Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Projection: The 2010-11 San Antonio Spurs

The 2009-10 NBA season is over and the NBA draft is in the books, now it’s time to focus our attention on the annual NBA free agency buffet with one caveat: this year’s buffet features filet mignon with the superstar trio of Lebron James, Dewayne Wade and Chris Bosh headlining the menu. Every NBA franchise should be lining up to partake of this wondrous bounty of talent, right? Wrong. Unfortunately, looming in the back drop of this year’s free agency market are two storm clouds, the financial restrictions placed on owners brought about by the current recession and the pending Collective Bargaining Agreement that has the potential of stalling the NBA season altogether just as it did with the 1998-99 lockout.
With so much uncertainly, it pays to have your major pieces locked into an existing contract and is even more beneficial if the majority of your roster is intact before the free agent market opens on July 1. This brings us to the San Antonio Spurs and its roster projection for 2010. Last year, the Spurs made the biggest splash in free agency by signing Antonio McDyess and acquiring Richard Jefferson through trade. They effectively used up their cap space originally earmarked for this summer one year earlier. While the end result wasn’t another championship title or even a conference finals appearance, the long-term wisdom by their decision to use the cap space in 2009 should not go unnoticed.
Consider this, the Spurs will enter the 2010-11 season with the same starting five and two primary reserves (Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, Richard Jefferson, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Dujuan Blair and George Hill). This line-up was key in their surprising first round victory over their instate rival, the Dallas Mavericks. One should expect for this core to play better in 2010 after one year of on-the-job training and another summer camp. Also under contract are two young wing players (Alonzo Gee and Malik Hairston) who have spent several years learning the Spurs system as players for the D-league team the Austin Toros. This gives the Spurs nine players under contract prior to the start of free agency. Most teams do not play more than an eight or nine man rotation during the course of the regular season. Nevertheless we should expect the Spurs to carry anywhere from the league minimum of 12 players to the maximum of 15.
Who might the Spurs target to fill out their roster and what effect could they have on the team? The primary target of the Spurs this summer is their 2007 1st round draft pick, Tiago Splitter.(Video: In 2007 Splitter chose to remain in his native country of Spain and play international basketball over the NBA. However the Spurs still retained his draft rights. Now there are clear indicators that Splitter will choose to opt out of his current contract in favor of playing in the NBA. Shortly after July 1, we should know if Tiago Splitter will be the 10th player added to the Spurs roster. Splitter would bring much needed size and athleticism to the aging frontcourt of the San Antonio Spurs. With the 20th overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Spurs acquired another wing player with the selection of James Anderson. Anderson will bring another scoring option to the team. He averaged 22 points last season with Oklahoma State and at 6’.6”, he should be a suitable replacement for Roger Mason at a third of the cost.
As previously mentioned, many teams will be hampered in their quest for free agents due to financial restraints; the Spurs are not exempt. In fact with nine players already under contract, San Antonio exceeds the projected salary cap of $56 million and are close to the projected luxury tax threshold of $68 million, which means every player starting with Tiago Splitter and James Anderson will cost the team a dollar for dollar per contract. The Spurs will take advantage of 3 exceptions (Mid-Level, Bi-Annual and Minimum Salary exception) to fill out their roster. San Antonio will most likely use the MLE to sign Tiago Splitter. Expect them to target another shooter like Mike Miller or Kyle Korver with their BAE. Of course they might just decide to use it on Matt Bonner which would eliminate the learning curve the aforementioned players would experience. By signing any of these three outstanding sharpshooters the Spurs would bring their roster to 12. They could play the majority of the regular season with 12 players under contract in order to keep the cost down but more than likely they will fill the seats at the end of the bench with a revolving door of players from their D-League affiliate team.
The San Antonio Spurs are going into the new season as they left it, with their major parts intact. They will attempt to fill various holes by way of draft picks and various exceptions. Will it be enough to give Tim Duncan and company one last shot at glory? Time will tell.

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