When it comes to putting the best group of players on the court, no one's done a better job than RC Buford, Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Over the past sixteen seasons, the Spurs have won five NBA Championships and have done so by making the right moves year in and year out.
Recently, the NBA has been buzzing about 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard becoming a restricted free agent following the 2014-2015 NBA season. While many have been critical of the Spurs for not being able to agree with Leonard on an extension, I believe this is all part of their plan. Not extending Leonard right now and letting him become a restricted free agent is the right move for the Spurs for a few different reasons.
Firstly, Leonard is seeking a max deal and whether people think he's worthy or not, that's what he'll get on the open market. Under the current CBA agreement, a player with less than six years expirience in the NBA can receive a maximum contract of around $14 million a season. If the Spurs were to sign Leonard to an extension, it would probably be for another three seasons meaning when his extension is up in 2018, he'd be in his seventh season. After a player reaches their seventh season, a maximum contract would raise to $18 million a season. For a team in a small market that's a hefty price tag. Why wouldn't they want to lock him in for five or six years before he hits his seventh season?
Secondly, if they sign Leonard to an extension, thy would have to make some major moves to the roster if Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili decide to come back next season as they would be at risk of going over the salary cap and being forced to pay a luxury tax which, again, a small market can not afford. There is a clause, however. If Leonard were to sign a maximum offer sheet from anther team in the off season, which is almost certain, the Spurs would be allowed to match the offer sheet without having to pay the luxury tax. This would allow the Spurs to pay Duncan and Manu for, at least, another season without having to worry about cap space.
We've seen too many teams jump the gun when it comes to signing young talent and it has ruined teams in the process. I am fully confident the Spurs will match any offer sheet Leonard signs come next off season and he will be in San Antonio for the long haul. Remember the saying, "in Pop we trust." He hasn't failed you yet, I doubt he starts now.