Preparing the 2006 Free Agency Menu
With the 2005 free agency period winding down and only a few name players still left unsigned, it’s probably a good time to take a look ahead at what will be featured on next summer’s free agent menu. Among the suitors with money available to invest in some of 2006’s selections will be Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, the Clippers, New Orleans, Seattle, Utah, and Washington. Other teams such as Phoenix, Houston, Portland, Detroit, and Sacramento may or may not have money to spend depending on what they decide to do with their big name free agents. As it stands now, the selection of players appears to be rather limited with most of the heavy hitters expected to re-sign with their current franchises and many of the lower tier players burdened by question marks. But as we saw this year, stocks consistently fluctuate (usually upwards) and how the menu looks nearly a year from now is anyone’s guess.
*Note*- List does not include 3rd year team option players like Carmelo Anthony and Josh Howard since it’s assumed the teams will pick up their options. It also doesn’t include Grant Hill who would be a complete moron to opt out of his contract which will earn him more than double (~$17m) what he could make if he opted out, and Alonzo Mourning who we can safely assume will only play for Miami if he does come back for another season.
1. Amare Stoudemire, Restricted
-Barring a drastic change of heart by Amare, Bryan Colangelo should have him locked up to a long-term max deal before ‘STAT’ becomes a restricted free agent next summer.
2. Yao Ming, Restricted
-Expect the Yao to LA rumors to heat up this season, although they appear to be pretty far-fetched. What impression has Yao given that he wants out of Houston? He has an enormous fan base there, his parents just opened a restaurant nearby, the team is on the rise, they’ll ultimately pay him whatever it takes to keep him, and he just seems to be happy in Houston.
-Big Ben will be 32 next summer, but he’s shown absolutely no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I’m a little surprised that Joe Dumars hasn’t worked out a contract extension with Wallace yet, but he’s reportedly more concerned with locking up Tayshaun Prince long-term. If the Pistons let Big Ben hit the market, it could be a sign that they’re willing to let him walk. Why would they do that? They have some kid on their bench who they have placed a lot of stock into– Darko Milicic. This is yet another reason why this season is so crucial for Darko and the Pistons. So why in the hell did they go out and sign Dale Davis, possibly pushing Darko back on the depth chart once again?!
4. Tayshaun Prince, Restricted
-What team wouldn’t love to have Tayshaun Prince on their team? He’s talented, selfless, and more experienced than any young player in the NBA. It probably won’t matter– there’s no way Joe Dumars lets the Prince leave his throne at the Palace.
5. Peja Stojakovic, Player Option
– For all his faults (defense, injury-prone, certainly not a clutch player), he’s still arguably the league’s top shooter and one of its best scorers. Given that Peja can certainly earn more money by opting out (he’s due to earn about $8.1 million in 2006-07) and that he doesn’t appear to be in love with Sacramento (remember when he asked to be traded?), look for Stojakovic to hit the market next year demanding big bucks somewhere in the Larry Hughes/Michael Redd range. A team like Utah would love to have him and may be willing to fork over the dough.
6. Nene Hilario, Restricted
-Kiki Vandeweghe has put a large price tag on Nene despite his being generally a bench player. There’s no question that Nene still has a ton of potential and will likely garner a great deal of interest next summer. Denver will have some cap room to spare, but with ‘Melo becoming a free agent the following summer, Kiki may have to let Nene walk if a team offers him a huge contract.
7. Joel Przybilla, Unrestricted
-Somebody must have lied to Przybilla and told him he was a free agent after last season, just check out his numbers in the last 2 months– 9.0 PPG, 55.0 FG%, 10.3 RPG, 3.6 BPG. There probably wasn’t a single player in the league who saw his stock rise as dramatically as Przybilla’s, but he’s going to have to replicate those numbers if he wants to reel in the big bucks (and we could be talking BIG BUCKS if he does)– young centers who can run the floor and defend are very tough to find.
8. Jason Terry, Unrestricted
-Terry struggled in the early stages of last season, but really picked up his play once he was granted immunity as the Mavericks starting point guard. He was superb in the Playoffs (17.5 PPG, 49.1 3PT%, 4.2 RPG– up from 12.4 PPG, 42.0 3PT%, 2.4 RPG in the regular season), leading many to believe that last year’s lottery pick Devin Harris is now expendable. With next summer’s crop of free agent point guards being so thin, Terry could receive numerous tempting offers. It’s important that Dallas finds out whether Harris is able to inherit the reigns next year if Terry’s asking price is more than they’re willing to shell out.
9. Al Harrington, Unrestricted
-Harrington’s stock took a mild hit this season in Atlanta after he failed to assume a starring role for a team that started Jason Collier and Obinna Ekezie at center for the better part of the year. He’s still going to incur a lot of interest next year simply because of his raw talent and experience in Indiana, which is actually why he’s a likely candidate to be moved to a contender before the trade deadline.
-Butler’s beginning to receive a bit of a bad rap because he’s been moved a couple times, but don’t be fooled– he’s a reliable starter who gets it done on both ends of the floor. Look for him to excel in Washington this season where he has a defined role as the team’s third option and defensive stopper. If he does perform to expectations, Butler should be able to seek Bobby Simmons-like money (5 years, $47 million).
11. Chris Webber, Early Termination
-It’s a longshot that Webber will decide to terminate his contract after this season given how much he’s making, but if he can’t learn to play alongside Iverson and decides a championship is more important to him than a fat check, it could potentially happen.
The Lunch Menu
12. Fred Jones, Restricted
-Perhaps a bit high maybe, but he can shoot, defend, and he’s screaming of athleticism. Put Freddie Jones on a team where he’s not the 7th or 8th man and he might score you close to 20 a game.
13. Lorenzen Wright, Unrestricted
-Lo’s dealt with his share of injuries over the years, but he’ll only be 30 when he hits free agency next summer. Considering there’s been a slew of interest in Wright via the trade market recently, you can expect the same when he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
14. James Posey, Player Option
-Posey is due to earn $6.4 million in 2006-07, but he’s going to be able to ask for a lot more once people see what he brings to the table for the 2005-06 Eastern Conference Champs.
15. Nazr Mohammed, Unrestricted
-He wasn’t necessarily integral to the Spurs’ run for a 3rd title in 7 years, but he certainly contributed significantly to the team. Nazr’s mobile, he rebounds, he’s got his head on his shoulders, and because he’s a big man, he’ll likely receive plenty of attention and a contract worth more than his services.
16. Mike Dunleavy, Restricted
-Is it really worth keeping him around when you have Mickael Pietrus waiting in the wings? The Warriors should just trade him now while they can get something in return.
17. Drew Gooden, Restricted
-His stock is slipping quicker than Krispy Kreme’s– nobody wants an undersized power forward who doesn’t pass, can’t play a lick of D, and has a bigger and more obnoxious entourage than Vincent Chase. And what’s worse, his near double-double numbers from last season (14.4 PPG, 9.2 RPG) will likely lead Gooden and his agent to believe he’s worth a helluva lot more than he is.
18. Trevor Ariza, Restricted
-He’s got the tools to be one of the best defensive players in the league for years to come and he could develop into a reliable option on the offensive end as well. If brought along right, Ariza should be a better version of James Posey, and look where he is on this list.
19. Speedy Claxton, Unrestricted
-Talk about a good summer to become a free agent– Claxton will arguably be the second best point guard available. If he can stay healthy and have a productive season in New Orleans, he should be able to land a nice contract and a starting gig.
20. Keith Van Horn, Unrestricted
-It’s amazing how subtely Van Horn’s stock has plummeted over the last few seasons, likely because his fat contract was worth a lot more than he is. But the guy causes a ton of match-up problems with his size and agility if used correctly. Now that he’s healthy, look for him to bounce back this season and help his cause when he becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer.
21. Mike James, Player Option
-I’m a huge fan of Mike James– as a 3rd guard off the bench. His energy, defense, and streakiness off the bench are one of the reasons why I love the Rockets this year. Though he probably won’t get starters money like Claxton could, he will receive a tremendous amount of interest if he opts out.
22. Tim Thomas, Unrestricted
-He’ll only be 29 next summer and he’s averaged double-figures 6 straight years, but how big is the market for an underachieving, soft small forward who comes to play maybe once every 2 or 3 games?
23. Bonzi Wells, Unrestricted
-Bonzi’s one of the best post-up guards in the league and a lot of teams would love to add that to their repertoire. Unfortunately some of those teams won’t give him the time of day because of his attitude. It’s truly a make-or-break year for Bonzi in Sacto.
24. Matt Harpring, Unrestricted
-Harpring held up well this season (78 games, 33.1 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG) after missing most of 2003-04 due to knee surgery. Unfortunately his knee problems have been hindering him his entire basketball career and he may have a hard time convincing a team to risk any more than a 2 year deal on him.
25. Chris Wilcox, Restricted
-I had Wilcox labeled as a bust as soon as the Clips drafted him 6th overall three years ago. Nevertheless, I still won’t deny that he’s oozing with potential and could take flight if he ends up in the right situation.
26. Jared Jeffries, Restricted
-He’s flown under the radar the last few years, perhaps because people were expecting more from him after guiding Indiana on an improbable run to the NCAA Title game. But Jeffries has become a solid role player with his defensive skills and basketball intangibles. Hey, if Trenton Hassell can get a 6 year, $26 million deal, then why can’t Jared Jeffries?
27. Bobby Jackson, Unrestricted
-B-Jax will be 33 next summer and he hasn’t played more than 60 games since the ’01-02 season. Even still, he’s a quality bench player with big game experience and should earn a fair amount of attention in free agency.
28. Kelvin Cato, Unrestricted
-If Cato came to play every night, then he could easily be a 10-10-2 guy and looking at a contract somewhere in the range of what Joel Pryzbilla and Lorenzen Wright will get. Keep a close eye on Cato this year– he could be the quintessential ‘big year in contract year’ big man.
29. Sam Cassell, Unrestricted
-Cassell has proven in each of the last two years that he’s incapable of staying healthy for the duration of the year. Considering he’ll be 36 next summer and have even more mileage tacked onto his odometer, nobody will show him serious money.
30. Michel Olowokandi, Unrestricted
-If Olowokandi put as much heart into his game as he does in the love letters he writes to female fans from the bench, then he might have been able to live up to half of the potential he boasted when the Clips selected him #1 overall. But oh wait, he’s over 7 feet so he’ll get paid.
The Leftovers (The Next 30)
Unrestricted: Antonio Davis, Erik Piatkowski, Voshon Lenard, Lindsey Hunter, Jon Barry, David Wesley, Scot Pollard, Devean George, Jumaine Jones, Slava Medvedenko, Rasual Butler, Tony Battie, Jim Jackson, Aaron Williams, Chucky Atkins
Restricted: Justin Reed, Melvin Ely, Bernard Robinson, D.J. Mbenga, Franciso Elson, Raul Lopez
Team Option: Boris Diaw, Kendrick Perkins, Brian Cook, David West
Player Option: Jeff McInnis, DeShawn Stevenson, Jason Hart, Eric Williams
Early Termination: Ruben Patterson