T-Wolves target Gay, Lee

Per the Pioneer Press

Gay and Lee will make visits this week to the Twin Cities to see what the Wolves have to offer, which includes about $20 million in salary cap space. Gay will arrive today and stay through the middle of Friday, followed by an all-day visit Saturday with Lee, according to Wolves president of basketball operations David Kahn.

“Those are the only two people I anticipated calling today,” Kahn said in a conference call late Wednesday after free agency began at 11:01 p.m. “That doesn’t mean that we may not ask others to come in, but they clearly were the two players I felt we wanted to meet and wanted to get to know better and have an opportunity to have a dialogue with.”

Kahn apparently thinks that Lee can play with Kevin Love, which is not unlike trying to play Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn together. Rudy Gay and Wes Johnson are also a curious fit. But Kahn has proven that he is a curious general manager.

One thing is for certain — the T-Wolves’ cap space (~$20 million) won’t be enough to sign both players, so they would have to work out a sign-and-trade with the Knicks or Grizzlies.

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Nine sure-to-be wrong NBA free agency predictions

Here’s where I stop ruminating about rumors and pose a few predictions about what will happen in the NBA over the next couple of weeks. Let’s start with a near-sure thing and work our way around the league.

1. Dwyane Wade will re-sign with the Heat.
He has said all along that Miami is where he wants to be, and even if he strikes out on getting LeBron and/or Chris Bosh to join him, he won’t have a tough time recruiting a couple of other high-priced free agents to join him. Whether it’s Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudemire, Joe Johnson or Rudy Gay, someone will want to play in sunny South Florida with a Top 5 player who has already proven he can take over an NBA Finals.

2. Chris Bosh will also sign with Miami.
I thought the Bulls might have inside track on Bosh, but if we’re to believe Dan LeBatard, a deal is already in place that would bring Bosh to Miami. Even if LeBron doesn’t join them, Bosh and Wade will make an excellent one-two punch.

3. LeBron and Carlos Boozer will sign with Chicago.
It’s the reunion that no one was expecting. I have no earthly idea what LeBron is going to do, but he says that winning is the most important thing, so if that’s true, he’ll either sign with the Bulls or join Wade and Bosh in Miami. With his ego, I think he’d rather play in Chicago in the shadow of Michael Jordan’s legacy than join ‘Wade’s team’ in South Florida. But who really knows? (Remember, I said these were sure-to-be-wrong predictions.) As for Boozer, if the Bulls strike out on Bosh, he’s the next-best fit at the four. The Bulls could take advantage of his strengths (low-post scoring, rebounding) while Joakim Noah could hide his weaknesses (post defense).

4. Joe Johnson will sign with the Clippers.
Think about it Knick fans — would you want to play under the NY microscope after the city missed out on the big-name free agents? Expectations are so high in the Big Apple and Johnson is a quiet guy that has proven in Atlanta that he doesn’t deal well with critical fans. He’s reportedly close with Clipper GM Neil Olshey and would be a nice fit there since he can play small forward alongside Eric Gordon on the wing.

5. Stoudemire will land in the Big Apple.
I almost wrote “land in New Jersey” but I didn’t want to send any Knick fans off the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge. If predictions #1-#4 come to fruition, the Knicks won’t be a very attractive place to play, but Stoudemire thrived under Mike D’Antoni in Phoenix and the Knicks will be sure to throw gobs of money to save face after pretty much striking out on the other top free agents. D’Antoni can run Stoudemire at the five and…

6. The Knicks will re-sign David Lee…
…to play the four. They’ll be defensively challenged, but that’s life. Then…

7. The Knicks will trade Eddy Curry for Gilbert Arenas…
…which will make them even more defensively challenged, but again, that’s life. At least the Knicks will be fun to watch.

8. The Grizzlies will match a max offer for Rudy Gay.
The Nets (and maybe the T-Wolves) will make a strong run at Rudy Gay, but the Grizzlies’ owner Michael Heisley has said all along that he’ll match any offer Gay gets in free agency.

9. Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce re-sign with the Mavs and C’s, respectively.
These guys aren’t going anywhere.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

Colangelo expects Bosh to sign elsewhere

I took a lot of heat (pun intended) over my assertion that the Raptors should have thought about trading Chris Bosh at the trade deadline instead of waiting for the summer.

Now the franchise is coming to the realization that Bosh is very likely on the way out, but they still hope to work out a sign-and-trade with his new team so that he can get a max contract and they can get something in return.

[GM Bryan] Colangelo told radio station Fan590 in Toronto that the Raptors still hope to keep the All-Star forward, but if Bosh does want to leave, he will try to work a sign-and-trade arrangement that could help both sides.

“As we look at Chris as a potential free agent, our own free agent, wanting to re-sign him, I still have that intention and desire,” Colangelo said. “But it’s becoming more and more clear that that’s not going to happen. Now we need to decide what the best way is to come out of this.”

A sign-and-trade would allow Bosh to get an extra year on his contract while enabling the Raptors to receive something in return for losing him. If Bosh simply signs with another team, it could cost him about $30 million.

I still think the chances of a sign-and-trade are relatively slim. That $30 million number is always thrown around, but it doesn’t take into account the money earned in the first year of the player’s next contract, so really the difference is about $10-$12 million. It’s still a consideration, but when a player says his #1 goal is winning titles, it doesn’t make much sense for him to force a sign-and-trade and effectively fleece his new team of its young prospects and draft picks.

The only type of sign-and-trade that make sense for Bosh and the Raptors this summer is one that brings back a player that plays the same position that Bosh does. For example, if Bosh decides to sign with the Knicks, the Raptors could work out a sign-and-trade that would include David Lee. This is about the best case scenario for Toronto, as the other players in the Bosh sweepstakes simply don’t have players of Lee’s caliber.

The Bulls have Luol Deng, but he’s more of a small forward and his salary is pretty steep — I’m not even sure the Raptors would want to take it on. Miami’s Michael Beasley makes sense, but his stock is awfully low right now and the Raptors don’t seem all that interested. Besides, if Bosh leaves, they’d like to move Bargnani to power forward, which seems to be Beasley’s natural position.

Predictably, Colangelo tries to spin the current situation:

“It’s the perfect storm for Chris Bosh to leave and unfortunately we’re possibly going to be on the short end of that, but we will evolve,” Colangelo said. “We will have to evolve and move forward.”

This didn’t happen overnight. If I could see the writing on the wall late last year, then surely Colangelo did too. The sign-and-trade strategy makes sense when there aren’t very many teams under the cap, but with this much cap space floating around, Bosh has plenty of options to sign with another team free and clear, and that may very well leave the Raptors out in the cold.

What the Bulls’ trade means

Yesterday, we discussed the nuts and bolts of the Hinrich-to-Washington trade, but ESPNChicago speculates more about what superstars the Bulls will be able to sign.

But that hardly matters as moving Hinrich and his $9 million contract, and dumping their draft pick, would fatten the Bulls’ free-agent budget from $20 million to $30 million, nearly enough to pay two max-salary free agents.

In Chicago, this news is met with unabashed glee because now we get LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Too bad because it’s a no-lose for the Bulls. And yes, that’s even if, horrors, James stays in Cleveland or goes somewhere other than Chicago. Even if he takes Bosh with him.

After Bosh, and assuming Dwyane Wade stays put, Joe Johnson is reportedly frothing to come to the Bulls, so much so, according to the Tribune, that he would be willing to sign early. At off guard, Johnson would form a dream backcourt with Derrick Rose. Carlos Boozer would complete that picture nicely. The Bulls don’t appear especially interested in Amare Stoudemire. But the next-tier David Lee, a restricted free agent and a 20-12 guy, is out there. Ray Allen is too, even at nearly 35.

Things are set up nicely for Chicago, who are set at point guard (Derrick Rose) and center (Joakim Noah), which are two positions where this free agency class is most certainly lacking. Moreover, they are still on their rookie contracts which means that the Bulls can sign LeBron/Bosh or Johnson/Boozer and then pay Rose and Noah in a few years.

Unless the Bulls completely strike out in free agency, they’ll have a core group of talented players that should be together for the next five years.

2010 NBA Free Agency: What are they worth? (#6-#10)

In the first installment of this series, I covered the biggest names in this summer’s free agency bonanza, and it wasn’t too tough to try to peg down each player’s value. Now I’ll move onto #6 to #10 in my free agency rankings, and things get a little tougher.

Keep in mind that the “value” below each player’s blurb represents my prediction of what they’ll eventually sign for, not what I think they’re actually worth. But there’s a saying — something’s only worth what someone will pay for it — so there’s that.

Anyway, let’s jump right in:

6. Joe Johnson, SG
Age: 29
PER: 19.33
Comparables: Brandon Roy ($13.5 M), Andre Iguodala ($12.3 M), Kevin Martin ($10.6 M)

Johnson didn’t help himself much with a pretty miserable series against the Magic in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. I’m sure he’s looking for a max deal, and whatever team gives him one may regret it in a year or two. He’s already 29, and while he’d definitely be a good #2 for the next 2-3 years, he’s not a “max” player. He’s definitely going to benefit from all the cap space that’s available. Remember, my estimated value is what someone is willing to pay him, not necessarily what he’s worth.
Value: $17.0-$17.5 M per year (over five years)

7. Carlos Boozer, PF
Age: 28
PER: 21.42
Comparables: Amare Stoudemire ($17.7 M), Zach Randolph ($17.3 M), Josh Smith ($11.6 M), David West ($9.0 M), LaMarcus Aldridge ($10.7 M)

I have Boozer ranked ahead of Lee because he’s a slightly better player…when he’s healthy. He missed 45 games during the 2008-07 season and another 80 games from 2004-2006, so clearly he’s an injury risk. He is no doubt looking for a max or near-max deal, but with his durability issues and his reputation for being a less than stellar defender, he may find the going a bit tough in free agency. Still, there is sooooo much cap space out there that it’s hard to see him signing a deal for much less than the max.
Value: $14.0-$15.0 M per year (over five years)

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