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#pounditFriday, January 22, 2021

Tim Duncan to take ‘wink-wink’ deal with Spurs for salary cap purposes?

Tim Duncan

The only way Tim Duncan will return for a 19th NBA season is if he believes the San Antonio Spurs have a shot at winning another title. Will the team have the salary cap flexibility needed to build the right roster?

If Duncan returns (and most people believe he will), Manu Ginobili will likely come back, too. Both players are currently unrestricted free agents, and the Spurs would like to retain them for as cheaply as possible so they can address other needs. Could Duncan help the team do that by agreeing to a “special” contract?

Here’s an interesting possibility that Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News shared:

There are several NBA player personnel executives who believe the Spurs will offer Duncan a two-year contract that begins between $6 million and $7 million, with a partial guarantee and a player option in the second season.

If Duncan doesn’t exercise the option, he gets, say, 50 percent of that season’s salary. In effect, his salary for next season would remain over $10 million, the partially guaranteed portion of the second season’s salary remaining on the Spurs team salary after the cap explodes with the NBA’s new TV money kicking in for 2016-17.

“You can call it a ‘wink-wink’ deal if you want to,” an Eastern Conference team executive said. “It’s what they did with (Antonio) McDyess, so why not for Duncan?”

Although Duncan is technically a free agent, NBA rules require teams to keep the salaries of 12 players in place for salary cap purposes. Duncan’s current projected number would be around $15.5 million, so a deal like the one outlined above would allow the Spurs to cut his cap number in half and make it up down the road. They could do the same with Ginobili.

As Brett Pollakoff of Pro Basketball Talk notes, the deal would only be illegal if there was a way to prove that the Spurs knew Duncan and/or Ginobili would retire after the 2015-2016 season. Obviously, proving that would be nearly impossible.

The Spurs were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this season after pushing the Los Angeles Clippers to seven games. As long as Duncan feels healthy and this guy is still pulling the strings, it would be unwise to count them out.

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