Defending a championship is not easy. Pat Riley’s oft-mentioned “disease of more” illustrates the difficulties that result from winning a title: players want more. More money, more playing time, and more recognition. Basically, players are more selfish once they’ve won. Winning can create a toxic setting not conducive to future success. The Spurs are the classiest, most well-run organization in the NBA though, and maybe in any professional sport. They are either adept at either constructing teams full of unselfish players, or convincing those players to buy into a team concept. The Spurs’ biggest obstacles for repeating are age and free agency. Luckily, Tim Duncan is not mortal and does not age. And the same goes for Tony Parker and to a lesser extent, Manu Ginobili. But the Spurs still have a few key free agents to re-sign. The three contributors whose contracts are up are Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Matt Bonner. Diaw and Mills will likely have fairly substantial paydays after his impressive Finals showing. He only scored six points per game, but it is his well-rounded game, namely his passing and rebounding that are what drive his worth. Diaw averaged nearly nine rebounds and six assists in the Finals, and played the role of point forward several times throughout the series for the Spurs.
It wouldn’t be shocking for Diaw to get around $20-30 million this summer. He’ll have plenty of suitors, but the Spurs are easily his best fit. He loves to pass the ball, and no one has better ball movement than the Spurs. Patty Mills is the second guy the Spurs will need to pay this summer. The Knicks have already expressed interest in signing him. Mills could easily start on a number of teams, so that will pose a problem for the Spurs. Several teams could offer him an attractive offer and the starting role. Passing up a raise and starting position could be difficult for Mills, but if his top priority is winning, then he’ll stay put. Lastly, the Spurs should be able to keep Bonner, and cheaper than his current $4 million deal.
The Spurs will likely have to overpay a little to keep Diaw and Mills, but that shouldn’t factor into their decisions this summer. The Spurs should pay whatever is necessary to keep their current team together. Their window is right now, and if they keep the team in tact, they would easily be the favorites heading into next season. Even without Diaw and Mills, the Spurs might still be the favorites to win it all, but both pieces played significant roles in the playoffs. In the clinching game, Mills scored 17 points in 18 minutes off of five 3’s. He was their energizer bunny off the bench, not a “little fat ass.” The Spurs usually make the right front office moves, and there’s no reason to think they’ll do otherwise this offseason. I’d count on them to roll out the exact same team next season.