A Theory: Why the Spurs Let Luis Scola Go

From the bullets recently:

It was weird when the Spurs gave up Luis Scola to a division rival. Especially as San Antonio features Scola's national team colleague Manu Ginobili, who must know Scola's game as well as anyone. That's a shrewd front office. Did they know something about Scola that everyone else didn't? I have no idea. I loved what I saw of Scola on the national team this summer. But, while he has had great moments, and it's way too soon to tell, Scola has not been playing like a sure thing in the first few weeks of his NBA career.

TrueHoop reader Tim is a San Antonio fan, who read that and emailed me:

I was angry about the Scola deal at the time -- as a Spurs fan I thought their shrewd front office went sloppy.

Now, I think they're all the more intelligent than everyone else. Scola looks mediocre, and from what I've seen he probably wouldn't have played well alongside Duncan. The Spurs escaped luxury tax penalities and turned Scola into Darius Washington, Jr. who, frankly, looks like the better rookie.

They also created roster space to develop Ian Mahinmi. Mahinmi looks raw, but in his limited minutes he shows flashes of someone who could be a solid rotation player in the next year or two. His defensive instincts are solid (he'll be a good shot blocker). He has an NBA body. He has limited range, but good mechanics on his shooting stroke. And he is high energy around the hoop.

If he can give them 12 minutes a game next season, then they'll have hit a home run.

The Spurs should be free of Barry, Finley, Horry and, in all likelihood, Elson next season. Assume Washington, Mahinmi, Splitter, and Udoka in the rotation and the Spurs still have enough space beneath the tax threshold to sign a quality shooting guard (I'm hoping they can land Tony Allen, Trevor Ariza, or similar inexpensively) to replace Finley and add another big.

In other words, they remain contenders.

Rewind: If you add a cumbersome, under-performing and overpaid Scola to their roster then suddenly their ability to stay at their current level is questionable. They'd have too much money tied up in the front court to sign a Finley successor and shore up the rest of their bench. One other consideration: the Spurs absolutely rely on three-point shooting. Scola's contract would have detracted from their ability to keep a surplus of long range bombers on tap.

This is a long-winded way of saying, given the early returns, we should stick another gold star on Pop and Buford's chart. They're just better.