NBA free agency is in full swing, but things haven’t played out quite as expected so far.
With the two biggest dominoes having already toppled, the free-agent market was expected to unravel, with players like Monta Ellis, Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bynum quickly being claimed by the higest bidders.
Bynum signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday, per SportsCenter, but Ellis and Jennings remain on the market, both of whom have been wrapped up in several rumors regarding their potential destinations.
With the biggest names already off the market, all bets are now off. Teams that missed out on the biggest prizes of the offseason are simply scrambling to pick up the pieces.
Let’s take a look at the latest rumors involving some of the best free agents still available on the market, breaking down the likelihood of each potential signing.
Minnesota Getting Busy
The Minnesota Timberwolves were in desperate need of a perimeter scorer. Fortunately, they found several.
Minnesota already signed shooting guard Kevin Martin and drafted UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad. Now it seems the Timberwolves have their sights set on a Corey Brewer deal, as reported by Marc Stein of ESPN:
Hearing: Wolves closing in on three-year deal with coveted swingman Corey Brewer in $15 million range— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 10, 2013
Brewer would add to a now-crowded backcourt that was a glaring weakness last season. At $5 million per year, it wouldn’t be a bad deal, but someone is going to have to explain where Minnesota expects to find minutes for all its new additions.
Meanwhile, the team is also reportedly close to working out a new deal with center Nikola Pekovic, as reported by Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski:
Minnesota, Nikola Pekovic getting closer on a four-year, $50 million contract extension, league sources tell Y! Sports.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 10, 2013
Pekovic is one of the bigger names on the market right now, but as a restricted free agent, he isn’t likely to end up anywhere else. Minnesota probably wouldn’t be that willing to match a massive offer, but then again, four years and $50 million is no small sum.
The Timberwolves have never been known for big free-agent spending sprees, but this summer has been different. Assuming they land Brewer and retain Pekovic, things could get awfully interesting in Minnesota next season.
AK47 Still on the Market
Andrei Kirilenko opted out of $10 million contract to hit the open market this summer, but it doesn’t seem that many teams are willing to come close to that amount to sign him.
The biggest reason for that could be Minnesota’s unwillingness to take back salary in a sign-and-trade, however, as reported by Wojnarowski:
The Spurs seriously considered a multiyear offer for Kirilenko, but Minnesota general manager Flip Saundershas shown little, if any, inclination to assist him in securing a significant financial contract elsewhere, sources said.
The Oklahoma City Thunder tried to orchestrate a sign-and-trade with Minnesota to gain a trade exception for losing Martin on a four-year, $28 million deal, but Minnesota hasn't been eager to reach an agreement, league sources said.
Even if teams are interested in the veteran forward, at this point in the offseason, cap space is scarce. There aren’t many teams with the financial flexibility to sign him outright, and it comes as no surprise that Minnesota isn’t all that willing to add salary in return. The Timberwolves have spending of their own to do.
What of Ellis?
Ellis is one of the most enigmatic free agents still available on the open market.
Teams will be willing to pay the combo guard based on his 19.2-points-per-game average last season, but he’s not exactly a complete player. With Ellis a defensive liability and a free-shooter from just about everywhere on the floor, teams had much better options than to overpay him based on his 2012-13 stats.
But the market is dwindling, and it’s only a matter of time before Ellis finds a new home on a potentially overinflated contract.
As Broussard reported, Ellis has narrowed his list to four suitors:
Monta Ellis, one of the premier free agents remaining on the market, has whittled his list to four teams and is hoping to choose his destination within the next 36 to 48 hours, a source close to the situation said on Tuesday.
Broussard notes that the Atlanta Hawks, Sacramento Kings, Dallas Mavericks and Charlotte Bobcats are all still in the running.
With all due respect to the other teams on that list, Atlanta seems like the most suitable—and likely—scenario at this point, especially with the news of Jeff Teague signing an offer sheet with the Milwaukee Bucks, as reported by Wojnarowski:
Restricted free agent guard Jeff Teague plans to sign a four-year, $32 million-plus offer sheet with Milwaukee, league sources tell Y!— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) July 11, 2013
Atlanta may choose to match that offer, but there’s no guarantee it will want to pay Teague $8 million per season if Ellis will be available at a similar rate.
With three days to make a decision on Teague, the Hawks may be wise to see how things shake out with Ellis first.