NBA Power Rankings: 3 Weeks In

This is the first in-season NBA power rankings for Around the Block. We are about an 8th of the way through the season, with every team playing between 9-11 games so far. The season has gotten off to a great start, with rookies making their mark, former dynasties looking revamped and a wide-open race to the finals. There have been surprises all over the league, good and bad. Here is the first look at where all 30 teams stack up thus far.

nba power rankings
Credit: The Guardian

1) Golden State Warriors

Record: 9-1

Before the season I wrote about my favorite over-under bets for the NBA season. My number one pick was the Warriors to go over, and so far that looks like a fantastic bet. The Warriors have jumped out to hot start, with the best record in the league at 8-1. The Warriors have the league’s best defensive rating, along with the current MVP front runner in Stephen Curry. They are doing all this without last year’s 2nd overall pick James Wiseman and the imminent return of Klay Thompson. This team should only get better. I expect them to be near the top of these rankings all season long.

2) Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 8-3

Without patting myself on the back too much, I also had the 76ers beating their projected win total. Even with the ongoing Ben Simmons drama, and missing some of their key players due to Covid. The Sixers have picked up where they left off last regular season, dominating the east. Joel Embiid has produced at the same level we have seen the past four seasons. The emergence of Seth Curry has been one of the bright spots for this team. Curry currently is 3rd in true shooting percentage league-wide. A stat historically dominated by bigs who take the majority of their shots within 5 feet of the basket. While the shooting numbers are unsustainable, the Sixers will be able to keep pace once they get some key players back and sort out of the Simmons situation.

Update: This was written prior to the news of Joel Embiid being put into health and safety protocol for a minimum of 10 days

3) Brooklyn Nets

Record: 7-4

Another team with a lot of drama surrounding, the Nets took a couple games to return to form; specifically James Harden. The Nets can compete with any team in the league when Harden is playing as he did in Toronto. The Nets are getting valuable minutes from their veterans, they are one of the best in the league and they are doing this all without one of the top 20 players in the league. The Kyrie situation currently doesn’t have any end in sight, but there are rumors New York could change its vaccine stance which would allow Irving to rejoin the team without major repercussions. The Nets will continue to win games as long as they have two of their three stars in action, and a supporting cast that perfectly suits the big 3.

4) Miami Heat

Record: 7-3

The Heat were on top of many power rankings before to their brutal loss to the Celtics. Miami has come out guns blazing and the way the game is being officiated has given an advantage to physical defense, Miami’s specialty. One of my favorite parts of the early season is members of the media talking about Kyle Lowry’s defense, shooting, and play-making. Essentially admitting they didn’t watch any of Kyle in Toronto, as he continues to be the same All-Star caliber player. Combined with the re-emergence of Tyler Herro’s scoring ability, the Heat are built for a playoff run.

5) Utah Jazz

Record: 7-3

The Jazz continue to dominate in the regular season, where Rudy Gobert shines as the front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year once again. Two of the three Jazz losses have come without Mike Conley, a great sign for the Conley-Mitchell backcourt. The Jazz have a deep rotation with the ability to cover any injury setbacks. The real issues start in the playoffs where teams go small to pull Gobert away from the basket. For the time being the Jazz are one of the best in the west, especially when Conley is at full health.

6) Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 4-6

The Bucks currently sit in the final spot for the eastern play-in game, of course, it is only 10 games in but things have broken wrong for Milwaukee. Jrue Holiday missed 5 games, Brook Lopez hasn’t played since opening night and Khris Middleton continues to be in health and safety protocol due to Covid. The defending champs are off to their worst start since the 2017-2018 season, but this roster when fully healthy is a top 5 team in the league. Giannis Antetokounmpo has played his butt off to keep the Bucks ready to make a run and push back into the top of the east.

7) Dallas Mavericks

Record: 7-3

Luka Doncic added another career highlight when he sunk the Celtics with a 3 point buzzer-beater. Doncic continues to break the brain of every NBA fan, hitting shots that no 6’7 human should hit. With the game-winner Saturday, Luka tied Dirk Nowitzki for the most game-winning buzzer beaters in Dallas history. The Mavs go as Luka does, and so far this season that is good for the third-best record in the west. The rest of the roster could use some upgrades, another wing or ball handler would be ideal for this team. Jalen Brunson has been a much-needed boost off the bench and has shown he can provide valuable minutes in crunch time. His performance against San Antonio was easily one of his best.

8) Phoenix Suns

Record: 6-3

Last season’s western champions bring back an almost identical roster. The Suns know the formula to a winning season, they just need to shake off the rust of a shorter than average offseason. Chris Paul moved into 3rd place on the All-time assist leaderboard, jumping Mark Jackson and Steve Nash in the process. He had a season-high 18 assists on Tuesday. The Suns will be competitive all season long as they are among the West’s elite, but most of their play has been overshadowed by the tragic reports about owner Robert Sarver and his inexcusable behavior.

9) Denver Nuggets

Record: 5-4

The Nuggets are a one-man show for the time being. Nikola Jokic leads the team in every statistical category. He is playing even better than his MVP season and carrying the Nuggets to a 5-4 record. Jokic’s biggest improvement this season has come on the defensive side of the ball, he is 2nd in the league in individual defensive rating, behind reigning DPOY Rudy Gobert and ahead of former DPOY Draymond Green. Jokic has made strides on that side of the ball using technique and IQ to keep pace with faster and more athletic players. The Nuggets have the potential to finish higher on this list if Michael Porter Jr. can get out of his slump. Coming off a major 172 million dollar extension, he has been one of the most disappointing players in the league this season.

10) Chicago Bulls

Record: 7-3

The Bulls are off to their best start since the Derrick Rose days, their offseason additions have made the biggest impact league-wide. While many were skeptical of the DeMar DeRozan – Zach Lavine fit, the two have meshed very well. DeRozan has shown he can be a key contributor on a winning team again. Free-agent signee Alex Caruso has exceeded expectations to help the Bulls thus far, but no player has had a bigger impact on the Bulls than Lonzo Ball. Ball is the perfect piece to tie this unit together, his play-making and defensive impact have been crucial in every Bulls win this season. The Bulls will continue to be an offensive powerhouse as they have 3 players who can score at will, the team’s issue will come on the defensive front. The Bulls best defensive player Patrick Williams was on the verge of a breakout, but after breaking his wrist the Bulls won’t see him again until next season.

11) Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 6-4

The Grizz have been of the league’s early-season darlings. Ja Morant is a bonafide star, leading the NBA in points in the post. Ja is 6’3, his layup package so far this season is unmatched. The Grizz are getting healthier and have a young team with a lot of talent, Jaren Jackson Jr. started off slow but has picked up his play over the past couple of games. With Dillon Brooks on his way back from injury, Memphis should be competitive all season long.

12) Washington Wizards

Record: 7-3

When the Wizards traded Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, many people wrote the team off. Westbrook was not a fantastic fit beside Beal but the team was trending in the wrong direction. 10 games into the season and the Wizards sit ahead of the Lakers in the power rankings (not by much, but we’ll get there). Washington is experiencing what Bill Simmons calls the Ewing effect, in short – the Ewing effect represents an uptick in play from a team when they lose a “star”. The Wizards look completely different this season, they are getting the most out of new additions. Montrezl Harrell is one of the front-runners for Sixth Man of the Year, Kyle Kuzma has carved out a nice role as a starter and Spencer Dinwiddie is finding his legs after missing the majority of last season. The Wizards are the surprise team of the league thus far.

13) Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 6-5

This spot feels low for the Lakers, but also high? I’m not sure what to make of this year’s Lakers. They still have LeBron, who is currently out with an abdominal strain that was initially expected to keep him out for just a week. There are now rumors it could keep him out much longer. The roster construction of the Lakers is a mess, Anthony Davis is one of the league’s best but the Russell Westbrook experience has had mixed results. The Lakers could have had Buddy Hield (a career 40% three-point shooter) while having more cap to resign free agents like Alex Caruso. The Lakers are a talented team, but they need to figure out a better rotation and hope LeBron can stay healthy after a rough 8 months.

14) New York Knicks

Record: 7-4

BING BONG! The new catchphrase of the Knicks can be heard and seen across NBA arenas league-wide. It has captivated basketball in New York and the Knicks are looking to build off of last season. RJ Barrett has been the Knicks’ best player so far, showing flashes of a future all-star. The Knicks started hot but have dropped three of their last four, as they look to build chemistry with new offseason additions. While the offense has been fine, the Knicks defense will need to get back on track to keep them in the playoff race, and out of the play-in game.

15) Toronto Raptors

Record: 6-5

Coming off of a five-game win streak, the Raptors dropped two straight over the weekend, but that shouldn’t halt the buzz surrounding this team. On July 29th the Raptors shocked the world by selecting Scottie Barnes fourth overall, with cries from fans to take Jalen Suggs who went one pick later. 11 games into the season and Barnes has all the looks of a future star. After Sunday’s loss to the Nets Kevin Durant raved about the young rookie, to the delight of Raptors fans league-wide. Combined with the emergence of OG Annunoby and the return of Pascal Siakam, the Raptors are once again set up to destroy all offseason predictions regarding the team.

16) Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 7-4

Speaking of rookies, Evan Mobley has been getting his share of praise. Mobley played the best game of his young career on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, dominating every aspect of the game. Mobley has earned the nickname “Baby KG” after the great Kevin Garnett. His defense at such a young age has been unbelievable to watch, Mobley leads the league in contested shots, not just rookies. The Cavs have been another surprise as they have gotten lots out of new additions Lauri Markknen and Ricky Rubio. As someone who had lots of questions regarding the roster construction, I can happily say. I was wrong.

17) Portland Trailblazers

Record: 5-5

The Blazers and new head coach Chauncey Billups have not gotten off to an ideal start. Damian Lillard is in the midst of the worst shooting slump of his entire NBA career. Dame is averaging just 18.5 PPG (points per game), down from 28.8 last season and 6 points lower than his career average of 24.6. It is easy to see that his shooting splits have completely cratered to start the season, I expect Lillard to find his game and the Blazers to move up in these rankings. To make matters worse the Blazers are now dealing with an in-house investigation of a toxic workplace environment caused by current GM Neil Olshey.

18) Los Angeles Clippers

Record: 5-4

The Clippers are getting healthier, with the return of Serge Ibaka after offseason surgery. Paul George has carried this team most nights, with little help from the rest of the roster. Terrence Mann has been the lone other bright spot while slowly playing more minutes and becoming a hound on the defensive end. This Clippers team definitely has its limitations but the play-in game is definitely within reach.

19) Charlotte Hornets

Record: 5-7

The league’s most fun team, the Hornets are coming off their worst loss of the season to the 9-1 Warriors. Charlotte has ways to go on the defensive side of the ball, as LaMelo Ball continues to struggle defensively. The Hornets have now lost five straight after a dominant start to the season, Miles Bridges has come out hot, and seems to be the early favorite for Most Improved.

20) Boston Celtics

Record: 4-6

Coming into the season, the Celtics were expected to be in the thick of the playoff race led by their two young Stars, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Through ten games, the Celtics have been one of the league’s most disappointing. After seemingly righting the ship with back-to-back wins in Florida, the Celtics gave up a massive fourth-quarter lead and then lost to another Luka dagger. The rumors have already started swirling as Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the Celtics have called about Sixers star Ben Simmons. The rumor suggests that any talks start with Celtics star Jaylen Brown who is in the midst of a career season statistically.

21) Atlanta Hawks

Record: 4-7

The 2021 Hawks have looked polar opposite to the team we saw in the eastern conference finals just five months ago. No player has struggled more to adjust to the new foul rules, than Trae Young. The Hawks have outright been bad, there is no sugar-coating it. This team is talented and has plenty of depth, I expect the Hawks to make a run and find their rhythm. The only positive surrounding this team is the early play of John Collins. He is shooting 59.6% from the field and 42.9% from 3, both would be career highs, all while shooting more than ever. If the rest of the Hawks can pick up their play, watch out.

22) Sacramento Kings

Record: 5-6

The Kings have had a really nice start to the season, while their best player De’Aaron Fox has struggled. Fox has been the one of league’s worst 3 point shooters, shooting just 20% so far. His PPG is also down from 25.8 to 18.9, aside from Fox the Kings have been a welcome surprise as the best of the league’s bad teams. Harrison Barnes is averaging 22.5 points and has become the de-facto late-game scorer. While I doubt the level of play is sustainable the Kings couldn’t have asked for a better start with this roster. I realize how sad that sounds with the team sitting at 5-6 but the roster is really really bad.

23) Indiana Pacers

Record: 4-7

The Pacers’ have been playing without fringe all-star and leading scorer Malcolm Brogdon due to Covid so the record does not tell the full story. Indiana has a talented roster and solid core between Brogdon, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Caris LeVert. The team is adjusting to a new coach and a new system from Rick Carlisle. The Pacers have the pieces to be competitive and play for a spot in the play-in game. If things continue to go south the Pacers are a team to watch for a splash trade or full tear down.

24) Minnesota Timberwolves

Record: 3-6

The Wolves are on a five-game losing streak, they have a date with the Warriors on Wednesday. Things are not looking great for one of the league’s worst franchises. The Wolves are nearing a point where they should consider trading their best asset, Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ career has been rotting away in Minnesota and it is time to see what he can do on a good team. The Wolves have some talent around KAT in Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell but it has been the same story since KAT was drafted. Another early lottery pick and we could see a trade request from more than one guy.

25) San Antonio Spurs

Record: 3-7

Long gone are the days of the Spurs dynasty, now it is the early stages of a rebuild. Dejounte Murray has easily been the Spurs’ best player averaging a crisp 18.4 points, 8.2 assists, 8.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game. These numbers would put him in Hall of Fame company as the third player to average that since Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson. The Spurs have a plethora of young wings to coach up and reevaluate after the season to continue the rebuild.

26) Orlando Magic

Record: 3-8

The Magic have been helped by the emergence of Cole Anthony. Last year’s first-rounder has been one of the league’s most improved. He has carried a young Magic team to each of their three victories. The Magic are ways away from being a contender but they have some really nice players who could be a large part of the future. Fifth pick Jalen Suggs has not had an ideal start to his young career, while early his shooting woes have continued from college.

27) Oklahoma City Thunder

Record: 3-6

The Thunder are just letting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander just go to work, SGA is leading the NBA in isolation points per game. Shai has constantly kept this team in games and single-handedly beat the Lakers (without LeBron but still). Since the start of last season, the Thunder are 19-25 when he plays and 6-31 

28) Houston Rockets

Record: 1-9

The Rockets are the best of the one-win teams. This roster has some talent to trade away at the deadline. That is the story with the Rockets this season, keep acquiring assets and developing. This year’s second overall pick Jalen Green has shown flashes through ten games. His scoring has been on full display at times, with a high arcing shot and ferocious dunks. Green is about the only watchable part of the Rockets.

29) Detroit Pistons

Cade Cunningham, the first overall pick in this year’s draft is off to a bad start. There are plenty of statistics out there telling us he is off to the worst start for the first overall pick since Anthony Bennett. Cunningham is 20 years old, coming off an injury, and is working on changing his shot. I know it has not been encouraging to start but can we give the kid more than four games. Cunningham has struggled in just about every aspect but I would be shocked if he doesn’t turn it around.

30) New Orleans Pelicans

The Pels are a mess, missing their two best players they have been downright bad. Zion Williamson has been one of the leading news stories as he struggles to get healthy and rumors persist about his weight issues. Brandon Ingram is about to miss his fifth consecutive game, with hopes his return is imminent. The Pelicans are the laughing stock of the league until Zion can return and dominate the way he did last season. At his best, he is one of the league’s best and most efficient scorers. The hope is Zion can figure things out on his end so we can see him take his play to the next level.

Spurs Offseason Part 2

In part 1, I spoke at length about how I felt the Spurs played last year, the players who played well, those who played…not so well, and what I felt the team should do with their own players this offseason.

For this episode, I’m supposed to be breaking down who I think the Spurs should go after in FA or trades. However, I must admit I’ve been having difficulty writing this script. Not because I no longer care about the team, but because it’s hard to speculate on what a team should do to improve in the offseason if you don’t know how good the current players on the roster are. The Spurs have spent the last few years building up their roster through the draft and development program. However, while the overall makeup of the roster has gotten significantly younger, collectively the Spurs have heretofore resisted giving the proverbial keys to the car to the young core. Instead, they’ve gone for a more incrementalism approach: having vets in key spots on the team run the ship while letting the young players develop at the team’s customarily slow pace. While I’m sure that that’s had quite some benefit on most of the young players (most of them have shown steady improvement), it does present the issue that us as fans don’t have very much knowledge as to what the team does and doesn’t need. As such, it makes analyzing potential offseason acquisitions difficult.

Adding to that frustration is that, even if we did have a firmer grasp on what the team has or doesn’t have with its current crop of young talent, the options for outside assistance are limited. Outside of Chris Paul and Kawhi Leonard, there aren’t really any FAs available this offseason that could immediately turn your franchise around. On top of that, the Spurs don’t have a lot of strong trade assets right now (though that may change depending on the team’s performance this coming season). By far, the strongest potential trade asset the Spurs “have” right now, would be DeMar in a sign-and-trade, assuming that you can work one out.

Well, there’s no use in putting it off any longer; let’s look at some of the potential additions the Spurs can make this offseason, starting with unrestricted free agents.

Kawhi Leonard

He’s not coming, for obvious reasons. Next.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul has a player option for this upcoming offseason, but the likelihood that he’d leave the team that he’s just led to his first NBA Finals is lower than your likelihood of getting struck by lightning in the Sahara.

With the franchise-altering FAs out of the way, let’s look at some other potentially solid additions through UFA.

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry might be an interesting player for the Spurs to consider, despite his position. He’s a guy who brings legitimacy as an NBA champion, he’s a solid ball-handler with a better than 2:1 AST:TO ratio, he’s a good 3-pt. shooter at nearly 40% from downtown last year, and he has been a solid defender in the past. He’s a guy that gives you toughness and credibility at the 1.

However, that’s where some of the questions about fit start to bubble up. The Spurs don’t really have too much of a need for another guard; one could argue that the team has too many guards as it stands. He’s also going to turn 36 this coming March, who’s 2-pt. shooting percentage and defensive impact numbers dropped last year.

Unfortunately for the Spurs, the team would likely have to overpay a guy like Lowry to convince him to join a team that’s in the middle of a rebuild when he’s likely to want to play on a contender this coming season. Given all of that, I don’t think it’s likely that the Spurs would be able to sign him, and I wouldn’t want the Spurs to give Lowry a max contract. So, unless the Spurs retain DeMar and he convinces Kyle to take a lower figure, I don’t think the Spurs should bend over backwards to make this happen.

Goran Dragic

Take everything that I just said about Kyle Lowry, knock it down a peg, and it fits Goran Dragic well. He’s another guy who’s a solid 3-pt. shooter, a solid ball-handler, and, as a player who made the Finals, he brings credibility and toughness to your franchise. In many ways, he’s a poor man’s Kyle Lowry, meaning that he might come cheaper as well (as the term implies). On top of that, he’s shown a willingness to come off the bench.

That being said, all of the same negatives that come with pursuing Kyle Lowry are also present here: he’s the same age as Kyle and has had the same decline as Kyle. He’s also never been the defender that Kyle has been, so he doesn’t provide that either.

As another vet who’s played on winning teams, it seems unlikely that Dragic would willingly come to a young and unproven team. As such, my feelings about Lowry are also applicable to Dragic, and I don’t think that he’d help the Spurs enough to justify how much the Spurs would have to pay to bring him in.

Tim Hardaway, Jr.

Tim Hardaway, Jr. was someone who has seen his stock steadily rise over the course of the last two seasons. Playing next to Luka Doncic has seemingly unlocked something in Hardaway; being allowed to play off the ball as a shooter, finisher and secondary playmaker has been a very good development for his career. As a Spur, he could really help the team with his shooting and secondary scoring ability.

On the negative side, his shooting has been a bit streaky, and he doesn’t provide much on the defensive end. He’s also likely to see a rather hefty payday, as he was making nearly $18 million per year on his last contract and will likely be looking for a raise on the next one, he signs. For the Spurs to lure him away from the Mavs, the team is probably looking at something like $23-$25 million per year. Is he worth that? Hard to say.

THJ poses an interesting question for the Spurs FO: is he a product of working with Luka Doncic, or has he improved to the point where he could help any team about as much as he helped Dallas? If the Spurs decide to move on from DeMar and decide to try and sign THJ to a $23 million per year contract, I think that could help the team by providing some extra scoring punch. That being said, while he’d work offensively with DeMar, I don’t think that you would want to play the two together on defense. He’s one of the better players out there for the Spurs in UFA, IMO.

Kelly Oubre, Jr.

Kelly Oubre, Jr. is in a situation that’s kind of the opposite from THJ; his stock has dipped a bit since this past season, as his 3-pt. and free throw shooting fell from the previous year. He’s also not the guy you want running your offense, as he averages roughly the same number of assists and turnovers. Ostensibly, on offense, he’s a finisher (shooter/slasher) player, and wasn’t the most efficient one last year.

The only reason I’m mentioning him here is because it was rumored that some Spurs players were lobbying Oubre to join them. Perhaps they see something in his personality that they believe would make him a good fit for the team. As an outside observer, I can’t say that I absolutely love the fit for him or the team; for it to make sense, you’d have to assume that last year’s shooting numbers were more of an aberration as opposed to the norm, and I’m not sure that that is a safe assumption to make.

On the plus side, he’s still young, and still has time to improve. The Spurs have also shown a knack for taking guys who are somewhat reclamation projects and getting something positive out of their games that other teams couldn’t find. If he reverts and even exceeds his form from his final year in Phoenix, then that would be a solid move.

How much should the Spurs bet on that? I don’t think I’d be that comfortable going over $16 million a year. If the Spurs do land him, hopefully he proves me wrong.


And that’s it as far as truly interesting UFAs. As you can see, the list is short and rather underwhelming. There are a couple of other names that I suppose one could bandy about (I’ve seen Bobby Portis being mentioned, but outside of him playing a position of need, I don’t think that he would truly offer the Spurs very much…or at least not as much as he would a contender). There just aren’t a lot of guys that you can see truly raising the overall team’s quality to the next level, and the ones that do come with some ‘ifs attached.

With those out of the way, let’s look at a couple of potential restricted free agents to see what we can find. Let’s start with the biggest name of the bunch:

John Collins

To be perfectly honest, it feels a bit weird to be writing anything about John Collins when Tom Petrini has already written a much better and thoroughly researched article about him than I’ll be capable of in this format. If you want the full rundown about why John Collins is probably the best overall FA target for the Spurs this summer, go check his article out on KENS5’s website; it’s great analysis, pulse he uses the word ‘miserly,’ so bonus points for fun diction.

If I had to sum it up (and, again, I strongly suggest that you read his article), I’d say that John Collins is a quality, ascending young player who just so happens to play the position and provide key skills that the Spurs need: he can score and rebound very well. On top of that, he’s shown growth in every season in most statistical categories (and his rebounding numbers taking a hit makes sense considering he’s playing most of his minutes with Clint Capela). He’s even flashed more defensive intensity and versatility during the playoffs.

While I had some questions about him from earlier in the season, I think that his overall quality of play in the playoffs and his upside should make him a high priority for the Spurs in the offseason. Hopefully, they’ll offer him the max, and Atlanta won’t want to match it (and that Collins decides he wants to get the most money out of this contract deal).

Lauri Markkanen

If the Spurs can’t convince John Collins to leave a young team that just made an ECF appearance, then Lauri Markkanen wouldn’t be the worst consolation prize. Lauri’s a talented, young 4 who can light up a scoreboard on any given night. He’s an excellent shooter, with a well-above average effective field goal percentage. It’s not just statistics either; he can shoot from long distance and even off screens. At 7’ tall, that’s a tantalizing skill-set.

There hasn’t been the clear statistical growth that you’d like to see out of a young player. While his shooting improved by quite a bit last year, his rebounding and assist totals have declined. Perhaps more frightening than those drops is that his total minutes played has decreased every single season since he’s been in the NBA, and his MPG numbers have dropped every season since his sophomore outing. Some of that can be linked to injuries, of course, but that’s still a troubling trend.

Now, those things might not entirely be his fault: in his four years in the NBA, he’s had three coaches, with only one of them (Billy Donovan) having any clout at all, if even he does. Might Markkanen just need a change of scenery? The Spurs might just be the team taking on that bet. The Bulls seem to be ready to move on, so you may not need to pay him nearly as much as you would John Collins to obtain his services, so that’s also a plus. If the Spurs can open up enough cap space via renouncing their FAs or passing on players they get via a S&T, then getting Lauri as a second addition in the off season would be great. If not, I’d hope he’d be the Plan C or D for the Spurs, personally.

Zach Collins

Speaking of young big men that have probably seen their stock dip a bit, Zach Collins might be an interesting name for the Spurs to look at. While not the offensive talent that Markkanen is, he’s a better defender and shot blocker (though, weirdly, not a better rebounder). Two years ago, Collins showed promise as a young 4 who could shoot and defend at a high level.

However, there’s a reason why I’m referring to his play two years ago: Collins’s big issue in the NBA has been health. He missed almost all this past year with a left foot/ankle (I’ve seen both) stress fracture. He had one surgery to repair it in December. He just re-injured it during rehab and had another surgery in June. Given that many lower-body injuries, his size, and the history of big men and lower-body injuries, it’s frankly unclear when he’ll even play again, much less the quality of said play.

Should the Spurs miss out on everyone else, I wouldn’t mind the Spurs taking a Trey Lyles-esque flier on Zach Collins. The talent that he’s displayed in the past would make him an interesting fit on the Spurs’ roster…if he should ever become healthy enough to make an impact.

Lonzo Ball

One last name that I want to throw in here might be a bit of a surprise but hear me out: Lonzo Ball could be a very interesting addition to the Spurs, should they lose DeMar. I get the initial reluctance: he hasn’t lived up to the intense hype that he received coming out of college, and his dad is annoying and overbearing. However, his improvement on the court doesn’t lie, and he’d make for a fun complement to Dejounte and Derrick.

Shout out to Preston Ellis at The Bird Writes for his excellent, in-depth article on Lonzo, which I found thoroughly informative.

Lonzo shot the 3 at a 37% clip last year and put up an eFG% of 53.7%. While those two numbers are league average, they are both the result of steady, year-over-year improvement from Lonzo, indicating that he works very hard on his game every year (and that 3-pt. Percentage was better than both Derrick and Dejounte’s mark last year). His playmaking and defense are also both more than solid, with his AST:TO ratio being better than the 2:1 that you want to see out of a lead guard, and while the defensive numbers don’t jump out at you, he almost always guarded the other team’s best perimeter player playing on a team that, let’s say, struggled on defense. In short, he’s a long, versatile defender who can shoot the 3 well, share the ball, and would be part of an extremely versatile starting backcourt. A SL of Derrick, Dejounte, Lonzo, KJ, and Jakob could be interesting. On top of that, signing him away from an up-and-coming division rival gives you an extra step on your most immediate competition. While that shouldn’t be the most immediate concern, it’s something to keep in mind.

There are a couple of issues with Lonzo as a Spur, though. The first one is the fit question. Lonzo’s a 1, much like Kyle Lowry and Goran Dragic. Do the Spurs need another guard? The next, and biggest, issue with Lonzo is that he’s not the all-star caliber player that DeMar has proven to be, and has, thus far, flourished in a complementary role. Playing next to Zion and Brandon Ingram are bound to have improved his offensive numbers somewhat (though the reverse is also likely true). Would he be able to maintain his efficiency on a team that perhaps doesn’t have the same level of offensive talent? It’s a fair question, especially since New Orleans likely wants to keep him, and can of course match what the Spurs can offer. Would it be worth offering him the max to pry him away from New Orleans? Probably not. However, if the Spurs strike out on S&Ts or their other FA targets, Lonzo would make for an interesting, somewhat under-the-radar (as much as a Ball can be, anyway) acquisition. I hope the Spurs kick the tires on him.

So that’s the list of the most interesting potential RFAs this coming offseason, IMO. Overall, the list of RFAs is much more interesting than UFAs, and, if the Spurs get lucky, they might find a real difference-maker here.

For my final segment today, I thought I could look at some S&T options for DeMar, should he and the Spurs wish to move on.

DeMar, Lonnie Walker, Devin Vassell and #12 for Ben Simmons

I already went into detail in the last episode about why I think the Spurs should pursue Ben Simmons in a S&T for DeMar. To sum it up, his defensive and ball-handling ability at his size would be a tremendous boon to the Spurs young core and could push them to a new level, despite his shooting struggles. He’s frankly so good in those areas that he’d be the best acquisition the Spurs could make this offseason, IMO.

DeMar for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and pick #22

This is a trade that came up on Bleacher Report (shout-out to Dan Favale), and passed around on Spurs Twitter. I think this one is interesting.

Now, if you’re looking aghast at that, I get it, as Kyle Kuzma has steadily seen his value drop in the years that LeBron has been a Laker. However, while he would be a bit of a reclamation project, he’s not without talent. When he first came into the league, he showed an impressive amount of scoring potential from inside the arc. While his overall numbers have decreased slightly since LeBron joined the team and Kuzma saw his offensive role decrease, he posted a career-high eFG% this previous year, as he shot the 3 better this season than at any other point in his career (even if 36% does provide room for improvement). If put on a team that would require more scoring output from him, would he flourish in such an expanded role? It’s possible.

(Also, worth noting: Pop became a big fan of Kuzma during the preparation for the FIBA World Cup in 2019, especially praising him for his development in the mental aspect of the game. Something to keep in the back of Spurs fans’ minds.)

I don’t think that I must spend much time explaining why Montrezl Harrell would be an upgrade to Drew Eubanks and Gorgui Dieng: he’s a much more effective offensive player than either of them, with an eFG% well-over NBA average (62.2% this past season) and higher offensive rating than either of the Spurs’ backup options from last year. He’s also-surprisingly-not that much worse defensively. Having Harrell as an option backing up Jakob wouldn’t be the worst thing. Alternatively, if the Spurs want to open nearly $10 million in cap space to make a run at one of the aforementioned FAs, Harrell is a pretty easy contract to move, as he only has a PO for this season, after which he’ll be a FA himself.

As for the draft pick, given that the Spurs have a strong track record of finding contributors from the #29 pick, letting the development team have another bite at the apple with an earlier pick can only be a good thing.

Overall, I don’t think that this deal is better than getting Ben Simmons (despite the likely extra cost in a young player or two and a pick), nor do I think it’d be better than signing John Collins outright, but it’s worth heavy consideration should the Spurs come up empty on both of those moves.

DeMar for Nikola Vucevic

If you were online interacting with Spurs fans during the trade deadline last year, you likely remember a lot of discussion about Nikola Vucevic. He’s a very skilled big man offensively who can score efficiently from both the post and the 3-pt. Line. Last year while in Orlando, he was an automatic double-double with over 20 pts a game with an above average eFG%. On top of that, he boasts the kind of AST:TO ratio that you’d look for from your lead guard at 2:1. While his overall impact went down a touch when he was traded to Chicago, he was still a very effective player there despite suffering a hip injury that caused him to miss two games. He’s a huge addition to any NBA offense.

The biggest issue here is that I don’t see how a deal would get done with Chicago to bring him to San Antonio. Remember that these are DeMar S&T targets: why would the Bulls want DeMar DeRozan when they have a similar and growing player in Zach LaVine? The fit between the two would likely be a strange one, as they both need the ball in their hands to be at their best, while Vucevic can spot up and provide a different dimension to their attack. So, I just don’t see the Bulls wanting to move off Vucevic so soon, and especially not for DeMar. For the Spurs, I wouldn’t want them to give up what it would take to pique the Bulls’ interest.

All in all, this is likely a no-go, but fun to talk about, nonetheless.

Let’s look at one more:

DeMar, Lonnie Walker, Devin Vassell and #12 for Domantas Sabonis and Jeremy Lamb

While this package might seem steep for what would effectively be Domantas Sabonis (after all, it looks identical to the trade for Ben Simmons), Sabonis would be a fantastic addition to the Spurs’ roster. Since his third year in the league, he’s been remarkably consistent with his per-36 minutes numbers all hovering at 20 and 12 on above average offensive efficiency. These numbers remained consistent despite Sabonis being given more and more responsibility and focus on the offense year-over-year, culminating in him actually averaging 36 MPG (funnily enough). He’s also posting a 2:1 AST:TO ratio, himself (remarkable for a 5). He’s also only 24, and therefore still has room to improve.

Sabonis could be a franchise cornerstone moving forward, and guys like that don’t come cheap.

However, we again come to the same problem that we came to with Vucevic and the Bulls: why would the Pacers want to trade Sabonis right now? They’re more likely to trade Myles Turner or Goga Bitadze at this point than their potential cornerstone. This is little more than a fun thought experiment that has little-to-no chance of happening.

However, now that we’re looking at the Pacers, let’s try one extra:

DeMar for Myles Turner, Doug McDermott and a Top-10 protected 1st Rd. pick in 2022

While not granting the Spurs the star potential of a trade for Sabonis, Myles Turner could very well be a solid upgrade from Jakob as the starting 5; while not *quite* the defender Jakob is, Turner’s close and he provides 3-pt. shooting on top of it, making him a potentially better fit in the SL with DJ and KJ. On the negative side, it must be mentioned that he tore the plantar plate in his right big toe. Foot injuries must always be taken into account concerning big men.

The draft pick, as discussed earlier as part of the Kuzma trade option, could greatly benefit the Spurs.

Doug McDermott would essentially be bench depth and a contract that could potentially be traded if cap space was needed.

This trade has the benefit of being possible. I could see the Pacers being able to use DeMar as a primary perimeter creator, making Malcolm Brogdon more dangerous in an off-ball role. After all, if Derrick White can bring out the best in DeMar, Brogdon should be able to do something similar. On top of all of that, DeMar could take some pressure off of their young All-Star. I kinda like this one.

So, there you have it! These are, IMO, the most interesting options for UFAs, RFAs, and S&Ts.


Looking back at all of those potential offseason moves, I hope that you see what I meant in the intro: while there are some theoretically interesting options, there’s only one that’s realistic that one would think is potentially franchise-altering, and that’s a S&T for Ben Simmons. The other moves I think would be best classified as “intriguing:” fun to think about, but not likely to take the Spurs to contender status.

If I were to rank what I believe the Spurs offseason priorities are, I’d go with the following (among the rumored potential options):

  1. S&T for Ben Simmons
  2. John Collins
  3. S&T for Kuzma, Harrell, and #22

Given that those are really the best options (and they all seem unlikely to me, if I’m being honest), it seems to me that the most likely option for improvement before next year is going to come from within. Which brings me back to my initial struggles writing this script: how good are the young players on this roster, truly? It’s hard to know how much help the team needs without seeing them in greater roles within the team’s scheme. Thankfully, the larger the roles, the firmer grasp the team can have on which players proved the most quality, and, thus, the team can make more solid decisions going forward, whether that be keeping the players or trading them to address weaknesses.

And the following offseason’s analysis will be easier to write.

Thank you for listening! I truly appreciate y’all’s patience as I navigated my way through this episode. From here, I’m going to alter my schedule a bit. As some of you probably know by now, I’ve been offered a spot with the Around The Block network, covering politics once a week, and the Spurs once a month. So, I hope you can give them a Twitter follow at @ATB_network and @atb_podcasts.

Until next time, have a great day!

Spurs Offseason Part 1

I must say, as a lifelong San Antonio Spurs fan, following the team this year had its ups and downs, to say the least. Moments of excitement at the team’s performance prior to the All-Star break eventually gave way to frustration watching a clearly exhausted basketball team fight just to make the play-in game. Unfortunately, compounding all of that frustration was the anxiety of not knowing what to expect from the Spurs’ future, as this offseason has the chance to drastically alter the timeline for the Spurs to find them back into contention; either speeding up the process or slowing it down. However, that uncertainty also makes for fun discussion fodder, so I thought I’d weigh in with this podcast. Note, I’m going to split this into two parts: part 1 will be focusing on the Spurs this season and their own FAs, with part 2 focusing more on additions I’d like to see the team make. However, I will allude to possibilities of a couple of additions in this part, as I think it illustrates some parts of how the Spurs should think about their own roster.

With that out of the way, let’s get started with some team rankings from the previous season.

Team rankings:

Additional practice time should help with the myriad of communication issues that plagued the team defensively. However, offensively, the team needs to make drastic improvements in terms of 3-pt. shooting, both in terms of attempts and accuracy. To learn more about how the team got to those numbers, I first decided to look at the 5-man lineups the team used throughout the season.

As an aside: I’ll be relying rather heavily on net rating in this episode. I realize the stat has its problems (especially game-to-game, where it’s effectively useless), however, I do think that it does have value over the course of a season, as it does show trends. So, without further ado, let’s dive in beginning with 5-men lineups.

5-man lineups:

There are some tidbits here worth mentioning: the starting lineup with Derrick White and Jakob Poeltl was not only the most used 5-man lineup this year, but it was also one of the very few that had both a positive net rating and DeMar as part of it (more on that later). Another interesting data point is that the team’s most successful 5-man lineup was Patty, DJ, Vassell, Rudy, and Jakob, but replacing DJ with DeMar dropped its effectiveness into the negatives, this might be skewed by the games in which those lineups appeared in though, so it’s not a be-all and end-all revelation or anything.

While these 5-man lineups are interesting and perhaps useful in terms of in-season rotations, they may not be that useful in terms of assessing individual play. Upon diving down into 3-man and 2-man lineups, though, some interesting nuggets of information can be found. Here were four large takeaways for me:

  1. Derrick White is the team’s most impactful player, and they couldn’t replace him.

    Perhaps not in terms of talent level, but certainly in terms of team impact. Out of the top 60 3-men combinations the Spurs used this year, Derrick White was in 13 of them, and every single one had a positive net-rating. Every single one. And those combinations were with just about everyone on the roster. Out of his top 21 3-men combinations, White had a positive net rating in all but two, and both of those included a certain player who will be discussed later. So losing him was very detrimental to the team’s success, not just because of his own individual talent, but also how he affected the others around him, case in point:

  2. DeMar DeRozan and Derrick White were consistently at their best when playing with each other.

    Of the said 13 Derrick White 3-men combinations, the three best in terms of net rating were with DeMar DeRozan. From DeMar’s perspective, he was in 28 of the top 60 three-men rotations the Spurs used. Of those 28, only 12 had positive net ratings. However, four of his top five combinations were with Derrick White (there’s a shockingly good Gay, DeRozan, and Murray combination in limited minutes). When you watched them play together, this makes sense: DeMar is good at getting the other players open 3s, and Derrick was the best player on the Spurs at making them AND covering for DeMar’s defensive deficiencies.

  3. DeMar DeRozan playing with anyone else resulted in a rather mixed bag.

    As was mentioned, only 12 of the 28 3-men lineups DeMar was part of (in the top 60) were positive. This leads to a lot of net negative combinations. As mentioned he usually worked well when playing with Rudy and Dejounte, but take one or the other out, and things get dicey. This likely stems from the qualities and limitations of both DeMar himself and of the players around him: the shooters didn’t make enough shots, and the team couldn’t defend well enough to make up for that.

  4. The player who has the most room to improve (shall we say): Lonnie Walker IV

    This one hurts, and is going to make some fans angry, but it needs to be said if we’re being honest: Lonnie Walker IV had a bad season. He was a part of 19 of the 60 most common 3-man lineups the Spurs used, and he posted a positive net rating in only 6 of them, the majority of those with bench players. The numbers for his 2-man lineups are even more damning: he posted a positive net rating with only Rudy Gay and Luka Samanic. That’s it. Jakob, Patty, Dejounte and Derrick helped compensate for his negative impact, but other pairings resulted in the Spurs digging a hole for themselves. It’s not just in the numbers either: Lonnie struggled to find his offense when he was with the starters, and would sometimes struggle to know when he should shoot, drive, or pass. On defense, while he was solid on the ball, he would sometimes lose track of his man off the ball. All that being said, he still has a chance: he’s got all the potential, both in terms of athletic ability and intelligence in the world. Not to mention that he has dealt with serious trauma that most of us haven’t had to deal with. That being said he needs to improve next year. By a lot.

Given those four takeaways, I’ve come to somewhat of an obvious conclusion: this Spurs team was done in by trying to replace Derrick White (arguably their best rotation player) with Lonnie Walker IV (arguably their worst) and, to a lesser extent, Devin Vassell (who also struggled, though I think some leniency should be allowed given he was a rookie with very limited practice time). I believe that, had Derrick played most of the games this year, the Spurs would’ve been a playoff team. Not a contender, but a playoff team.

Now that we have a clearer picture of what happened during the season, let’s move on to what the Spurs should do with their own players this offseason. There are two questions that immediately come to mind:

  1. What should the Spurs do with DeMar?
  2. What should the Spurs do with the other vet FAs? (Mills, Gay, Dieng, Lyles)

What should the Spurs do with DeMar?

This is the biggest, the most contentious and the most important question of the offseason, and for good reason. There are compelling arguments to be made in favor of keeping him or letting him go (or S&Ting him). The argument in favor of keeping him is that he’s a really good fit with Derrick White in particular, and that the improvement of the younger players could really make this team much better next year. The argument against is that his results of playing with the other players are mixed, how much improvement could be reasonably anticipated from the younger players with DeMar being the focal point, it would be very difficult for the Spurs to build a contender around what DeMar does and doesn’t do well, and he’s getting older.

In order to fully illustrate what my final stance is on this question, I think it’s important to show the pathways to contendership taking either route.

If the Spurs keep DeMar

To get the furthest that they could go with DeMar, they’d need to craft a roster that compliments a really good player with a rather unique skill set. So let’s look at what DeMar does well and not-so-well:

What he does well:

  • Score from the mid-range and free throw line
  • Decent (if possibly diminishing) finisher at the rim
  • Initiate offense and generate open 3s
  • Can rebound well on occasion

What he does not-so-well:

  • Shoot from 3
  • Defense
  • Play off-ball

While the list of his pros is longer than his cons (as it should be with a player of his caliber), those cons can be deadly if paired with other players that don’t suit him. His ability to generate open looks won’t be very helpful on a team that can’t, or doesn’t shoot them. Or, if they excel at driving, having DeMar play with them will hurt their ability to do so. So, in order to compete at the highest level, DeMar needs to have the ball in his hands, surrounded by plus-shooters and plus-defenders, as asking a team to succeed when 2 of the 5 players on the court are non-shooters is a tough request. Finding those qualities among wings and guards isn’t too difficult, and it could very well be argued that the Spurs are already on their way to having a stockpile of those. However, the challenge is finding a big that can do both at a plus-level.

While DeMar and Jakob have a positive net-rating in 2-man pairings (1.3), that is a small amount compared to Jakob’s other pairings: 3.9 w/ Devin Vassell (who really struggled in many 3-man groupings), 4.4 with Dejounte, 10.0 with Rudy, etc. So, it’s fair to say that playing DeMar with Jakob mutes their potential impact individually.

Therefore, offensively, you need a big that can take advantage of what DeMar does well, namely, a big that can shoot. On the other end, you need a big that can help make up for DeMar’s defensive deficiencies. Unfortunately, there are only two big men that come to mind that can defend well and shoot the three: one is Joel Embiid (who won’t be a Spur) and the other is Myles Turner. So, naturally, Myles Turner should be a high priority for the FO. On the plus side, he might be gettable, considering the Pacers are looking to build around Domantas Sabonis. The Spurs would have to part with one of their young guards and probably a pick to make it happen, but I would argue that that would still be a solid move, considering roster fit. Unfortunately, such a trade would likely have to include Dejounte Murray or Derrick White in order to get the salaries to match and to entice Indiana’s interest. If such a trade as…

…is on the table, I believe the Spurs should do it. Not saying the losing Dejounte wouldn’t hurt at all, or that the Spurs would necessarily get the better of that trade. However, there are very few bigs that can defend and space the floor as well as Myles Turner can (arguably, only one). In my opinion, the Spurs’ hands would be somewhat tied.

From there the Spurs could sign a 4, or another wing to help mitigate the loss of Dejounte. Kelly Oubre’s name has been bandied about if the Spurs decide to go the latter route. I don’t have a lot of hope at the 4, as outside of John Collins, every other player that might be attainable and a potential upgrade is somewhat of a reclamation project (Lauri Markkanen in RFA; Marvin Bagley in the trade market).

Let’s just say that the hypothetical Spurs that keep DeMar get everything they want and they sign John Collins and pull off a trade for Myles Turner. They also get Kelly Oubre as a Dejounte approximation. Your SL in the season opener is: White, DeMar, Oubre, Collins, Turner. On the bench, you have Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker, Devin Vassell, Luka Samanic, Jakob, and Tre Jones.

Is that a true contender? If I’m being honest with myself, I’d have to say really only on the fringes, and that’s if everyone plays well. The pieces might fit, but there are still questions about the overall talent level. Ultimately, the biggest concern is the lack of growth potential. DeMar is the guy that stirs the drink there, and he’s getting into the tail-end of his prime. While I think Derrick could ultimately take over the role of a lead guard, I don’t think DeMar would be well-served by playing an off-guard role. However, this would be, in my opinion, the best-case scenario for the Spurs offseason. It’s a narrow path.

If the Spurs let DeMar go or pursue a sign and trade

Given that we’ve already broken down what he does well, we know what losing DeMar would mean: you’re losing the team’s primary initiator. If the Spurs elect to just let him sign elsewhere in FA, then they’d clearly be relying on Dejounte and Derrick to take up the slack in shot creation, and they’d be looking to maybe improve their shooting, defense, and offensive output in FA. Kelly Oubre’s name could come up in such a scenario, as would John Collins or Markkanen. The plus side, if White and Murray can replicate DeMar’s shot creation ability, is that whomever you find in FA wouldn’t have to be perfect shooter, nor necessarily be an amazing defender. Let’s say DeMar leaves and the Spurs end up signing Collins and Oubre. While obviously not an ideal situation, as SL of White, Murray, Oubre, Collins, Jakob and a bench of Tre Jones, Walker, KJ, Vassell, Luka and Drew Eubanks. If White and Murray can step into that creation role (which the Spurs letting DeMar walk would indicate that they could), that might not be as good as the hypothetical best-case that I outlined earlier if DeMar stays, but it certainly has more growth potential.

However, it’s only fair that I look at the ideal situation for both pathways, and the ideal for the Spurs if they don’t want to keep DeMar is a sign and trade for Ben Simmons.

While Ben Simmons isn’t nearly the scorer DeMar is, and therefore the Spurs’ shooting issues could get even worse, one thing that Ben Simmons offers in abundance over DeMar is defensive versatility. So, instead of absolutely needing a 3-and-D capable player at every other position, you could get away with someone who isn’t the best defender at another position because the need isn’t as dire. On top of that, because the Spurs pretty much swapped max contract slots, the Spurs would still have enough cap room to go after someone else, be that  John Collins, Lauri Markkanen, or Kelly Oubre.

(Side note, I’m bringing up Oubre’s name a lot, but he doesn’t move the needle for me, either way; I’m just using him as a wing example. If you prefer Devin Vassell or even Luka Samanic getting that spot with further development, I’m willing to listen).

Let’s go with the best-case scenario and say Collins signs with San Antonio along with a S&T for Ben Simmons, sending DeMar, Lonnie (trading Dejounte wouldn’t be as necessary, as DeMar and Ben would match salaries) and the 1st-round pick (which the trade would probably look like), and the Spurs sign a big that can shoot, but isn’t the best defender in the NBA (let’s use Dieng here as an example). Here’s your opening tip SL: White, Murray, Simmons, Collins, Dieng. Your bench is Tre Jones, Vassell, KJ, Luka, Jakob. Now, weirdness at the 5 aside, would that team be better than the White, DeMar, Oubre, Collins, Turner team that I brought up before? I’d say yes, comfortably so. In my opinion, that’s a team that would get as high as that best-case DeMar team, with growth potential to reach even higher.

So, after highlighting the best-case scenarios for both pathways, I think I’ve made my position clear: I think the Spurs should move on from DeMar. He’s a very good player, but he’s limited in such a way that he narrows the Spurs’ ability to build a true contender around him, and the window for his peak is closing fast. There’s a wider range of possible outcomes without DeMar: in both negative and positive directions, and given the goal is to win the title, I think the Spurs would be acting in their best interest to take a risk here.

What should the Spurs do with the other vet FAs?

Phew, now that the big one is out of the way, let’s get into the other players whose contracts are running out this offseason:

Trey Lyles

He’s gone. Appreciate your effort and work Trey; best of luck to you at your next stop.

Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay is an interesting case. In terms of net rating, Rudy had an incredible year. Not only does he have positive net ratings in numerous pairings, but many of said positive ratings were substantial (some double digits). However, I believe that it’s fair to ask if that was a mirage due to playing so many minutes with the bench and (at least early in the season) paired with Jakob Poeltl, who was amazing when coming off the bench. Either way, the biggest issue with Rudy Gay isn’t so much his quality of play this past season, but rather the opportunity cost of re-signing him. As the Spurs have the ability to have enough room on their cap to sign two max FAs if they decide not to bring any of their own FAs back, the team may simply want to use that money to bring in some help from the outside. If the Spurs decide not to bring DeMar back, and they can’t sign an outside FA, there would be worse things than bringing Rudy back at a smaller figure. However, if the Spurs do bring him back, I think it would be fair to speculate that the FO is trying to make lemonade out of some lemons.

Patty Mills

Patty Mills is in a similar spot to Rudy in that his play wouldn’t necessarily be the determining factor in the decision to keep him or let him walk. Much like Rudy, if the Spurs decide to pursue more outside help this offseason, Patty might ultimately just be a cap casualty. That being said, he does have one advantage over Rudy in terms of the likelihood of the Spurs trying to retain him, in that he’s the final member of the Beautiful Game Spurs on the roster, and therefore has the most corporate knowledge on the roster. If the Spurs were forced to choose to keep one of Rudy or Patty, you’d have to think that Patty would be the one they’d keep for that reason.

Gorgui Dieng

This might be a weird thing to say, but I think that, if they can’t get two max-level FAs to come to SA (which will probably be the case, let’s be real), then, out of all of their vet FAs, Dieng should be the priority. The Spurs simply don’t have a floor-spacing big on their roster outside of Dieng, and FA is rather slim pickings for someone who can fill that role. For the amount of money the Spurs would likely have to spend to retain Dieng, they probably aren’t going to find a better value at that role, as the closest approximation would be Daniel Theis, and he’s just not the shooter Dieng is. If the shocking thing happens and the Spurs find themselves with Ben Simmons, finding a way to retain Dieng should be an even higher priority, as he could theoretically even be your starter, spacing the floor for Ben to have room to work on the inside (which I alluded to previously). If the Spurs decide to keep DeMar instead, having Dieng around would still be a plus, as he could come off the bench and give your team an extra offensive punch. However, the Spurs would likely still have to start Jakob in order to help cover for DeMar’s defensive deficiencies, so Dieng would be less impactful overall. If the Spurs don’t have Ben or DeMar on their roster, Dieng goes lower on the priority list, though he’d still be nice to have around. If he’s a cap casualty due to the Spurs getting two max FAs, sobeit. Otherwise, I think the Spurs should try to retain Dieng.

To wrap up question 2, I think Gorgui Dieng should be the Spurs first priority in terms of their own vet FAs (outside of the DeMar question), with Patty and Rudy tied behind him, and Lyles dragging behind in the distance.