The San Antonio Spurs will pursue free agents Al Horford and Mike Conley Jr. during the forthcoming offseason, according to sources close to the organization.
While the Spurs also expect to court Kevin Durant, there is a feeling within the league that the superstar forward will re-sign with Oklahoma City Thunder on a two-year deal with an opt out after one season. In other words, Spurs have a more realistic shot at landing Conley and Horford.
Spurs replacing Duncan and Parker…
Both Conley and Horford will fill the immediate holes in the Spurs roster. It was very evident that the aging tandem of Tim Duncan and Tony Parker struggled to make an impact during the just-concluded Western Conference semifinals which the Spurs lost 2-4 to Durant’s Thunder.
ESPN’s Mark Stein reported a few days ago that Conley is top priority for the Spurs. “Since last week’s piece about the Spurs’ free-agent interest in Kevin Durant more than one spy has whispered: They’ll court Mike Conley, too.”
While Stein didn’t report about Horford being a possible target, one source told this website that the Hawks big man has been viewed as Duncan’s successor for a very long time. Horford has thrived under Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer – who is a protégé of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. Therefore, the transition would be seamless.
Despite the possible acquisitions of Horford and Conley, it’s expected that both Duncan and Parker come off the bench next season and mentor their successors. According to Sports Illustrated, Parker will have no option but to accept a bench role. “Such a move (acquiring Conley) would affect the status of veteran starting point guard Tony Parker, 33, who would likely have to accept a bench role or have his contract — due to pay more than $14 million next season — moved to accommodate the younger Conley.”
How to clear cap room..
Of course, the Spurs would have to dump a few contracts and move a few pieces around to clear enough cap room to acquire Horford and Conley – who are both expected to warrant max or near-max deals. As of this writing, San Antonio have $62 million committed in salaries for next season.
With Duncan, Manu Ginobli and David West expected to come back on veteran minimum contracts, the Spurs will open up another $10 million in cap space – giving them close to $36 million to spend in free agency, which should be enough to acquire both Horford and Conley.
Last week, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich admitted that his team will be aggressive during free agency, a year after signing LaMarcus Aldridge to a maximum contract. “The playoffs weigh heavily on our decision making. I’ll put it that way. And we’ve relied on our bench almost every year as long as I can remember because you need to do it. If you look at the team you lose to, usually you’ll find that more players played well than on your team,” he said after the Spurs got bounced out of the postseason. (Watch Video Above)
Popovich continued: “When we win championships, we have more players on our team that play well than the opponent. That’s a simple equation, but it’s true. So, we just didn’t have the depth and that’s why I said to lose those chances in Game 2 and Game 5 was a real killer because we really didn’t have the depth as it turned out coming from our bench.”
Will Al Horford and Mikey Conley prove to be worthy longterm fits for the Spurs?