Report: Spurs may agree to ‘wink-wink’ deal with Tim Duncan in order to save salary cap space

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The San Antonio Spurs have as much uncertainty as just about anyone heading into next season. And before any of it can begin to be sorted out, the team is waiting on decisions from Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili as to whether they’re interested in continuing their careers, or if retirement is finally the more appealing option.

Ginobili has indicated he’ll be back if Duncan returns, and it’s looking more and more likely that Duncan will come back, if only for one additional season.

If that happens, then the Spurs are going to have to get pretty creative in how they structure those contracts, since both Duncan and Ginobili are, at the moment, unrestricted free agents. Here’s one interesting scenario that shows how it might work out.

From Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:

There are several NBA player personnel executives who believe the Spurs will offer Duncan a two-year contract that begins between $6 million and $7 million, with a partial guarantee and a player option in the second season.

If Duncan doesn’t exercise the option, he gets, say, 50 percent of that season’s salary. In effect, his salary for next season would remain over $10 million, the partially guaranteed portion of the second season’s salary remaining on the Spurs team salary after the cap explodes with the NBA’s new TV money kicking in for 2016-17.

“You can call it a ‘wink-wink’ deal if you want to,” said an Eastern Conference team executive.” It’s what they did with (Antonio) McDyess, so why not for Duncan.”

Duncan’s cap hold is slightly more than $15.5 million so such a two-year deal would drop their team salary by more than $8 million.

Obviously, a similar deal could be reached with Ginobili, as well.

The problem for the Spurs exists in the form of cap holds, which prevent teams from going out and signing free agents while still retaining the rights to the players on a fully stacked roster. Even though San Antonio technically only has five players currently inked to guaranteed deals for next season, the rules require that the salaries of 12 players (with projected increases over the previous season) remain in place for cap purposes.

The “wink-wink deal” would only be illegal if it could be proven that there was an agreement in place ahead of time that this would, in fact, be Duncan’s final season. Since that’s essentially impossible to do, credit the Spurs for having a creative ability to get things done to their advantage — if this is how the contract negotiations with Duncan and/or Ginobili ultimately play out.