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NBA AM: Talking A Little Free Agency
Posted By Steve Kyler On May 4, 2012 @ 10:19 am In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Talking Free Agency: There is going to be a larger than usual number of teams with cap space this July – 13 teams could clear significant room if they opt for it. And while there are a ton of notable would-be free agents, there are a few sitting at the top spot in their respective positions. So let’s take a look at what we know at this point.
Deron Williams, Brooklyn Nets – $16.4 million – Player Option ($17.8 million)
The smart money says Deron Williams is staying in Brooklyn. The Nets have played this thing smart and have romanced Williams enough to believe they have the driver’s seat in this situation.
That’s not to say that Dallas, Portland and Orlando are not going to make runs at Williams – they will in a very aggressive way – it simply means Williams is Brooklyn’s player to lose.
The price tag for Williams is already set – full max deal. Brooklyn can offer a fifth contract year that no other team can offer, even in a sign-and-trade, thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement; so the odds that Williams is elsewhere in 58 days is slim.
Sources close to the situation say it’s far from a done deal, but the general feeling around the Nets is they will have Williams back next season.
In fairness, the Cleveland Cavaliers felt the same way about LeBron James in 2010 right up until he hosed them on national television. So there is guarded optimism in Brooklyn.
Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns – $11.7 million – Unrestricted
The Phoenix Suns held a luncheon with the media to close out their season and the biggest topic discussed was the situation surrounding Steve Nash.
The Suns had offers and options to trade Steve around the trade deadline, but stood by their promise not to trade Nash, who asked the team to stay the course with him.
In return, they are going to get a chance to either re-sign him to a new deal – sources say there has been talk of a two-year, $20 million contract – or they will get the chance to sign-and-trade him and get something in return.
Nash has downplayed his desire to chase a championship ring, but the truth of the matter is the 38-year-old All-Star point guard is the answer to a lot of problems in a lot of places.
Steve will have his pick of situations, but continues to tell people that returning to Phoenix, where his career has flourished, remains a real and viable option.
If the Suns can make some moves in and around the draft and really add some help to the roster, getting Nash back is a bit more than probable, mainly because they can and will offer a lot more money than most. However, if the rumors of an agreement to do a sign-and-trade are real, that might not be as much of a chip in Phoenix’s favor as once believed.
Nash has said he’d like to play for at least three more years – the question is will anyone invest major contract dollars into a player that turns 39 years old in February?
Eric Gordon, New Orleans Hornets – $3.8 million – Restricted ($5.1 million Qualifying Offer)
Now that the Hornets have an owner, getting a long-term deal done with Eric Gordon is almost a certainty. The only thing that remains open for debate is at what price?
Gordon has missed 107 games over the last four seasons. The most he’s played in any one season is 78 games, in his rookie season.
There is no doubting that when Gordon is healthy he is an elite scorer, so the question is how much do the Hornets leverage against a player that’s missed 34 percent of his games in the NBA?
Gordon is said to be a target of the Indiana Pacers, who will have a ton of cash to offer. The Hornets will likely control the situation by issuing a $5.13 Qualifying Offer, making Gordon a restricted free agent.
But at what price do the Hornets blink?
Sources near the situation say the Hornets tried to do an extension with Gordon, but were unable to reach a fair price. Some of that was tied to the NBA owning the franchise, but some of that was the Hornets’ doubt on Gordon’s durability.
It’s unlikely that New Orleans lets Gordon walk away as a free agent, but watching how this plays out could be very telling.
Having a committed owner will surely help the process, but the truth of the matter is how much risk can the Hornets take given the need to get better quickly?
How much is too much for Eric Gordon? That’s the question.
O.J. Mayo, Memphis Grizzlies – $5.6 million – Restricted ($7.4 million Qualifying Offer)
The Memphis Grizzlies have tried to trade O.J. Mayo at least a handful of times over the last two years, not because they don’t like O.J., but because they know they are going to have a problem retaining him this summer.
The Grizzlies have $62.54 million in hard salary commitments for next season, and that’s before the $7.39 million Qualifying Offer to Mayo, the $3.82 million Qualifying Offer to Marreese Speights or the $3.00 million Qualifying Offer to Darrell Arthur.
Mayo’s Qualifier alone puts Memphis into luxury tax territory.
There is no doubting there will be a hefty list of suitors for Mayo. He has really found his groove this season and that’s likely going to price him out of the game in Memphis.
The Grizz could opt to issue the offer and make O.J. a restricted free agent and deal with the tax implications later, but that just seems unlikely.
The Mayo situation will be interesting because Memphis will have to make some tough choices and letting the third overall pick just walk away doesn’t seem like smart business. How does Memphis make it all work?
Gerald Wallace, Brooklyn Nets – $9.5 million – Player Option ($9.5 million)
Wallace told reporters as the Nets’ season wound down that he felt like he would be opting out of his contract if for no other reason than to secure a long-term deal.
Nets GM Billy King agreed with that idea and has more than hinted that the Nets would like to have Gerald back next season.
So here comes the game of it… The Nets want to have cap space to add additional players to jump start the rebuilding of the team. Deron Williams will have a cap hold of $18.66 million, while Wallace will have a cap hold of $14.25 million.
Brook Lopez will get a $4.19 million Qualifying Offer and Jordan Farmar has a $4.25 million Player Option, which he is likely exercising.
If you run those numbers against the salaries on the books for next season, the best the Nets can do for a starting cap number is $50.01 million. Leaving them just $8 million to play with in free agency and that’s not counting minimum salary cap holds and the cap holds their draft picks will take up.
The short part of this story is teams can make verbal deals and work out the mechanics later, which means reaching new deals with Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace won’t kill free agency in Brooklyn, but every dollar the Nets can avoid giving Wallace means more to offer free agents.
But here is the next part – what’s Gerald Wallace’s value on the open market?
The Nets would like to keep Gerald in Brooklyn, but does another team get silly in a first year offer that handicaps the bigger plan in Brooklyn?
Wallace was slated to earn $9.5 million next season, but will likely leave that on the table for a longer deal.
What price is too much for Brooklyn, given how many pieces they have in play?
Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics – $21.2 million – Unrestricted
Believe it or not Kevin Garnett wants to finish his career in Boston, or at least that’s what people in his life are saying.
Garnett is in the final year of his deal and will be an unrestricted free agent in July. Garnett has had a renaissance as of late and the timing couldn’t be better for his next payday.
The Celtics are poised to be one of the top cap space teams in July, so doing another deal with Garnett is not out of the question. It may just come down to price.
Garnett is currently earning $21.2 million this season, so the question is how much of a discount will he take to stay in Boston?
The Celtics have just six players under contract next season – Paul Pierce ($16.79 million), Rajon Rondo ($11 million), Brandon Bass ($4.25 player option), Avery Bradley ($1.63 million), JaJuan Johnson ($1.08 million) and E’Twaun Moore ($762,195).
Every dollar the Celtics give Garnett eats into their projected $22 million in cap space. Garnett represents a $22.3 million cap hold, so reaching a decision or a deal with KG will have to be the first order of business once the season ends.
The good news for Boston is KG wants to stay there. The next question is at what price can a deal be made?
Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs – $21.2 million – Unrestricted
Does anyone believe Tim Duncan will be anywhere but San Antonio next year?
Duncan has said he wants to keep playing, and given how well the Spurs are doing this season, there is almost no scenario in which he’s not the starting center in San Antonio next year.
Duncan is in the final year of his deal and is slated to earn roughly $21.16 million this year. The question is with the Spurs sitting on $49.08 million in salary commitments, how much will Duncan’s camp squeeze the Spurs?
The Spurs have a non-guaranteed year on DeJuan Blair worth $1.05 million, so they will control his fate. The same is true of Gary Neal who has a non-guaranteed $854,000 year left on his deal.
If Duncan goes easy on the Spurs, San Antonio could be a cap space team poised to add another serious weapon.
Given the kind of guy Duncan is, it won’t be surprising to see him drop his number to help the Spurs add talent.
Duncan has a $22.22 million cap hold, so the Spurs will need to deal with that number first in order to create the room, but if Duncan plays it soft on San Antonio, they could have some change to go shopping with.
Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers – $2.6 million – Restricted ($3.7 million Qualifying Offer)
There is almost no scenario in which Roy Hibbert is not the starting center for the Indiana Pacers next year.
The Pacers will issue Hibbert the required $3.7 million Qualifying Offer, making him a restricted free agent and they will likely match anything he is offered in free agency.
The question is how high will someone go in an offer for the first time All-Star?
The Pacers are in a great situation cap wise with just $36.32 million in cap commitments. Roy will carry a $7.76 million cap hold, so the Pacers will have all the time in the world to wait out the process.
Sources close to the situation say Indiana understand where Roy’s camp views his value as a free agent and do not have any concerns about a monster payday for Roy.
They will likely let the market set the price.
It’s possible someone comes with a max or near-max offer that makes the Pacers pause, but sources say the Pacers are ready to match almost anything for Hibbert. There is almost no fear of Hibbert slipping away from Indiana.
Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets – $3.1 million – Restricted ($4.2 million Qualifying Offer)
The Brooklyn Nets are going to want to address Brook Lopez last in the order of free agent priorities. However, given how things have played out for Lopez, he may not be willing to play ball.
Lopez will be issued the required $4.2 million Qualifying Offer insuring his status as a restricted free agent as the Nets try and add to their roster. Brook’s next contract will eat into whatever space the team has, meaning his deal needs to be the last deal done as the Nets can exceed the salary cap to pay him.
An enterprising team like say – the Portland Trail Blazers – may opt to put a massive number in from of Lopez on July 1 and force the Nets’ hand.
The new collective barging agreement shortens the window for teams to match a contract to just three days, so that could severally handicap the Nets if Lopez doesn’t get in line with the team’s thinking.
The Nets can and likely will offer Brook the most money. However, if the Nets try and play the upgrade game, Lopez could toss a wrench into the process by signing an offer sheet on July 10, the first day players can sign new deals.
Team can begin talking with free agents on July 1, so the Nets will have the first 10 days of July to work out their plan before the clock could starts on Lopez, especially if he doesn’t opt to play ball with Brooklyn’s free agent plans.
Ryan Anderson Most Improved?: The Orlando Magic have called a 1:30 p.m. press conference for a “major announcement” – sources close to the process say Magic forward Ryan Anderson will be named the NBA’s 2012 Most Improved Player.
Anderson averaged 10.6 points per game last season, garnering 14 starts in his 64 games. This season Anderson has started all 61 games he has played in, and increased his scoring to 16.1 points per game.
Anderson is poised to be a free agent in July, and assuming the Orlando Magic issue Anderson the required $3.23 million Qualifying Offer, he will be a restricted free agent.
The Magic have $66.74 million in salary commitments which includes the $7.8 million Player Option to Jameer Nelson, the partially guaranteed $6.19 million owed to J.J. Redick, the $1.29 million Player Option to Earl Clark and the $1.06 million non-guaranteed year to Von Wafer; giving the Magic roughly $4.06 million in room under the luxury tax.
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