2010 NBA Free Agency: What are they worth? (#1-#5)

Even though we have a pretty good Finals matchup, this postseason has been somewhat overshadowed by this summer’s free agency period, when no fewer than seven of the top 17 players (in terms of John Hollinger’s Player Efficiency Rating) are going to be free to sign with any team they choose.

One big question teams are faced with when using their available cap space is just how much each player is worth. This depends on a number of factors: age, production, value, injury history and fit, just to name a few. Over the next week or two, I’m going to examine this year’s free agent crop and try to guesstimate the value of each player. I’ve done this before, with some success.

For each free agent, I’ll list their age (on July 1), their PER, and the salaries of comparable players.

Let’s jump right in and start with the big names…

1. LeBron James, SF
Age: 25
PER: 31.19
Comparables: Dwyane Wade ($17.1 M), Carmelo Anthony ($17.1 M), Kobe Bryant ($24.8 M)

LeBron’s value is off the charts and is only limited by the rules of the collective bargaining agreement. He will likely sign a max deal wherever he goes. He’s going to start at around $16.8 M per season since that’s 30% of the salary cap ($56.1 M), which is a bit more than 105% of his previous year’s salary. (The max first-year salary is whichever is greater.)
Value: $18.0-$18.5 M per year (for three years)

2. Dwyane Wade, SG
Age: 28
PER: 28.10
Comparables: LeBron James ($17.1 M), Carmelo Anthony ($17.1 M), Kobe Bryant ($24.8 M), Brandon Roy ($13.5 M)

Wade is three years older and more injury prone, but he has already won a title and is a top 5 player in the league, so he’ll get a max contract just like LeBron. Since he’s a bit older, I wouldn’t be surprised if he elected to sign a five- or six-year deal instead of going with the shorter deal that has more flexibility.
Value: $19.5 M – $20.5 M (over six years, if he re-signs)

3. Chris Bosh, PF/C
Age: 26
PER: 25.11
Comparables: Amare Stoudemire ($17.7 M), Dirk Nowitzki ($21.5 M), Pau Gasol ($17.8 M)

Bosh is the top free agent big man this summer largely due to his combination of production and age. After his stint in Toronto, there are questions about his ability to carry a team in the playoffs. After all, Wade and LeBron have both done more with less, but Bosh appears to be the perfect complimentary player for either of those aforementioned superstars due his ability to hit long jumpers off the pick-and-pop. From a value standpoint, he’s going to get a max contract, though since he hasn’t proven he can truly carry a team, he technically isn’t quite worth it. Since he’s younger, I think he’ll sign a three-year deal.
Value: $18.0-$18.5 M per year (for three years)

4. Amare Stoudemire, PF/C
Age: 27
PER: 22.69
Comparables: Chris Bosh ($17.1 M), Dirk Nowitzki ($21.5 M), Pau Gasol ($17.8 M)

Stoudemire is about a year and a half older than Bosh and has had knee problems, which is why Bosh is more coveted going into this summer. However, some franchise that misses out on Bosh will (somewhat) gladly give Stoudemire a max deal even though he’s probably worth about $2 M to $3 M less per season. He is very good on the pick-and-roll but has benefited playing with Steve Nash for most of his career. Will he fare as well as a sidekick to a different player? How are those knees going to hold up?
Value: $19.0 M – $20.0 M (over five years)

5. Dirk Nowitzki, PF
Age: 32
PER: 23.01
Comparables: Chris Bosh ($17.1 M), Amare Stoudemire ($17.7 M), Pau Gasol ($17.8 M)

Two things are working against Nowitzki at this point in his career: 1) his age, and 2) his inability to close out the Heat in the Finals. That said, his game should age well because it’s not dependent on speed or leaping ability. He can flat out shoot the ball, and that would work well in a pick-and-pop based offense with a crafty wing who can pass (i.e. LeBron or Wade). If he wants to win a championship, he should look for a good role as a sidekick, and that probably won’t happen in Dallas (unless Mark Cuban can swing a sign-and-trade for LeBron). If I’m reading the Salary Cap FAQ correctly, Dirk can start his next contract at $20.8 M, so it will be interesting to see if he takes a bit less to play with another star.
Value: $19.5 M – $20.5 M (over three years)

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