Shawn Marion headed to Dallas

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As part of a complicated four-team trade, it looks as if Shawn Marion is about to become a Maverick.

The deal, according to sources, calls for the Mavericks to acquire Marion and Kris Humphries from Toronto and Greg Buckner from Memphis, with Marion to receive a five-year contract worth an estimated $39 million. Buckner has had two previous stints with the Mavericks but is likely to be released, sources said.

The Grizzlies will land Jerry Stackhouse from Dallas and a substantial cash payment to buy out Stackhouse’s contract. Only $2 million of Stackhouse’s $7.25 million salary next season is guaranteed, as long as he is waived by Aug. 10.

The Raptors will receive Devean George and Antoine Wright from the Mavericks, while also preserving their $5.9 million mid-level exception for the coming season by turning their acquisition of Turkoglu — who is getting a five-year deal worth an estimated $53 million — into a sign-and-trade as opposed to an outright signing. Assembling the trade this way could also enable Toronto to re-sign Carlos Delfino, after it appeared that the Raptors would have to renounce Delfino to help make room for the Turkoglu signing.

The Magic, meanwhile, were motivated to join in the trade because their participation, as opposed to merely letting Turkoglu walk, will create a valuable trade exception they can use in future deals worth around $7 million.

Mark Cuban is arguably the most polarizing owner in the league, but he isn’t afraid to try to make his team better. Whether it’s an ill-advised Jason Kidd-for-Devin Harris swap, the mid-level signing of Marcin Gortat or working out this sign-and-trade to land Marion, Cuban has always been willing to do what’s necessary to win.

With these moves, Dallas can start Marion at small forward next to Dirk Nowitzki and shift Josh Howard to shooting guard, with Sixth Man Award winner Jason Terry staying in a bench role. The Mavericks also believe that they will have a strong small-ball unit when they elect not to play Gortat or Erick Dampier, featuring Howard at small forward, Marion at power forward and Nowitzki at center.

$8 million per year for five years is a lot to pay for a 31-year-old, but Cuban knows that Nowitzki’s window is closing and the Mavericks’ time is now. Dallas now has a formidable starting lineup — Kidd, Howard, Marion, Nowitzki and Gortat — that has features four All-Stars, with Terry, J.J. Barea, Matt Carroll and Dampier coming off the bench. It will be interesting to see if the Mavs are able (or willing) to retain Brandon Bass, who is a free agent this summer.

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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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NBA Rumors: Stoudemire, T-Mac, Brand and more draft talk

T-Mac for Amare?

According to the same source that disclosed Terry Porter was about to be fired as Suns coach, the Rockets are leaning toward swapping Tracy McGrady’s expiring $22M contract, Carl Landry and Aaron Brooks for Leandro Barbosa and Stoudemire, who owns an escape clause after next season and is demanding an extension this summer to waive it.

I’m not sure what the upside is for the Suns. Stoudemire will likely opt out of his contract after the season, so they aren’t gaining any financial flexibility. They do get a couple of good young players (Landry and Brooks), but is that really enough? McGrady is a very good player when healthy, but he can’t seem to stay upright.

This would be a bold move for the Rockets, but it would leave them awfully thin at point guard. Kyle Lowry would be the only experienced PG on the roster, but Houston could use its mid-level exception to go out and get a veteran like Andre Miller or Mike Bibby, though the MLE may not be enough.

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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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2009 NBA Free Agents: Where will they land?

Update 6/30: Be sure to check out our 2009 NBA Free Agency Preview.

Sports2Debate put together an interesting piece outlining where they think players from the free agent class of 2009 will land.

Here are a few of the bigger names:

Jason Kidd – UR
Sacrifices pay to play with Lakers in 2009/2010. Signs a Mid-Level Exception.

Ben Gordon – UR
Utah Jazz sign Gordon. Utah is in need of a shooting guard more than any team. He will take pressure off Brewer and allow him to come of the bench.

Allen Iverson – UR
Signs with Dallas at the Veteran Minimum. They are the only team willing to take a risk, giving A.I. major playing time. The contract will not last more than 2-3 years.

Andre Miller – UR
Signs with the Portland Trailblazers and will make a major impact in the 2010 playoffs.

Shawn Marion – UR
Chicago is likely to move some players to open up some cap room for this offseason and Marion would be a great fit.

Carlos Boozer – UR (player option)
Does not utilize player option. He will, however, be in the pool heading into the 2010/2011 season.

A few random thoughts about the list:

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