As it stands, the San Antonio Spurs cannot afford to simply sign upcoming free agent Chris Paul, who is expected to exercise the early termination option in his contract.
According to Marc Stein, Los Angeles is worried about losing its star point guard to western conference rival San Antonio, despite the Spurs not having room to fit Paul under their current cap.
The Clippers, I'm told, take the threat of a Spurs free-agent pursuit of Chris Paul very seriously despite SA's current lack of cap space.
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) May 26, 2017
This offseason, the Spurs are on the books for $93,664,962 – which assumes Tony Parker does not retire because he is owed $15.4 million next season – and Pau Gasol opts into his $16.1 million player option.
With a projected salary cap of $102 million, San Antonio would need to get creative with its cap space to sign Paul to the projected $35.7 million max contract.
The easiest way for the Spurs to quickly create cap room is having Gasol decline his player option, but he is not walking away from a guaranteed $16.1 million, because who would?
Which means trading Gasol is more likely. Would teams like Orlando, Utah, Chicago, Minnesota or the Lakers take on the soon to be 37-year-old’s expiring contract? If San Antonio included a draft pick then possibly, but still a long shot.
Even if Manu Ginobli retires, San Antonio still needs to make decisions on free agents Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons.
Being a restricted free agent, the Spurs can match offers to Simmons. If Paul is serious about joining San Antonio then Mills will likely be a roster casualty. Greg Popovich could move on with Paul, Parker and Dejounte Murray at point guard.
San Antonio owes Danny Green $10 million for the next two years. Him, Gasol or likely both need to be traded for Paul’s $35.7 million number to fit.
Paul can re-sign with the Clippers for a record five-year $210 million deal or sign with the Spurs for a little over $150 million and four years. Texas’ no income tax would soften the $60 million difference Paul leaves on the table by joining the Spurs.
Popovich needs a lot of things to fall his way in order to have a realistic shot at uprooting Paul from Los Angeles.
If he does land the 32-year-old guard, then much of San Antonio’s supporting cast from last season will be gone next year.