Kevin Durant surprised many when he announced his decision to play for Team USA in Rio this summer. He shocked many more when he decided to join a Warriors team that might actually have a better roster than the Olympic team. Go figure.
I say it's no big deal—he left one job for a better one. I wish I could do the same thing every day. Evidently the Texas Longhorns connection wasn't enough to lure Durant to the San Antonio Spurs, who, like 29 other teams had to settle for some consolation prizes. I present to you the definitive free agency report card for the Spurs.
Manu Ginobili The 38-year old sixth man opted out of a $2.9 million contract for the 2016-17 season and entered free agency before quickly re-signing with the Spurs for the room exception at $4.4 million. According to his agent Herb Rudoy, he even rejected a "very serious, big offer" from another team. And you know what? I can believe it. Among players that played at least 50 games off the bench last season, Ginobili quietly led the league in net rating (14.9). Yes, even better than Andre Iguodala and way ahead of the media's Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford. (Seriously, I'm still scratching my head over that one. One day the league will rename it the Manu Ginobili Sixth Man of the Year Award and everything will be right with the world.) Last year, he averaged in 9.6 points, 3.1 assists, and a steal in 19.6 minutes, even though a brutal, testicle-twisting injury sidelined him for a month. Grade: B
Dewayne Dedmon The Spurs suffered mightily in the Western Conference Semifinals because they did not have a young, athletic center to put out against Enes Kanter or Steven Adams. Sure, Tim Duncan provided rim protection, and Boban Marjanovic could score, but neither had the speed or footwork to defend a pick and roll. Boris Diaw and David West were more athletic, but neither could grab a rebound. Enter Dewayne Dedmon, the 26-year old seven-footer who spent the last two seasons backing up Nikola Vucevic in Orlando. The Magic, with a suddenly crowded frontcourt, had no need to re-sign Dedmom, and the Spurs, after Boban's departure for Detroit, were all too happy to offer Dedmon two years for $6 million. Seriously, what a steal. This might be the best signing of 2016 NBA free agency after Durant and Horford. Last season, Dedmon only averaged nine minutes off the bench, but the guy is a tremendous athlete. And, in 20 starts last year, he posted 7.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, and a block. Grade: A
Pau Gasol Let me preface this by saying I love Pau Gasol. I really do. I even cheered for him on the Lakers. It tickles my heart that he's an avid opera patron, and I think it's awesome that he fits in with the Spurs' proud tradition of foreign players. I even overlooked it when he insulted my Chicago heritage by calling deep dish pizza "a cake of melted cheese." But I'm just not excited about this signing. I would have to imagine Popovich plans to start Gasol and bring Tim Duncan off the bench (if Duncan even returns next year). But wait—didn't I just write about how Duncan's age and immobility hurt the Spurs pick and roll defense against younger teams? And now the Spurs will pay $30 million over two years to a 36-year old who can't defend the pick and roll? It just doesn't make a lot of sense. I might have preferred to keep Boris Diaw, who the Spurs traded to the Jazz to make room for Gasol. (Of course, I really would have preferred to sign Al Horford, but you can't win 'em all.) The good news is that Gasol can provide scoring down low and is still an effective rebounder. He averaged 16.5 points and 11 rebounds in 72 games for the Bulls last year. Grade: C+
Tim Duncan The Big Fundamental chose not to enter free agency and exercised his $5.6 million player option on June 28. This will ensure he gets paid next year even if he retires, an eventuality that Adrian Wojnarowski reports is likely. We should find out in the next few days whether or not the 40-year old living legend plans to come back for one more year. Grade: ??