point shooter who hoisted 10.1 threes per 100 possessions last season. A decently active defender, advanced stats say Bullock is somewhere in the neighborhood of average on that end of the court.
If the Spurs sign Bullock, he’d help space the court and provide some of the shooting they lost with the Bertans trade. If they can land him for $15-16 million over two seasons, that’d be a relative bargain.
Should The Spurs Wait For Andre Iguodala?
The Spurs have coveted Andre Iguodala over the years and aggressively tried to sign him the last time he was a free agent. Currently a member of the Grizzlies after being salary dumped by the Golden State Warriors, Iguodala might be bought out and allowed to become a free agent.
The 35-year-old is still a top-flight defensive player with a knack for hitting pressure shots. To say he’s a proven playoff performer would be an understatement. Offensively, he’s slowing down — but he’s still an elite passer for a wing who plays with a fantastic feel for the game.
If Morris opts for the Knicks, the Spurs could opt to sit on their MLE in hopes of Iguodala becoming available. At that point, San Antonio would have more money to throw at him than any team in the league, most likely.
There’s risk, however. The Grizzlies want to trade Iguodala in order to receive an asset in exchange. According to reports, Memphis doesn’t plan to consider a contract buyout before the start of the regular season.
If the Spurs wait for Iguodala, they risk him never becoming available. And even if he does become available, there’s no guarantee he’d sign with the Spurs over a championship-favorite like the Los Angeles Clippers or their cotenants at the Staples Center.