Best Potential Free-Agent Landing Spots for Chris Andersen in 2014 Offseason
To say the Miami Heat have some decisions to make this offseason would be doing a disservice to the word “decision.”
Come to think of it, let’s not go there.
For the Big Three to re-up for a fifth go-round, they’ll almost certainly need guarantees from the Heat brass that bolstering the bench remains a top priority heading into the 2014-15 season.
Chris “Birdman” Andersen—defensive and rebounding specialist and the team’s foremost frontcourt reserve—was supposed to be one player Miami could count on being back.
But according to Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears, Andersen will forgo the $1.4 million owed to him next season to test the free-agent market—the result, perhaps, of the uncertainty surrounding his star-studded teammates.
Even if Birdman walks away from South Beach for good, there stand to be plenty of teams with the clout and cap room to make a serious run at the 6’10” forward.
What follows are the 10 best free-agent destinations—financially and fit-wise—for the 35-year-old Andersen. As you’ll see, all of these teams share two crucial things in common: All of them are potential playoff teams, and all of them offer the kind of extracurricular environment that would seemingly suit Andersen’s…how do we say this…eccentric nature?
Spoiler: the Utah Jazz aren’t one of them.
As far as stylistic fits go, Birdman would be hard-pressed to do better than the Chicago Bulls, where his defense and rebounding could help bolster a roster poised to lose Nazr Mohammed.
Needless to say, Andersen would be a marked improvement over Mohammed—a sturdy backup on whom head coach Tom Thibodeau could at least rely to hold the fort while Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson were grabbing breathers.
Scoring punch is obviously the team’s A-1 priority, but Andersen’s skill set could give the Bulls a much-needed dose of bench energy as well.
Chicago is typically loathe to trend into luxury-tax territory, but with Andrew Bynum’s $6 million now officially off the books, the Bulls will have a bit of extra wiggle room heading into summer.
Los Angeles Clippers
Beyond DeAndre Jordan, the Los Angeles Clippers don’t boast much in the way of rim protection. And while their bench was tops in the NBA in blocks per game (per HoopsStats.com), the Clippers remain in need of some serious frontcourt depth.
As things stand today, L.A. stands a good chance of treading past the luxury-tax threshold. That might well mean a more modest payday than Andersen was hoping for, but the fringe benefits the Clippers can offer—title contention, a city seemingly in line with Andersen’s eclectic personality—will be tough to beat indeed.
Los Angeles Lakers
Now here’s a team accustomed to overpaying its players. With only $35 million committed for the 2014-15 season, the Los Angeles Lakers will doubtless be desperate to round out their roster on the fly. And players like Andersen—experienced and affordable—stand to be high on their priority list.
Birdman would be an instant fan favorite in L.A., keen as the city’s always been on colorful characters. Even if next season ends with his team notching yet another playoff miss, Birdman can at least rest easy knowing he can end his career with one of the league’s legacy franchises—and a pretty nice payday to boot.
In four short years, Brooklyn Nets’ owner Mikhail Prokhorov has earned a reputation as a big-time spender. How big, you ask? After taxes, the Russian billionaire will have shelled out a record $186 million for last year’s roster (per Ball Don’t Lie’s Eric Freeman).
Whether Prokhorov is willing to double down on what amounted to an Eastern Conference Semifinals ouster, is anyone’s guess. But with a number of contracts slated to come off the books this summer—Paul Pierce’s being by far the biggest—Brooklyn will have a bit of spare change left to throw at free agents.
In Andersen, the Nets would be adding not just a solid backup big, but an insurance policy in the event Kevin Garnett decides to walk away from the $12 million owed to him. Also:
Birdman would be Mayor of Brooklyn within a week. Guaranteed.
It’s no secret that the Houston Rockets would love to trade backup center Omer Asik, whose $15 million “poison pill” payoff is poised to kick in next season. With Dwight Howard manning the paint, Asik’s skill set is simply too redundant, particularly at that price.
If the Rockets can somehow manage to find a willing trade partner, nabbing Andersen would amount to a clever coup. In terms of strengths, Birdman is basically a poor man’s Asik, albeit with a slightly better free-throw stroke.
Houston has been one move away from genuine contention for a while now. Andersen certainly wouldn’t push them over the top, but as an ancillary piece, you could do a lot worse.
Few teams face a more uncertain near future than the Dallas Mavericks, what with both Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion’s considerable contracts set to expire and the team committed to a mere $27 million in salaries next season.
It’s hard to imagine Nowitzki suiting up anywhere but Dallas, which is why he’ll likely at least consider returning at a discount. To do that, though, Dirk will need assurances that owner Mark Cuban has a plan in place to outfit his sweet-shooting forward with playoff-ready pieces.
Beyond Sam Dalembert, whose $3.9 million team option remains a key question mark, Dallas’ interior presence is decidedly lacking. Which is why Andersen could make for a compelling fit.
New York Knicks
I know what you’re thinking: What free agents over the last 20 years have the New York Knicks not at least thought about going after?
New York’s financials are a catastrophe—everyone knows that. And with Carmelo Anthony looking less and less likely to return, the Knicks could be even worse than last year’s 37-win disaster.
But if Phil Jackson’s clout is somehow enough to shape something resembling a competitive roster, Andersen—who, let’s face it, would be an instant cult hero in Madison Square Garden—might be right up the Zen Master’s alley.
The Knicks likely wouldn’t be able to offer Andersen much more than the $1.4 million he’s already leaving behind, but for a change of scenery—and a chance to play in the World’s Most Famous Arena—you could do a lot worse than balling in the big city.
The following is the Phoenix Suns’ center depth chart: Miles Plumlee and Alex Len. That’s it.
Like many teams on this list, the Suns are in desperate need of some frontcourt help. Here's Bleacher Report's Sam Cooper, writing specifically about what needs Phoenix should be addressing in the upcoming draft:
The Suns, on the other hand, have Channing Frye and Miles Plumlee. Neither one is a great rebounder, or an intimidating defender, and one can only imagine how they would fare against Duncan, Griffin, Ibaka, Aldridge, Howard or any of the other outstanding frontcourt players in the West.
Having Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe is a great start to the rebuilding process, but now the Suns must focus on the frontcourt. They must look for rebounding options right now, whether it be with the 14th pick or the 50th pick.
The Suns emerged as one of the NBA’s most exciting up-and-coming teams last season, barely missing out on the playoffs with a core consisting of flawed talents, misfits and castoffs.
To say Phoenix needs a dose of veteran moxie would be an understatement. Couple that with the Suns’ lackluster interior defense and a boatload of cap room and you have the makings of a perfect perch for Birdman.
Golden State Warriors
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Golden State Warriors need frontcourt bench depth.
With the future of Jermaine O’Neal up in the air and very little in the way of rotational depth behind him, newly anointed head coach Steve Kerr must make bolstering his bigs a top priority.
Enter Andersen, who could be the perfect first backup for Andrew Bogut—a paint presence that would allow the Warriors to not stray too far afield from their primary defensive game plan.
Also, let’s face it: Can you think of a place more tailor-made for Birdman’s off-kilter presence than the Bay Area?
When all’s said and done, the Heat offer Andersen something other franchise’s simply can’t or won’t: an opportunity to end his career as a ring-bearing cog in one of this generation’s most memorable basketball machines.
Birdman opting out of his $1.4 million deal was less an outright plea for a bigger pay day and more of a preemptive decision to avoid coming back to what might well be a threadbare roster. If James, Wade and Bosh are able to convince another fellow superstar—Carmelo Anthony, for instance—to join them on the road to Finals redemption, it’s entirely conceivable Andersen could re-sign with the Heat at an even further discount.
When Andersen was waived by the Denver Nuggets ahead of the 2012-13 season, it looked as though his career might be over. Less than a year later, Birdman was helping deliver Miami it’s second title in as many seasons.
How important was Andersen to Miami’s run? Let’s ask Pat Riley:
“We are ecstatic that Chris Andersen has decided to stay with the Miami Heat,” Riley told reporters before the start of the 2013-14 season, per NBA.com. “We would not have won the championship without him.”
Coming from a man who knows a little something about championship ingredients, it was high praise indeed.