Dodging The CP3 Bullet

Chris Paul forced a trade to the Rockets, upending all the hopes and dreams of the wishful Spurs fans among us. We all just knew Chris Paul was coming this way even though the math did not quite work out. As Daryl Morey showed, anything is possible for a good front office.

Zach Lowe’s podcast right mentioned that the rumors of Paul to Houston were strange because the Rockets did not have the cap space. He simply did not think Paul would opt in and make the move. It was incredible. No one could have seen it.

San Antonio is not in quite the same position, but the Pau opt-out deal was in the same vein. Count me among those who question how exactly the Rockets will beat a determined team with the defensive smarts to limit the variance in the playoffs but then again it is a valiant attempt and I have to respect that.

There are too many teams that do not try for me to hate on an organization that is going for it.

For the Spurs, it means that the greatest point guard of this generation will be in the same division, not only the same conference and the recipe for beating Houston changed a bit.

Barring a miracle trade, the Spurs look like they are going to mostly stand pat. LaMarcus Aldridge does not have the market interest that the Spurs want and until tat changes, things will look awfully similar. That is not a terrible thing.

Spurs 2017 Offseason Rumors and Draft Results

  • Danny Green to get traded?
  • Spurs shopping LaMarcus?
  • Spurs looking for Chris Paul?

I wrote a version of this post about eight times before I said “let’s just wait.” The Spurs have been unusually active in offseason discussion the past two offseasons, acquiring LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015, and then getting a meeting with Kevin Durant last year before signing Pau Gasol.

To hear the the team was shopping LaMarcus was unsurprising in the least for various reasons. Let us discuss them shall we?

Reasons We Were Not Surprised At LMA Being Shopped

  1. He was awful in the last two postseasons
  2. He looks unhappy all the time
  3. He likes to get big numbers and he has taken a backseat to Kawhi
  4. He was awful and got called out for it

While we all (including Pop) were critical of LMA’s game in the playoffs the last two years, we must acknowledge that he has been really good. The numbers look good, and when he is confident (usually when he has someone feeding him the ball early) he is top-20 level talent. Again, witness the first three quarters of the Western Conference Finals, the last game against the Rockets, and the first two home games against the Thunder last year. The issue is that these results are inconsistent, and frustrating when they are accompanied by no-shows.

The defenders’ argument is something like “he has no ball handler to get him the ball!” and while this is very true, especially this year, that could not account for his missing jumper.

Overheard:

LaMarcus has two heart conditions: he has the murmur and he has no heart.

Is the above fair? Nope. The skinny on LMA was always that he was a talented, but limited player who tended to sulk and avoid the necessary grunt work that would make him great. The local sports radio guy tells a story about LaMarcus skipping out on a workout with Tim Duncan because he could not hack the intensity. Those unverified rumors aside, he looks like all those are true when he is missing bunnies at the rim.

When Tim failed (he did, kids. Trust me) or when David fell short, they went out swinging. In the Hakeem Series, Dave Robinson had great series, and Olajuwon even complimented him on his defense saying something to the effect of “the reason I played so well, was because of David’s great defense. I needed all those moves.”

When Tim was dragging Terry Porter to the WCF, he got swept or lost in five to the Lakers but still had epic numbers.

LaMarcus? Nope. He could have willed the Spurs to victory in Game 1 but it was not in him. He could have showed out in a Game 2 loss like Jonathan Simmons did. He disappeared.

Spurs fans are excited for the possibility of the trade, LaMarcus apparently is also. MYSA, CBSSPORTS, ESPN, all ran a series of posts mentioning the trade and the reasons why. After draft night, he remained a Spur and the front office said the right things. He remains a Spur and provides the team a good chance of winning.

What is lost in all of this is how good LMA has been for SA. He has defended well on the perimeter, did an okay job at the rim, and scored well enough to be somewhat reliable. He had that stretch last season where he was amazing. This year he battled the heart thing, and later had knee tendinitis issues.

The issue is that he does not inspire confidence. So many people looked at LeBron’s chances of upending the Warriors in the Finals as better than none, simply because of how good he is. No one thinks that about LaMarcus. Instead, most are surprised when he shows out.

Possible Destinations

Interestingly, LaMarcus’ twitter account unfollowed the Spurs and followed Cavalier Kyrie Irving, former Cav Mo Williams, and Cleveland chef Joe Symons. Make of that what you will. The rumor was that SA was thinking of sending Danny Green, himself both loved and hated for his inconsistency since 2013, and LMA to CLE for some stuff. I speculated that STUFF could and should be Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert. For their limitations, they are essentially the same guys as LMA and Danny.

Shump is a good defender with a limited offensive game that comes and goes. Sound familiar? Love is not as athletic as LMA, but is a much better rebounder, and has a bit more range.

That deal was not enough, apparently.

Why trade Danny Green? Well the initial reports indicated the Spurs wanted to trade Danny’s $10 million contract to clear room for a run at Chris Paul. After Pau’s deal-restructuring (in essence, he declined his option officially) an essential next-step is clearing enough space for CP3 to think it is worth his while from the bank-account side.

Before the draft, LMA was rumored to be headed to the Suns for the 4th pick. He really considered Phoenix before deciding on San Antonio in 2015, and this was his chance to make that happen. Portland was also discussed (hahahaha) but there was no report on the possible asset group coming this way.

What It All Means

Just because there was no deal available before the draft does not mean there will not be something coming up soon. The Spurs even kicked the tires on Porzingis (smartly) even though that seems very unlikely. The Bulls were fleeced by the Wolves and so there is no telling who is a possible get for RC Buford. Twitter even mentioned a possible Paul George deal that could have been completed.

As it was, the Spurs picked up two guys — Derrick White and Jaron Blossomgame — who address needs. If Patty and Jonathan leave for greener ($$$) pastures, White and Blossomgame certainly fit the profile for replacements. White is yet another attempt to fill both the PG-of-the-future and backup-PG spots. The Spurs had to let go of Cory Joseph when making room for LMA, and dealt George Hill for the rights to Kawhi Leonard. Since, they have tried Ray McCallum, Ryan Arcidiacono, Nico Laprovitolla, and — yes — Dejounte Murray.

Supplementing Tony Parker (at the very least) has been an ongoing project that has yet to be fulfilled. Balancing that project with the need to field competitive teams to strike during Kawhi’s prime go together. Chris Paul would be ideal if it did not require dismantling the roster. George Hill would be an easy fit if he were not so injury-prone and a solid pick up at best.

The rest? Well there is no combination outside of adding the King himself that will put the org in title-favorite status.

Let us continue wait-and-see.

More Chris Paul Rumors

The Cavs are trying to unlock the Warriors juggernaut and not having a great time of it. The Spurs and Chris Paul are flirting with each other.

Deadspin:

Free agency doesn’t start for another month, but Paul’s camp floating the idea to the media is the hardest proof so far that he might actually leave the franchise he helped rescue.

Deadspin is quoting Marc Stein:

Sources told ESPN that Paul, for all of his undeniable fondness for Los Angeles, is intrigued by the idea of teaming up with the likes of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and MVP top-three finalist Kawhi Leonard in his quest to achieve the deep playoff success that has eluded Paul to this point in his career.

Honestly not much has changed and Stein says what everyone has been saying recently, including this little blog.

There are too many variables and permutations at this juncture to know exactly how the Spurs will proceed. But the list of players whose futures in San Antonio could be affected by a full-on Paul pursuit includes longtime Spurs mainstays Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili as well as Pau Gasol, Danny Green, Patty Mills, Dewayne Dedmon, David Lee and the emerging Jonathon Simmons.

The Spurs may well feel they had a shot of taking on the Warriors, much like the Dubs probably would have been the favorites without KD. Adding him has turned an all-time great team into THE all-time greatest team. The Spurs’ chances — however big or small they were — will be improved by adding a future HOFer. Tony Parker would have started if he had not tore his quad and he could be the backup.

Honestly, I am hoping this is real simply because I cannot look at LaMarcus Aldridge and think about him as the second-best player on this team for another 82-games.

Spurs and Chris Paul; Roster Thoughts

Since the Spurs exited the WCF literally limping to the finish the post-mortems have begun in earnest. Perhaps the biggest rumor is not a rumor at all. No less than every single outlet ever has reported Zach Lowe’s podcast as the source of the ‘realness’ of the Chris Paul possibility. Henceforth we will refer to this situation as CPP.

Here is the Lowe Post podcast in question.

Two other decent reads about this offseason:

The likely scenario is this: The Spurs bring back some version of this current roster with an update or two. How do we know this? The Spurs have essentially done this for ages. The biggest overhaul was when LaMarcus Aldridge came over and the Spurs parted ways with Thiago Splitter, Belinelli, and others to make room.

This year’s team was not remarkably different than last year’s.

Pos 2016 2017
PF LMA LMA
C TD Pau
SF Kawhi Kawhi
SG DG DG
PG TP TP
6 Manu Manu
7 Kyle A Kyle A
8 J Simms J Simms
9 Patty Patty
10 West Dedmon
11 Diaw David Lee
12 Bonner Bertans
13 Andre Miller Forbes
14 Kevin Martin Murray
15 Boban Joel Anthony

Okay, Pop made much of the seven new players and there was a difference. But the 67-win team had loads of changes also. The key differences were unchanged and that was key. By key I mean the starters and the major minute-getters. The Spurs late season drop contributed to the difference in win totals, and there were some early season struggles to get Pau acclimated and Tony healthy. The Spurs’ preference is to keep what is working and a 61-win team is the very definition of working.

Okay, but what about the playoffs? That wasn’t working. Sure it was. While the two losses to Houston were telling, the Spurs won. Of course, the general feeling about the Warriors was that the Spurs were the lesser-talented team but had a shot to win — or at least be competitive — given they were healthy. The 25-point lead will forever be the great What If? but it is important to remember that the Spurs were playing outside of their minds, while the Warriors were recovering from a layoff.

So if the Spurs had themselves a chance if healthy, why would they not bring back the same team, with some reconfigurations, and compete again?

The Fun Stuff

Let us be honest here. Staying pat is not fun. Signing Chris Paul: Point God is really fun.

Zach Lowe called it “real” and I am not sure what that means, exactly. If it is something along the lines of mutual interest. Of course the Spurs would be interested in adding a HOF player at a position of need. As everyone is reporting, that will be exceedingly difficult considering the circumstances. Moving Tony Parker seemed to be outside the norm of the Spurs pattern, but it was rumored heavily in 2011. Instead of Tony the Spurs traded George Hill. It was still possible. The injury is what takes him out of the shuffle.

Moving LMA would satiate the portion of the base that calls him Dick Jefferson 2.0, part of the appeal of playing in San Antonio is the quality post play of LaMarcus Aldridge. Seriously, why would you leave DeAndre Jordan and (perhaps still) Blake Griffin for an rusty Pau Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon? No, of Chris Paul is coming that means LaMarcus is staying. In fact, he would not let him check out of games. Getting yelled at by Pop is one thing, being scolded by a fellow player — and future HOFer — is another level.

The roster with CP3 looks something like this:

Pau, LMA, Kawhi, DG, CP3. Bench: What, ever, scraps, are, left.

Okay, well Bertans, Murray, Kyle Anderson, the ghost of TP. Those are the guys on the best team-friendly contracts. Depending on how much CP3 takes, the Spurs would have to lose (this is the best case scenario) Patty, Jonathan Simmons, and Manu. At minimum. The even more likely scenario is that SA has to find a landing spot for Pau.

You know what this means? It means the Spurs will be less deep than the Clips are now currently constructed. For Chris Paul it would mean he was taking a pay cut for a jump in team culture and coaching. That is not a stupid move, but it banking a lot on Pop and the Spurs strength and conditioning staff.

Chris Paul himself organized the CBA to favor players like himself in these situations. I do not think it is likely to happen no matter how much each side would like it to.