San Antonio Spurs: Going cheap will come back to bite
With the Western Conference getting stronger, are the San Antonio Spurs set to be left behind?
It seems every year we talk about how the San Antonio Spurs will finally fall off the plank and into the abyss. Yet, Gregg Popovich still finds a way to get the Spurs to over 60 wins and contending for the title.
However, this season may bring a lot more uncertainty for San Antonio. Their questionable off-season dealings could see the ball club completely left behind in what is an extremely strong Western Conference. We take a look at some of the questionable deals that could see the five-time NBA Champions fall further behind the Golden State Warriors.
Signing Patty Mills instead of George Hill
The 28-year-old Australian will be staying with the Spurs, after signing a four-year deal worth $50 million. Mills has been an excellent option for the Spurs off the bench and averaged 9.5 points per game at 44% from the field and 41.4% from downtown last season. But Mills is really a bench option and with the depleting production of Tony Parker, it would’ve made more sense to bring George Hill back to the River City.
Last season, Hill was big time in Utah, where he averaged career highs in points (16.9) and field goal percentage (.477) in 49 regular season outings for the Jazz. His season was riddled with injuries, which may have persuaded the Spurs to skip on Hill for Mills. The 31-year-old instead joined the Sacramento Kings on a three-year, $57-million deal, and will likely help turn that franchise around whilst helping to develop the likes of young guards De’Aaron Fox and Frank Mason.
San Antonio could have easily brought in a strong offensive point guard who could take the reins from Tony Parker. But the club’s decision to keep Mills at a cheaper salary, as well as relying on the likes of Bryn Forbes and Dejounte Murray, isn’t as likely to produce the desired results.
Letting Jonathon Simmons walk
The story of Jonathon Simmons is extraordinary. It started with the Sugar Land Legends in the American Basketball League where in 16 games Simmons averaged 36.5 points per game. Then Simmons tried out for the Austin Toros a year later and eventually made his way onto the roster where he helped the side to the Western Conference finals of the D-League.
In 2015, Simmons played for the Brooklyn Nets in Orlando Summer League before joining the Spurs in Las Vegas. Simmons signed with the Spurs on a one-year deal and made his NBA debut against Philadelphia. The forward showed he was a high energy player and is reliable on the defensive end which saw him earn more minutes the following season. Last year with San Antonio, Simmons managed 78 games in the regular season and played a major part in the Spurs’ postseason push, where he averaged 10.5 points per game, which was a career high.
San Antonio gave Simmons a qualifying offer of $1.6 million before the offer was rescinded, making Simmons an unrestricted free agent. Days later, Simmons joined Orlando on a three-year deal worth $18 million. It seems unusual that the Spurs would pass on Simmons, who is an excellent defender and provides plenty of energy off the bench.
Bringing in injury-prone Rudy Gay
With the Spurs allowing Jonathon Simmons to leave for Orlando, GM R. C. Buford needed another wing to improve the club’s depth. Enter Rudy Gay, formerly of the Sacramento Kings, on a two-year $17 million deal with the second year a player option. Last season, Gay played only 30 games after he ruptured his Achilles, but the forward out of Connecticut still put up a respectable 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.
Gay can provide some much-needed depth but if two of your best seven players are prone to get hurt, it will prove problematic throughout the season. Throughout his NBA career, Gay has never played an entire season and if the Spurs can’t count on the services of their new forward it doesn’t bode well as they challenge for the title.
The Spurs haven’t had the greatest offseason as teams around them have become increasingly stronger. Houston and, perhaps, Oklahoma City can throw themselves into the ring to challenge Golden State, but the humble and crafty Spurs have slipped away from the chasing pack. Indeed, the Spurs could still post over 50 wins and make the playoffs, but they are likely to finish as a fourth seed – rather than first or second in the Western Conference next season.
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