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NBA AM: The Playoff Free Agent Centers
Posted By Steve Kyler On April 30, 2013 @ 8:58 am In NBA | No Comments
Scouting The Playoff Centers: With some players already at home, there are still a few more names to note that have some level of free agency possible in July. We have already looked at the playoff point guards, the playoff shooting guards, the playoff small forwards and the playoff power forwards. Let’s jump into the trees with the playoff centers:
Zaza Pachulia – Unrestricted
The Hawks are likely going in a new direction this summer. The plans for a while has been to maximize the massive amounts of cap space they are facing in July and that likely means renouncing the rights to Pachulia unless he is willing to take a significant pay cut to remain in Atlanta, which is possible. The big wrinkle with Pachulia is his partially torn right Achilles that he underwent surgery on in March. The timetable for recovery is 6-9 months, so it’s unclear where he’ll be physically ready in July and if he can even be effective after the injury. Most players have struggled to find their games after an Achilles tear. That could play in Atlanta’s favor financially if Pachulia wants to continue to play and all indications are he does. He is finishing his 10th NBA season, so even the NBA minimum is a real number for Pachulia, but would he agree to a $4 million a year pay cut? That is the big question on whether Paculia returns to the ATL. If his camp is looking for a real contract he’s not likely going to find it in Atlanta, they have other plans for that money.
Johan Petro – Unrestricted
Four months ago Petro was a toss-in player who likely didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but since being inserted into the starting lineup, Petro may be the guy who helped his stock the most outside of Chicago’s Nate Robinson. Petro has been part of a lineup shift that’s gotten the Hawks back into the playoff picture and his value to the Hawks might have increased. The Hawks want to go after bigger fish, but if they start to miss hanging on to Petro as a value player, especially if he signs for a reasonable price becomes possible. Petro will be an unrestricted free agent so he’ll have his choice of situations, but given how we’ll he’s played he may have a chance at a new deal in Atlanta especially as other options fall off the board.
Nazr Mohammed – Unrestricted
Mohammed was supposed to be the “in case of emergence” center. However, so far in the postseason he’s been huge for the Bulls. During the last month of the regular season Mohammed was pressed into duty due to injuries and has done surprisingly well for a 15 year veteran. Mohammed never struggled to find a job, mainly because he’s a NBA veterans minimum guy, but it’s safe to say that he’ll get a few more phone calls in July and the Bulls may find some competition for hiss services going forward. That generally means a raise or a multi-year deal is coming his way and that means he may cost a much more than the $854,000 he is slated to earn this year.
Timofey Mozgov – $3,140,429 (Qualifying Offer)
Mozgov has had almost no role in Denver with the emergence of Kostas Koufos and JaVale McGee as a potent one-two punch for the Nuggets at center. Mozgov has yet to log a playoff minute, although he does have a broken thumb, but that wasn’t expected to keep him out. It’s hard to imagine that Denver is going to invest $3.1 million as a qualifying offer on Mozgov mainly because he might accept it. The smart money says the Nuggets let him walk and that could put an interesting big on the market on a low dollar deal. Mozgov hasn’t played a ton, but when it comes to backup centers with upside he still might be intriguing enough to take a flyer on, especially if he can be had on the cheap. There is always the possibility that he takes his talents back overseas, especially if the money isn’t there, but the likely path is that a team is going to offer him a two-year deal and see if he just got lost in the shuffle in Denver.
Andris Biedrins – $9,000,000 (Early Termination)
Biedrins can opt out of the final year of his contract. He has that option, but does anyone see Biedrins leaving $9 million on the table in Golden State? Yeah, me either. The truth of the matter is the Warriors have been regretting the six-year $54 million deal they gave Biedrins since they day they agreed to it in 2008. The good news is there is just one more year left on that deal; the bad news is there is one more left on that deal. Biedrins’ deal is going to make keeping would-be free agents like Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack a little tougher so there is some work that could be done here. The San Antonio Spurs convinced Richard Jefferson to opt-out of a high dollar final year in exchange for a more cap friendly multi-year deal, which coincidentally the Warriors now carry. There is the scenario of approaching Biedrins with a two-for-one type deal; he opts out of his $9 million in exchange for a two year deal worth $10 million. It is unlikely that’s where this thing goes, but there are options especially if the Warriors try some creative accounting with Beindrins.
Greg Smith – $884,293 (Non-Guaranteed)
During the draft process the Houston Rockets were one of the teams most intrigued by Greg Smith’s size. They invested in him and put him on a development plan and that plan is paying off. Smith has emerged as one of the more promising young bigs in the NBA and while he’s not headed to the All-Star Game any time soon he has carved out a nice niche for a kid that was undrafted and started his playing career in Mexico. The Rockets hold a non-guaranteed option on Smith’s deal next year and barring some immediate need for the $884,293 he’s owed to come off the books, Smith is likely back with Houston and never sees free agency. The other scenario is that Smith, who has value around the league, is part of a sign-and-trade for the big-fish big man the Rockets covet – whether that’s Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap or a player to be named later. The smart money says Smith is staying right where he is. He is serviceable and inexpensive and he has played very well for the Rockets this season, but if moving him nets the players the Rockets covet they would have little choice but to move him.
Dwight Howard – Unrestricted
There is no bigger name in free agency than Dwight Howard and much like the last two years there just isn’t a sense of what Howard is ultimately going to do this summer. The Lakers can offer Howard the most – insert the qualifier. The Lakers can offer the most money, the most marketing opportunities and the bigger fan base. The Lakers have biggest stage in basketball. But after being there for a year is that what Howard wants? A lot has changed in Howard’s life over the last year. He has a new circle of people in his life, he has gone from superstar to laughing stock and the once indestructible man has been beaten down physically – first with his back, then his shoulder. He’s had his mental toughness questioned and he’s been the butt of the joke all year. When Howard talks about being a Laker it isn’t a storybook chapter, it’s a story of disappointment, failed expectations and misery. The Lakers can offer five-years and $118 million and that’s going to be $30 million guaranteed more than anyone else can offer but does Howard want to sign on for what could be five more years of what he went through this year. That’s something the Lakers are going to have to convince Howard is going to change and change immediately. The door is open for other teams to talk to Howard in July and mainly because it’s been so bad in LA for Howard the person and the player. So while money and market tend to trump all, in this case the Lakers are going to have to convince him that a much brighter and happier situation is on the other side of this lateness nightmare or they could lose him to a team that’s offering a better scenario for happiness and who would have thought that would ever be the case in LA. The smart money says that the Lakers put some things in motion to change the culture and the situation of the team. The smart money says they are aggressive around the draft and remake the roster a little before sitting down with Howard and when they do they open the check book and promise to make all this better and that likely gets his signature on a contract on a $118 million contract. If the Lakers don’t follow that plan, the likes of Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and others will be pitching how much happier Howard will be in their market, so its on LA to change the environment for Dwight if they want to keep the suitors out of the picture.
Robert Sacre – $988,872 (Qualifying Offer)
This one is in here for fun. The free agent center that no will talk about in LA is Sacre. He was the 60th pick last year and beat the odds by staying on the roster for the Lakers, who have a payroll up over $100 million. It is one thing for a lottery team to cling to a draft asset, but the Lakers decision to keep Sacre around speaks volumes of how they feel about him as a player. The Lakers can restrict his rights with a $988,000 offer and they may just do that. He is a cheap big who they like and has upside. Sacre will need to show improvement in Summer League and there is a real chance that the Lakers offer a small multi-year deal with non-guaranteed money. The downside for the Lakers in issuing the offer sheet is that if Sacre accepts it his money is fully guaranteed and that might open the window for the Lakers to pass on the offer and let him hit free agency. It is doubtful that teams beat down Sacre’s door, but as they often say you can’t teach size, and he has proven he can be a serviceable NBA big, so there could be a market for him.
Samuel Dalembert – Unrestricted
With the Bucks out of the playoff picture, Dalembert’s days in Milwaukee are likely over. For several weeks Dalembert has been spinning the story of how much he’d love to be with the Miami HEAT as a free agent and he’ll surely try and convince them again this summer that he should be their guy in the pivot. Coming out of the lockout the word was Dalembert was going to Miami. However, sources close to the situation said the HEAT did work him out, but that he had put on too much weight to be of use to them and that put Dalembert on Houston’s radar who took the chance that he could help them. It’s unlikely that Dalembert sees anywhere close to the $6.6 million he earned this year in Milwaukee, but there is no doubting that he could play for a team and that his future in the NBA is more as a backup center than a starter. Once some of the bigger names start falling off the free agent board Sam may find a suitor, but it’s unlikely that he’s a coveted free agent those days have passed him by.
Chris Andersen – Unrestricted
If anyone in the run to the playoffs had secured their future in Miami outside of LeBron James it’s been Chris Andersen. The fit in Miami has been unbelievable and the fact that he doesn’t have the 82 game grind on his legs is paying big dividends in the hustle game for Miami. “Birdman” has brought energy and intensity to Miami’s rebounding game and the fact that he’s become the energy guy for them is paying off in huge ways. Both sides have already said keeping Andersen beyond this season is likely, so it will come down to dollars and cents. Miami won’t have a ton to offer because of where they are cap wise, but it’s safe to say Miami is going to find some money in the sofa cushions to keep him around. Barring injury, it would be surprising to see Andersen hit the free agent streets, but there is this concept – he’s played well enough that another team might try and poach him but when you have what Chris has around him it’s going to take serious money to get him to leave South Beach.
We Want To Know: Yesterday in this space I asked “Where do the Lakers go next?”… 43 percent of respondents said “Let Dwight go and rebuild in 2014” and only 27 percent said “Blow it up now and rebuild around Dwight”
So that begs the next question:
Hot After Phil: When Tim Leiweke was named CEO of Maple Leaf Sports he pledged to turn Toronto in the Lakers North, saying that they had the fans and the market support to be as successful as the storied Lakers franchise in LA, present season excluded.
From those words started the belief that the Toronto Raptors would go after former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson to head up the Raptors basketball front office. The problem for the Raptors and everyone else is hot after Jackson; he was earmarked to run the new Sonics team if they got approval to relocate the Kings to Seattle.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Jackson and Chris Hansen have grown close over the last year and that Hansen and Jackson seemed like the perfect marriage. The problem with that is the NBA’s Relocation Committee all but killed that yesterday with a “No” recommendation to the NBA’s Board of Governors – more on that in a minute.
With Seattle now a huge legal battle, Jackson is believed to be open to new ideas and the Raptors are reportedly making a hard push to get Jackson signed while Seattle remains in chaos.
If Jackson agrees to come to Toronto, that could have a sweeping impact on how things play out. Namely current team President Bryan Colangelo is likely out as would be head coach Dwane Casey. It’s believed both are on shaky ground with Leiweke regardless, but a Jackson hire would likely seal their fates.
Colangelo is expected to meet with Maple Leaf Sports board next week so his future and more importantly the status of his contract option will tell a lot about where things go in Toronto, but it is clear Leiweke is trying to lure Jackson to Canada and with Seattle basically off the table the Raptors might have a shot at him.
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Hansen Not Finished: Despite what’s now being called a 7-0 “No” vote from the NBA’s Relocation Committee, Chris Hansen pledged to his Seattle supporters that he plans to make his voice heard with the NBA Board of Governors and vows to continue to pushing to close his binding agreement to purchase the Sacramento Kings.
”We just wanted to let you all know that we remain fully committed to seeing this transaction through. As you are all well aware, we have a binding transaction to purchase the Kings for what would be a record price for an NBA franchise, have one of the best ownership groups ever assembled to purchase a professional sports team in the US, have clearly demonstrated that we have a much more solid Arena plan, have offered a much higher price than the yet to be finalized Sacramento Group, and have placed all of the funds to close the transaction into escrow. As such, we plan to unequivocally state our case for both relocation and our plan to move forward with the transaction to the league and owners at the upcoming Board of Governor’s Meeting in Mid-May.” – Chris Hansen
Somewhere Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has to be quoting lines from Gladiator… “People should know when they’re conquered.”
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