Poised For The Summer of 2010 [NBA Free Agency Recap]
So, 2010 is finally here. For most people, its just another year, but for NBA fans its been a longtime coming. This summer the most heralded class of free agents since 2000 (which featured Tim Duncan, Grant Hill, and Tracy McGrady) will be coming onto the market. A lot of teams have been jockeying for position to land a big name by clearing as much cap space as possible. Now that the deadline has come and gone, its time to really take a look at which teams are in a position to make a max offer to one of the big free agents, and which free agents are likely to go where. A max contract can range from $17-$22 million dollars a season. In order to bring everyone up to speed, here is a list of the teams that have the space, followed by a list of the notable free agents and where they may end up.
This exercise was not simple. The first issue is determining what the salary cap will be. Rumors have it ranging from $49 million all the way to $58 million. For this post, we will be assuming it is $53 million. Also, there are many player options, team options, conditional contracts, draft picks and other variables that must be considered. The initial salary number next to each team is based on an educated guess about what teams will do with options and draft picks. The last thing to keep in mind is that any of these players may re-sign with the team they are currently on and go over the cap due to the Larry Bird Exception. That puts Toronto in the running for Bosh, Cleveland for James, Phoenix for Stoudemire, and so on. I used HoopsHype for all the salary information, but be careful if you click that link, its extremely addictive. Anyways, here we go.
TEAMS WITH ENOUGH SPACE TO SIGN AT LEAST ONE MAX CONTRACT
The Miami Heat literally only have 2 players on the books for next season, Beasley and Daequan Cook. Presumably they will pick up Chalmers $847,000 option, bringing them up to about $8 million. Wade has a $17.15 million option, but that will be a non-issue since the Heat would have to cough up more than that to match the max offers he is likely to get. If you allow for the Heat to fill out their roster with scrubs that will still leave them about $40 million in space under the cap, enough to comfortably offer Wade and another big name max contracts.
NEW YORK KNICKS
2010-2011 Salary: $18.64 Million
Estimated Cap Space:$34.36 Million
Ahhh the Knicks. Somehow they managed to swing a miracle before the deadline and land McGrady’s gigantic expiring contract. Hilariously enough, the only really bad contract they have left from the Isiah era is Eddy Curry’s $11 million. With Gallinari, Curry, Wilson Chandler, and Toney Douglas, the Knicks don’t exactly have the pieces to help a star win a championship. On the other hand, with the money they have available, they may be able to sign two max contracts. It would push them over the cap a bit, but they haven’t been shy about doing that before. It’s also New York and the Garden and the lights and the media, so that could be a huge draw for guys like LeBron.
NEW JERSEY NETS
2010-2011 Salary: $31 Million
Estimated Cap Space: $22 Million
Okay, I made up that $31 million number. The truth is that its more like $26 million, but everyone knows that the Nets will probably have a top 3 draft pick, putting them on the hook for another 4.5-5 million. The question is: Does anyone want to play for the Nets? At first glance the answer is no, seeing as how they are just awful this season. But if you look a little closer the fact is that they have two very good young players in Devin Harris and Brook Lopez. There are really only 7 teams with space for max contracts (9 spots if you think the Knicks and Heat each get two, though that is unlikely). There is a possibility that one of the guys that doesn’t go to New York, Chicago or Miami may want to get rich playing in New Jersey.
2010-2011 Salary: $31.86 Million
Estimated Cap Space: $21.14 Million
The Bulls have the best core out of all the teams with legitimate space to sign a max contract. Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Gibson and Noah. That’s one all-star/rising superstar in Rose, two borderline all-stars in Noah and Deng, and two very good role players in Kirk and Taj. Even after draft picks (the Bulls own and the one they may be getting from Charlotte), they still have about $20 million to spend. Chicago, Miami, and New York are the frontrunners for a big name free agent, but Chicago has by far the best young core to place around him.
2010-2011 Salary: $34 Million
Estimated Cap Space: $19 Million
You have to assume two things here, though anything can change. First, that the Wiz will decline Josh Howard’s $11 million team option, and second, that they will pick up Randy Foye’s $4.75 Million option. So the Wizards have enough space to just barely offer a max contract. The same thing I said about the Nets applies here, the only difference is that the Wizards don’t have any talent. At all. Like the Nets someone might want to come to the Wizards and get rich toiling for a terrible team, but it definitely won’t be LeBron or Wade.
THE REST (Teams that are cutting it close in cap space)
2010-2011 Salary: $34 Million
Estimated Cap Space: $19 Million
2010-2011 Salary: $35 Million
Estimated Cap Space: $18 Million
2010-2011 Salary: $35.17 Million
Estimated Cap Space: $17.83 Million
THE FREE AGENTS AND THEIR LIKELY DESTINATIONS
LeBron James: Will he stay in Cleveland? If he can win with Antawn Jamison right now, it seems plausible that he will stay. On the other hand you never know. The allure of New York may draw him, especially if he can bring his buddy D-Wade with him. That possibility exists now that the Knicks cleared the space. The only other real contender for James is Chicago purely because of the talent they can put around him, although their chances are slim at best.
Dwyane Wade: Miami can keep Wade and sign another big name, if another big name will come there. James and Wade in Miami? It could happen. The main other target for Wade is Chicago. It’s his hometown and he has always liked Rose (rumor has it he lobbied Riley to try to trade up to get Rose in the 2008 draft). While the Heat do have a ton of cap space, they also have no talent to put around him. The only way they keep Wade is if they get another big free agent to play alongside him. Otherwise, he’ll be in Chicago or New York by the end of the summer.
Chris Bosh: Don’t tell Raptors fans, but its possible Bosh could leave Canada. It appears he does like the city, but they are in no position to really shake the team up at all. Is he content to toil away in obscurity for a .500 team and hope the youth improves around him? Maybe, but he might also be looking to sell some jerseys and win some championships. Chicago, New York, and Miami are all options, although he may consider going to one of the other teams with space, since he has expressed his interest in being “The Man”, which wouldn’t go well with him on a team with James or Wade.
Kobe Bryant: Los Angeles. Not only are they the best team in the league, but he would probably have to take a pay cut if he exercised his early termination clause.
Dirk Nowitzki: Dallas. There is no reason to think he would leave. He loves Dallas and they love him. He will definitely exercise his player option unless something crazy happens.
Joe Johnson: Everyone is talking about how this guy will be leaving, but my question is why? He is on a great young team in Atlanta that is getting better every year. He is the alpha dog on that team, and he is living and playing in a great city. On the other hand, the allure of Chicago or New York or playing with James, Wade, or Bosh may draw him out. Although James/Wade/Bosh are the most talked about names, don’t let JJ slip under your radar. He is a very versatile big guard that can do it all.
Carlos Boozer: Who knows where he will go. He seems like the kind of guy that would take max money to go waste away in Washington or New Jersey, doesn’t he? After he screwed Cleveland a few years back, its hard to think that he cares about anything beyond the money. That being said, he may be the “other” guy that Miami or New York is looking for after signing Wade or James.
Amare Stoudemire: I can tell you where he probably won’t be: Phoenix. They have spurned him so many times its ridiculous. Steve Kerr clearly doesn’t want him. Could he go to Chicago? Maybe. New York? Miami? Maybe. There’s no way to tell how it will shake down, but if teams can get past his defensive liabilities, he will be a high-profile target.
Paul Pierce: Boston. He won’t leave. Now that he has a ring there, Rondo is an all-star, and Garnett is signed through 2050 (just kidding, 2012), he’ll stick it out with this crew and try to win another ring.
OTHER NON-MAX CONTRACT NOTABLE FREE AGENTS:
Marcus Camby, Manu Ginobili, Ray Allen, Brendan Haywood, Kenyon Martin, Tyson Chandler.