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NBA AM: Opting In Or Testing Free Agency?
Posted By Lang Greene On June 11, 2013 @ 8:50 am In NBA | No Comments
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This summer’s unrestricted free agency class will be headlined by Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul and Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard. While Howard and Paul are the ballyhooed players set to hit the market, guys such as Atlanta’s Josh Smith, Philadelphia’s Andrew Bynum, Oklahoma City’s Kevin Martin and Indiana’s David West are also set to generate plenty of interest around the league.
But there is another group of players, those who hold player options the 2014 season, who could choose to roll the dice and test their value in free agency or opt in to the final year of their respective deals and stay with their current teams.
Let’s take a look at some of the guys who have the option to test free agency this summer. Keep in mind, guys such as Utah’s Marvin Williams and Golden State’s Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson have already indicated they will be opting into the final year of their contracts.
Andre Iguodala, Denver Nuggets
2013-14 Salary: $16,154,750
The Nuggets welcomed Andre Iguodala to the fold before the start of the season as part of the Dwight Howard headlined four-team trade. The Nuggets set a franchise record for wins this past season and Iguodala was an integral part of the success, starting 80 games and logging 35 minutes per night.
But Iguodala’s future with the team is in question as the Nuggets recently lost 2013 executive of the year, general manager Masai Ujiri, to the Toronto Raptors and shortly after decided to part ways with longtime head coach George Karl.
Iguodala enjoyed playing with Karl and has remained mum on his future plans, but Nuggets team president Josh Kroenke recently told Denver media he has every intention on bringing the former All-Star back next season.
Reports continue to circulate that Smith, the 2013 Sixth Man of the Year, will decide to opt out of the last year of his deal and test the free agency market. Without question Smith was one of the biggest bargains in the league last season (at $2.8million) and smart money says the veteran will attempt to ride his strong performance into a lucrative multi-year deal.
The Knick have maintained their desire to bring Smith next season should he choose to opt out.
O.J. Mayo, Dallas Mavericks
2013-14 Salary: $4,200,900
Just about as soon as the regular season ended Mayo announced his plans to test free agency this summer. The move didn’t catch Mavericks officials by surprise in the very least as most expected this to occur since his signing. Mayo clashed a bit with head coach Rick Carlisle toward the end of the season but neither side has ruled out a long term partnership moving forward.
Mayo is expected to draw heavy interest from the Minnesota Timberwolves who are seeking to shore up their depth at shooting guard. Mayo may also be a free agent target of the Indiana Pacers, but the small market club may be out of the hunt as they deal with David West’s impending free agency.
Andrei Kirilenko, Minnesota Timberwolves
2013-14 Salary: $10,219,420
Kirilenko played the entire 2012 campaign overseas but made a successful return to the league in 2013. The veteran forward shot a career best 51 percent from the floor and was one of the few bright spots in Minnesota this past season.
Kirilenko told HOOPSWORLD earlier this season he had no plans to opt out of the final year of his deal this summer despite being frustrated by his team’s rash of injuries and lack of on the floor success.
The Timberwolves have just $37 million in guaranteed salaries on the books next season, which doesn’t include Kirilenko’s cap number. Center Nikola Pekovic is a priority in free agency and the cub would also like to bring in a shooting guard to shore up the backcourt.
Ben Gordon, Charlotte Bobcats
2013-14 Salary: $13,200,000
Shortly after the season ended Gordon told the Charlotte Observer he couldn’t see any reason he would opt out of the final year of his deal and at $13.2 million it isn’t hard to see why the veteran is likely staying with the Bobcats.
Gordon was brought in to provide veteran leadership and help mentor second year guard Kemba Walker. While Gordon was well respected in the locker room he repeatedly clashed with recently dismissed head coach Mike Dunlap.
Still, Gordon is a consistent scorer when given minutes and his expiring contract may have some value for Charlotte on the trade market.
Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks
2013-14 Salary: $11,000,000
According to Milwaukee officials, Ellis has until June 20 to decide if he will exercise his option for $11 million next season. There are rumblings the Bucks have already been in discussions about extending Ellis’ deal another two seasons, through 2015-16, but nothing has been firmly locked in place at the moment.
Incoming head coach Larry Drew has had success working with smaller shooting guards (see Lou Williams in Atlanta) and has always respected Ellis’ game from afar but the 27 year old will have options should he choose to opt out this summer with plenty of teams looking for scoring help in the backcourt.
Emeka Okafor, Washington Wizards
2013-14 Salary: $14,487,500
Okafor’s production has declined steadily in recent years but he is still a serviceable big man and veteran presence for the Wizards. It is unlikely the former UCONN standout would leave $14.5 million on the table to test free agency, especially as he makes the jump into fatherhood. Don’t expect Okafor to be a free agent until the summer of 2014.
Trevor Ariza, Washington Wizards
2013-14 Salary: $7,727,280
Ariza told the Washington Post in early April that he wasn’t the type of guy to leave money on the table in order to take a calculated risk, so you can expect the veteran wing to be back in Wizards gear next season.
Shawn Marion, Dallas Mavericks
2013-14 Salary: $9,316,796
Marion is not expected to exercise his early termination option this summer. Even if Marion decides to opt in, the Mavericks will still have plenty of cap room this summer to aid in their retooling effort. Marion has started speaking more and more candidly about the prospect of retirement in the next year or two but for now it appears Marion has no plans to test the free agency market this summer.
Carl Landry, Golden State Warriors
2013-14 Salary: $4,000,000
Should Landry decide to opt out he could become a very attractive option at power forward this summer in free agency. Landry told HOOPSWORLD early in the season he was looking to secure a multi-year deal with the preference of it being with the Warriors. But Golden State will be right up against the luxury tax line which could leave Landry out in the cold should the veteran decide to test the waters for a more lucrative deal.
Memphis Gambling By Not Retaining Lionel Hollins
The Memphis Grizzlies won 56 regular season games and took a trip to the Western Conference Finals this season but reports are indicating the franchise has parted ways with head coach Lionel Hollins.
Hollins wasn’t under contract beyond this season and the writing has been on the wall since the trade deadline that a change on the sidelines could become a reality in Memphis. Hollins and the Grizzlies’ new front office structure reportedly clashed over the trade which sent veteran forward Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors.
Still, parting ways with a coach who led the franchise to a 196-155 record in four-plus seasons at the helm is a huge gamble. Hollins maintained he wanted to return and the team granted him permission to speak to other franchises about employment, which the coach said he didn’t want to entertain at the time.
Hollins is expected to be in strong demand due to the work he has put in with Memphis over the years but may also decide to sit out a year and evaluate his options at that.
But deciding to move in another direction from a coach who led the team to three straight playoff appearances and improved its win percentage each year could ultimately lead Memphis back to the middle of the pack.
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