In just seven second-half minutes in San Antonio’s Game 1 loss to Houston during their second-round playoff series, Dewayne Dedmon hustled out six points on perfect shooting, grabbed two boards, and recorded a steal and a block. It reflected what Spurs fans knew all season: Dedmon’s hyperathleticism, even in a short amount of time, meant instant production. San Antonio fell 0–1 in a series it eventually won, but Dedmon’s season-long buzz among Spurs faithful escalated to a national level.
He’s testing out his worth now in unrestricted free agency. Dedmon declined his $3 million player option with the Spurs, as reported by The Vertical on Tuesday. Turning down that money — more than the sum of his three-year deal in Orlando — marks a dramatic change in course for the big man. Just one season after the Magic declined to pursue a contract renewal, Dedmon became Gregg Popovich’s latest Storage Wars find. The 27-year-old’s propitious season with San Antonio makes the center one of the top available free agents at his position.
Dedmon averaged only 17.5 minutes a game with the Spurs, but ended with three playoff starts. San Antonio — which led the NBA in regular-season defense — had its second-best defensive rating with Dedmon (and his rim protection) on the floor, allowing just 97.5 points per 100 possessions. He ended with career highs in points, rebounds, steals, assists, and field goal accuracy. His restricted minutes made for a small sample size, but Dedmon is making a good bet that someone will chase him in free agency. Per 100 possessions, the big man’s averages are more eye-catching: a team-high 19 boards, 14.8 points, and 2.3 blocks.
The Spurs likely won’t be able to afford him, and the team’s cap space (now at $19 million with Dedmond off the books) is limited, especially with rumors about a chase for Chris Paul swirling. It’s likely that Dedmon’s first year in San Antonio will be his only.
Even though he averaged less than 18 minutes per game, Dedmon could set the salary tone for role players this free agency. Though he won’t garner the kind of money Timofey Mozgov did last summer, or Enes Kanter did the year before, interest and bidding may end surprisingly high. Last offseason, Boban Marjanovic signed with Detroit for $21 million over three years after the Spurs passed. But Dedmon could also benefit from big men getting paid this summer. The rumors of Nerlens Noel possibly getting the maximum could also set the tone for lesser players. It’s feasible to envision a scenario where a team that misses out on Noel talks itself into overpaying for a guy like Dedmon.
As to where he’ll end up celebrating his 28th birthday in August, many rosters desire exactly what he showcased this season. Should the Wizards be able to pay him, the lackadaisical postseason production from Marcin Gortat puts Washington in the market for an efficient finisher. Golden State’s money will likely be spread thinner than a dietitian’s buttered toast next year, but the Warriors wanted Dedmon last summer, and according to Mercury News columnist Tim Kawakami, the team might "circle him again" this go-round. Or offers could also come from teams with both greater abundances in cap space and desperation for talent, like Brooklyn.
That kind of bidder — offering a yearly salary that would likely total his two prior contracts combined — seems the most likely scenario, especially for a man two years shy of 30 with a career NBA income total that’s under $10 million.