After winning the 2014 NBA title, the Spurs entered the offseason with seven players whose 2014-15 contract weren’t totally set. San Antonio has taken care of six of them:
That leaves just Aron Baynes unaccounted for.
The Spurs extended Baynes a $1,115,243 qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. That one-year contract offer will remain available until Oct. 1.
So, Baynes can always take that and get his guaranteed salary. But there’s no guarantee the Spurs, who already have 16 players with at least partially guaranteed contracts and aren’t finished searching for additions, keep Baynes on the roster. Once the season begins, San Antonio can have just 15 players, so eating Baynes’ salary might be the best move if he accepts the qualifying offer.
Or Baynes could help the Spurs out of their pickle.
Baynes wants to stay in San Antonio but he’s also seeking an overseas deal that pays at least 1.5 million Euro, according to Ismail Senol of NTV SPOR Turkey (hat tip: RealGM). That’s the equivalent of $1,978,650, so Baynes is looking for a bigger raise – and more playing time.
I expect this to all sort itself out by Oct. 1, when the Spurs can pull their qualifying offer. If they do, Baynes would remain a restricted free agent, just without the standing contract offer. Even if he doesn’t sign in the NBA this season, San Antonio could keep him a restricted free agent in perpetuity by extending a qualifying offer each summer.
Most likely, Baynes will either find an agreeable foreign offer soon or accept the Spurs’ qualifying offer. It the latter happens, I think the slightly more likely scenario, San Antonio could face some tough cuts during the preseason.
Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.
Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.
But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.
LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.
However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.
For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.
Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.