Eleven Potential Moves That Should and Could Happen
Two weeks into the free agent courting period and we’re beginning to see some movement– Redd staying with the Bucks, Allen re-upping with Seattle, Hughes bolting for Cleveland, Big Z sticking with the Cavs, Simmons abandoning sunny LA for frigid Milwaukee, and Haslem turning down tempting offers to remain close to home in Miami. While I’m glad to see free agency in full swing, there hasn’t been a transaction yet to get excited about. So without further ado, allow me to discuss 11 possible summer transactions that make a lot of sense and that I’d love to see.
PF/C Stromile Swift and SF Gerald Wallace to New Orleans
Why it should happen – It’s become clear that the Hornets are intent on becoming a fast-paced open court team with the drafting of Chris Paul and J.R. Smith the last two seasons. The duo should form a dynamic combination in the backcourt for years to come as teams will find it extremely difficult to defend two guards that are as quick and as athletic as Paul and Smith. Right now as it stands, the Hornets are likely to go into the season with Bostjan Nachbar holding down the 3 slot and P.J. Brown starting at the 4. But why halt the youth movement when you still have a huge chunk of change to spend? Stromile attended LSU and would likely welcome a return to the bayou– his athleticism and ability to run the floor would likely result in a surplus of monster dunks on the finishing end of fast breaks. Wallace, though still raw, would be another slick find for Allen Bristow as he works on retooling the roster. Though many people question whether Wallace has the tools necessary to become a complete offensive player, he has already proven to be an outstanding weak-side defender. He shares some of the same instincts as Andrei Kirilenko and Shawn Marion that could make him a very valuable and versatile forward in a full court scheme. And in terms of excitement, would there be a better tandem of dunkers in the league than Smith, Wallace, and Swift?
How it could happen - The Hornets still have plenty of money to work with, and though the market for big men hasn’t quite been set yet, it appears as though Swift will fall somewhere between the $5-$8 million/year range. His visits to Houston and New Jersey suggest that he may be willing to take less money if it means entering a situation that appears suited for him. What about a chance to return to Louisiana where he enjoyed a successful run with LSU, an opportunity to start and play 35+ minutes at the 4, and paychecks that will outweight the ones every other suitor can offer him? Wallace is a restricted free agent that the Bobcats appear intent on signing, but at what cost? If the Hornets throw $5 or $6 million his way, I’m not sure I see Bickerstaff willing to overspend on Wallace, let alone anyone just yet. It’s very plausible that these two can be had by New Orleans, but it seems that nobody has a clue as to what Allen Bristow is planning to do. Still, a starting lineup of Paul, Smith, Wallace, Swift, and Magliore would be a lot of fun to watch and certainly a rising team to keep a close eye on.
Likelihood of Happening – Swift: Fair; Wallace: Unlikely
PG Earl Watson to Minnesota
Why it should happen - For a team looking for to change its personality and attitude, what better way to start than by letting your biggest problem (Sprewell) walk, and instead bringing in a point guard known for his excessive desire to win and non-stop hustle on the court? The Wolves would love to move Sam Cassell, but the market isn’t too high on an aging, injury-prone point guard right now, even if his contract is up after next season. Watson may be deterred by the presence of Cassell, Hudson, and now Rashad McCants in the backcourt, but he should be confident that Dwane Casey (who worked very well with him during his rookie season in Seattle) would find a way to utilize him plenty his first season, and then hand over the reigns the following year. Minnesota is desperate for defense in the backcourt and would thrive with an energetic leader like Watson on the floor. Let’s cross our fingers that this is a relationship both parties explore.
How it could happen - Minnesota has $4.9 million to use for its mid-level exception, so it’s conceivable that Watson ends up signing for this. However, given the dearth of quality point guards available this summer, it’s quite possible that a team like the Hawks or Cavaliers pony up more than Minnesota can offer. I’d expect Watson to either end up with the Hawks or to head back home to L.A. and take the mid-level from the Lakers.
Likelihood of Happening: Unlikely
PG Antonio Daniels to Miami
Why it should happen – When people talk about why the Heat lost the Eastern Conference Semifinals, all you hear is, "It was because Shaq was playing hurt the whole series", or, "If Dwyane Wade was 100% in Game 7, there’s no way Detroit would have won!" But what about the number Chauncey Billups did on Damon Jones throughout the series? DJ’s inability to defend Chauncey one-on-one during important stretches had as much to do with the Pistons’ victory as anything. The Heat know going into next season that Detroit and Indiana are going to be their chief competitors in the East, so signing Daniels (6’4", 205 lbs.), who can muscle up one-on-one with Billups (6’3", 202 lbs.) and Tinsley (6’3", 195 lbs.), makes a lot of sense. And though Daniels’ range is iffy from beyond the arc, he has one of the more underrated mid-range games in the league.
Why it could happen - With Jones opting out of his contract for next season, it’s become a more likely possibility that the Heat bring in either Earl Watson or Daniels with the Heat’s mid-level exception, despite Jones’ desire to sign a multi-year deal with Miami. Pat Riley re-signed Udonis Haslem earlier today, so now there’s a very good chance that the Heat use their MLE on a point guard instead of a power forward as many expected them to do (Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Donyell Marshall were the rumored targets). My guess is the Heat make runs at Daniels and Watson before being outbidded by Cleveland (where Daniels is from) and Atlanta (who will offer Watson a hefty contract and a starting role) respectively, and then settle for Jones.
Likelihood of Happening: Fair
Brevin Knight to Memphis
Why it should happen – The Grizzlies are looking to cut payroll and likely will let Watson, as well as Stromile Swift and Bonzi Wells walk this summer. They’re also very open to trading Lorenzen Wright and Jason Williams, so there’s a good possibility that there could be a vacancy at point guard for the Grizzlies unless they acquire one through via trade. Memphis does have their MLE to use, but rumors persist that Jerry West is targeting a true center such as Zaza Pachulia or Jerome James instead of acquiring a point guard. But why not at least consider Brevin Knight, who would relish the opportunity to start in Memphis (which is also his home in the off-season)? I watched BK a lot this season and he really is a perfect fit in Memphis– he’s easily one of the best playmakers in the league which is a necessity for a team that lacks a player who can create his own shot; he can help bring along the underrated Antonio Burks, who can also spell BK against bigger opposing point guards; and he’s a heady guy that can truly be the general for a team that lacks a vocal leader.
Why it could happen - There’s no way Knight would turn down a chance to start in Memphis for the mid-level exception, so if his agent gets on the phone with Jerry West, it could become a definite possibility. However, the Grizzlies will probably find it difficult to trade J-Dub and so the chances of them using their MLE on a point guard are minimal. I really do hope BK gets a chance to start somewhere because he showed last season in Charlotte that he’s a very capable point guard and though teams knock on him because of his age– he’s only 29.
Cuttino Mobley to the Clippers
Why it should happen – A lot of Clippers fans are upset they let Bobby Simmons slip away last week, but the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player probably wasn’t worth to the Clippers what the Milwaukee Bucks paid for him. Corey Maggette can now shift to his more natural position at the 3 and the Clippers can (hopefully) sign Cuttino Mobley to play the 2 and help shore up the team’s perimeter woes. I’m guessing Simmons started packing up his things once he saw the Clippers go hard after Ray Allen, knowing that his status with the team wasn’t their highest priority. The Clippers were not able to land Allen, but can still make some strides this summer by signing Mobley, who’s not only one of the best shooters in the league, but also widely regarded as one of the best teammates and most calming locker room influences (just ask Steve Francis, but be very afraid of his response).
Why it could happen – With Redd re-signing in Milwaukee, Allen in Seattle, and now Hughes landing in Cleveland, there aren’t as many teams desperate for a sharpshooting 2 guard aside from the Clippers and Nuggets. And the Clippers have one major advantage over Denver– they can offer a lot more money. Unless Kiki Vandeweghe is willing to part with Nene, he may very well have to watch as Donald Sterling writes out a check to Mobley for somewhere in the range of $7-8 million/year.
Likelihood of Happening: Very Likely
Kwame Brown to Atlanta
Why it should happen – The Hawks have done a nice job of stockpiling talent in the draft the last couple of seasons, but they still have some major gaps to fill as they go forward with the rebuilding process. Their most pressing needs are at point guard and center and so it’s no surprise that names such as Earl Watson, Marko Jaric, Eddy Curry, Stromile Swift, Samuel Dalembert, and hometown-boy Kwame Brown have popped up frequently. With the market for point guards being rather thin, expect the Hawks to make their top priority finding a young big man. And if the Hawks want the best bang-for-their-buck, there’s no better option than Kwame Brown. Nobody denies that Brown is a gifted player, but things just haven’t worked out for him in Washington. Let’s not forget that the careers of Rasheed Wallace, Chris Webber, and Bobby Simmons never took off until they left the nation’s capitol. Kwame needs a fresh start in a comfortable situation more than anything. and in Atlanta, he can return to his local roots and receive his first consistent starting role for a team that can afford to be patient with him.
Why it could happen – Eddy Curry appears to be the Hawks’ top choice left on the board, and if Atlanta is willing to show him the money, there’s a good chance that Chicago will decide not to match. Meanwhile, Kwame has been the subject of numerous sign-and-trade rumors including potential deals with the Lakers, Pacers, and Knicks– so it’s very possible the disgruntled Wizard will have already relocated by the time the Hawks found out what where Curry will end up. If Kwame’s still out there however, don’t be surprised to see the Hawks offer him a hefty contract that no other team will be willing to match.
Likelihood of Happening – Unlikely
Juan Dixon to Detroit
Why it should happen – The Pistons’ lack of depth and subpar perimeter shooting were exposed during the post-season and had a lot to do with why the Pistons looked shaky (though they did come within a minute of repeating as champs) throughout much of the Playoffs. There’s no question that they’re going to address both of these issues whether Larry Brown returns as coach or not. Dixon is an unrestricted free agent who would love to stay in Washington if it means a chance to start (which is a possibility now that Hughes is gone), but more than likely the Wiz will look to fill Hughes’ void with a bigger 2 than Dixon. If Dixon is willing to take less than the mid-level, there could be a huge market for a proven winner, a slick shooter, and an energetic spark off the bench like Dixon. He could be a great fit in Detroit for years to come, but would have to accept splitting minutes with Carlos Arroyo and Lindsey Hunter next season (Hunter’s an unrestricted FA in ’06).
Why it could happen - Dixon loves to win and so Detroit would be an enticing situation for him, but he’s also reached a point in his career where most players take the money and playing time over the opportunity to win. If Detroit is willing to offer him the full mid-level then I’d expect Dixon to jump ship, but I’m not sure anyone believes a smallish 2 who’s better suited for a bench role is worthy of the MLE.
Likelihood of Happening: Unlikely
Antoine Walker to the Knicks
Why it should happen – Don’t get me wrong– Antoine Walker would be an utterly foolish pick-up for Isiah Thomas. A) They don’t need another power forward; B) They don’t need another gunner; and C) They’d be foolish to give up Sweetney, Ariza, a draft pick, or even (gasp) Tim Thomas to get him in a sign-and-trade deal. But let’s be honest– is there anything funnier than watching Isiah Thomas trying to build a team if you’re not a Knicks fan?! Can you imagine a starting lineup featuring Marbury, Crawford, Richardson, Walker, and Frye? Would Frye ever touch the ball? Would Vegas put out a line on how quickly it would take before one of the starters bitches about how few shots he’s getting? Would Habitat for Humantity have the Knicks starting lineup build a house with all the bricks they’d throw up? Acquiring Antoine Walker would make me actually want to watch the Knicks! They’d be like that talented pick-up team that never wins because they all have huge egos, don’t want to play defense, and end up arguing with each other the whole game. You want to talk about high comedy, imagine the Knicks going up against the Spurs.
Why it could happen - It’s no secret that Isiah would love to acquire Walker, but he’ll have to do so via sign-and-trade since ‘Toiney wants more than the MLE. Here’s the thing– who does want to pay more than the MLE for Employee #8? Nobody, which means Walker is almost a lock to be included in a sign-and-trade deal. The Kings, Rockets, and Bulls have all been mentioned as potential suitors, but each of those teams likely has Stromile Swift, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, and even Donyell Marshall higher on their list than Walker. I think we’ll ultimately see Sacto make the strongest play out of those teams, and Danny Ainge may prefer to deal with them so he doesn’t have to trade Walker away to a division rival.
Likelihood of Happening: Fair
Reggie Evans to Houston
Why it should happen – The Rockets have been killing themselves looking for a consistent power forward than can rebound and provide some tough defense during the Yao Ming-era. They showed in the 2nd half of last season that they don’t necessarily need a scoring option at PF– having T-Mac and a few perimeter threats is enough to detract double-teams from Yao. What they do lack is a hard-nosed 4 that can make up for Yao’s lack of toughness on the defensive end and who is enough of a prowess on the boards to keep the Rockets from getting hammered on the offensive glass. Evans is an ideal fit who could easily be had for the mid-level exception, but since he’s a restricted free agent, it may be hard for anyone to pry him away from Seattle for anything less.
Why it could happen – The Rockets have a number of available power forwards including Stromile Swift, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Antoine Walker, and Donyell Marshall higher on their list, but it will be difficult for them to acquire any of the above unless they do so by sign-and-trade. If they do indeed strike out on each of these guys, then it’s possible Carroll Dawson decides Evans is worthy of the entire MLE. If the Rockets offer him anything less, I’d expect Seattle to match.
Likelihood of Happening: Fair
Latrell Sprewell to Denver
Why it should happen – The Nuggets would love to get their hands on Cuttino Mobley, but a deal with the Clippers appears imminent since they can offer a lot more money than Denver. Next up on the Nuggets’ wish list to fill their starting 2 guard slot is Marko Jaric, but it’s highly likely Denver once again gets outbidded, this time by either Atlanta or the Clippers. So why not settle for option #3– Latrell Sprewell, a guy with a history of winning and a nasty mean streak that suits the personality of the Nuggets. Spree isn’t the shooter Denver is looking for, but he excels in the open court, can still play some solid defense when he has to, and would love to join a winning situation where he can buddy up with close friend Marcus Camby and help mentor Julius Hodge along (although maybe that’s not such a good idea).
Why it could happen - If Kiki misses out on Jaric, I fully expect them to lock-up Sprewell. The Nuggets have suitable funds to sign him, so the only potential hitch in a deal might be the length of the contract. Spree probably only has 2 productive seasons left in him and Kiki isn’t foolish enough to sign the soon-to-be 35 year old for any longer than that. So if Spree decides he needs to feed his family for longer than that, Denver may have to look elsewhere.
Likelihood of Happening: Likely