Having watched Simmons in the last season, I can’t help but think that Orlando got a hell of a bargain.
Good 2-way wings are in short supply in the NBA right now, in contrast to guards or centers. Simmons is surprisingly good. Never mind that he was undrafted, never mind how hard it was for him to break into the NBA at all. He upped his game and belongs there.
Success in the NBA is largely about cap management: about getting as much good talent cheaply as a franchise can manage. The Spurs have done pretty well by being careful about salaries; they have, for the most part, avoided overpaying players and by maintaining strong depth all the way to the end of their bench. It’s very un-Spurs like to speculate about them grabbing an aging max-contract player like LeBron, whose performance ceiling is coming down, not going up. Paying out the max for an older player like that hampers a franchise’s ability to keep the whole team filled with competitive talent — as Cleveland has discovered (their bench production was often feeble last year). Keeping the roster younger and cheaper, and training and drilling them hard, is more like the Spurs than what Miami or Cleveland did to build superteams.
In that context, I’m not sure that letting Simmons go was a good decision. I think he’d have been happy to take a modest four-year deal from them; and I think he’d have provided high value for the dollars expended. That kind of cost-conscious deal-making, combined with sharp coaching and training, is exactly what has kept the Spurs competitive for two decades. If they are now shedding cheap salaries of good players to save up cap space for a max free agent deal next summer, I think it’s a mistake. That isn’t the formula that kept the Spurs within striking range of the championship for all of these years.
I’m a basketball fan, not a committed fan of any particular team. I love the Spurs, though, because they have pleased my eyeballs for so many years. It’s not easy to doubt their front office; they usually have good reasons for what they do. But letting Simmons go has me scratching my head and wondering what they hell they’re thinking.