The San Antonio Spurs have made a whole lot of great decisions in their history. The bad moves? Well, they have been few and far between, but they still exist.
Generally, the Spurs knock it out of the park when it comes to filling out their roster, whether that’s with stars or role players, but there have been a few occasions where San Antonio has struck out.
Here are the five worst free-agent signings in Spurs history:
5. T.J. Ford
Typically, I wouldn’t include a signing like this, but because the Spurs have had so few screw-ups, T.J. Ford makes the list.
San Antonio signed Ford to a one-year deal in December 2011, knowing full well about Ford’s scary injury history (he suffered a spinal injury that nearly ended his career during his rookie season in 2003-04).
Prior to signing with the Spurs, Ford had spent the previous three seasons with the Indiana Pacers, playing in 74, 47 and 41 games, respectively.
When healthy, there was no doubting Ford’s talent: he was a good player, a point guard who could relentlessly attack the basket while also playing some fine defense on the other end.
But that was just the thing: he was rarely healthy.
Ford ended up playing in just 14 games with San Antonio before sustaining another back injury, one that officially halted his career. He averaged just 3.6 points and 3.2 assists per game during his time with the Spurs.
4. Jackie Butler
You might be thinking, “Who?” but that’s the point.
The Spurs signed Jackie Butler to a three-year, $7 million deal during the summer of 2006 after he had a fairly impressive showing in a bench role for the New York Knicks the preceding season (that should have been a hint right there).
A 6-foot-10 big man, San Antonio show Butler as a guy who could potentially play alongside of Tim Duncan in the very near future and were willing to work with him.
The result? Butler played in just 11 games for the Spurs during the 2006-07 campaign and was traded that ensuing offseason.
He never played in the NBA again.
Luckily for San Antonio, it didn’t hand him a huge contract, but this was one of the very few times where the Spurs’ usually rock-solid scouting failed them.
3. Pau Gasol
The Spurs initially signed Pau Gasol during the summer of 2016 after the big man was coming off of an All-Star campaign with the Chicago Bulls.
He went on to have a decent first year in San Antonio, averaging 12.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Then, for some reason, the Spurs decided to re-up with Gasol on a three-year, $48 million deal that ensuing offseason when he was 37 years old.
The results ended up how would you expect.
Gasol struggled mightily defensively during the 2017-18 campaign, so much so that we was barely even playable during the playoffs. The following year, Gasol appeared in 26 contests before suffering a stress fracture in his right foot. The Spurs then bought him out that March. The Spaniard went on to join the Milwaukee Bucks and played three games before suffering a season-ending ankle injury that would require surgery.
Gasol signed with the Portland Trail Blazers this past summer, but never even played a game before being waived.
I think it’s safe to say that this was a pretty horrendous signing by San Antonio.
2. Richard Jefferson
The Spurs initially acquired Richard Jefferson in a trade with the Bucks in June 2009, which looked like a great move at the time. After all, Jefferson was coming off of a terrific season Milwaukee and was even beginning to solid a perimeter shot.
Instead, Jefferson struggled mightily to fit in with San Antonio’s big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, registering just 12.3 points per game (his lowest mark since his rookie year) and laboring on the defensive end.
The Spurs then pulled a Gasol-esque move (well, this was the prequel to Gasol considering it happened in 2010) that summer, re-signing Jefferson on a four-year, $39 million contract.
To Jefferson’s credit, he shot an incredible 44 percent from deep that next season, but he had am miserable playoff showing in a six-game first-round loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, averaging just 6.5 points per game while shooting 38.7 percent from the floor. It also didn’t help RJ’s standing that Kawhi Leonard was on the come up.
Jefferson began the 2011-12 campaign with the Spurs and spent half the year there before being traded to the Golden State Warriors, ending a marriage that was simply doomed from the beginning.
1. Rasho Nesterovic
It amazes me that the Spurs missed this badly.
Rasho Nesterovic spent the first five years of his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves, playing alongside of Kevin Garnett (exemplifying the supporting casts Garnett had in Minnesota).
After a 2002-03 campaign in which Nesterovic averaged 11.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while making 52.5 percent of his field-goal attempts, San Antonio decided to sign him to a six-year, $42 million deal.
The Spurs? Six years? For Rasho Nesterovic?
Yes. This really happened.
Granted, Nesterovic was a member of the San Antonio team that won a championship in 2005, starting 70 games during the regular season. But get this: Nesterovic didn’t make a single start in the playoffs, logging 0.7 points over 7.6 minutes per game.
Nesterovic made it just three years into his contract before the Spurs jettisoned him to the Toronto Raptors.