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Tony tha Mavs fan
06-30-2003, 10:09 PM
Breaking down free agency

By Sean Deveney -







Just like that, the Finals are over, the draft has come and gone and -- presto! -- it's July 1. Like you, I would much prefer to be tromping on some hot-sanded, seaweedy beach, overcrowded with too-big waistlines crammed into too-small swimsuits, listening to some Kmart boombox struggle to blare out a catchy Billy Ocean number (is that redundant?), but alas, there is no time for summer to start just yet. July 1 is a big day for us NBA-types. Plus, I live in Chicago, and we have lakeweed, not seaweed.

As any real NBA fan knows, the best action in the league takes place in the offseason. We're coming off two very slow summers in terms of player movement, a sign that the four-year-old lockout plan of league czar David Stern has worked very well. Stern wanted to rein in salaries and keep players with the same team. He got it. That will be the case this summer, too, because only the Jazz, Clippers, Nuggets and Spurs have enough cap room to make max-contract offers. But we'll certainly see more cap flexibility from teams this summer than we have seen recently, so it's about time to get geared up for free agency, '03.

Point guards

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Outlook: Pretty strong crop, even after Jason Kidd and Gary Payton. Many teams are in need of a point guard, so this is one position where there will be some movement.

1. Jason Kidd. The Mavericks are in the fray, but the Nets remain the favorites, followed by the Spurs.

2. Gary Payton. Is Milwaukee serious about keeping Payton? After trading Sam Cassell, they had better be. But Payton wants to head West, ideally to the Lakers, Blazers, Spurs or Warriors. He must be willing to accept a modest paycheck, though, or convince the Bucks to work a sign-and-trade.

3. Gilbert Arenas. There still is a chance that Arenas stays in Golden State. He wants to, but he's taking a big financial risk if he does. The Nuggets seemed set on Arenas but are exploring other options. The Jazz would consider Arenas, and the Heat are a possibility, though the drafting of Dwyane Wade probably rules that out.

4. Andre Miller. He's the least likely of the Clippers' restricted free agents to stay put. He struggled in 2002-03, but Utah and Denver still have their eyes on him.

5. Jason Terry. The Hawks could try to keep Terry, but they still do not have an owner. So, Terry will peddle his wares, but can he get much more than the mid-level exception, which will bump up to near $5 million if the cap increases back to $42 million? The Jazz might look at him as a fallback option, but his tweener status -- a shooting guard in a point guard's body -- will have teams cautious.

6. Speedy Claxton. Claxton played well in the playoffs, but he is coming off knee and shoulder injuries, which are a cause for concern. Still, places where Claxton could be a starter, such as New Jersey (should Kidd leave), Miami, Orlando, Atlanta, Cleveland and Golden State, are possibilities.

7. Kenny Anderson. Last year was pretty much a wash for Anderson, because he did not play much in Seattle, and only played a little more after being traded to New Orleans. But he's still a veteran who can get in the lane, make open jumpers and run a team. He'll be a nice fallback option for one of the many teams in need of a point man.

8. Rod Strickland. Strickland has gone from a troubled star point guard to an underrated journeyman point guard, slightly fixing his reputation in Miami two years ago and helping it more in Minnesota last season. He can be had for a minimum deal, but he would like to go to a playoff contender.

9. Darrell Armstrong. The Magic probably will bring Armstrong back on a minimum deal to act as a mentor for Reece Gaines.

10. Earl Boykins. Yeah, he's short. But if you have an up-tempo attack and need a veteran backup point guard who can hit runners and 3-pointers, even in crunch time, Boykins is your man. He did it for Golden State last season. Ideally, the Warriors would bring back Boykins and Arenas.

Others: Milt Palacio, Shammond Williams, Smush Parker, Kevin Ollie, Travis Best, Randy Brown, Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, Robert Pack, Jacque Vaughn, Chris Whitney, Mark Jackson, Mateen Cleaves, Damon Jones.

Shooting guards

Outlook: Most of the top names on this list are likely to stay put, and the bottom of the list is nothing to get excited about.

1. Corey Maggette. Maggette has the same quandary several of his teammates have -- because he is a restricted free agent, if he gets an offer, he runs the risk the Clippers will match. Thus, Maggette could wind up with the Clippers for one more year by accepting the team's one-year qualifying offer, then becoming an unrestricted free agent.

2. Richard Hamilton. Hamilton will be the top priority for Detroit this summer. A deal should get done quickly.

3. Stephen Jackson. The Spurs will try to lock up Jackson with a long-term deal at a reasonable price.

4. Lucious Harris. Kidd made it clear that if he stayed, he wanted Harris to stay, too. He's a luxury off the bench, a shooter capable of deadly hot streaks, and the Nets will look to keep him around.

5. Reggie Miller. He's one of those weird free agents who really only has value to his current team, like Robert Horry with the Lakers. His playoff meltdown did not bode well for his free-agency bid, and teams are not clamoring for him. No doubt he will remain a Pacer, but it's a matter of price.

6. Eric Piatkowski. I'm still waiting for teams to react to zone defenses by landing better shooters. I hear it talked about, but I don't see it happening. Some very smart team is going to give Piatkowski a modest contract, and let him fire away from the perimeter.

7. Voshon Lenard. He probably will look for a starting role after averaging 14.3 points for Toronto last year, but Lenard is best suited to shooting 3s off the bench. The Raptors will keep him around if they can deal Lamond Murray.

8. Raja Bell. A good postseason (again) should boost Bell's stock. He is a defensive stopper who showed he can score a little, too. Dallas would be wise to keep him on board and probably will.

9. Antonio Daniels. Cleveland would make a good fit for Daniels, a personable guy from Columbus, Ohio. He can play some point guard but has proved he is not a starter at that position. Orlando, Miami and Chicago would be good destinations, too.

10. Jon Barry. Detroit is likely to let Barry walk, which means he'd be headed for the seventh team of his career. He is a veteran shooter, though, and a solid, intense, all-around player. He will try to land with a contender, such as the Spurs, Lakers or Mavericks.

Others: Calbert Cheaney, Ira Newble, Felipe Lopez, Brian Shaw, Steve Smith, Steve Kerr, Kendall Gill.

Small forwards

Outlook: Much like the shooting guard list, there are some names at the top, but those names probably are not going anywhere. The list dries up after No. 4.

1. Lamar Odom. He's in the same boat as Maggette -- if he gets an undersized offer, the Clippers will match it. Though he has had injury and, ahem, "recreational" problems, he's still a huge talent. The Knicks, Heat, Magic and Bulls could be among those interested.

2. Jim Jackson. The Kings likely will bring back Jackson, who showed he can still be a scorer on a team other than the Heat. He also decided to try harder defensively. Keeping Jackson probably means the Kings will continue shopping Hedo Turkoglu.

3. James Posey. Posey is a stifling defender and a very good athlete who's still in the process of learning how to shoot. He improved dramatically after being traded from Denver to Houston last year, in part because he did not force up so many shots. The Bulls would be interested here, too, but the Rockets traded Kenny Thomas to get Posey and will probably keep Posey.

4. Scottie Pippen. Retirement still is an option, but if Pippen wants to play, he probably could get offers from Portland or the Lakers.

5. Walter McCarty. McCarty can, and did, play all three frontcourt positions last season for the Celtics, a team starved for depth. Boston must keep him, which would involve giving him a significant raise from the minimum deal he accepted last year and will cut into the Celtics' ability to land other players.

6. Jumaine Jones. He's a long, athletic wing player who does a few things well, but nothing great. He shoots 3s, but does not rebound well. The Cavs are unlikely to keep him.

7. Adrian Griffin. Griffin can defend, but he is limited offensively. He probably won't be back in Dallas and will be one of those free agents signed late in the summer as teams try to fill out their rosters on the cheap.

8. Walt Williams. Don Nelson liked using Williams because he is a smart veteran who can shoot. Of course, he does not do much else. But the Mavericks probably will make an offer.

9. Dion Glover. Glover has never quite lived up to his potential, which he shows in flashes. The Hawks, one would presume, will be looking to cut payroll, which means Glover probably won't get an offer from them (though Atlanta can match other offers).

10. Donnell Harvey. Harvey is a classic 'tweener, standing 6-8 and built like a small forward but with a power forward's game. He has shown some improvement with playing time in Denver, but he's still a marginal player.

Others: DerMarr Johnson, Bryon Russell, Terence Morris, Mike Batiste, Lee Nailon.

Power forwards

Outlook: Very strong position, all the way down to No. 9 on the list. This position, more than any other, will decide how the summer goes for most of the league.

1. Tim Duncan. As we have learned, he's not going anywhere.

2. Jermaine O'Neal. Another All-Star big man who is probably going to keep the same uniform. But don't rule out San Antonio, should Kidd stay in New Jersey.

3. Elton Brand. Brand also is facing the possibility of having his deal matched. But Brand is amenable to staying in LA, and he probably can get near a max-contract offer, from the likes of San Antonio, Denver or Utah. He'd be willing, then, to sign a lucrative six-year contract and let the Clippers match it if they want.

4. Karl Malone. Hello, Dallas? He's their priority. A return to Utah probably is option No. 2.

5. P.J. Brown. New Orleans still is the frontrunner, because Brown is a family/community guy, and he has a home 30 minutes from the arena. Rumors of Cleveland have popped up, as well as Dallas, the Lakers and San Antonio. At 34, Brown still is a popular player.

6. Juwan Howard. How much money will Howard want? Rumor is he wants another hefty, long-term contract. He played well in Denver last season and rescued his value by being a locker-room leader, but he is not going to get more than the mid-level exception. The Lakers have interest, as do the Nuggets.

7. Keon Clark. If he does not go back to Sacramento, Clark will look for something bigger than the mid-level exception. Good luck finding it. He could have done more for his stock if he'd lifted the Kings in the absence of Chris Webber during the postseason, but that did not happen.

8. Kenny Thomas. He showed toughness and versatility last season, and the Sixers clearly like his play at power forward. He will go back to Philly.

9. Derrick Coleman. Coleman played very well after Larry Brown put him at center for the Sixers last season, which boosts his value, particularly if he plays in the East. He is a natural power forward, but as a center, he can hit perimeter shots and create matchup problems for bigger players.

10. Jerome Moiso. Moiso played well at the end of the season, rescuing himself from the doom of bust-hood. He's a Paul Silas project, so he could look to be reunited with his mentor in Cleveland.

Others: Robert Horry, Chris Anderson, Scott Padgett, Samaki Walker, Charles Oakley, Malik Allen, Gary Trent, Shawn Kemp, Derrick Coleman, Popeye Jones, Reggie Evans, Tyrone Hill, Scott Williams.

Centers

Outlook: Seeing as there are not many real centers in the league anymore, it makes sense that there are not many centers on the free-agency list. There are some available, but they are risky.

1. Brad Miller. The Pacers are going to make every effort to keep Miller, and O'Neal, and may have to offer a near-max contract to keep Miller.

2. Michael Olowokandi. He's available, but after a promising start to last season, he tailed off, and the prospects of him getting a deal starting in the eight-figure range are all but extinguished. The Clippers will let him walk, and the Nuggets, Spurs and Heat all could make their pitches.

3. Rasho Nesterovic. Nesterovic is 27 and has improved steadily each of the past three seasons -- he shot 52.5 percent from the field in 2002-03. He is not much of a rebounder, though, nor does he shoot foul shots well. But he is a solid, straightforward center, a rarity in the NBA.

4. Alonzo Mourning. There are a lot of questions around Mourning. For one, what will Miami do with him? He would like to stay with Miami, and the Heat would not mind keeping him, but they also need to keep cap space to make quality additions aimed at the future. Mourning will get offers from contenders, too, such as Dallas. It would make more sense for the Heat simply to rebuild and allow Mourning to move on. It would make sense, too, for Mourning to be a bench player on a championship-level team, to help him conserve his stamina as he returns (again) from a kidney disease.

5. Elden Campbell. Campbell was out of shape and did not play very well, or very much, last season. But if he can cut down the chub on his frame and get back to playing shape, he can still be a valuable big man.

Others: Sean Rooks, Dan Gadzuric, Jake Voskuhl, Kevin Willis, Vladimir Stepania.

Sean Deveney is a staff writer for Sporting News. Email him at sdeveney@sportingnews.com

Mandyahl
07-01-2003, 12:07 AM
4. Karl Malone. Hello, Dallas? He's their priority. A return to Utah probably is option No. 2.

hmmmm...well now it is officially july 1 at least. i am interested to see who talks to whom in the next couple of days.