Free agency: What to expect from the Spurs

As you are standing around your computer today, Spurs fans, frantically refreshing Twitter and breathlessly awaiting news of what your favorite team is doing in the nascent stages of Free Agency 2012, here is a table you might find handy.

It is a look at the Spurs’ major free agency-related related moves since winning their most recent NBA championship in 2007:

Summer 2007: Sign Ime Udoka and Ian Mahinmi

2008: Sign Roger Mason Jr., re-sign Kurt Thomas.

2009: Trade for Richard Jefferson, sign Antonio McDyess and Keith Bogans

2010: Sign Tiago Splitter, re-sign Matt Bonner

2011: Sign T.J. Ford

When considering the question of how active the Spurs might or might not be in free agency, it is instructive to look back how they’ve spent previous summers.

With the exception of 2009, when the Spurs traded for Jefferson and signed McDyess, summertime for the Spurs has not been about making a marquee splash. It has been about cherry-picking value to fill a specific need, often late in the summer after the big names have already committed elsewhere.

That approach is by necessity. With a trio of All-Stars (see: Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) eating up cap space for the better part of a decade, the Spurs simply haven’t had room on the payroll to take on other high-dollar additions.

Even with free agent Tim Duncan set to perhaps take a 50-percent pay cut from the $21.2 million he was on the books for last season, this summer promises to be quiet as well. Last year’s salary cap was $57 million; before Duncan makes another cent, the Spurs are already on the hook for nearly $50 million in salaries for 2012-13.

Once Duncan signs, the Spurs are all but certain to be over the salary cap again, leaving them with only the mid-level exception, biannual exception and veteran minimum contracts with which to lure other free agents.

That’s not going to get you, say, Roy Hibbert. The Indiana All-Star center is poised to sign a maximum offer sheet with Portland. Or even Nicolas Batum, who could be looking at a $50 million pay day in Minnesota or elsewhere. Spurs fans pining for either player were dreaming anyway.

Expect a free agency period much like last December for the Spurs, when they looked into MLE-type wing players (Caron Butler and Josh Howard), before ultimately signing just one veteran free agent: backup point guard T.J. Ford, for the league minimum.

A reasonable expectation for the Spurs’ offseason is this: Re-sign Duncan to a deal that is substantially less than what he made last season, but still starts in the $10 million range; re-sign Danny Green and (perhaps) Patrick Mills; use the mid-level exception to re-sign Boris Diaw and perhaps bring Erazem Lorbek over from Spain or Nando de Colo from France.

As for outside free agents, expect the Spurs to bring in a veteran minimum guy or two as we get closer to training camp.

Expect the team that takes the court opening night in October to look almost identical to the one bounced from the Western Conference finals last month.

Of course, all of this is just a guess. But based on the Spurs’ past history and cap situation this summer, a reasonable one.

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