By Mike Misek
2010/11 San Antonio Spurs Payroll: $66 million
2010/11 NBA Salary Cap: $56.1 million
Roughly: $9.9 million over cap
Richard Jefferson – ETO for $15.2 million
Roger Mason – Unrestricted Free Agent
Matt Bonner – Unrestricted Free Agent
Ian Mahinmi – Unrestricted Free Agent
Keith Bogans – Unrestricted Free Agent
Malik Hairston – Non-guaranteed Team Option for $854K
Garrett Temple – Non-guaranteed Team Option for $762K
Alonzo Gee – Non-guaranteed Team Option for $762K
Curtis Jerrells – Non-guaranteed Team Option for $762K
Tiago Splitter – Rights retained, $863K cap hold. Splitter’s contract with Caja Laboral expires at the end of this season.
Nando De Colo – Rights retained
Viktor Sanikidze – Rights retained
Draft Picks – 20th pick and 49th pick.
The Good: The reason that the first round upset over Dallas should have been a surprise to no one is that the Mavericks are built for the regular season whereas the Spurs are built for the playoffs. This is not a cliché comment, but is reflective of San Antonio investing heavily in their top seven and less so in the back half and Dallas spending much more on 8-15. Over an 82-game regular season, the Mavericks have a much greater ability to absorb the bumps and bruises of long road trips and back-to-backs. San Antonio lost more than a few games this past season because they do not have the depth to best prepare their stars for the playoffs while also winning the next game. While they finished with the same record as Portland and Oklahoma City, those teams had to battle to get to 50 wins while San Antonio gave a few away. In the first round series, however, there were no back-to-backs and the number of minutes given to ninth to fifteenth men on the roster was microscopic. The series was decided because the core of San Antonio is still better than that of Dallas.
The Bad: The worry going forward, however, is it is getting more and more difficult to get Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker through the regular season and keep them healthy throughout the playoffs. It is not a guarantee that Hill, Splitter, Blair, and a first round pick will be able to carry enough weight to get the team through the regular season in one piece, and how the team handles this offseason will go a long way in determining whether the 2011 Spurs resemble the 2010 playoff team or the battered and bruised squad of 2009. It is still not certain whether the George Hill seen in the Dallas series is the same guy as the one who showed up against Phoenix. DeJuan Blair can be nothing short of great in the right matchup, but when facing length and/or athleticism can be taken out of the game.
The Future: If Richard Jefferson opts in and the Spurs choose to keep their sub-million dollar restricted free agents in the mix, San Antonio will enter the summer over both the salary cap and the luxury tax for only twelve players. For the team to sign Tiago Splitter, they will have to use their mid-level exception pushing them even further into the tax. The Spurs can afford to operate in the tax if they go deep into the playoffs and have multiple rounds worth of playoff gates to offset the tax. The problem will come if they go too far above the tax threshold of $67.1 million. The team might end up finding that replacing Matt Bonner, Roger Mason, and Keith Bogans with veteran minimum signings or rookies to be the best option to balance both the needed talent to compete and the budget. Trading Tony Parker would be doing the unthinkable, but if they received enough talent in return it might be a viable option. It would certainly go a long way to alleviating the tax burden. The worry, however, is that if George Hill is not ready to play as consistently well as Parker has, then the deal could kill any chance the Spurs have left of competing. I do not believe the Spurs would take that risk, but the budget may force the team into making a few interesting decisions this summer.