Moving Closer to Free Agency as Clock Ticks Toward Thursday
With a spectacular convergence of talent and salary-cap space finally set to take place Thursday at 12:00 a.m., the mood across the various NBA cities varies as widely as do the options of their star free agents.
In Cleveland, things have turned bitter.
It had widely been expected that if Lebron James decided to leave the Cavaliers, a sign-and-trade would be the likely avenue. Doing so provides obvious mutual benefits between team and player. It would allow James to sign a six-year, $125.5 million contract instead of a five-year, $96.1 million deal. It would allow the Cavaliers to get something of value in return for the game’s best small forward, rather than losing him for nothing.
However, owner Dan Gilbert apparently has no intention of assisting its star player in leaving the state of Ohio. If James decides to leave, Cleveland management will simply let him walk – leaving that extra cash on the table and putting further strain on a potential rebuilding plan.
The Cavs appear surprisingly dead-set on making an alternate life as difficult as possible for the King, even at the expense of the health of the franchise. The team figures to have as much as $10.9 million of cap room if Lebron decides to leave (assuming the team is willing to terminate the contract of Delonte West). If the team were to instead work with James to construct a sign-and-trade, it could gain a trade exception of up to $16.6 million, in addition to a bevy of potential draft picks. Add to that the approximately $5.7 million mid-level exception the team would otherwise have access to.
Why wouldn’t they want to get players, draft picks or a hefty trade exception in return? Out of spite? Because they are pouting? Apparently, Gilbert is more committed to his so-called principles than he is to the $15.4 million of extra spending money a sign-and-trade would create.
Bryan Colangelo has long since known his star free agent was unlikely to return. And he seems more than accommodating.
As much as it may pain Raptors fans to admit it, Bosh’s desire for a sign-and-trade may just be the best chance for its club to address big problems across its entire rotation.
Bosh has provided his club a list of desired locations, and the Raptors will attempt to engage in a sign-and-trade transaction in order to bring the franchise at least some measure of compensation. The Raptors will undoubtedly try to acquire a mixture of draft picks and young players in return for Bosh.
The Raptors could ask for Michael Beasley, and possibly Mario Chalmers or Joel Anthony, in any deal with the Heat – though it remains to be seen whether he would be willing to assist the Heat in its quest to secure the required cap space for a Wade, James and Bosh trio. A massive trade exception and a selection of draft picks could also be the end result.
If Bosh were to select the Bulls as his desired location, the Raptors are sure to request rookie forward Taj Gibson and center Joakim Noah, although the Bulls have Noah off limits in any sign-and-trade. If Bosh settles on the Knicks, the Raptors would seek out a double sign-and-trade for David Lee in return, although Lee would need to consent to the deal. If Bosh instead chooses to go out west, a deal with the Lakers would be centered around the oft-injured Andrew Bynum.
Already faced with the prospect of losing its own star forward to free agency, Dallas held Lebron James as its primary, albeit unlikely, target. But the Mavs are over the salary cap and have no available cap space. A sign-and-trade would be the only way to complete such an acquisition.
But Mavs fans need not worry. Dirk’s decision to opt out of his contract is purely for his own peace of mind, nothing more. He’s not leaving Dallas. Dirk wants to lock in a long-term contract under the terms of the current collective bargaining agreement, which is set to expire after the upcoming season, because it is generally regarded to be significantly more favorable than any new agreement to come. So he needs to act now.
He has two choices. He can enter into a new four-year deal as a free agent, enabling him to make up to $96.2 million from Dallas. Or he can extend his existing contract for nearly equivalent money – up to $96.1 million over the next four years. The difference, however, is that – by rule – extensions do not actually take effect until the summer before the first extended season. Dirk still has one year left on his existing contract, which means his extension would take effect in the 2011 offseason. By then, the new collective bargaining agreement will (hopefully) already be in place, which would expose Nowitzki to potential after-the-fact reductions to his annual wage if league owners are successful in their attempts to lower the value of maximum salaries.
By opting out, he gets the peace of mind of having his entire contract fall under the terms of the current agreement. He gets the ability to include a no-trade clause in his contract, something he couldn’t include in an extension. And he gets an additional $178,978.95.
Dirk isn’t going anywhere. It’s all just minor contract stuff.
Paul Pierce’s decision to opt out of his contract comes as a bit of a shock. His name has scarcely been mentioned in the buildup to the summer of 2010 free agent bonanza because most rival executives believed that the Celtics would never allow its go-to scorer to walk.
Pierce’s decision to opt out of his contract could set of a nasty chain of events for the once mighty Celtics. If he walks, Ray Allen figures to follow, and the Celtics could go from an NBA Finalist to a largely irrelevant Eastern Conference bottom-dweller in a span of less than two months.
His decision could be a simple matter of employing the very same logic as Dirk. But it doesn’t have quite the same feel. It remains unclear what his true intentions are at this point. Is he opting out in order to work out a new deal with the Celts? Or is he opting out in order to legitimately test the free agent waters?
External interest in Pierce is hard to gauge because there has been so little discussion about his potential free agency. At 32-years of age, he’s certain not to be thought of as a long-term solution.
The Celtics have just four available bodies under contract to start next season. The road to health for the injured Kendrick Perkins is projected to be a long one, with a return from major reconstructive knee surgery to repair his ACL not scheduled until January. Backup center Rasheed Wallace has announced his retirement.
If need be, the team can create as much as $19.4 million of spending money with which to rebuild.
With every passing day, the likelihood of a Wade, James and Bosh trio seems more real.
The Heat received a major boost to that effort yesterday, when James Jones apparently agreed to a reduced buyout amount which would produce a 2010-11 cap hit of just $1.5 million, a $356,000 savings. The move was awfully nice of Jones, who didn’t have to do it.
The $4,962,240 contract of Michael Beasley and the $854,389 contract of Mario Chalmers are now all that stand in the way.
Chalmers figures not to be a problem, given that he is on a minimum contract. Any team can acquire the second year guard simply by utilizing the minimum salary exception.
Beasley is another story. It has been suggested that the Heat can’t even give Beasley away at this point – that no team would be willing to aid the team in its effort to build a dynasty. But that seems awfully short-sighted. Pat Riley is surely scrambling for alternatives with which to shed the forward’s contract, and may already have a suitor lined up.
If nothing else, historically speaking, teams in a perennial rebuilding mode tend to focus more on internal development than on the powerhouses they can create in potential trade scenarios.
Just ask the Grizzlies.
Two and a half years ago, Memphis traded away Pau Gasol to the Lakers in an effort to start a rebuilding process focused on the future.
In the trade, the Grizzlies received salary cap space relief (which they used to acquire Zach Randolph), the Lakers’ 2008 first round pick (which they used to draft Darrell Arthur), the Lakers 2010 first round pick (which they used to draft Greivis Vasquez), Marc Gasol, and Javaris Crittenton (who the Grizzlies turned into Ronnie Brewer). That’s not a bad haul for a single player.
The Lakers got 18.6 points (on 55.8% shooting) and 10.0 rebounds a night from Pau Gasol… and two NBA championship rings. The jewelry makes them the clear winners.
But does that mean Memphis made a bad deal?
Well yes if you are from Boston, San Antonio, Orlando, Phoenix and a few other cities. However, Memphis would not have won those championships if the deal hadn’t been done. Instead, the team built a solid core that figures to be competitive in the coming seasons should Michael Heisley be willing front the cash.
This year’s Grizzlies could be the Timberwolves. And this year’s beneficiary could be the Heat.
Wolves general manager David Kahn has confirmed a strong interest in Beasley. With more than $16.4 million of projected cap space and a clear need to restructure an incompatible roster, Minnesota could certainly again seek out the acquisition of a potential All-Star caliber player from a cross-conference foe.
Whatever the case may be, hopes are high in South Florida.
The people with excess money to burn have certainly placed their bets on the Heat. Sports betting website Sportsbook.com now has the Heat as the most likely candidate to receive the services of Lebron James. And where goes Lebron, Chris is sure to follow.