With questions on the San Antonio Spurs’ 2020 payroll, including the long-term status of DeMar DeRozan, they answered one of those questions Wednesday. Per Marc Stein of The New York Times, the Spurs will guarantee LaMarcus Aldridge’s $24 million salary for the 2020-21 NBA season. It previously had a partial payout of $7 million, which would have been fully guaranteed for $24 million after June 29, 2020.
It is another case of contract loyalty from the Spurs, who have generously extended Patty Mills, Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol in recent seasons, and they just did the same for Aldridge in 2017, when he received a two-year extension.
Along with Dejounte Murray’s four-year, $64 million extension, this likely removes the Spurs from the 2020 free agency conversation. They now owe eight figures to Aldridge, Gay, Mills and Murray and the only contracts certain to leave the books are Marco Belinelli, Jakob Poeltl (a restricted free agent) and Bryn Forbes. DeMar DeRozan has a $27.73 million player option, but he and the Spurs are far apart in contract talks, per Sam Amick of The Athletic. Even if the former Toronto Raptor declines his 2020-21 contract, the Spurs still have to pay Forbes, potentially bring Poeltl back and work towards a Derrick White extension in October 2020.
So next summer could turn towards retaining players, which makes sense, given the upcoming pool of free agents. No longer are Draymond Green, Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Kyle Lowry or Pascal Siakam set to hit the open market. Instead, Anthony Davis, who can stick with the Lakers, is the headliner. Otto Porter Jr. and Andre Drummond are the next players up, but only if they decline their respective player options.
This class is dry, and by keeping Aldridge for another season, the Spurs are not missing out on the next available superstar or a game-changing talent. He will be 35 years old, sure, but, so far, no drop-off in production is imminent, especially after 22 points and eight rebounds on opening night. That can always change, but the Silver and Black are already confident enough to keep the veteran power forward around.
Keeping Aldridge bridges the gap to the anticipated 2021 free agency, however, when players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George can switch teams; Kawhi Leonard is among that group, but it is difficult to imagine a reunion.
The Spurs are typically not a destination for high-profile free agents, but they found Aldridge over four years ago. Perhaps there is another player like him in that pool, especially since just $31.9 million is on the 2021-22 payroll. That money can go towards someone like Rudy Gobert and continue this organization’s run of top-tier big men.
Before any of that happens, however, the Spurs have one more season with Aldridge to play through. It is one last gasp for this veteran group, as Gay and Mills also clear the books by June 2021, and that may not even feature DeRozan. This transitional period could lead to bigger opportunities for the surging Murray, White, Lonnie Walker IV, the 2019 rookies and the next wave of talent to come through the 2020 NBA Draft. It could happen soon, and the 2020-21 season might mark the last chance for this current iteration.