The Runner Sports

San Antonio Spurs On The Dawn Of Free Agency

Jimmy Butler set up a personal phone line to the haters. Dwight Howard has a new team. Blake Griffin got the full five years. Just like that, two marquee players named Paul both have new teams.

Smells like the dawn of free agency. On mornings like today, it comes down to one question above all else; are the teams trying to win now, or are they rebuilding for later?

Patty Mills has signed for 4 years, $50 million with the San Antonio Spurs. They extended an offer to Jonathon Simmons that looks to be worth about $9 million a year for 4 years. They tried to get in a room with Chris Paul before LaMarcus Aldridge drama scared him away and he fell into the open arms of James Harden. Even the possibility of Paul Millsap is a slight one now that Mike Budenholzer isn’t at the helm like he once was. Make no mistake though; the Spurs are trying to win now.

ATTENTION: What follows may seem grotesque to the naked eye. It may be hard to digest as a hardcore Spurs fan, and it may sound downright repugnant to a die-hard Cavaliers fan. But both sides benefit. Hear me out.

The trade is as follows:

The Cleveland Cavaliers trade Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert to the San Antonio Spurs for LaMarcus Aldridge, Danny Green, and Davis Bertans.

The Cavs do this trade for a couple different reasons. Number one, it gives them a different look in the short-term. LaMarcus Aldridge still spaces the floor, but in a more diverse area of the court; the midrange. One of LaMarcus’ biggest assets is the threat of his midrange game. It stretches defenses and forces them to go places that they’d rather not. Also, Danny Green and Bertans’ three-point games make up for Kevin Love’s range.

Number two, it sets them up for a different look in the long-term.

If Carmelo Anthony waives his no-trade clause and the CP3 deal lures him either to Houston or an LA team, and LeBron leaves for LA next season too, this would give LaMarcus the opportunity to have his own team next to the best finisher in basketball in Kyrie Irving. After his years of soul-searching in San Antonio, this is obviously what he wants more than anything, short of purchasing a two-story house 15 feet from the basket.

So you sell it to the Cavaliers (and LaMarcus Aldridge) as a new era. The best-worst case scenario here is that the Cavs inherit two above-average supplemental pieces and a promising stretch 5 who are all conceivably in line with the Cavs’ obvious effort to keep LeBron happy by surrounding him with nothing but shooters.

The Spurs have Danny Green at an amazing price. However frustrating his shooting slumps might be, $10 million a year for the only player to record 50 steals and 50 blocks in each of the last five years is a good deal. This is another reason the Cavs would benefit. The low asking price. In terms of wing guards, the Spurs actually lose for this part of the trade, as they replace Danny Green with Iman Shumpert, who is a poor man’s Danny Green.

Shumpert has the worse PER in this trade bundle at 9.1, and in no way does this amend the Spurs’ point guard situation. Not even with Patty coming back. But he’s on a cheap deal, and with George Hill’s Spurs talks at a standstill, getting Shumpert at least provides them some length when defending frontcourts like Golden State. Shumpert is a guy who could ramp up his defense and at best be a Tony Allen proxy if he sees the light and buys into a system. The Spurs would miss Danny Green’s scoring, but Patty Mills just can’t guard Steph Curry. It’s not going to work. Ever. Any offensive range the Spurs lose with the departure of Green, they get back with the addition of Kevin Love (plus a post game).

Right now, the salary cap is flattening out. Bulky star contracts are increasingly sucking the life out of teams’ payrolls as yearly salaries rise towards a ceiling that does not. Kevin Love is a max guy, but since he’s already in his third year, his yearly price tag is still better than the staggering max deals some teams are about to go to battle for.

Of course, this entire trade hypothetical plays out only under the assumption that Dan Gilbert’s firing of LeBron’s BFF, David Griffin, will cause a deep enough rift between LeBron and Gilbert. That Gilbert sees the end, and doesn’t bother making nice with LeBron. The risk that LeBron leaves next offseason isn’t a foregone conclusion, but it is worth worrying about if you’re Cleveland. Trading Love and Shumpert would be a significant gamble for Gilbert if he wanted any chance of keeping LeBron James in a Cavs jersey.

Happy free agency’s, everybody.

Justin Heller
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Justin Heller

NBA Spurs Lead Writer at The Runner Sports
NBA guy. Manu apologist. Tim Duncan clergyman. Van Exel admirer. Embiid fan club. Players Tribune articles can never be bad. The three most important letters in the NBA are g-i-f.
Grew up all over, ended up in San Antonio, where I live currently. Come enjoy the churros with me, Chuck.
Justin Heller
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