At 12:01 AM yesterday morning, this year's free agency frenzy kicked off in the NBA, and already the first shots have been fired.
Deals have been made that have ranged from shocking (Baron Davis heading to the Clippers to live it up in Hollywood) to irrelevant (Hassan Adams signs up in Toronto). Let's take a look at the deals that were supposedly agreed to yesterday:
Dallas Mavericks Sign SF Gerald Green and re-sign PG JJ Barea- I think this pick may be very much like the Mavs' coup of Brandon Bass last year. For whatever reason, after a strong 2006-2007 season with the Celtics, in which he averaged more than 10 PPG, he just never gained the trust of Randy Wittman in Minnesota, and eventually wound up being sent to Houston for Kirk Snyder before getting cut.
It's obvious that the former slam-dunk champ has tons of talent; there's a reason it was an upset that he fell out of the lottery when he was drafted a few years ago. The question I have is whether there's a problem with his work ethic - if you can't play on the team the Timberwolves had last year, that's a serious red flag for me.
Regardless, for a one-year deal it seems like a low-risk, high-reward deal for the Mavs. JJ Barea was their 13th man last year, and I doubt he'll ever be much more, but he will probably be given a shot to earn the backup PG spot.
Los Angeles Clippers Sign PG Baron Davis (Warriors)- Obviously, this is the deal everyone is talking about today. While I agree that any time it looks like Donald Sterling is willing to open his wallet to be competitive has to look good if you're a Clippers fan, I'm actually not as high on this move as it seems everyone else is.
Although Davis certainly looks like he's going to make the Clippers competitive again with a lineup of Davis, Mobley, Thornton, Brand, and Kaman, I don't think that's a championship-caliber starting five. I'm not even 100% sure it's a playoff- caliber starting five, when you look at the Nuggets' with Iverson, Kleiza, Melo, K-Mart and Camby only managing an 8th seed in the brutal West and Portland obviously on the rise.
The move looks even more suspect when you consider they now have no money to sign bench guys, and the best guy they have left returning is Tim Thomas. Nobody knows whether Eric Gordon can give them decent minutes off the bench. Furthermore, crossing your fingers and hoping that Davis, Brand, and Kaman, who have all had injury issues in the past will all stay healthy, is a dubious plan at best.
Personally, I think that NBA teams should always make moves with the intent of eventually building a championship contender, and I think the Clippers may have just tied their hands with Davis' huge salary to the point that they won't be able to get much better with this group of players.
For the Warriors, this move is going to seriously hasten Don Nelson's return to retirement, and probably jump-start the rebuilding process in the Bay Area. They're not going to pry Gilbert Arenas from the Wizards now that Jamison is sticking around, so they might as well just resign Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins and give guys like Brandan Wright and Marco Bellinelli a chance to develop. Trying to sneak into the playoffs in the stacked west with this roster just isn't going to work.
Memphis Grizzlies sign C Marc Gasol- I really have no opinion on Gasol, though everything I hear about him seems to be good. I've heard some people say that the Grizzlies might consider starting him and Darko together, which leaves me wondering where Hakim Warrick lies in their future plans.
In any case, this guy was still the 48th pick last year, so I really can't imagine this guy is going to remind anyone of his brother anytime soon, and three years at $3.3 million per seems like a lot for someone who figures to be a prospect.
Portland Trail Blazers sign SG Rudy Fernandez- I also haven't seen Fernandez play personally, but the fact that he's turning down much bigger offers to come play for the rookie scale of $900k means this has to be a steal for the Blazers.
The owner of multiple MVP awards overseas, Fernandez gives the Blazers yet another asset to add to their embarrassment of riches on their bench. The only question left is how the Blazers plan on developing all of their young talent.
They have Greg Oden, LaMarcus Aldridge, Martell Webster, Jerryd Bayless, Channing Frye, Travis Outlaw, Sergio Rodriguez, Ike Diogu, and now Fernandez, all figuring to require some seasoning before they reach their full potential.
Trying to simultaneously develop all those young players at once can really take a toll on a coaching staff. I would imagine that some of those guys will likely leave at some point this season for a veteran.
Sacramento Kings re-sign PG Beno Udrih- Ladies and gentlemen, your winner of the 2008 Jerome James Memorial Award, Beno Udrih! Let's give him a hand! Five years at full mid-level? Seriously, how many times have we seen a player do very little and then come out of nowhere to have a career year when he's playing for a new contract, get ridiculously overpaid, and then vanish off the face of the earth?
Just off the top of my head, Jerome James, Brian Cardinal, Erick Dampier, Al Harrington, Marko Jaric, Raef LaFrentz... there are two perfect examples on the Kings' own roster in Kenny Thomas and Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and the list goes on.
Udrih's numbers are actually kind of underwhelming- a mere 12.8ppg, 4.3 apg isn't going to light the world on fire, and as a Spurs fan who watched him his first three years, his confidence is extremely fragile. He can have a couple of weeks where he strings together a few good games, but then even one bad game can send him into the toilet for the rest of the year.
Udrih looks like one of the classic cases of a guy being touted as a big free agent pickup only to be found getting shopped six months later as a bad contract. With Ron Artest talking about how he wishes he'd opted out, Brad Miller looking like a shadow of his former self, and Mikki Moore still inexplicably being a starter in this league, it looks like a long couple of years coming up in Sacramento.
Toronto Raptors re-sign PG Jose Calderon and sign PG Roko Ukic and PG Hassan Adams- This was a no-brainer. Calderon was their best point guard anyways last year, and we all knew this was coming since they traded T.J. Ford. Even better, it looks like they got Calderon at an extremely reasonable salary at around $8 million a year, which is excellent considering he was putting up All-Star numbers when he was starting.
Ukic, a former second-round pick, and Adams, who played with the Nets the year before last, are both minor pickups, but if one of them can be a serviceable backup to Calderon, the Raptors could just close the checkbook and call it a good offseason.
The Corey Maggette Situation
The Davis signing leaves Corey Maggette in a suddenly very uncomfortable position, as it looks like he'll have to settle for the mid-level exception somewhere. Whoever gets a 28-year old 22ppg scorer for that amount is getting a serious steal.
Rumor has it the Celtics have called and have offered the full mid-level, but it's not clear how he would fit into their plans; either Maggette or Ray Allen would have to come off the bench, and Maggette has never made it a secret that he thinks he's a starter in this league.
Maggette would like to hear from his hometown Orlando, but word is that the Magic would be wary about committing so much money to one player, although their starting five would be great with Jameer Nelson, Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, and Hedo Turkoglu, they'd be left with virtually no money to buy a bench; the Magic are rumored to be leaning towards splitting their midlevel amongst two guys like Keyon Dooling and someone else.
The other team that is known to be interested in Maggette is the Spurs, who would give him the full MLE in a heartbeat, but Maggette would likely need some convincing that the Spurs are not too old to still contend for a title.
Maggette is sure to hear from some other teams as well in the coming days, as before yesterday it was widely assumed that it would cost much more than the mid-level to land him. If the Sixers strike out in their bids to sign Josh Smith and Josh Childress, they may be willing to pay Maggette more than the other teams can offer. The Grizzlies have the money to spend on Maggette, but are not expected to spend most of it this summer.
Wrap-up: The best of who's Left: Gilbert Arenas is said to be entertaining offers from both the Warriors and Wizards, but will likely return to the Wizards; Elton Brand, who many are whispering may have helped orchestrate the Davis signing, is also expected to stay with his team the Clippers;
Chris Duhon is attracting some serious attention from the Knicks; Brent Barry, after surprising the Spurs and opting out, is getting calls from the Lakers and Rockets; DeSagana Diop might give Beno some competition for the Jerome James Memorial Award if rumors that the Mavs are considering giving him a significant portion of the MLE are true;
The Sixers have apparently come on strong to Hawks restricted free agents Josh Smith and Josh Childress, while the Hawks maintain they will match any offers for Smith; the Celtics are apparently trying to undercut James Posey in negotiations, and considering Posey has always followed the money, he may be on his way out- the Lakers and Hornets have apparently expressed interest; and the Bulls are focusing on bringing back their own restricted free agents Ben Gordon and Luol Deng, who figure to be forced to settle for much less than the offers they turned down a year ago considering the dry market.