There will be those who will say the 2003 NBA season
was validation for the Spurs’ 1999 Championship and that there was an asterisk
next to the '99 Championship. This is a
load. The 1999 Championship was valid, and the 2003 Championship is proof of
just how good Tim Duncan is.
To say the Spurs had a good season in 2003 would be
an understatement. They had the best
record in the regular season, Tim Duncan won the MVP George Popavich won coach
of the year, they beat the Lakers in a best of seven playoff series, all
leading to the championship. This
off-season will be just as big.
Championship teams usually only need to fill a whole or two. San Antonio will have only four players
under contract when the off-season signing period begins.
The last two years I played GM for the once proud
Boston Celtics. In all modesty, my
picks were no worse than those made by Boston GM Chris Wallace. I never would have traded for Vin Baker,
though I must admit I did not expect him to be as bad as he turned out to
be. In last season’s Usenet draft I
picked Luis Scola for the Celtics (Nanid Krstic may have been a better pick)
and won the prize for the biggest reach picking Scola 24 places too early. The Spurs brass feel Scola was worth a first
round pick. I did not get the Celtic GM
this year, so I chose the Spurs since we agreed on Scola. Also, in my report last season I suggested
Kevin Willis would be a good off-season signing. Willis, instead, signed with the Spurs and contributed in the
regular season and the playoffs.
Therefore, I felt the Spurs and myself were a good match.
Coaching and Management
Coach George Popavich won coach of the year. He beat Phil Jackson's Lakers in a seven
game playoff series. Popavich did a
wonderful job in the finals substituting his players. When Tony Parker struggled in came Speedy Claxton, when Stephen
Jackson was missing shots, Popavich brought in Manu Ginoboli. For the most part he kept his big men out of
foul trouble. Grade
GM R.C. Buford brought in second round draft pick (in
'99) Manu Ginoboli, brought in Free Agent Stephen Jackson and traded a late
first round pick for Speedy Claxton. At
position #28 in the 2001 draft he picked starting point guard Tony Parker. Grade A.
2002: John Solmons, Miami Fl. – Salmons was the 26th pick in the draft. He was traded to the 76ers for Speedy
Claxton. Claxton was a quality backup
point guard. In the second round the Spurs
nabbed Argentine power forward Luis Scola.
Scola remained in Europe to gain experience. Grade: A
2001: Tony Parker, Paris Basket Racing (France). – Parker quickly established himself as the
starting point guard. His shot is at
times inconsistent and he gets benched in favor of Speedy Claxton. There are also speculations that Jason Kidd
will be brought in to replace him. Tony
played very well against Kidd in the finals.
Parker was the 28th overall pick; many teams wish they had
taken him with an earlier pick. In the
second round with the 57th pick they took some guy named Bracey he
did what most late second rounders do, nothing. Grade: A
2000: Cory Hightower, Community College – Cory Hightower was a highly touted player in the Community
college ranks. He was well worth the
risk with the 54th pick overall. Grade: B
1999: Leon Smith, MM King High School (Chicago) – Smith turned out to be a knucklehead, but since
he was traded to Dallas for the Mavericks second round pick Gordon Giricek and
a future pick he was Don Nelson’s problem.
Giricek, although also since traded, has become a nice player. Grade: C
1998: Emmanuel Ginobeli, (Argentina) – Wow. It took Manu four
years to finally suit up for the Spurs, but the wait was well worth it. He played great defense during the finals
and hit many key shots. All this from a
rookie taken with the 57th overall pick. Wow. Grade: A+
My (Usenet) Draft History
2002: Luis Scola, Argentina – The Celtics
picked in the second round Darius Songlia not Scola. Scola was taken a few picks later by the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs' GM commented that they considered
Scola a potential first round pick. I will take his word over that of Chris
Wallace any day. Nanid Krstic was still
available, so I should have taken him.
Grade: B (but it was easy)
2001: Shane Battier, Duke – If Shane had fallen to the Celtics, I envisioned Chris
Wallace knocking over David Stern on his way to the podium to announce the
Celtics selection of Battier. Battier
actually went #6 to Memphis and was a Rookie of the Year candidate.
Grade: A (but it was easy)
DeSagana Diop, Oak Hill High Like Battier, Diop was already off the board by the
time the Celtics picked. He went #8 to
Cleveland and had a nothing season but what can you expect the first year from
a high school center? Plus he was
injured much of the season. Brendan
Haywood was taken later and had a better season, but Diop still has a nice
upside and I stand by the pick. Grade:
Omar Cook, St. John’s Forte and Tinsly were already off the board in the
Usenet draft. So, I selected the next
highest ranked point guard. Tony Parker
had not yet appeared on the scene when I had to make my selection. Prior to the end of the season, the Celtics
signed Cook to a ten-day contract to start next season. In a way I got this pick right. Gilbert Arenas, who I considered, would have
been a better pick. Grade: D
Player Salary Signed Through
Tim Duncan 13.3 2003-4 (Player Option ’03)
David Robinson 10.5 2002-3 (Retiring)
Steve Smith 9.9 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Danny Ferry 4.5 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Malik Rose 4.2 2003-4
Bruce Bowen 3.4 2004-5
Steve Kerr 2.6 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Emanuel Ginoboli 1.5 2003-4
Speedy Claxton 1.1 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Kevin Willis 1.0 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Tony Parker .8 2004-5
Stephen Jackson .6 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Mengke Bateer .5 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Anthony Goldware .1 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Devin Brown .03 2002-3 (Free Agent)
Player Pos GMs MPG FG% FT% 3PT% RPG APG SPG BPG PPG
Tim Duncan PF 81 39.26 51.29 70.98 27.27 12.88 3.90 0.68 2.93 23.26
Tony Parker PG 82 33.83 46.40 75.52 33.74 2.63 5.27 0.87 0.05 15.48
Stephen Jackson SG 80 28.15 43.52 75.96 31.99 3.58 2.29 1.56 0.38 11.82
Malik Rose PF 79 24.48 45.87 79.08 40.00 6.41 1.57 0.72 0.51 10.41
David Robinson C 64 26.20 46.90 71.03 NA 7.94 0.95 0.81 1.73 8.53
Manu Ginobili SG 69 20.75 43.83 73.68 34.46 2.33 2.00 1.39 0.25 7.61
Bruce Bowen SF 82 31.30 46.56 40.45 44.10 2.91 1.38 0.80 0.51 7.11
Steve Smith SG 53 19.47 38.83 83.33 33.05 1.87 1.32 0.53 0.17 6.79
Speedy Claxton PG 30 15.70 46.21 68.42 0.00 1.87 2.50 0.73 0.23 5.77
Kevin Willis C 71 11.85 47.86 61.45 0.00 3.18 0.34 0.28 0.28 4.18
Steve Kerr SG 75 12.68 42.97 88.24 39.52 0.80 0.93 0.36 0.04 3.99
Danny Ferry SF 64 9.38 35.48 76.92 35.00 1.17 0.33 0.11 0.14 1.86
Devin Brown SG 7 3.14 50.00 100.00 NA 1.00 0.29 0.00 0.00 1.71
Menk Bateer C 12 3.75 23.53 0.00 33.33 0.83 0.33 0.00 0.00 0.75
With the retirement of David
Robinson the most glaring need is at Center.
The team could also use a Small Forward who is more of an offensive
threat than Bruce Bowen. It is unlikely
the team will find their Center of the future in this draft and will save that
need for free agency. Small forward is
the most likely position to be filled in this year’s draft. Point guard is another possibility, if the
team feels that Speedy Claxton will not resign.
Team and the Current Roster
year player Tony Parker initiates the offense.
Speedy Claxton is his very capable backup. Both, although young, do their job quite well. Before the finals there was a lot of talk of
the Spurs luring Jason Kidd away from the Nets. Did Parker do enough to secure his position with the team? Speedy Claxton is a free agent so if he goes
else where the team will need another point guard.
Guard: Like the
point, primarily two people man the shooting guard position. One is an Argentine rookie who spent the
last five years playing in Europe. The
starter is a journeyman, Stephen Jackson who has been cut by nine different
teams around the world, most notably the Nets.
He made them pay in the playoffs.
Jackson is a free agent. I
expect him to resign, but Ginobeli could take his starting spot next season.
Bowen has a reputation as a defensive stopper.
He is also the team’s best three-point shooter (and worst free throw
shooter, go figure). Bowen makes an
already good defensive team even better.
The fact he can hit the open three is very valuable in the Spurs
system. Ginoboli and the ancient Danny
Ferry backup Bowen. Although Bowen is a
nice complementary player the team could use more firepower from the position.
league and championship series MVP is power forward Tim Duncan. He averaged 23
points and 13 rebounds and nearly four assists in the regular season. He was two blocked shots short of a
quadruple double in the sixth and decisive game of NBA finals. Duncan can opt out of his contract. If he does so it is only to get a little
more money and a longer contract. He is
staying in San Antonio. Malik Rose is
Center: The Admiral David Robinson is
retiring after a wonderful career, culminating in a second Championship
ring. Forty year old Kevin Willis was
his backup and plans to return for two additional seasons. He is a good backup, but the team will need
a Center. Tim Duncan could see some
time next season at Center, but is more comfortable and prefers to play the 4.
Free agency is the key to the
Spurs off-season. Tony Parker, Manu
Ginobli, Malik rose and Bruce Bowen are the only players guaranteed to be
returning next season. Tim Duncan has a
player’s option, but will surely be back next season.
David Robinson: The Admiral is
retiring. He leaves a big hole to fill.
Stephen Jackson: He was a great
find. He will be invited back, but will
not be offered much more than the minimum.
Speedy Claxton: He is probably
the most important Spurs free agent (Duncan excepted). As a proven point guard he will be courted
by many other teams. If the Spurs land
Kidd, Claxton will not be needed. If
not, they will try to retain Claxton's services. If other teams offer Claxton the 4.5 million dollar exception do
not expect him to be back with the Spurs as that salary would pay him twice what
starter Tony Parker is making.
The selection –
Planinic, PG, 6'6", Croatia
Zoran Planinic – Cibona (Croatia)
– 6’ 6” Point Guard/Shooting Guard. Great size for a point guard. He has good vision and a quick first step
and mature decision making. He is
protection against defections by both Speedy Claxton and/or Stephen. Tall point guards are always
attractive. If Jason Kidd does not sign
with the Spurs, and a doubt he will, San Antonio will need someone to post up
against tall point guards.
Carlos Delfino - Argentina - 6’ 7” Small Forward/Shooting Guard. Good
defensive player. This is the player I
had targeted since receiving the San Antonio G.M.-ship, but he was off the
Marcus Banks - UNLV - 6' 0"
Point Guard. It looked like he was
going to fall into my lap but he too was off the board.
Zaur Pachulia - Georgia - 6’ 11”
Center. Still raw, but moves well for a
big man. He is adept at blocking shots
and rebounding. Athletic big men are
always attractive and he does fill a need.
Brian Cook – Illinois – 6’ 10”
Power Forward. He would have been the
safe pick. Every mock draft I have seen
has him going before the 28th pick. He is a very solid player, who
shows a lot of versatility, but he seems to be a bit of an underachiever. After my poor performance last year I
probably should have played it safe, but you don’t get anywhere playing it
Travis Outlaw – Starkville, MS 6”
9” Small Forward. Very, very
athletic. He is already a skilled shot
blocker. With his long arms he should
be a great defender. He is only a high
school player so he will need time to develop.
Of course, the defending champs don’t need him to contribute
immediately. Playing for the champs
would be justification for young Travis riding the pine as he learns the NBA
game. My pick really came down to
Outlaw and Planinic. Everyone expects
the Spurs to go foreign, but they could surprise people. If Outlaw develops he would certainly fill a
need. In the end it just does not seem
to fit the Spurs style to draft a High School player.
Luke Walton – Arizona – 6’ 9”
Small Forward. I love him as a second
round pick, but the injuries will prevent a first round selection. Not really considered here just wanted to
mention the name.
Who the team will take
Best player available, foreign or
domestic, regardless of position.
Moves in the off-season
Although the Spurs have only five
players signed for next season I believe this off-season will be a case of the
more things change the more they stay the same. Expect Stephen Jackson and Kevin Willis to return with reasonably
priced contracts. Steve Kerr and even
Danny Ferry could return for the veteran minimum. I would not even completely discount the idea of a return by
Now the big question, where to
spend the money? Depending on what
Duncan does, the Spurs will have between 18 and 30 million dollars of cap space
to stock their roster. Assuming the lower figure of 18 million the team will be
able to sign one player to a maximum length contract another for about 6 million
and still have the mid-level exemption of 4.5 million to use on one player or a
combination of two.
Max. Contract Candidates
Unfortunately, for the Spurs their greatest need is at
Center. Of the free agents available, I
do not think any is worth a max deal.
However, there are a couple power forwards that are worthy and could
share Center duties with Tim Duncan.
Here is a look at the Candidates for a Max deal.
Elton Brand –
Brand a former #1 overall draft pick has a very polished low post game. However, playing for the Bulls and Clippers
he has yet to play for a win or to elevate his team.
Jason Kidd -
There has been a lot of speculation about Kidd moving to San Antonio. Kidd is clearly the best point guard in the
game today. His, wife however, seems to
like the celebrity status she gets in New York. Also, Kidd has baggage.
The Spurs have built a team of high-class guys that Kidd real does not
seem to fit in with. Keep in mind both
the Mavericks and Suns traded Kidd away.
Add that to the fact that the Spurs have a pretty good Point Guard in
Tony Parker and I think the money can be better spent elsewhere.
Jermaine O’Neal –
I think he is the man to pick. With
O’Neal and Duncan playing side by side the Spurs would be nearly
unstoppable. Neither he nor Duncan
prefers to play Center but both can.
Teams would not be able to double team both Duncan and O’Neal without
being lit up by the other.
6 Million Dollar Candidates
Alonzo Mourning –
If he can regain his old form Mourning is worth a Max deal. I believe a lot of teams will be offering
him the mid-level exemption so by topping that the Spurs might be able to steal
him. Of course, there are the health
concerns. The Spurs have experience
with the ailment so will they be more or less likely to take a risk on
– He is a very athletic big man and a true Center. I don’t think any teams will
be offering the max. So again the Spurs
could be able to steal one.
Lamar Odom –
Highly skilled Small Forward, but another knucklehead who I do not think fits
in with the Spurs’ philosophy.
Cory Maggette –
This former Duke player is very talented and still young. I think he would provide some good offense
from the Small Forward position and he is not a bad defender.
Sign O’Neal to the max, Mourning to a 6 million deal, and
Maggette at the mid-level. Plan B would
have the Spurs not signing any max deals instead get Mourning and Olwakandi in
the 6-9 range and maybe even Gary Payton at the same price.