Where's the Money? More NBA Free Agency News

Michael McGowanSenior Analyst IJuly 6, 2008

The NBA Free Agency period is upon us.  Going into the free agency period, many experts said that there would not be money out there for teams to spend. 

Some major players in the NBA such as Corey Maggette, Baron Davis, and Elton Brand, have decided to opt out of their contracts. They are ready to go and get some more cash—maybe with the same team, or maybe with another. 

Now that the Big Three of the free-agency period chose to go this path, there is actually more money available than people thought.  Golden State is sitting out there with some cap room, along with Philadelphia and Memphis, who were already listed as spenders.  The Clippers had cap room, but that was spent on Baron Davis and the rest will soon be going to Elton Brand. 

On top of cap space, the NBA also supplies each team with veteran exceptions and one mid-level exception (which is the NBA-average salary, around $5.8 million).   Baron Davis surprised everyone—including the Warriors—by leaving $17.8 million dollars on the table, while people like Shawn Marion and Ron Artest know that sticking around for one more year may make for a bigger payday next year.

Maybe these guys who opted out aren't about money, then. Maybe they just want to win? Let's talk about some major free agents and where they have gone or could go, and who is interested:

Elton Brand and Baron Davis

The LA Clippers could be the place where everyone wants to go to win this summer. With Maggette gone and Brand opting out, the Clips signed Baron Davis first, and now are trying to get Elton Brand locked up.

Since Brand is a returning player, the Clippers can go over the cap to sign him. Both will be taking pay decreases in '08-'09, but will be making a lot of money by the end of their contracts, with raises each year. 

It is going to take alot more than Brand, Davis, Gordon, Kamen, and the other non-mentionables to win the West.  The Clippers are not ready to even get a home playoff series with the additions thus far.  They will be trying to talk veterans into taking a minimum, and playing for a winner.

Brand will get attention until July 9 from Philadelphia and Golden State, two teams who may not have enough money to pull Josh Smith from Atlanta. He could be that power postup player they are looking for. Brand could be using both teams to get a larger contract from the Clippers. Word is that Brand is close to being signed with LA but the amount of years seem to be the hold up. 

James Posey

The second most popular free agent? Everyone wants a bench defender who can shoot. Posey may have made his case in the NBA Finals this year with his stellar defense, hardnosed plays, and overall hustle.

Is he a starter? Maybe—but not for the whole season. He is best played off the bench and in crunch time.  

Who is interested? Well the Lakers were a James Posey away from winning the championship. They only have a mid-level exception to offer, though—will three years and $20 million be enough? It may take a larger number than that.

(Note that teams over the cap can use the mid-level exception, and extend a long term deal using yearly increases that would be about a million dollars per year each year.)

Posey's agent says that Boston and San Antonio are the finalists, but they both are in the same situation as the Lakers. Posey has to be ready to settle down, and stop moving around. Boston is where he wants to be—but they will have to lock him up for a couple years and may not be willing to do so.

  Josh Smith

He is a restricted free agent, and the Atlanta Hawks have been saying that they will match anything that is thrown his way. The only teams that could take them out would be the 76ers and the Warriors, but they will not throw that much at him. Smith may not be a big enough post player for those teams to sacrifice their whole cap allowance.

Andre Iguodala

He is in the same boat as Smith. Iguodala will not get a ton of money anywhere but Philly—but they will not overspend to sign him.

Andre turned down a five-year, $60 million deal last year, then underperformed in the playoffs in leading the Sixers to a first-round exit. In doing so, he did not bulk up his resume.

Golden State is said to be cornering both Iguodala and Smith. Sixers could lose out on both or overpay on Andre, due to the Warriors upping his price. 

The other option would be a sign-and-trade of Iguodala for Al Harrington, filling the Sixers' need at the power forward for one year.  Harrington makes about what Golden State would pay Andre at $9.22 million, and is in his last year.  The Sixers would then be free to pursue other options next summer in a bigger free agency year. 

But first, they would have to sell the fans on this, and that could be tricky.  Word around Philadelphia is very sour when his name is mentioned, but Andre can play. He works hard, does everything he can do to keep getting better, so he deserves a long-term deal. The best bet for Andre may be a short deal, around the mid-level, so he can promote himself for a larger future contract.

Point Guards

Monta Ellis, Raymond Felton, and Shaun Livingston will all get good deals in some area of the MLE.

Livingston is an unknown. He may be NBA-ready or may not be—only a physical will tell. Livingston will be the most underpaid of the three. 

Ellis is a great talent, and should go back to the Warriors unless a sign-and-trade is done. 

No news on Felton yet, but now that the Knicks are out of the hunt, he could go to Miami for about half the MLE.  The Knicks came to terms with Duhon from the Bulls for the full MLE.

Mikael Pietrus and Matt Barnes

Both of these guys are available, and are right in that mid-level exception area. They are both restricted, but will probably not be matched by Golden State. Pietrus may be a poor man's James Posey, and teams who miss out on Posey may go after Mikael.

Kurt Thomas

He is available and should be a solid defensive addition to a team with front court need. He will get a three-year deal around $9-12 million, and it will probably be late in the summer.

Corey Maggette

He is restricted, but with the signing of Baron Davis, he is gone, because the Clippers will be forced to renounce his rights. The Magic are said to be the team that will sign him, but they are a MLE-team too.

Teams with money could court Maggette, but it just does not match up. Memphis? Yes, if Corey is ready to be on a terrible team. They have young pieces who play his position. If the Sixers choose to let Iguodala go, and have to trade for a big man, then they could use the extra cap room on Maggette.

Golden State? They don't know what to do with their own free agents at this point. The latest has Maggette going wherever Posey does not, which means Boston or San Antonio. Maggette may have to settle for the MLE, but he will wait as long as possible to see if Golden State, Memphis, or Philadelphia will use their cap on him.

LA Clippers: Are they trying to be this years Boston Celtics? They could be, but they only have two pieces. Kaman is a good big man but Mobley, Rookie Eric Gordon and the disappointing Tim Thomas just do not add up. But they will be playoff bound—and that is huge for you Clipper fans.

Miami Heat

Right now the Heat are pretty happy with the results of the draft. But they are a couple of pieces short of a full team. Lacking real starters at center and point guard, the Heat are poised to go after Monta Ellis. They are also trying to add Diop, the former Maverick and Net.

The Heat may have to ask the Nets to sign and trade Diop, because he wants to go to Dallas. Ellis wants to play in Miami, and the Heat may try and get him for more than the Warriors can afford.

Miami is trying to clear room for the '09-10 offseason, so they can sign Chris Bosh, then max out Wade to play alongside Michael Beasley and maybe Ellis. Or, they may be trying to get Carlos Boozer next offseason. Carlos is said to be interested in Miami, and the Heat are interested too. They will have the money available next year at the rate they are going.

While the Heat sit back and wait while players are signed, one thing is for sure—they are doing more than nothing. Kirk Hinrich, Andre Miller, and Ellis are all within the Heat's reach with a trade of Udonis Haslem or Shawn Marion. The Heat could be in the works of remaking this team from top to bottom.  

For right now though, they may start Haslem, Marion, Beasley, Wade, and then, with the signing of Ellis, him. They also have Marcus Banks, who they want to send away, Mark Blount, who they will pay to get rid of, promising young Dorell Wright, and rookie guard Mario Chalmers, who could turn into a big-minute player off the bench. The Heat's goal is to not start Chalmers or Banks at the point.

Chicago Bulls

Let's not forget about them. Duhon is free and a Knick, but the Bulls also have Hinrich (trade), Tyrus Thomas (trade), Ben Gordon (restricted), and Deng (restricted). Deng will stay. Hinrich will be traded. Duhon has already gone to the highest point guard bidder. Tyrus Thomas is a wild card.  Chicago could be on the verge of adding Udonis Haslem or Shawn Marion from Miami.  Hinrich would head the trade, with maybe a sign-and-trade of Gordon including Joe Smith or Thomas. 

San Antonio Spurs

Right now the most interesting rumor is Ben Gordon to the Spurs. This would change them dramatically—well not really, but he is sure better than Michael Finley. The Spurs could then try to sign a couple guys with veteran minimums like Robert Horry

The Spurs are really active, considering they just have the MLE.  Its 2009, which is an odd year, so it is time for the Spurs to make a run.  Brent Barry and Michael Finley should have a new address for partial MLEs by the start of the season. 

New Jersey Nets

New Jersey is looking to sign and trade Nenad Krstic. The underperforming Krstic has been playing with pain. He once had so much potential, but now is a big question. The Sixers are interested.

Going back to the Bulls, Nocioni is being talked about by New Jersey. They are looking to get him with a trade. That is in the preliminary stage as of now. 

Detroit Pistons 

Rumors were that the whole team was going to get blown up.  Sheed is gone, they want Carmelo, and the only untouchable was the rookie. 

Well, Detroit has been quiet.  They may have rethought that remodeling plan.  They can compete with what they have—and with an addition like Mikael Pietrus or James Posey, the Pistons could be right back on track to the Finals.  The big question will be—is it enough to beat Boston?  One game separated them last year. 

On The Move

From New York, it looks like Zach Randolph and Stephon Marbury could be gone.  Randolph should be traded, because he does not work in the new system.  Marbury could be officially bought out by next week.  It would not effect the Knicks' cap for this year.   

The Returns to Sender

Jose Calderon of the Raptors, Gilbert Arenas and Antwan Jamison of the Wizards, Beno Udrih of the Kings, and Eddie Jones with the Mavs, are all returning to their teams. Ron Artest decided not to opt out with the Kings, and the Bobcats are hoping to keep Emeka Okafor and Dave Hollins, and have started by making qualifying offers.  Contracts can not be signed until July 9, but negotiations can take place between now and then.  Trades and sign-and-trades will happen after this date.


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