Powe close to signing with Cavs?

Per Yahoo! Sports…

Free-agent forward Leon Powe will sign a two-year contract for the league minimum with the Cleveland Cavaliers on Tuesday if the team’s doctors are satisfied with the progress of his injured left knee, a league source said.

Powe tore his anterior cruciate ligament and cartilage in his knee during Game 2 of the Boston Celtics’ first-round series against the Chicago Bulls. He had reconstructive surgery on May 5 – his third major knee surgery – and has been rehabilitating in Los Angeles. Powe hopes to be back on the court by this season’s All-Star break, and the Cavaliers are willing to take a low-risk gamble on him pending the results of his physical.

Over the past two seasons with the Celtics, Powe has been highly productive in the limited minutes he’s received. He had a PER of 21.04 in the 2007-08 season and 17.25 in 2008-09. (15.00 is average.) He’s an energy guy with a great nose for the ball and a limited offensive game. Sound familiar? That’s exactly how I’d describe Anderson Varejao.

Which brings me back to the problems I have with the Cavs’ offseason. I don’t mind the addition of Shaquille O’Neal, but if he and Varejao (or Powe, if he signs) are on the court at the same time, LeBron is going to find that it’s going to be tougher to get to the hoop. Other than Zydrunas Ilgauskas, none of the Cavs’ bigs can shoot the ball effectively from outside the lane.

This wouldn’t be much of a concern if Cleveland didn’t depend so much on LeBron’s one-on-one game. If he can’t get to the rim as easily, he’ll be settling for jumpers, and the Cavs’ offensive efficiency will go down.

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Defense, long ball key Magic win

If you didn’t watch Game 7 of the Boston/Orlando series last night, you might look at the score (101-82) and assume that the Magic controlled the whole game. Not so. Orlando held a five-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but an 8-0 run by the Magic at the start of the period pushed the lead to 13, and they went on to a 35-point quarter and a series victory.

In the first six games of the series, Orlando’s recipe for a win was pretty simple — defense. In their wins (Game 1, Game 3 and Game 6), the Magic held the Celtics to less than 44% shooting from the field. In their losses (Game 2, Game 4 and Game 5), the Celtics shot better than 44%. In Game 6, the Magic held the C’s to just 39% shooting.

The other major factor was the the Magic’s accuracy from long range. Early in the series, Orlando had the touch from three-point land, shooting a combined 26 of 64 (41%) in the first three games. In Game 4, Game 5 and Game 6, the Magic shot just 17 of 77 (22%) from deep. In Game 7, the Magic hit a stellar 13 of 21 (62%) of their threes, and it’s tough to beat a team when they are that hot from long range.

What was the difference? Boston’s perimeter defense is pretty good, but Orlando did an outstanding job of moving the ball crisply and cleanly, and the C’s just couldn’t chase down all of the Magic’s shooters.

Hedo Turkoglu was the star of the game, posting 25 points, 12 assists and five rebounds, while hitting 4 of 5 from long range. Four other Orlando players — Rashard Lewis (19), Mickael Pietrus (17), Rafer Alston (15) and Dwight Howard (12) — scored in double figures to provide a balanced offensive attack.

With the loss, the Celtics go home for the summer. They face another offseason where they may lose one or more of their key contributors. Last year, it was James Posey (signed with the Hornets) and P.J. Brown (retirement) who left, while this summer both Glen Davis and Leon Powe are free agents. Boston’s payroll is quite high ($73.7 million), so whether or not these players come back depends on how far over the luxury tax the Celtics’ ownership is willing to go. The luxury tax for next season probably won’t change from its level this year ($71.1 million), so any contract that Davis or Powe signs with the C’s will have to be matched dollar-for-dollar in luxury tax. For example, if they sign Davis to a four-year deal worth $16 million, that contract is going to cost the C’s an additional $4 million per season as long as they are over the luxury tax threshold.

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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