NBA Free Agency Rumors: Turk, Charlie V, Millsap and more

Pistons, Blazers interested in Hedo Turkoglu.

The Oregonian reports Blazers general manager Kevin Pritchard and assistant general manager Tom Penn called agent Lon Babby last night to begin the courtship of Hedo Turkoglu.

With Carlos Boozer out of the picture, an NBA source tells the Chicago Sun-Times that Turkoglu is now the Pistons’ first choice in free agency.

While the Blazers’ interest has long been rumored, Detroit’s interest is a little surprising. They already have a very good small forward on the roster in Tayshaun Prince, so unless they’re planning to play Turkoglu at the four, someone is going to lose some minutes. Of the two teams, the Pistons have more cap space, so if they want him, they can get him. (And what about Ben Gordon?)

Charlie V ahead of Turkoglu on the Pistons’ wishlist?

Chicago’s Ben Gordon remains the backcourt player deeply coveted by the Pistons, but the prospect of a Gordon-and-Villanueva combo likely would be slightly cheaper than trying to sign Gordon and Turkoglu with Detroit’s nearly $19 million in projected salary-cap space.

The Pistons may also be interested in Paul Millsap, but anytime a team signs a restricted free agent to an offer sheet, that money is tied up for a week while his current team decides to match. That makes signing an RFA a dicey prospect.

I wonder if the Bucks are regretting letting Villanueva given the amount of interest he’s generating from their division rivals (Detroit and Cleveland).

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NBA Free Agency Rumors: Kidd, Turk, Gordon and much more

Pistons not willing to pony up for Boozer?

The Pistons would love to sign Carlos Boozer should he decide today to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Jazz and become a free agent.

However, if Boozer opts out, he would leave $12.6 million on the table in Utah. Thus, there is a good chance Boozer, as has been widely speculated, would look to start his next contract at $14 million or $15 million.

If that is the case, the Pistons most likely would walk away.

Just because a guy asks for a contract starting at $14-$15 million doesn’t mean that the Pistons have to give it to him. If Boozer opts out, the Pistons are his most likely landing spot, so they set the market, not him. If he wants an unreasonable deal, they shouldn’t walk away, they should make an offer and give him some time to find a better one. Chances are that he won’t, and he’ll end up taking Detroit’s deal.

Assuming Boozer does not dramatically reduce his asking price, the Pistons would go after Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva.

Villanueva will turn 25 in August and is coming off his best season. He averaged 16.2 points and 6.7 rebounds for the Bucks.

The Pistons could conceivably sign Gordon and Villanueva and still have money left over to pursue re-signing Antonio McDyess.

I estimate Gordon’s value to be about $9 million, though he has turned down bigger offers from the Bulls in the past. Villanueva will probably get lots of MLE offers, so the Pistons would likely have to trump those to convince him to play in Detroit instead of Cleveland (or for another contender). So if Detroit signs both, expect them to pay at least $15.5-$16.0 million combined. That doesn’t leave a lot of space for McDyess.

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2009 NBA Free Agency Preview: The top unrestricted free agents

Once the draft is over, the next step of the NBA offseason is the free agency period. Negotiations start July 1, but players have to wait until July 8 to actually sign on the dotted line. Due to the economy, this promises to be an interesting summer, as more franchises seem to be trying to cut payroll than add talent. There are eight teams with significant cap space this summer, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be willing to use it. Teams that are over the cap can add good players in two ways: 1) they can sign a player to the Mid-Level Exception (MLE), which will be around $5.8 million per season (and can be split up between two or more players), or 2) they can work out a sign-and-trade with the player’s old team.

Below is a list of the top unrestricted free agents this summer. These are players who can sign with whomever they like. They’re ranked in order of total value, which is based on overall talent, age, injury history and cost.

For each player, I’ll provide his position, age, Player Efficiency Rating (PER) and an estimate of what kind of contract he’s likely to sign.

1. Carlos Boozer, PF (27 years-old)
PER: 17.28
At press time, Boozer hasn’t officially opted out, but he is expected to. He can play another year for $12.3 million, but he thinks he’s due for a raise, and I don’t think he’s going to get the kind of raise he’s expecting. Boozer is one of the top 20 players in the league when healthy, but it’s that whole “when healthy” part that’s the problem. Over the past five seasons, he has missed a third of his team’s games. At 27, he’s in his prime, and assuming he has the right supporting cast, I think he can be one of a twosome or threesome on a championship-caliber team. Boozer may not get a raise this summer, but he could get long-term security. The Pistons, Raptors, Kings and Thunder all have the space to make a run at him, but Sacramento and OKC might consider themselves too far away from contending to add a big piece like Boozer. The Pistons seem like the best fit, but they are rumored to have more interest in Ben Gordon. There’s always the possibility that another team works out a sign-and-trade with Utah, but I don’t think anyone is going to give him a max deal, not in this economy.
Value: $12.0 – $13.0 million per year

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Are the Pistons interested in Boozer?

Not so, at least according to Chad Ford.

Over the past few months, we’ve assumed Carlos Boozer is their primary target, but that might not be the case. A league source told me Tuesday that the Pistons’ free-agent strategy likely would preclude a run at Boozer.

The Pistons want to add several players to the roster and want to keep salaries at or less than $10 million per year. With Boozer likely demanding a deal in the $15 million to $16 million a year range, his contract demands are out of their league. Add in concerns about Boozer’s injury history, and I don’t think the Pistons will make a play for him.

Instead, you can look for them to make a run at Ben Gordon, try to re-sign Antonio McDyess and find one or two other players they can sign for smaller salaries.

That stance in Detroit could put Boozer in a tough position. If he opts out of his contract with the Jazz, he’s going to struggle to find any team far enough under the cap to offer him what he wants. And with the Jazz interested in keeping Paul Millsap, Boozer could be out of luck in Utah, too.

Chad Ford contradicts himself in this piece. He says that the Pistons won’t be willing to pay Boozer’s asking price ($15-$16 million per season), but then says that the market won’t support what Boozer is asking for.

With $23 million in cap space, why can’t the Pistons sign both Boozer and Gordon? I bet Boozer ultimately signs for $12-$13 million per season, while I think Gordon will sign for something in the $8-$9 million range (which may be tough to swallow, since he turned down a contract worth $10 million per season from the Bulls).

Both players are flawed. Boozer is a great power forward, but he’s injury prone. Over the past five years he has only played in 67% of his team’s games. For that reason, he’s not worth a max contract, so I don’t expect him to get one this summer. Gordon is a great scorer, but his shot selection is suspect sometimes and he doesn’t have a reputation for being a good defender. Is he really worth $10-$11 million per season? I don’t think so.

If the Pistons play their cards right, they could sign both players (assuming they want both players) and then move Rip Hamilton to a contender looking for some good outside shooting.

In a smallish move yesterday, the Pistons agreed to trade Amir Johnson to the Bucks for Fabricio Oberto, who has a contract that is only partially guaranteed, potentially freeing up a little more cap space. Still, I don’t understand why the Pistons would give up on the 22 year-old Johnson when they clearly need to bolster their front line. If moving Johnson ultimately results in the signing of Boozer and Gordon, then it will have paid off.

NBA Rumors: Rubio, Boozer, T-Mac and more

Chad Ford writes about why Ricky Rubio is being so selective in his workouts.

First of all, the idea that Rubio is the only one doing it is silly. James Harden has only worked out for four teams. Even the Knicks couldn’t get him in. Hasheem Thabeet will likely only work out for three. DeMar DeRozan has been really selective, and so has Stephen Curry.

It’s pretty simple as to why Rubio is being selective: He is going to have to pay a lot of money for the privilege to play in the NBA next season. His buyout will cost him something between $5 and $7 million of his own money. That’s a lot of money, especially when you consider that Rubio wasn’t making a ton of dough in Spain. He essentially will be signing over his paychecks for the next couple of years to his team in Spain.

The Kings have an obvious hole at point guard on a young team. It seems to be the place his camp wants him to land. If the Kings draft him, I don’t think there’s any question that Rubio would pay the buyout and come. The question is, will the Kings draft him? I think the odds are in Rubio’s favor, but it sounds like some in the organization still need to be convinced.

Rubio’s future might depend on something he has no control over — is Russell Westbrook a point guard? A statistical study I did a few weeks ago revealed that he was turnover-prone and shoot-first, though obviously as a young rookie, there is room for improvement. If the Thunder think he’s a point guard, then I doubt they take Rubio. They’ll take James Harden, who averaged 4.2 assists during his senior year even though he was taking 13 shots per game.

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