NBA AM: Looking Into Free Agency 2012
The Names To Know: The 2012 NBA season will come to a close in just 21 days and for some players their season will end and the circus of free agency will begin.
NBA teams can not officially negotiate with would-be free agents until July 1st. They also cannot sign players to new deals until July 11th this year, so for the next 97 days there will be lots of speculation and conjecture about where certain players may end up, so let’s take a look at the top names likely on the move and want you need to know.
Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets – Player Option ($17.8 million)
The Deron Williams saga really has two players – New Jersey, soon to be Brooklyn, and the Dallas Mavericks. Sure the Lakers, Magic and the HEAT may try and weasel their way into the discussion but the Lakers, Magic and HEAT just don’t have the ability to land Williams without a lot of help from the Nets in a sign and trade deal.
The Nets profess that they have enough of a commitment and understanding with Deron that they believe they will get a long term deal this summer. However everyone in the process knows that the Nets have to make some major moves to get Deron to commit.
If the Nets cannot make the moves Deron wants, Dallas becomes the prime suitor.
The best way to characterize where Deron Williams is at is he is the Nets’ player to lose. If they cannot surround him with better more significant talent, expect him to walk. But there are almost $30 million reasons for Deron to stay with the Nets and given how much he’s talked up the move to Brooklyn it’s hard to imagine he’s running from the situation unless the Nets fall flat on their face in the draft and free agency.
Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns – Unrestricted
Steve Nash is playing the game rather well. Not the NBA game, but the pending free agent game. Nash who normally steers clear of anything remotely controversial has made it known that he’d like a three year deal this summer. He’s made it clear he’d be open to situations like the Miami HEAT and he’s openly commented that the talent level of the Suns would have to come up in order for him to stay.
Said another way, Nash has let the Suns know that their two year offer isn’t enough to get him to stay beyond this season and that he wants to see improvements made before he’d consider committing.
Nash talks a lot about being loyal to his teammates, but the truth of the matter is Nash has remained largely healthy in Phoenix and he’s had a lot of success even if the team has not. Nash would love to compete for a championship, but that doesn’t drive him nearly as much as it does other players.
Like Deron Williams, Nash is Phoenix’s player to lose.
Sources close to the process say the Suns have put the idea of a two year $20 million offer on the table, which is far and away more money than anyone in free agency is going to offer the 38 year old Nash. If the Suns come off the dime on a third year, the odds they are losing Nash are slim.
Nash has earned north of $119 million in his NBA career, so it’s safe to say money may not be the prime motivator and with Nash, who is quirkier than most, pegging exactly how this will go down is not easy.
The smart money says if Nash is leaving Phoenix it will be via sign and trade, the question is will anyone really offer that third year Nash is seeking, especially if it’s at a high dollar amount.
Jameer Nelson, Orlando Magic – Player Option ($7.8 million)
So riddle me this… is it better to earn $7.4 million and be traded to a situation you do not want to be in, or is it better to opt-out and pick your situation and maybe make marginally less money but have the security of knowing your team, your situation and your role?
That’s the question that haunting Orlando’s Jameer Nelson.
With Magic president Otis Smith all but gone in the off-season, the question for Nelson is will the next GM be nearly as committed to him? And the answer is most likely no.
With pending free agency, a desire to improve dramatically at the point guard position and a lack of tradable resources Nelson knows if he stays in his contract he’ll be traded somewhere before the end of next season (if not sooner) and where he’s traded may not have any interest in using his Bird Rights to make a new deal.
Sources close to Nelson have said he has not made up his mind on his Player Option, but that opting out and picking and insuring his next situation is appealing.
It’s simply going to come down to the math.
If Nelson’s agent can pull off a reasonable free agent deal… four years $20-$25 million, there is a better than average chance Nelson is going to opt-out and lock in his future.
The 30 year old Nelson is a decent enough guard, the question is who will pay him as a free agent with so many higher profile guards on the market?
There is almost no scenario in which Nelson earns $7.4 million for a single season from another team, but can he trade $7.4 million guaranteed for a guaranteed address?
That’s the question.
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets – Restricted ($5.1 million Qualifying Offer)
Gordon logged 33 minutes last night in his first game since January. The injury plagued Gordon is a great NBA player when he’s healthy which begs the question will another team pony up an offer in free agency that makes the league owned Hornets blink?
The Hornets tried to get a long-term extension done with Gordon; however both sides could not reach a deal, which puts Gordon into the free agent market, likely as a restricted free agent.
The good news for Hornets fans is that the NBA may announce a sale to one of three potential buyers next week after the Board of Governors meeting.
If there is an actual owner of the Hornets the odds that Gordon is lost becomes very slim, but more than a handful of people question how much Gordon wants to be a Hornet and that’s something the team is going to have to come to grips with.
Given how things ended up with Chris Paul, do the Hornets want to saddle themselves with another star contract to a player that does not want to be there long-term?
That is what is going to need to be decided in the next 21 days.
Is Gordon their franchise guy?
If he is then paying him franchise money makes all the sense in the world.
If Gordon has one foot out the door and is only talking because New Orleans can pay him, then that’s something else entirely.
As a restricted free agent the Hornets can match anything Gordon is offered on the open market. The question is how much will another team offer a player that’s missed 34% of his 300 possible games over the last four seasons?
When Gordon is on his game he is among the best at the shooting guard spot, he just hasn’t been on the floor enough to say he’s worth major dollars.
Gerald Wallace, New Jersey Nets – Player Option ($9.5 million)
The Portland Trail Blazers’ biggest fear wasn’t that Gerald Wallace would opt-out of the final $9.5 million left on his deal; it was that he would opt in and kill their free agency plans.
The same may be true of the Nets and Wallace. If Wallace opts in expect for the Nets to try and re-trade him especially if Deron Williams sticks around. His $9.5 million and an eventual free agency deal for Brook Lopez all but kills the Nets flexibility to add around Williams.
If Williams walks, the Nets may not be as eager to cut ties with a former All-Star simply because they have very little going for them.
Sources close to Wallace say he is almost non-committal about his option, and given that almost no team in the NBA is going to pay Wallace close to the $9.5 million he could earn next year, opting in seems likely.
Wallace’s future with the Nets isn’t nearly as clear and that’s something he will have to weigh, because it’s likely if he opt-in, he’ll be traded if the Nets can upgrade.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers – Restricted ($3.7 million Qualifying Offer)
The Pacers were unable to reach a long-term extension with Roy this year, but don’t read that to mean anything more than the Pacers want to preserve their cap flexibility and make sure they are not over paying for Roy.
Both sides want to make a long-term deal so it’s almost inevitable that a new pact is reached, the question is will the Pacers make a move first or let the market set Roy’s value and simply match.
Roy Hibbert isn’t going anywhere, so you can cross that off the wish list, but the timing of a Hibbert deal is important because the Pacers look to have almost $20 million in useable cap space and have eyes for an impact two guard.
Its possible someone could get silly and try and call the Pacers bluff, but as good as Roy Hibbert is, would another team really offer him a max contract to try and poach him?
That’s likely the only scenario in which Indiana does not match, and even then they may strongly consider it themselves.
Brook Lopez, New Jersey Nets – Restricted ($4.2 million Qualifying Offer)
The Nets can control their own fate with Brook Lopez by issuing a $4.1 million qualifying offer, and that’s almost a certainty.
What is uncertain is how much New Jersey is willing to commit to the now injured Lopez?
There is a market for Brook and if teams get the sense that the Nets are not committed to Brook, they may try and poach him.
When healthy Brook is a decent player and with centers in such short supply someone is going to test the Nets mettle on this.
With the need to show real improvement to Deron Williams, the Nets may be faced with a tough choice.
If a team comes with a real offer for Brook, do the Nets tie up cap space for the foreseeable future in Lopez?
Lopez played in all 82 games for the last two seasons but has been shelved for all but 5 games this season.
When healthy Lopez is a 17 point 7 rebound center.
What’s that worth on the open market?
The Denver Nuggets gave Nene five years and $67 million on a career average of 12 points and 6.9 rebounds per game.
The Memphis Grizzlies gave Marc Gasol four years and $57 million on a career average of 13 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.
If the market stays true, Brook Lopez could become a very expensive decision for the Nets.
JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets – Restricted ($3.5 million Qualifying Offer)
JaVale says he didn’t see his trade from Washington coming, however when your agents lets it be known that free agency is going to cost $14 million per season, it’s safe to say 11.9 points and 8.8 rebounds doesn’t line up with that thinking.
The question is will Denver go anywhere near that number?
The Nuggets have $51.4 million in salary commitments next season and will have to start extension talks with Ty Lawson this summer as well.
JaVale is likely going to be a restricted free agent assuming Denver issues his $3.5 million Qualifying Offer.
The question is how does the market view McGee?
He has the tools to be exceptionally good, but decision making and maturity issues have haunted McGee for the last few seasons and it’s starting to become clear that while he may have All-Star potential, it might go unrealized.
Denver likely matches anything below $7 million per season, but if someone were to front load a deal or get silly with the numbers, would Denver anchor themselves to JaVale after cutting bait with Nene so quickly after they overpaid for him?
There is a scenario in which Denver does not match, it starts with someone getting crazy with the numbers for McGee.
Teams can talk contract details with their own players without restriction. They cannot however make firm deals until July 1st, players cannot sign new deals until July 11th.
Players like Steve Nash and Deron Williams that are under non-rookie scale contracts can agree to contract extensions up until June 30th.
Looking for the Free Agents this summer? Checkout the 2012 NBA Free Agent List
Fast Tracking The Blazers: As good a job as interim GM Chad Buchanan has done getting the Blazers positioned for free agency, he will not be running the team come draft time.
According to Blazers’ president Larry Miller the team will be meeting with GM candidates in the coming weeks and hope to have a new skipper in town well before the draft.
Miller conceded that the team has an offseason plan regardless of the GM situation, but understands the team needs to make a decision soon.
The Blazers are looking at $22 million in cap space and possibly two drafts picks in the top 12 of this year’s draft.
The Blazers are pledging to be aggressive, and they have the cap space and trade chips to do it.
“We can’t say ‘We are going after this guy, that guy, and this guy’,” Miller said to Jason Quick of The Oregonian . “But we have positioned ourselves to compete for those big-name players. And this is a strong draft. Whether we trade our picks, or use our picks, we are going to get better going into next season.”
The Trail Blazers plan to make runs at the notables like Steve Nash and Deron Williams at the guard position and free agent centers like Roy Hibbert and Brook Lopez.
However retaining their own guys specifically Raymond Felton, who has been a huge disappointment this year, still remains an option according to Miller.
“I’m not going to sit here and say Ray Felton will or will not be back,” Miller said. “What I will say, when we brought Ray in, we thought we were getting the Ray Felton we saw throughout his career. Unfortunately, and I don’t fault Ray, it just hasn’t worked out. But I will say he has had some good games, more good games recently than in the past. His play has gotten better. So we will wait and see at the end of the season. But we know point guard is a position we have to address.”
The Blazers projected $22 million in space includes the $5.2 million Player Option Jamal Crawford holds (which is not expected to exercise) and Qualifying Offers to JJ Hickson ($3.35 million) and Nicolas Batum ($3.16 million)
If the Blazers can find a way to dump Shawne Williams’ $3.13 million Player Option and opt not to extend an offer to Hickson; the Blazers could find themselves sitting on $30.28 million in commitments, giving them a best case cap position of $27.72 million before trying to deal off any of their young guys on rookie deals.
If Portland indeed gets aggressive, they could be one of the bigger free agent players is summer.
They still need guys to choose Portland, but they may have the resources to make things interesting especially in the restricted free agent market.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @SusanBible, @DPageHoopsWorld , @stephenlitel , @stevesraptors, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA chats today starting with my weekly NBA Rumors Chat at 10:30am EST. Get your questions in now as the chats do fill up fast. Senior NBA writer Joel Brigham will host his weekly NBA Chat at 1:30pm EST. Joel covers the Central Division for HOOPSWORLD. Mark Nugent will round out the day with his weekly NBA Chat at 6pm EST. You can always find the next chat here: Upcoming NBA Chats. If you are looking for a completed chat, check the Chat Archive.