Okur re-ups

The Utah Jazz have locked up at least one of their big men.

The Utah Jazz and center Mehmet Okur have agreed in principle to a two-year contract extension worth just under $21 million, according to NBA front-office sources.

Okur could have been a free agent this summer but elected on June 30 to complete the final season on his current contract with the Jazz at $9 million.

Sources told ESPN.com that Okur and the Jazz have quickly reached terms to extend the contract by two more seasons at $20.8 million starting in 2010-11.

I pegged Okur’s value at about $8-$9 million per season, but like most of my estimates, I bought into the idea that teams were going to be more frugal this offseason. Okur is a 6’11” face up center who averaged 17.0 points and 7.7 rebounds this season. He also has terrific range for a big man, nailing almost 45% of his three point attempts. He’s not a factor on help defense, but with his girth he’s pretty good one-on-one in the post.

Paul Millsap is a restricted free agent, but hasn’t yet signed an offer sheet with another team. Carlos Boozer elected to play one more year in Utah, but there is talk that he may be headed to Chicago as part of a three-team trade involving Kirk Hinrich and Tyrus Thomas. If Utah pulls the trigger, they’d be building around a core of Deron Williams, Ronnie Brewer, Thomas, Millsap and Okur. It doesn’t make much sense to keep both Boozer and Millsap around, as they are very similar players. It seems the Jazz feel that Millsap is the better value, but would like to get something in return for Boozer. Thomas wouldn’t represent equal value, but it’s tough to get equal value these days.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Boozer opts…in!

Tuesday Afternoon Update: Mehmet Okur is going to play the final year of his contract as well.

Earlier today, we discussed the possibility of Carlos Boozer playing out the final year of his contract, and that’s exactly what he decided to do.

Boozer’s decision was a reversal from his December comments to an ESPN.com reporter that he was planning to opt out and would get a raise regardless. The Jazz, however, long questioned if the market that Boozer believed existed was more fantasy than reality.

In the end, it sounds as if Boozer considered his prospects and decided to take the sure $12.7 million instead of rolling the dice on the open market. If he is able to play at a high level and without injury, he stands to significantly improve his value heading into the summer of 2010. There are so many teams cutting salary in preparation for that summer’s free agent frenzy, so if he can stay healthy, he definitely stands to gain. However, by playing out the last year of this deal, he is forgoing the security of the long-term contract that he otherwise would have signed this summer. If he were to suffer a career-ending injury next season, he’d be leaving perhaps $42 million on the table.

How does this affect the team’s payroll?

The Jazz also are treading in dangerous territory in regard to the luxury tax. Boozer’s return gives them approximately $64.5 million in salary commitments to 10 players for the upcoming season.

That’s before making decisions about re-signing Okur – should he opt out – and Millsap. The NBA’s luxury-tax threshold is expected to be around $70 million and the Jazz would have to carry at least a league-minimum 13 players on their roster.

“It could be [a problem],” Miller said, “but it’s like I said before: If we need to go into the luxury tax to protect our players and protect our team, keep it intact, we’d have to take a look at that.”

If Okur opts out, the Jazz projected payroll would be around $63 million, leaving some (but not a lot) of flexibility to sign Paul Millsap. If Okur plays out the final year of his deal, Utah will have to pay a steep luxury tax to re-sign Millsap. Essentially, if a franchise is over the luxury tax threshold, they have to pay a dollar-for-dollar tax. Simply stated, now that Boozer has opted in, if Okur opts in, it’s going to make it tougher for the Jazz to retain Millsap.

I’m sure there are a few teams out there licking their chops at the prospect of signing Millsap.

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Will the Jazz trade Carlos Boozer?

With regard to Carlos Boozer’s future in Utah, Johnny Ludden of Yahoo Sports writes that the Utah Jazz “are expected to explore trading him and devote their resources to keeping Paul Millsap.”

Boozer angered franchise officials and teammates alike early in the season, when he spoke openly of wanting to test his free agency this summer. It didn’t help that he made the comments while he was nursing a quadriceps injury that cost him more than half the season.

After Monday’s season-ending loss, Boozer now says he’d like to return to the Jazz, adding that he feels like “one of those cornerstone people who brought this team back to prominence.” In truth, the decision might not be entirely up to him. Even if Boozer doesn’t opt out of his contract, the Jazz are expected to explore trading him and devote their resources to keeping Paul Millsap.

As if the Jazz needed any more evidence of Millsap’s value, he helped lead Monday’s comeback while Boozer watched from the bench.

“We’re not getting that effort every night from everybody,” [Deron] Williams said, “and we’ve got to have that.”

I may be wrong, but this sounds like the general feeling of the writer more than the actual position of the club. The key phrase is that “the Jazz are expected,” which only means that some nebulous person or persons is of the opinion that Utah will explore trading Boozer in order to keep Millsap. It doesn’t mean that that’s what the franchise is planning to do.

This summer’s free agent market is going to be tough on the players, so even though Boozer has previously stated that he plans to opt out, he may ultimately decide to play out the final year of his contract in order to prove to teams that he can stay healthy. Other than the Jazz, there are five teams that have the cap space to make an offer of $10 million per season or more — the Pistons, the Hawks, the Grizzles, the Raptors and the Thunder. He’d certainly help make the Thunder a playoff team, and he’d be a good fit in Detroit with their current problems along the front line. The Grizzlies have the need, but may not be willing to make the commitment. The Hawks don’t really need a power forward, but the Raptors could certainly use him as a complement to Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon (and it might ultimately keep Bosh in Toronto).

In addition to Boozer, Mehmet Okur ($9.0 million) and Kyle Korver ($5.3 million) can each terminate their contracts early this summer, so the Jazz might have a very different face heading into the 2009-10 season. My guess is that Okur and Korver will play out their contracts since they are unlikely to find that kind of money in free agency. Boozer is set to make $12.3 million next season, so he’ll probably be looking for a deal averaging somewhere in the range of $13-$15 million. But with his history of injury, will anyone be willing to pony up?

Related Posts