Hawks sign Marvin Williams

Per ESPN…

Williams is expected to sign a five year, $37.5 million contract as early as Friday, according to the source. The deal also has some hard to reach incentives that could boost the value of the contract to $43 million.

I estimated Williams’s value to be in the $7-$8 million per year range, and it looks like the contract will be worth somewhere in the range of $7.5 million to $8.6 million per season, depending on those incentives.

Last season, the 23-year-old forward averaged 13.9 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, and improved his three-point accuracy from 10% to 36% year over year. I think the sense is that Williams is a bit of a disappointment since he was picked #2 overall in 2005 ahead of Chris Paul and Deron Williams, and isn’t on the same level as those guys. But he’s still very young and has improved his PER every year that he’s been in the league. He is also a very solid defender, which is an underrated characteristic in today’s NBA.

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2009 NBA Free Agency: Who’s left?

Aside from Lamar Odom and his ongoing saga with the Lakers and Heat, all of the big-name unrestricted free agents are off the market.

Restricted free agency is a completely different animal. Since a team still holds a player’s rights for another season, there is no huge rush to get a deal done, especially if the team and the player’s camp are far apart in terms of the player’s value. The deeper into the summer negotiations go, the more likely it is that the player will play out the final year of his rookie deal for the qualifying offer and enter unrestricted free agency in 2010. Here’s an update on the top remaining names on the restricted free agency market.

David Lee
Lee and the Knicks are still at an impasse. The Knicks look to be willing to match any offer up to about $8 million per season, while Lee’s camp is looking for a deal averaging in the $10-$12 million range. There was some talk that the potential one-year deal for Nate Robinson might prompt the Knicks to get moving on a long-term contract for Lee, but even that Robinson deal is just a rumor. Like many restricted free agent negotiations, this looks like a case of the two sides being far apart on the player’s value and given the Knicks’ apparent unwillingness to work out a sign-and-trade, all signs point to Lee playing out the final year of his deal and entering unrestricted free agency next year. Lee is frustrated in no small part because his qualifying offer ($2.3 million) is well below his market value.

Ramon Sessions

The Knicks, Clippers and even the Sixers may be interested, but no one has signed Sessions to an offer sheet yet. The Bucks are likely to match most offers up to the mid-level, but there is still enough uncertainty about Sessions that teams seem unwilling to sign him to a full mid-level deal (five years, $34 million). Based on what I’ve read from Sessions’ agent, Jimmy “Chubby” Wells, he’s not sure what the Bucks are doing. It seems like a four-year deal in the $12-$15 million range would do the trick. That way, Sessions would get some long-term security and would be able to negotiate another contract when he’s 27. On the flip side, the Bucks would get a backup plan if Brandon Jennings doesn’t pan out. But what do I know? I’m just a blogger.

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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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