The San Antonio Spurs were unceremoniously swept from the Western Conference Finals by the Golden State Warriors Monday night, and given the circumstances no one can blame them. The Spurs were without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, leaving them shorthanded against a historically great team. While the Spurs certainly need to make changes in order to compete with Golden State moving forward, that may not be possible any time soon thanks to some truly awful contracts.
LaMarcus Aldridge was downright awful against Golden State. He averaged 15.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 turnovers per game, while shooting a woeful 41.3 percent from the field. Unfortunately for San Antonio, this is largely who Aldridge is these days. During the regular season his PER of 18.66 ranked 59th in the NBA. Yeah, it’s gotten that bad.
Aldridge is 31 and will make $43.8 million over the next two seasons. The final year is a player option, but at this point there’s little chance he would turn that down. Meanwhile, Pau Gasol (PER of 20.2) holds a player option for $16.2 million for next season that he won’t be turning down. So Aldridge and Gasol will make more than $37 million combined next season. Ouch.
While those contracts are downright awful, the biggest issue for the Spurs is long-time point guard Tony Parker, who just turned in his worst professional season. The 35-year-old played in 63 games and averaged a career-low 25.2 minutes per game. He averaged just 10.1 points, 4.5 assists and 1.8 rebounds per game, while shooting just 46.6 percent from the field. His PER of 13.10 was a career-low and ranked 202nd in the NBA this season. Parker will make $15.4 million next season. Ouch.
So what’s the solution for the Spurs? They have $93 million in salary committed for 2017-18 and that doesn’t include figuring out what to do with free agents Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons. Any dreams of a big offseason acquisition should go out the window now.
First off, the Spurs should let Patty Mills walk, and let Bryn Forbes take his spot. Yeah, Forbes isn’t great, but he’s roughly $3 million cheaper. Next, I know Gregg Popovich is attached to Parker, but he must get Dejounte Murray more time on the floor. In fact, I’d give Murray every chance to win the starting point guard spot next season. Let Parker come off the bench, he only played 25.2 minutes per game this year anyway.
The Spurs should also offer someone a ton of draft picks to take Gasol off their hands. Heck, try to send him to the Lakers who are rebuilding and have cap space. If they can do that, they’ll have the financial flexibility to make a run at re-signing Simmons. If not, they can kiss him goodbye.
The Spurs are completely hamstrung by going after the big fish in Aldridge and being too loyal to a former star in Parker. One hasn’t lived up to his billing and the other is slowly decomposing before our eyes.
A franchise that was so good at roster construction for so long has made some critical mistakes the past few seasons. They will be paying for those decisions for at least another year.