Hawks sign Marvin Williams


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 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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A look ahead at the free agent class of 2009

With the trade deadline in the rear view mirror and players tied to their current teams at least until the summer, it’s a good time to take a look ahead at the free agent class of 2009. Given the state of the economy and how so many teams are saving up for the class of 2010, some are suggesting that this summer’s free agency could be a “nuclear winter” of sorts, no pun intended. The salary cap and luxury tax thresholds are likely to decline for the first time in years and that has GMs and owners around the league scrambling to cut salary where they can.

There are three types of free agents: players with early termination options (ETO) or player options (PO), restricted free agents and unrestricted free agents.

Players with ETOs or POs

This group includes Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O’Neal, Al Harrington, Jamal Crawford and Mehmet Okur, but it’s highly unlikely that any of these guys will hit the open market given the kind of money they’ll be making by extending their respective contracts. Of this group, Hedo Turkoglu, Anderson Varejao and maybe Carlos Boozer are the only big names that are likely to hit free agency. Boozer has already stated that he’s going to opt out, but he may decide against it if he doesn’t come back strong from his injuries. Turkoglu — the reigning Most Improved Player — is having another nice season, but he’s not playing quite as well as last year. Still, he can command more than the $7.3 million he’s due to make next season. Varejao could stay with the Cavs and make $6.2 million next season, but he and his agent (Dan Fegan) have been looking for more. Varejao wants a long term deal but it seems he and the Cavs disagree on how much he’s actually worth.

For the most part, guys in this group are going to be conservative and play out their contracts.

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The NBA’s Top 10 Young Power Forwards

Here’s a quick list of the top 10 power forwards under the age of 26, ranked in the order of a combination of current performance and trade value (regardless of salary).

I’ll also list the player’s age and his Player Efficiency Rating. Keep in mind that I am ranking the player based on their listed position at ESPN. Maybe I’ll move some of these guys around the next time I publish these lists.

1. Chris Bosh, Raptors
Age: 24
PER: 22.67

Bosh has averaged at least 22 points and nine rebounds in each of the last four seasons. He shoots 50% from the field and 83% from the line, but I’d like to see more blocks (0.8) from a guy his size. Will he rendezvous with LeBron at MSG in 2010? They would make a devastating duo.

2. Josh Smith, Hawks
Age: 23
PER: 16.23

Smith is having kind of an off year so far as he works himself back from an ankle injury. It’s a tough call between Smith and the next guy on this list, but I have to go with J-Smoov due to his versatility.

3. LaMarcus Aldridge, Blazers
Age: 23
PER: 17.96

He’s not very strong down low, but for a big guy he can really shoot the ball. He loves the face up jumper, and looks to be a 17/7 guy for the foreseeable future.

4. Paul Millsap, Jazz
Age: 23
PER: 19.96

Millsap is averaging 18 points and 11 boards (shooting 57% from the field) filling in for the injured Carlos Boozer, which makes some wonder if the Jazz should bother to re-sign Boozer when he opts out after the season.

5. Michael Beasley, Heat
Age: 19
PER: 14.95

I see Beasley as more of a small forward, but he’s listed as a PF. He is averaging 14 points and five boards in 27 minutes. I’d like to see better assist (1.0) numbers, but that should come with time.

6. Marvin Williams, Hawks
Age: 22
PER: 15.74

Williams is another guy that can play either forward position. He has really improved his long-range accuracy this season (+29%), but is still scoring at about the same rate. With the departure of Josh Childress, I thought Williams was going to take a big step forward this season, but his numbers are pretty much the same across the board.

7. Charlie Villanueva, Bucks
Age: 24
PER: 17.49

Can Charlie V play for Scott Skiles? So far, the answer seems to be yes, even though Skiles prefers Luc Richard Mbah a Moute’s defense and rebounding. Villanueva is still a below average defensive player, but Villanueva can really light it up. He’s going to be a restricted free agent this summer, so it will be interesting to see what the Bucks do with him over the next 9 months.

8. Carl Landry, Rockets
Age: 25
PER: 19.19

For his minutes (21.3), Landry is one of the most productive big men in the game. He’s a great interior defender and his FG% is stellar (58%).

9. Brandon Bass, Mavericks
Age: 23
PER: 13.00

His biggest problem is that he plays the same position as Dirk Nowitzki. He’s strong as hell and has a nice face up game. It will be interesting to see how he flourishes once he’s somewhere where he’ll get 30+ minutes a game.

10. Kevin Love, Timberwolves
Age: 20
PER: 15.17

Granted, his 40% shooting is brutal, especially for a power forward, but Love is posting better than eight points and eight boards in just 24 minutes a game. With his passing ability, I thought that his assist numbers (1.2) would be better. Right now, it’s definitely looking like Memphis got the better of the Mayo-Love trade, but he should develop into a solid starting power forward.

So who am I missing? Before you jump all over me for leaving someone off the list, be sure to check the player’s age – all these guys are 25 or younger.

Other lists:

Top 10 Young Point Guards
Top 10 Young Shooting Guards
Top 10 Young Small Forwards

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