NBA Free Agency Rumors: AI, Odom, Childress and more

– The Clippers are interested in signing Allen Iverson, and if he’s interested in a big market where he can rehab his image, this might be the place. It looks like Miami isn’t willing to offer much money, but if cash is more important than playoff potential, then the Clips are a good fit.

– According to GM Mitch Kupchak, Lamar Odom and the Lakers aren’t on the same page. The team has offered $8 million per season but Odom wants $10 million, and the contract’s length may be an issue too. Dallas, Miami, Phoenix and Portland (if the Jazz match their offer for Paul Millsap) have emerged as possible landing spots for Odom. He doesn’t have much leverage if the Blazers aren’t interested. The other three teams would have to work out a trade and it would take a good player (Josh Howard, Michael Beasley, etc.) to get the Lakers to bite.

– The Jazz have until February to move Carlos Boozer before the luxury tax implications of keeping both Boozer and Paul Millsap kick in. Right now, it looks like the Jazz are planning to match, even if they have to take out a loan to pay Millsap the huge signing bonus that is a part of his deal with the Blazers. If the Jazz do match, it will be interesting to see if the Blazers have a Plan C after missing out on Hedo Turkoglu and Millsap.

– After a brief flirtation with the Bucks and the Bobcats, Josh Childress is heading back to Greece. The Hawks still hold his rights, and his camp was unable to work out a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee or Charlotte, so Childress’s best option was to play for Olympiakos for another season.

– Brandon Roy wants a fifth year option, but the Blazers have only offered four years. It’s not clear what the Blazers are worried about; I’d want to lock him up for as long as possible.

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2009 NBA Free Agency Preview: The top restricted free agents

Yesterday, I ranked the top unrestricted free agents of 2009, but now it’s time to look at this summer’s crop of restricted free agents (RFA). Teams can sign an RFA to an offer sheet, then his team has seven days to match that offer to retain him. If the player doesn’t sign an offer sheet and can’t come to terms on a new contract with his current team, then he will play for a year for the qualifying offer and then become an unrestricted free agent the following summer.

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. They’re ranked in order of total value, which is based on overall talent, age, injury history and cost.

1. Paul Millsap, PF (24)
PER: 18.71
In his third year, this former second round pick had the best season of his career. He averaged 13.5 points and 8.6 rebounds, while shooting better than 53% from the field. While Carlos Boozer was out in December and January, the Jazz got a preview of what this kid can do when he gets starter’s minutes. He was a 17/11 guy during those two months, but the Jazz only went 11-13 in games in which Millsap played during that span. His camp expects a deal similar to the one David Lee is asking for, so something in the $10 million per season range. Is he worth it? Probably. And from the sound of it, the Jazz plan on offering him a deal that will keep him from testing the market. If he does explore his options, it may pay off as the Thunder and Pistons are rumored to have interest.
Value: $9.5 – $10.5 million per year

2. David Lee, PF (26)
PER: 19.07
GM Donnie Walsh said that the Knicks’ picking Jordan Hill in this year’s draft has nothing to do with Lee, but the two play the same position, so of course it’s going to have an effect on how the Knicks and Lee each view their relationship. The other issue is that two of the Knicks’ targets in 2010 are Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire might also play the same position as Lee, though Mike D’Antoni would likely play either at center, allowing Lee to play power forward. He gets most of his points off the glass, so he’d be a good fit with either of those guys. The Knicks are projected to have about $35 million in cap space heading into the summer of 2010 and whatever deal they sign Lee to will cut into that. If they want to keep Lee and sign two big-name free agents, then they’re going to have to rid themselves of either Jared Jeffries or Eddy Curry prior to 2010. I like Lee, but he’s not a guy that you can give the ball to on the block and expect him to score, and that limits his value somewhat as a big man. The Thunder, Kings, Grizzlies, Raptors and Pistons could all make a serious run at Lee, though anytime a team tries to poach a restricted free agent, it’s a delicate balance between offering him enough to convince the other team to let him go, while getting a reasonable deal at the same time.
Value: $9.0 – $10.0 million per year.

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Which NBA teams will have cap space this summer?

The NBA free agency period starts July 1st, and as that date approaches I’ll preview this year’s free agent class in more detail. But for now, I’d like to take a look at which teams have the cap flexibility to be major players in free agency this summer. (Mind you, just because a team has cap space, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll use it. Just sayin’.)

Not familiar with the NBA salary cap? Here’s a quick primer…

1. The cap for the 2008-09 season was $58.7 million. The general consensus is that the cap will stay flat or decrease slightly. We’ll assume it sticks at $58.7 million.

2. If a team is over the cap, the only free agents they can sign are their own, unless they elect to sign a player to the mid-level exception (~$5.8 million per season), the bi-annual exception (~$2.0) or to a minimum contract. (The bi-annual exception may not be used in two consecutive years.)

3. If a team is under the cap, they can sign any free agent they want as long as they do not exceed the cap. They can also take on salary via trade up to the cap, so a team like the Grizzlies (with almost $20 million in cap space) could conceivably trade their first round pick to the Suns for Amare Stoudemire or to the Raptors for Chris Bosh.

Here’s a list of the bigger names in the free agent pool this summer:

Unrestricted: Carlos Boozer, Ben Gordon, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Jason Kidd, Hedo Turkoglu, Allen Iverson, Mehmet Okur, Rasheed Wallace, Mike Bibby, Anderson Varejao, Grant Hill, Kyle Korver, Trevor Ariza, Brandon Bass, Chris Andersen, Zaza Pachulia, Chris Wilcox and Drew Gooden

Restricted: David Lee, Paul Millsap, Ray Felton, Josh Childress*, Marvin Williams, Glen Davis, Ramon Sessions, Charlie Villanueva, Nate Robinson, Leon Powe, Hakim Warrick, Linas Kleiza, Jarrett Jack and Shannon Brown

* It appears that if Childress does return to the NBA, the Hawks still hold his rights, so he would be a restricted free agent.

There are eight teams that project to have more than $5.8 million (the value of the mid-level exception) in cap space this summer:

Memphis Grizzlies
Projected Cap Space: $19.7 million
Memphis has been reluctant to spend for several years now and is probably one of the franchises that’s struggling the most in the current economy. I lived in Memphis for three years, and given its small size and overall lack of wealth, I always thought that it would struggle to support a professional sports team. With a core of Rudy Gay, O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies have to feel pretty good about what they have at off guard, small forward and center. The big decision this summer is what to do with restricted free agent Hakim Warrick. When dealing with bad teams, numbers can be deceptive, because no matter what, somebody has to score and rebound, right? Warrick’s PER (16.91) is #24 amongst power forwards, so ideally he’d be coming off the bench for a playoff team. The Grizzlies projected cap space assumes they make the qualifying offer to Warrick ($3.0 million). Memphis is one of those teams that could really use the services of a Carlos Boozer, David Lee or Paul Millsap, but in this economy, are the Grizzlies willing to make that kind of a commitment? They could try to make a run at Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire next summer, but the odds are long that either guy would want to play for the Grizzlies.

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