San Antonio Spurs small forward Richard Jefferson did the unthinkable Thursday by opting out of the final year of his contract for the 2010-11 season, where he stood to collect an additional $15.2 million on the back end of his deal.
Calling his first year with the team a bust is a severe understatement.
Fans are unexpectedly in a celebratory mood following career-low season where Jefferson average 12.3 points per game, and a disastrous 9.4 points per game in this year’s postseason.
Jefferson has not seen either average dip below that level since his rookie season with the New Jersey Nets where he marked 9.4 points per game for the regular season and 7 points over the playoffs.
The Spurs can still weigh their options with Jefferson and retain him for a $6 million mid-level exception which leaves them with an available cap balance of $9.2 million to sign additional supporting cast members to the roster.
The front office could go a number of ways with a plethora of players involved in the free agency market, including adding a veteran with size and shooting range like power forward/center Marcus Camby, or a combination deal shoring up some of the weaknesses from this past season such as perimeter shooting and players with a little toughness and moxie to their game like Milwaukee Bucks guard Jerry Stackhouse who only made $680,000 and shooting guard extraordinaire Mike Miller who cleared $9.8 million.
In this coming season’s case with the Spurs and their recent history of injuries, quantity might suit their needs for the short-term versus quality, but many of the lower end free agents still garner a lot of playoff experience that move the team back towards contention.