Spurs Rumors

Details On Starter Criteria For 2022 RFAs

The NBA’s rookie scale, which determines the salaries first-round picks earn during their first four seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”

Here’s how the starter criteria works in a typical year:

  1. A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency.
  2. A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games one year and 32 the next, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.

The first method of meeting the starter criteria will remain unchanged this season, but that second method will look a little different due to the truncated nature of the 2020/21 season.

For starter criteria purposes, the number of starts and minutes a player logged last season will be prorated upward by 82/72 to account for the 72-game schedule, Hoops Rumors has learned.

For example, Suns center Deandre Ayton started 69 games last season. Typically, Ayton would require 13 more starts this season to meet the starter criteria, since 82 total starts would get him to the required average of 41 over the last two seasons.

However, Ayton’s 69 starts last season came in just 72 regular season games. Prorated across a typical 82-game schedule, he would’ve made 78 starts. That means he’ll only need four starts this season to meet the starter criteria. In other words, he should get there next Wednesday, barring an injury.

Hornets forward Miles Bridges, meanwhile, only started 19 games last season, but he played 1,932 total minutes in Charlotte’s 72 games. That works out to 2,200 minutes when prorated across an 82-game schedule, meaning he’d require just 1,800 more this season in order to meet the starter criteria. Since he’s part of the Hornets’ starting five now, Bridges could also meet the criteria by simply getting to 41 starts in 2021/22.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

In most cases, a qualifying offer is a mere placeholder that allows a team to retain its right of first refusal on a restricted free agent — very few players actually accept the one-year offer. Still, a player who fails to meet the starter criteria could have his free agency reshaped by an adjusted qualifying offer.

For instance, Kings big man Marvin Bagley III would be in line for a qualifying offer worth $14,762,309 if he meets the starter criteria or just $7,228,448 if he doesn’t.

Bagley would need to start 35 games this season in order to meet the starter criteria, which might be a long shot, given that he’s out of the rotation for now. Still, a $7.2MM qualifying offer could be more palatable to the Kings – or whichever team has him on its roster by the end of the 2021/22 season – than a $14.8MM one would be. Somewhat paradoxically, Bagley may have a better chance of actually receiving his QO if he starts fewer games this season.

Collin Sexton (Cavaliers), Lonnie Walker (Spurs), Donte DiVincenzo (Bucks), and Josh Okogie (Timberwolves) are some of the other top candidates to meet the starter criteria this season. We’ll be keeping an eye on them and the rest of 2022’s RFAs-to-be over the next several months.

Ayton, Sexton Among Players Who Don’t Agree To Extensions

While 11 players received rookie scale extensions this offseason, many notable players didn’t reach an agreement with their respective teams prior to Monday’s deadline.

As we detailed earlier, the Suns couldn’t come to terms with the No. 1 pick of the 2018 draft, Deandre Ayton. Phoenix was unwilling to offer Ayton a full max contract, which short-circuited any hopes of an agreement.

The Suns raised the concept of a shorter maximum contract — presumably for three or four years instead of the full five years — but never formally made the offer or broached the idea again with Ayton’s reps, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst report. Ayton is unhappy with the franchise’s consistent stance that it simply doesn’t view him as a max player, the ESPN duo adds.

That adds an intriguing subplot to Phoenix’s drive to make the Finals again. Ayton will be headed toward restricted free agent next summer. Will he be motivated toward proving the front office wrong or will his unhappiness create a major distraction? Ayton could be the most attractive free agent on next year’s market and receive a giant offer sheet, which would force the Suns to decide to match it or let their franchise center walk away.

Ayton has some company among his peers. The Cavaliers and guard Collin Sexton were unable to reach an agreement and he’s headed toward restricted free agency, Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tweets. Even though Sexton posted impressive offensive stats last season (24.3 PPG, 4.4 APG), his name was frequently mentioned in trade rumors this summer, a signal that the Cavs aren’t sold on the eighth pick of the 2018 draft as their long-term floor leader.

Sexton was hoping for a $100MM+, multi-year deal that aligned with his production over the first three years, Fedor reports. At one point this offseason, Sexton used De’Aaron Fox‘s five-year, $163MM extension in 2020 as a baseline. The Cavs were unwilling to go anywhere near that number and optimism waned in recent days about reaching an agreement.

The Hornets and swingman Miles Bridges also couldn’t come to terms, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets, nor could the Spurs and Lonnie Walker, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express News tweets. Bridges averaged 12.7 PPG and 6.0 RPG last season, while Walker contributed 11.2 PPG in his third year.

Donte DiVincenzo, a key member of the Bucks’ rotation last season until he suffered a torn ligament in his ankle in July, is also headed to restricted free agency. DiVincenzo averaged 10.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG and 3.1 APG last season. Some of the other notables who didn’t sign an extension or were not offered one include the Kings’ Marvin Bagley III and the Magic’s Mohamed Bamba.

The list of players who did and did not receive rookie scale extensions can be found here.

Spurs Claim Cacok, Hand Him Two-Way Deal

The Spurs have claimed former Lakers and Nets forward Devontae Cacok off waivers and converted his deal to a two-way contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

Brooklyn placed Cacok on waivers over the weekend after choosing to sign David Duke Jr. to a two-way contract. Cacok was signed to a training camp deal last month.

Claims are relatively rare in the NBA, so the Spurs apparently believe Cacok, 25, could contribute this season. Swingman Joe Wieskamp has the Spurs’ other two-way deal.

Cacok, who went undrafted out of UNC Wilmington in 2019, spent his first two professional seasons on a two-way contract with the Lakers. He played sparingly as a rookie, but appeared in 20 regular season games in 2020/21, though his playing time was limited. He averaged 2.0 PPG and 1.6 RPG in 4.9 minutes per contest.

He excelled in the G League in 2019/20, putting up 19.3 PPG and 11.9 RPG with a .660 FG% in 33 games for the South Bay Lakers.

Brooklyn’s G League team, the Long Island Nets, acquired his rights on Friday. The Spurs’ two-way contract will override those returning rights. However, Long Island would still have his returning rights if he’s waived and signs a G League contract.

Spurs Exercise Options On Johnson, Vassell

The Spurs exercised their fourth-year option on forward Keldon Johnson, as well as their third-year option on swingman Devin Vassell, for the 2022/23 season, according to a team press release.

Johnson will make approximately $3.87MM next season, while Vassell will take in nearly $4.44MM.

Neither move came as a surprise.

Johnson has emerged as one of the team’s top players. He appeared in 69 games last season and averaging 12.8 PPG, 6.0 RPG and 1.8 APG in 28.5 MPG. Johnson, the 29th pick of the 2019 draft, was a member of this summer’s Team USA squad that captured the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.

Vassell, a lottery pick last year, averaged 5.5 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 17.0 MPG over 62 games during his rookie campaign. He projects to be one of San Antonio’s mainstays on its second unit this season.

Spurs Waive Al-Farouq Aminu

12:30pm: The Spurs have officially waived Aminu, per a team press release.

12:12pm: The Spurs are waiving veteran forward Al-Farouq Aminu, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

San Antonio had been carrying 16 players on guaranteed contracts, so cutting Aminu will ensure the team gets down to 15 for the start of the regular season. The Spurs will be on the hook for Aminu’s $10,183,800 salary, which will remain on their cap for the 2021/22 season.

Aminu, who signed a three-year, $29MM+ deal with Orlando in 2019, battled injuries throughout the contract, appearing in just 35 games for the Magic before he was sent to Chicago in the Nikola Vucevic trade at the 2021 deadline. He played in six games for the Bulls down the stretch, then was flipped to the Spurs in the DeMar DeRozan sign-and-trade this offseason.

A strong, versatile defender when healthy, Aminu was a starter in New Orleans and Portland earlier in his career, but was only traded to the Spurs for salary-matching purposes and wasn’t considered a keeper for the club. There was a little uncertainty about whether he’d be a victim of the preseason roster crunch, since his $10MM expiring deal could’ve been useful in a midseason trade, but it seems the Spurs decided it made more sense to release him than one of their younger players.

San Antonio also waived Luka Samanic last week in order to get down to 15 players on standard contracts for the regular season. The team does have an open two-way contract slot.

Spurs Notes: T. Jones, Walker, Popovich, Young

Spurs guard Tre Jones is eager to bounce back from a sprained left ankle that slowed his progress after an outstanding Summer League performance, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. Jones had to miss the entire preseason after suffering the injury in training camp, but there’s optimism that he will be ready for Wednesday’s season opener.

A second-round pick in 2020, Jones averaged just 7.3 minutes and 2.5 PPG in the 37 games he played as a rookie. He took a big step forward in Las Vegas, putting up 22.8 points, 6.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, and he hopes to carry that over to the new season.

“It’s only been two weeks, so it’s not that much time in the big scheme of things. but it feels like it’s been forever,” Jones said. “I’m itching to get back out there.”

There’s more from San Antonio:

  • The Spurs are counting on Lonnie Walker to provide an offensive spark off the bench, Orsborn notes in a separate story. Walker has focused on improving his outside shooting after connecting at a 35.5% clip last season. “(Shooting coach) Chip Engelland has worked with him really well in trying to improve and get confidence in the 3-point shot,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The last part we want to keep working on is him finding other people. He’s one of the guys on our team that can beat somebody, get into the paint and create, so it gives him an added responsibility finding teammates. That will be his next step.”
  • Rumors have emerged recently that Popovich is contemplating retirement, but he sounds energized by the challenge of coaching a young team, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. With his veteran core gone, the 72-year-old is in a rebuilding role after missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. “A lot of these guys, they had one or two years in college and haven’t had a lot of time to get grounded in the fundamentals and that sort of thing,” Popovich said. “It’s made it a lot of fun to come to work every day and watch these guys wanting to improve, get to know each other and figure out how you have to play to win.”
  • Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News offers predictions for the upcoming season, including a trade of Thaddeus Young and more games in the NBA than the G League for first-round pick Joshua Primo.

Roster Moves Still Required For Hornets, Spurs

Nearly every NBA team currently has a roster in compliance with regular season limits — no more than 15 players on standard contracts and two on two-way deals.

[RELATED: 2021/22 NBA Roster Counts]

However, there are still a couple teams that will need to make at least one cut before Monday’s regular season roster deadline: Charlotte and San Antonio.

The Hornets are carrying 18 players — a pair on two-way contracts, plus 16 on fully guaranteed deals. One of those 16 will have to be traded or released, and while Charlotte could surprise us, Wesley Iwundu looks like the most obvious odd man out. He was included in the summer Devonte’ Graham sign-and-trade deal for salary/cap purposes, and played limited minutes for the Hornets during the preseason.

The Spurs only have 17 players, but just one is on a two-way deal, leaving 16 on guaranteed contracts. Like the Hornets, they’ll have to trade or cut one of those players by Monday. Al-Farouq Aminu is San Antonio’s equivalent of Iwundu, having been acquired in an offseason sign-and-trade (of DeMar DeRozan) for salary-matching purposes. However, his $10MM+ expiring salary could make him a useful midseason trade chip, so the Spurs may be a little more reluctant to waive him now.

Jock Landale, Keita Bates-Diop, and Drew Eubanks are other possibilities, but the Spurs just gave Landale and Bates-Diop guaranteed money earlier this offseason, and Eubanks has taken on a slightly bigger role in each of his three years in San Antonio. Aminu still appears to be the most likely release candidate, but we’ll see today or tomorrow what the Spurs have in mind.

As we explained on Saturday, while most teams completed their roster moves early, the Hornets and Spurs can afford to take an extra day or two to consider their options without any financial ramifications, since they won’t be cutting a player who has a fully non-guaranteed contract.

While Charlotte and San Antonio are the only teams that have to make moves today or tomorrow, we’ll likely see a little more roster shuffling before Monday’s deadline. Players who have been waived by one team might appeal to another club that has an open roster spot or an expendable 15th man. And some teams carrying 15 players may decide to make one more cut to get down to 14.

Additionally, seven teams still have one open two-way contract slot and may look to fill those openings before the season begins. Those clubs are the Celtics, Warriors, Lakers, Magic, Suns, Spurs, and Wizards, as our tracker shows.

Spurs Reportedly Preparing For Popovich To Retire Within Next Two Years

The Spurs are preparing for longtime head coach Gregg Popovich to retire within the next year or two, league sources tell Jordan Schultz of ESPN (Twitter link).

According to Schultz, the organization is beginning an “extensive” search to identify Popovich’s successor. That search will cover both external and internal candidates.

In the years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, there had been speculation that the event would be Popovich’s swan song. However, even after leading Team USA to gold in Japan following a one-year delay, he’s returning to the sidelines in San Antonio for the 2021/22 season.

Two recent reports have suggested this could be Popovich’s last season as the Spurs’ head coach, but both Zach Lowe of ESPN and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report warned not to rule out the possibility of the 72-year-old sticking around for another year beyond that. Based on Schultz’s report, it sounds like two more years would be the longest Popovich would continue coaching.

Lowe’s story last month stated that former Spurs assistant Will Hardy and former San Antonio star Manu Ginobili are the two candidates most frequently mentioned in league circles as candidates to succeed Popovich, despite the fact that it’s unclear whether Ginobili has legitimate interest in coaching. Current Spurs assistants – including Becky Hammon – are also believed to be candidates, along with former Popovich assistants such as Brett Brown and Jacque Vaughn, per Fischer.

Unlike most teams that decide to part ways with a coach at the end of a season – or during a season – the Spurs will be able to take their time with their search, with no need to finalize a decision in a matter of weeks or even months. And unlike most coaches who part ways with NBA organizations, Popovich seems likely to have some input on who his replacement will be.

Popovich is the oldest head coach in NBA history and one of only two coaches in league history that has held the job in his 70s.

He has been the Spurs’ head coach since December of 1996, making him the NBA’s longest-tenured head coach by more than a decade. Erik Spoelstra of the Heat, who took the reins in April 2008, is the league’s second-longest tenured coach. No other coaches have held their current job further back than 2014.

Spurs Notes: Popovich, Offseason, Primo, Wieskamp

A report earlier this month indicated that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich has seemed revitalized by the influx of young talent in San Antonio, and his comments to reporters this week back up that report. Although this year’s version of the Spurs won’t be a title contender like some of Popovich’s past teams, he said he’s “thrilled with this group,” according to Raul Dominguez of The Associated Press.

“They are basically young, energetic, have got a lot of speed,” Popovich said. “There is no need to pace yourself. Nobody is going to play 39 minutes a game, don’t have to worry about stats or individual honors or anything like that. These guys are just going to have a ball playing.”

The days of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker are long gone, but even in recent years, Popovich was able to rely on veterans like LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMar DeRozan, and Rudy Gay. This season, the Spurs are short on go-to vets, but the veteran coach sounds perfectly fine with that.

“I have no idea who I’m going to give it to or what play we’re going to run,” Popovich said, per Dominguez. “That’s something we’re going to figure out as we move along, and to me, that’s exciting as hell.”

Here’s more from out of San Antonio:

  • The Spurs’ offseason moves – including signing Doug McDermott and Bryn Forbes in free agency – suggest they plan to shoot more three-pointers this season, says John Hollinger of The Athletic. San Antonio ranked dead last in the NBA last season in three-point makes (9.9) and attempts (28.4) per game.
  • Rookie guard Joshua Primo was “ecstatic” to land with the Spurs on draft night, according to agent Todd Ramasar, who tells Madalyn Mendoza of The San Antonio Express-News that his client had long admired the franchise. “When you think about them being the gold standard in the NBA from an organization standpoint, I think all that ties in to just how unreal it was to hear his name called at 12,” Ramasar said.
  • Although the Spurs essentially admitted defeat on one of their 2019 first-round picks this week when they cut Luka Samanic, the team’s hit rate in the draft remains high, writes Mike Finger of The San Antonio Express-News. As Finger observes, of San Antonio’s seven first-rounders since 2016, five (Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, Keldon Johnson, and Devin Vassell) should be, at the very least, solid NBA contributors, while a sixth (Primo) is off to a promising start this fall.
  • Second-round pick Joe Wieskamp is prepared to spend a good chunk of his rookie season in the G League with the Austin Spurs and plans to make the most of it, tweets Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “I just view this as a developing year. It’s all about learning, all about growing,” Wieskamp said. “Just to have that experience of playing in Austin will be great. You get more opportunities to truly be yourself and work on things in a game environment.”

Spurs Sign, Waive Damyean Dotson, Jordan Burns

OCTOBER 14: Dotson and Burns have been waived, Keith Smith of Spotrac tweets. Both will likely wind up with the Austin Spurs once they clear waivers.

OCTOBER 13: Free agent guard Damyean Dotson is signing an Exhibit 10 contract with the Spurs, tweets JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors. The team is listing Dotson as a roster member on its website, so the deal appears to be official.

Dotson, 27, played 46 games for the Cavaliers last season, averaging 6.7 points and 2.0 assists per night. He had a non-guaranteed contract for the upcoming season, but Cleveland waived him last month. Dotson was a second-round pick by the Knicks in 2017 and spent his first three NBA seasons in New York.

Dotson will fill the roster spot vacated when San Antonio waived Luka Samanic on Monday.

Like Dotson, rookie guard Jordan Burns is listed as a member of the Spurs’ roster on the team’s official website, so it appears his reported deal is done as well. The two signings give San Antonio 19 players under contract.