NBA Free Agents 2012: How Ray Allen to Miami Heat Shakes Up the Market
The Miami Heat should know. They just parlayed their first NBA title of the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh era into yet another free agency coup, this time with Ray Allen joining the ranks of the ringed and sparking a fresh free-agent arms race around the league, particularly at the shooting guard position.
On its own, Allen's signing with South Beach's favorite sons was hardly the most noteworthy move to sneak across the wire since July 1st. Sure, Pat Riley deserves props for luring a future Hall-of-Famer away from the league's most storied franchise (the Boston Celtics) to its biggest current rival for less money than he could've earned elsewhere.
But, unlike Steve Nash's surprising sign-and-trade to the Los Angeles Lakers or Deron Williams' decision to re-up with the Brooklyn Nets, Allen's actions didn't necessarily make or break the hopes and goals of a franchise.
Instead, they bolstered the fortunes of a team that was already the odds-on favorite to defend its crown. And, more importantly, Jesus Shuttlesworth's flight south set in motion a new feeding frenzy of sorts to kick off the second phase of this year's free agency period.
Miami's Next Move
When you're an NBA champion and have the look of a budding dynasty, everyone wants in.
Ray Allen was the first to enter the fray this summer, but which other veterans will be drawn to South Beach by the Heat's newfound gravitational pull?
Anyone who is will likely have to accept basking in the glow of the Larry O'Brien Trophy in lieu of currency, now that Miami has only the veteran's minimum of $1.35 million to offer those who come wanting after spending the mini mid-level on Allen.
That is, unless a player is worthy of Pat Riley's personnel creativity, as Marcus Camby would appear to be. According to Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida, the Heat and the Houston Rockets have entertained the possibility of a sign-and-trade, with Marcus Camby going to Miami and either Shane Battier or Joel Anthony headed back in the other direction.
The Heat could certainly use a big body who can protect the rim and run the floor, even one who's 38 years old.
And while the Camby Man may be the next vet to join the Fellowship of the Ring, he wouldn't likely be the last. The market is still flush with geezers thirsting for the precious, some of whom are still liable to flock to Miami for one last shot at glory.
Or whatever this is.
Best Bets for Boston?
Meanwhile, Celtics GM Danny Ainge is in a dank cellar somewhere in New England, plotting his next move over a glass of chocolate milk...or something along those lines.
Celtics Nation is in a state of shock after being jilted by a man who played a crucial role in the Bostonian basketball renaissance, especially under these circumstances (i.e. joining the champion rivals, turning down more money to do so, leaving amidst bad blood, etc.).
Still, it's not as though the C's are exactly hurting for talent at the moment. They've already brought back Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass on three-year pacts and essentially replaced Allen with the more versatile Jason Terry, who's capable of manning either backcourt position off the bench.
With Avery Bradley healthy, draftees Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo onboard and Jeff Green expected back after spending the season recovering from heart surgery, the Celtics should be in solid position to challenge the Heat for supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
Oh yeah, and last I checked, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce haven't switched allegiances.
And for those still shaken by the news of Allen's move, there's still room at the table for another addition (or two) to an already-solid core.
All Along the Western Front...
Allen's arrival doesn't just put the Heat further ahead of the C's. It also keeps Miami abreast of its toughest challengers out West.
The lack of movement by the Oklahoma City Thunder thus far would seem to suggest that the reigning Western Conference champions feel they can stand pat and challenge the Heat's supremacy anyway, even after losing four games in a row in the NBA Finals. Sure, the nucleus of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka remains well intact.
But GM Sam Presti has done little to retool the rest of his roster, much less improve it. That is, unless anyone thinks replacing Nazr Mohammed with Hasheem Thabeet is a maneuver worth fretting over.
The San Antonio Spurs have similarly stood pat thus far, though they've yet to officially re-sign Tim Duncan and are still in the market for the likes of Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby and Rashard Lewis, among others.
The Lakers have thrust themselves back into the contending conversation with the stunning signing of Steve Nash. However, throwing a 38-year-old Hall-of-Famer, even one as fit as Nash, into an already-volatile mix with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum hardly guarantees another title for the Purple and Gold.
Those four will have to figure out a more effective way to play together, and the bench remains woefully thin. The potential additions of shooters like Grant Hill and Jodie Meeks would help, though the lines in Las Vegas won't really move until/unless Dwight Howard finds himself in a Lakers uniform.
The Remainder for Ray
The rest of the West had eyes for Ray Allen as well, albeit with much slimmer chances of landing the 10-time All-Star.
The Clippers appeared to be the only team west of the Mississippi with a legitimate chance of luring Allen away from the east coast. Those aspirations went by the wayside, though, once Chauncey Billups re-signed and Jamal Crawford jumped on for four years and $25 million.
The Clips could've certainly used a shooter of Ray's acumen, though Mr. Big Shot's ability from deep and Crawford's shot creation should suit them just fine.
The Phoenix Suns had eyes for Allen early on, but were never considered a serious threat to secure his signature. It's tough to imagine Ray being part of a rebuilding process in the desert when the opportunities to chase championships in Miami and Boston were on the table.
For their part, the Suns have been anything but gun-shy in the subsequent pursuit of shooting guard, with Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated reporting that they may have eyes for Lou Williams if they can't pry Eric Gordon away from the New Orleans Hornets.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, too, were something of a dark horse in the race for Ray Allen, though each appears to have been nothing more than a last resort for the other.
The T-Wolves have since moved to shore up their play on the wing, signing the newly-unretired Brandon Roy to a two-year deal and baiting the Portland Trail Blazers into a free-agent showdown over Nicolas Batum.
Top of the Market
Allen's new absence from the free agent market hardly comes as a blow for the existing crop of "unemployed" shooting guards. The top of the class—Eric Gordon, OJ Mayo and Lou Williams—is still intact, though these three figure to find new homes soon enough.
Gordon's situation should be resolved in short order. The Suns have already extended a max offer to the 23-year-old restricted free agent and have done enough behind closed doors to convince him that he doesn't want to play for the New Orleans Hornets anymore.
Then again, that decision isn't really up to EJ at this point. The Hornets have the right to match whatever comes EJ's way and figure to do so, considering that he was the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade. If worse comes to worst, the Hornets and the Suns could look to work out a sign-and-trade of some sort.
Or, if the Suns would rather avoid such hassle, they could put in a call to Lou Williams' people, as mentioned previously. The Philadelphia 76ers have decided to cut ties with Williams after signing Nick Young to a one-year deal.
Williams opted out of the final year of his contract, but had expressed interest in returning to Philly, where he was the team's leading scorer last season.
The Suns, the T-Wolves and the Dallas Mavericks are the most prominent suitors to have come forward for Williams so far, though the former two appear to have such a pursuit penciled in as a possible Plan B, while the latter have already exhausted all of their other options.
As for OJ Mayo, he appears to be at the top of the Indiana Pacers' wish list, with the Mavs, Suns and Houston Rockets still in the picture. Mayo officially hit the market as an unrestricted free agent after the Memphis Grizzlies declined to tender him a qualifying offer.
Second to Some
The second tier of shooting guards has already emptied out, for the most part. Jamal Crawford's in LA, Jason Terry's in Boston and Nick Young's in LA, leaving the likes of JR Smith, Shannon Brown, Marco Belinelli and Courtney Lee as the next best below the cream of the crop.
Smith seems all but set to re-sign with the New York Knicks, whom he joined last season after returning from a scoring spree in China. Brown, a prodigious leaper, and Belinelli, a sleepy-eyed sweet shooter, are both still waiting for the market to take shape.
Lee, on the other hand, has emerged as something of a hot commodity since the Houston Rockets rescinded their qualifying offer to him. The Chicago Bulls were among the first teams to contact Lee when he became an unrestricted free agent, hoping to bring him aboard as a fill-in for Derrick Rose in the interim and a much-needed perimeter scorer over the long haul.
With a lengthy list of suitors beating down his door, Lee figures to come off the market before the rest of those still sitting in the "muddled middle" of the shooting guard class.
Any team hoping to find a hot hand or two at the bottom of the barrel should be pleasantly surprised to discover who's still on hand.
The Lakers, for one, may well bolster their bench with Grant Hill and Jodie Meeks, thereby providing Steve Nash with a pair of shooters to keep defenses honest from deep. Gerald Green's career renaissance could continue with the Brooklyn Nets, while Rudy Fernandez takes his talents back his native Spain.
Meanwhile, old dogs like Tracy McGrady, Jerry Stackhouse and Michael Redd are out job hunting again, though they'll probably have to wait for their turn at the NBA's version of "Musical Chairs" until younger pups like Jerryd Bayless, Brandon Rush and Mickael Pietrus find homes.
At the very least, the former three can take some comfort in seeing a fellow fogie like Ray Allen command so much attention on the market.