A year ago, Omer Asik was coming off two seasons in Chicago in which he averaged 2.9 PPG, 4.4 RPG, a .529 FG%, and a 12.6 PER in 13.2 minutes per game. Despite the pedesterian numbers, Asik was considered a big man with upside, and earned a three-year, $25MM contract from the Rockets. He lived up to that $8.3MM annual salary in his first season in Houston, starting all 82 games and averaging a double-double.
Timofey Mozgov isn't exactly the same type of player as Asik, but there are certainly plenty of similarities between the two bigs. Mozgov was considered a crucial piece in the blockbuster trade that sent Carmelo Anthony to New York two seasons ago, but with JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos ahead of him in the Nuggets' rotation, Mozgov hasn't seen a whole lot of playing time over the last two years. Since the start of the 2011/12 season, Mozgov's averages look similar to Asik's in Chicago: 4.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, a .520 FG%, and a 12.9 PER in 12.3 MPG.
Like Asik a year ago, Mozgov will be eligible for restricted free agency this summer. While it was a no-brainer for the Bulls to extend a qualifying offer to Asik to ensure they could match rival offers (even though the team ultimately decided not to match Houston's offer), that's not necessarily the case for the Nuggets and Mozgov. At least one report has suggested Mozgov will receive a qualifying offer from Denver, but that was met with some skepticism from at least one reporter, and it's not hard to see why.
Assuming Andre Iguodala opts out of his 2013/14 contract in search of a long-term deal, the Nuggets will still have approximately $52MM in guaranteed money on their books before attempting to negotiate new contracts for Iguodala and Corey Brewer. If the team hopes to bring back both players, or even just Iguodala, it's unclear if Mozgov's $3.93MM qualifying offer will be an affordable expense for a team that figures to steer clear of the luxury tax.
Still, the Nuggets have shown they're willing to pay big bucks to a player who essentially amounts to a backup center (McGee). Perhaps the risk of Mogov accepting that $3.93MM qualifying offer will be outweighed by the desire to keep a valuable asset under team control. After all, based on the amount of interest reported in Mozgov at the trade deadline, it seems there will be plenty of suitors for the big man, both this summer and perhaps in a trade at next year's deadline.
The list of potential suitors for Mozgov figures to include his old team, as the Knicks' interest was reported both before and after the trade deadline. The Timberwolves also reportedly made a play for Mozgov, with the Bobcats and Heat making inquiries as well. Not all of those clubs will be able to make big offers for the Russian this summer -- New York and Miami, for instance, will both be taxpayers, meaning the mini mid-level exception (up to three years and $9.98MM) will be the most they can offer, and that's assuming they make Mozgov their top free agent priority, which may be unlikely.
For a team like the Bobcats though, pursuing a player such as Mozgov would make a lot of sense. Charlotte has plenty of cap space at its disposal, but is unlikely to be in the mix for any premier free agents, based on the team's record and history. So why not make a play for a young big man with upside like Mozgov? The bidding for the Nuggets center probably won't reach Asik territory, meaning an offer like the one the Hornets gave Robin Lopez last season (three years, $15.36MM) might be enough to get something done, and avoid the Nuggets matching. In that scenario, Mozgov would get some long-term security and a nice payday, while the Bobcats (or a similar lottery-bound team with cap room) would get the chance to roll the dice on a player who could thrive with more playing time. And at that price, the contract wouldn't become too toxic an asset even if Mozgov struggled.
It's hard to get a strong read on Mozgov's free agent value, given how little we've seen of him on the court in the NBA. I don't expect him to be quite the prize that Asik was last year, but if Mozgov receives an offer that seems disproportionate to his career production, we shouldn't be surprised. The 26-year-old didn't get a real chance to shine in Denver, but a player with his combination of size and promise won't go unnoticed on the open market.
Typically, when we examine a free agent's value, as we have for a number of players in our Free Agent Stock Watch series so far, we'll make an educated guess about his next contract based on his performance heading into free agency. So when a player hasn't actually seen NBA action in nearly three and a half years, evaluating his recent on-court production becomes a little trickier.
That's the case for Greg Oden, 2007's first overall pick, who hasn't appeared in an NBA game since December 2009. A layoff that extensive generally means we won't ever be seeing the player in an NBA uniform again, particularly when his absence from the Association is due to injuries rather than, for instance, playing overseas. But Oden is still only 25 years old, and has his sights set on a return to the NBA for the 2013/14 season.
Given Oden's history of knee problems, his health has to be the first factor taken into account when we consider whether he'll even land a contract this summer. Having undergone multiple microfracture surgeries on his knees, Oden is still working his way back into playing shape. If he can't get healthy, an NBA comeback will be impossible, but for our purposes, let's assume (and hope) his rehab continues to progress well, without any setbacks.
Despite being out of the league for years, a healthy Oden would still likely draw plenty of interest around the league. Even this season, as rumors swirled that Oden was considering signing immediately in order to rehab with NBA team doctors, we heard plenty of clubs linked to the 25-year-old. The Heat, Cavaliers, Spurs, Bobcats, Mavericks, and Celtics were among the teams rumored to be kicking the tires.
That amount of interest seems to suggest that Oden wouldn't necessarily have to settle for a minimum-salary contract if he's healthy. In fact, his decision to wait until the summer rather than signing a multiyear deal this past season suggests to me that he and agent Mike Conley Sr. will be seeking more than the minimum. During the season, many of Oden's preferred suitors, such as the Heat, were only able to offer a minimum contract, whereas those teams should have more cap exceptions available in the offseason. Miami, for instance, will have the taxpayer mid-level exception at its disposal.
Perhaps paying someone with Oden's injury history more than the minimum salary seems like an unnecessary risk, but as we've seen before, former No. 1 picks continue to make out well on the open market even after it seems like they're destined to be busts. Kwame Brown, for example, has never been more than a passable backup, but after the lockout he received a $6.7MM salary from the Warriors. After missing most of the 2011/12 season, he still managed to land a multiyear deal worth about $2.9MM annually from the Sixers.
Brown has been healthier than Oden, to be sure, but he no longer has the ex-Blazer's upside. Oden has played in a full season's worth of games in his NBA career, recording 9.4 PPG, 7.3 RPG, a .577 FG%, and a 19.5 PER in 82 contests (22.1 MPG). It's probably unlikely that he'd match that production after such a lengthy layoff, even if he were injury-free. But it's not hard to imagine at least one NBA team talking itself into rolling the dice on the Ohio State product, perhaps as a cheaper alternative to another risky free agent big man like Andrew Bynum.
As Oden and his agent search for a new deal this summer, there will be plenty of uncertainty and apprehenesion surrounding the former top pick. If he's healthy though, I could see Oden landing a deal similar to the one Brown got last summer -- a two-year contract worth between $2-3MM annually with a second-year option. That would make Oden a nice value if he could provide even 10-15 good minutes per game, and wouldn't be a disaster for the team if he couldn't stay on the court.
It would be a great story for basketball if Oden makes it back to NBA relevance in '13/14, so I'll be rooting for him as he continues his rehab and searches for a contract this summer.
Matt Barnes saved his best for last on Friday, putting up a season-high 30 points and matching a season high in rebounds with 10. It wasn't enough for the Clippers, though, as they fell to the Grizzlies and were eliminated in the first round after a 56-win regular season. That sort of disappointing finish to the season could portend changes in Clipperland, even for players who exceeded expectations, like Barnes.
The gangly 6'7" forward spent last season "stuck in a bad situation," as he put it, under coach Mike Brown with the Lakers. That, coupled with legal trouble, left him unsigned into September. He was such a forgotten commodity that Chris Paul believed Barnes was still under contract with the Lakers when the two met up late last summer. When Barnes told Paul he was a free agent, CP3 sold the Clippers on the idea of signing him. Barnes was apprehensive, knowing the team was well-stocked with small forwards, but he relented and joined the Clippers for the minimum salary, which was all the team could give him after using all of its other cap exceptions.
The afterthought of a signing couldn't have worked out much better for Barnes or the Clippers. Barnes gave the team toughness and energy off the bench as part of perhaps the best second unit in the league. He often replaced starter Caron Butler as the team's small forward down the stretch, and saw plenty of time at power forward when the team went small. Barnes often shared the floor with the defensively challenged Jamal Crawford, prompting coach Vinny Del Negro to use Barnes on the other team's shooting guard if necessary.
He chipped in offensively as well, and not just with his 30-point outburst in the team's final game. Barnes scored 10.3 PPG this season, the best scoring average in his 10-year career. His shooting from the floor (.462) and three-point range (.342) exceeded his career marks. The only other season in which he scored more points per 36 minutes was 2006/07, his breakout campaign with the Warriors. Barnes tied his career high in PER this season, hitting the same 15.5 figure he posted last season in that "bad situation" with the Lakers.
His efficiency won't go overlooked this summer. Paul certainly won't be any less enamored with his play than he was last fall, and assuming CP3 sticks around, he'll likely continue to exert influence on the front office. Vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks, who's charged with calling the shots for the team's player personnel, will find it difficult to maintain the team's hallmark depth for next season. A max deal for Paul would put them over the cap, with Lamar Odom, Chauncey Billups, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf all hitting unrestricted free agency. The Clippers probably won't want them all back, but their replacement options are limited. They won't have their bi-annual exception, since they used it to sign Grant Hill last summer, so Sacks and company will have to make do with their mid-level exception, worth a starting salary of $5.15MM, to add free agents. Hill, too, could be gone if he elects to retire, as seems likely.
That would seem to make re-signing Barnes a priority, though it will be tricky. The team only has Non-Bird rights on him, meaning they can do no better than 120% of his minimum salary. That probably won't cut it, so the Clippers will probably have to dip into their mid-level to make it happen. At 33, Barnes won't merit a long-term deal, but he and agent Aaron Goodwin could be looking to maximize his salary for next season, since the former second-round pick has never made more than $3MM in any year, according to Basketball-Reference.
Other contenders probably envy what Barnes brought to the Clippers this season, and teams like the Knicks, Nets and even the L.A. rival Lakers, with Mike D'Antoni having replaced Brown, could all target Barnes with the taxpayer's mid-level exception of $3.183MM. That's just my speculation, of course, but Barnes could be tempted to leave the Clippers if another team dangles what would be the highest salary of his career. Matching such an offer would leave the Clips with just about $2MM with which to make upgrades, barring trades. The decision could come down to whether Sacks believes Barnes plus $2MM worth of talent would be better than someone they could sign for the full mid-level. Considering the return the Clippers got with Crawford using the full mid-level last season, they may be reluctant to split it up, signaling yet another change of address for Barnes.
Twice it's seemed Earl Clark was on a fast track out of the NBA. The Suns, who made him the last pick of the lottery in 2009, declined their third-year option on his rookie contract, a maneuver usually reserved only for the most egregious of draft busts. A midseason trade to the Magic in 2010 opened up more playing time, and in the summer of 2011, Orlando saw fit to give Clark a two-year, $2.4MM contract. His scoring output in 2011/12 went back down to the same 2.7 points per game that prompted the Suns to turn down the option on his rookie contract, and he appeared to be little more than salary ballast accompanying Dwight Howard in the trade that sent both from the Magic to the Lakers.
When Howard and Pau Gasol were both injured earlier this season, that opened up playing time for Clark, who responded with an average of 11.6 points and 9.2 rebounds over a 22-game stretch in January in February. His playing time and shooting percentages took a nosedive for the rest of the season as the Lakers' star big men returned to health, and Clark put up just 6.1 PPG and 4.3 RPG over the final 27 regular season games. He totaled just 14 points and 11 rebounds in 82 minutes over L.A.'s four-game playoff ouster, leaving suitors for the unrestricted free agent to wonder whether his midseason emergence was simply a mirage.
What's indisputable is the 6'10" Clark's renewed willingness to shoot three-pointers. He took just 15 shots from behind the arc over his first three NBA seasons, making two of them, but this year he averaged 1.8 attempts per game, the same number of long-distance attempts he averaged during his college career. While at Louisville, launching from the shorter college distance, he made just 29.8% of his treys, but this season he nailed 33.7% of them, capably filling the role of the stretch power forward in coach Mike D'Antoni's offense. He was particularly fond of the right corner, as his Basketball-Reference.com shot chart shows, and shot 37.8% on all of his three-point attempts during his hot stretch in the middle of the season.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak told Clark during their exit interview this week that he'll have plenty of teams lining up to sign him in the offseason, but the 25-year-old has expressed a desire to remain with the Lakers, even if it means coming back at a discount. Still, Clark changed agents this spring, jumping from Happy Walters and Relativity Sports to Kevin Bradbury of BDA Sports. The Lakers have full Bird rights on Clark, but HoopsWorld's Steve Kyler predicts a one-year deal without much of a raise if he elects to return to L.A., given the team's luxury tax constraints. I'd be surprised if Clark bothered to change agents if he's simply seeking whatever the Lakers can give him. I also doubt that all of those suitors that Kupchak told Clark about are willing to pay him too much more than the Lakers are, especially if Clark's seeking a long-term deal.
Clubs that will take a look at Clark this summer will note his versatility on defense, where he guarded both wing and post players this season. He was often involved in cross-matches with Metta World Peace in which Clark guarded the other team's small forward while the older World Peace took the power forward. The net effect of the Lakers' defense wasn't pretty this season, as the team was 22nd in points allowed, so it's hard to give Clark too much credit, even though his defensive rating of 105 was tied with Jordan Hill for second-best on the team among players who saw significant minutes.
Clark seems well-suited to the Bi-Annual Exception amount of about $2MM a year, and if a team used that exception to sign him, it could offer a two-year deal. That would be long enough to give Clark some stable footing in the league, but allow the team a relatively early out if the former lottery pick can't duplicate his midseason success from this year.
Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick will no doubt garner the most attention when the Bucks make their offseason plans, but once their futures are decided, Milwaukee may have to fend off other teams for another of their free agents. HoopsWorld's Steve Kyler touched on Mike Dunleavy this week, writing that the Bucks might see Dunleavy as a fallback option in case the team doesn't retain as many of its top three guards as it would like. The 32-year-old has never lived up to his promise as the third overall pick in the 2002 draft, but he's found a niche as a long-range shooter with plenty of size.
Dunleavy set a career mark with 42.8% three-point shooting this season, helping make up for the mediocrity of his teammates. Despite the presence of Ersan Ilyasova, who led the team by making 44.4% of his treys, and Redick for half a season, Milwaukee ranked just 13th in both three-point percentage and three-pointers made. Dunleavy could be particularly useful for the Bucks if they retain Jennings and Ellis but not Redick, since he'd help keep teams from packing the lane. The Bucks tried the Jennings-Ellis-Dunleavy combination fairly frequently, putting it on the floor for 10.4 minutes per night over 67 games. The Bucks were +0.8 in point differential with those three on the floor, compared to their season plus/minus of -1.5. The Bucks also improved from three-point range with that combination on the floor, shooting 37.3% compared to 36.0% for the season as a whole.
Dunleavy isn't the defender that Luc Mbah a Moute is, so I don't think the Bucks would be anxious to start Dunleavy at small forward, particularly alongside Ellis. Dunleavy has never been a full-time starter for a playoff team, and that probably isn't about to change now. Still, Milwaukee could run out the 6'9" Dunleavy as a backup two-guard and pair him with Mbah a Moute at times, giving the team plenty of length.
As I detailed earlier this evening, many of the best mid-level exception signings this year involved three-point shooters who came off the bench. The Bucks used cap space to ink Dunleavy to a two-year, $7.5MM deal in 2011, but that sort of contract would fit for a team that wanted to use part of its non-taxpayer's mid-level. The Duke product is probably in line for another such deal, though a slight paycut could be in order given his age. Accepting that might put several contending teams in play for him, since the taxpayer's mid-level includes a starting salary of $3.183MM for next season, only about $600K less than Dunleavy is making this season. The Heat, Thunder, Knicks and Spurs, the teams that grabbed the top two playoff seeds in each conference, all finished among the top five teams in three-point percentage this year, so Dunleavy might fit right in with a club that has title hopes.
Dunleavy's father, Mike Dunleavy Sr., wants to coach again, and is interested in joining a team with the financial wherewithal to make a title run. If he winds up with a coaching job, Dunleavy Jr. would probably be hard-pressed not to follow him, especially if he's with a playoff team. That could throw a wrench in the Bucks' plans to re-sign him, and Milwaukee could conceivably strike out with all four of their wing players this summer. That seems unlikely, though, and depends on several hypotheticals. And just because Dunleavy Sr. says he wants to coach, it doesn't mean he's headed for a sideline anytime soon. A reasonable expectation is for the Bucks to sign one or two out of Jennings, Ellis and Redick, and that sets them up to bring Dunleavy Jr. back, perhaps on another two-year deal. If they want to fend off the title contenders, I think keeping him on at his current salary would get the job done.
Among those who have helped keep the Knicks afloat during their bout with injuries this season was J.R. Smith, the only player on the team's roster to have played in 80 games this year. The 27-year-old New Jersey native arguably became the team's most important offensive weapon when Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire were inactive. With recent rumblings that Smith is likely to opt out at season's end, the winner of the NBA's 2012-13 Sixth Man of the Year award will undoubtedly enter the summer an entirely different commodity than he did nearly one year ago.
The Knicks saw significant roster changes during the 2012 offseason, including the departure of starting shooting guard Landry Fields. Though Smith entered training camp with his eyes on an opportunity to earn a starting position (ESPN NY), head coach Mike Woodson ultimately decided it was best to bring him off the bench, a role which the enigmatic shooting guard accepted and consistently thrived in. Other than the Clippers, the Knicks were the only other team in the NBA to feature a two-guard reserve as their second leading scorer, with Smith averaging a career-high 18.1 PPG. The 6'6 guard had also been an important contributor in other areas, averaging 5.3 RPG (also a career high) and 1.3 steals per game.
Interestingly enough, Smith made around $2.8MM this season, which was less than the annual contracts of Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Marcus Camby, and Steve Novak (in addition to Anthony, Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler). With a player option of $2.9MM next year, it was no surprise to hear talk that Smith plans to become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Despite Smith's recent statement that he'd love to retire as a Knick, the possible financial overtures from other teams during the upcoming offseason may be too lucrative to pass up at this point in his career.
We've already mentioned New York's Early Bird rights on Smith, which would allow them to offer at least a two-year contract starting at 104.5% of this year's average salary. With that being said, there are more than a handful of teams from both conferences expected to have significant cap room this summer. Though June's draft could considerably play a role in determining team needs heading into free agency, a franchise like the Suns - who struck out last summer in their pursuit of Eric Gordon - could jump at the opportunity to land a scorer like Smith.
For his position and role as a scorer compared to several other prominent scoring wings in the league, an offer starting at around $5MM from the Knicks would be easy for teams with ample cap room to outbid. Looking at J.R's season averages more closely (18.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 2.7 APG in 33.3 MPG) and comparing that to Rudy Gay (16.1/6.1/2.7/35.8) and Joe Johnson (16.5/3.5/3.0/36.7), Smith has certainly made a case to earn the biggest contract of his career, considering the latter two are currently signed to max-contracts. While I'm not advocating that Smith receive a max-deal, his next contract should indubitably be more than what he has been earning over the last two seasons.
In March, Smith averaged 22.1 PPG and 6.0 free throw attempts per game while shooting 44.2% from the field and 34.5% from long distance. In April, he averaged 22.0 PPG, 4.5 FTA, and shot 48.3% overall along with 40.0% from deep. Smith's production over the final two months of the season was very impressive, considering New York's 13-game winning streak and 16-2 finish over the remaining 18 games to help clinch the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The notable increase in his presence as a scoring threat can be majorly attributed to his focus on attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line in addition to a more disciplined shot selection (as Tommy Beer of HoopsWorld chronicled last month).
Though we've yet to see how he'll continue to perform for the rest of the postseason, Smith can market himself as having played the best regular season of his career. Set to turn 28 in September, the New Jersey native is settled into his NBA prime and has shown the ability to be an important and efficient contributor on a 50-plus win team. While I wouldn't necessarily label him among the summer's big fishes in free agency, he's definitely a significant one whether he remains in New York or decides to change addresses.
The last time Mo Williams signed an NBA contract, he had the look of a rising star amid a second-round success story for the ages. He parlayed an all-around performance of 17.3 points, 6.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds a game into a $51.263MM contract that stretched out over six years, a length that wouldn't be allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement. Just one season into the arrangement, Milwaukee traded him to the Cavs, who thought he could be a much-needed second scoring option next to LeBron James. Williams never really became that kind of player in Cleveland, and two more trades later, his value on the open market isn't what it used to be.
His replacements struggled when Williams missed two and a half months with a severely sprained right thumb this season, but the Jazz had a better record when he was out (21-15) than when he played (22-24). The 30-year-old averaged 12.9 PPG this year, his fewest since 2005/06, and he did so on an amount of shot attempts that's held steady the past four seasons. His assists were up over last season, when he primarily played shooting guard next to Chris Paul with the Clippers, but his turnovers jumped as well, and he finished with an assists-to-turnover ratio of 2.28.
Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey praised Williams' performance prior to the injury this season, and indicated the team was open to bringing him back as the team's point guard. When Williams returned, his assists went down by one a game and his shooting percentage dropped from .441 to .418. More importantly, the Jazz failed to make the playoffs, and that may weigh most heavily on Lindsey's mind.
Lindsey and executive vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor are notoriously tight-lipped, so it's hard to say what their opinion of Williams is now. The Jazz only have seven players under contract for next season, meaning the front office has plenty to consider. Negotiating with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap or their replacements is likely the team's first priority, so what happens in the early days of free agency could have a significant effect on Williams' next contract.
The Alabama product's declining play figures to bring about a commensurate decline in salary. The question is how much less Williams will have to take after making $8.5MM this season. He's helped by a class of free agent point guards that's fairly weak after Paul, who's likely to re-sign with the Clippers, and restricted free agents Brandon Jennings and Jeff Teague. Teams will likely be choosing between Williams, Jose Calderon and Jarrett Jack. Calderon will probably be the top pick among them, particularly for teams looking for pure, pass-first point guards. Our Luke Adams estimated that Calderon could command three years and more than $20MM on his next deal.
Jack and Williams wound up with precisely the same scoring average this season, though Jack probably played a greater role in his team's offense down the stretch. A team could give Jack an inflated offer to try to scare off the financially inflexible Warriors, and that may mean a similar offer for Williams.
It's more likely Williams winds up with the full mid-level exception, which would be a four-year deal with a starting salary of $5.15MM. Taking the mid-level would allow Williams to sign with teams that are over the cap. He's been with plenty of winning squads of late, but Williams has only once been as far as the conference finals, so winning may be a priority. Williams will be even more likely to sign with a contender if he and agent Mark Bartelstein let teams know he's open to coming off the bench, as he did last season with the Clippers.
For some four-year veterans poised to hit the free agent market this summer, such as Brandon Jennings or Tyreke Evans, it will be their first opporunity to go through the process. That's not the case for four-year players across the board though. For Alan Anderson, who debuted back in 2005 with the Bobcats and is currently finishing up the fourth season of his NBA career, free agency is all too familiar.
"I've been playing on one-year [contracts] since Charlotte," Anderson told Hoops Rumors on Saturday. "One year, one year, one year. I've been a free agent every year."
Anderson's playing career has included stops in Italy, Russia, Israel, and Spain, but he received his first chance at consistent, full-season NBA minutes this season in Toronto, after the Raptors signed him to a one-year, minimum-salary deal last summer. The 30-year-old has taken advantage of the opportunity by having his best year yet, averaging 10.7 PPG and a 12.5 PER, both career-highs, in 63 contests with the Raps.
Coming off his most successful season to date, Anderson will be revisiting that familiar free agent process this July, but he should find he has a little more leverage than usual this time around. His production may not necessarily earn him a multiyear contract, or a salary worth a whole lot more than the minimum, but there should be no shortage of teams looking for scorers off the bench. Anderson has exhibited the ability to score baskets in bunches, as he did last month when he scored 35 against the Knicks, and can shoot the three (.352 career 3PT%), which should ensure he draws interest.
With the Raptors focusing on finishing the regular season on a winning streak, Anderson told Hoops Rumors than he hasn't started thinking too much about his pending free agency. However, when he does begin weighing his options, Anderson will be looking for a situation where playing time will be available.
"Whoever has a need for me," Anderson said. "I want to go somewhere and play. I don't want to sit on the bench."
The Raptors could be facing something of a salary-cap crunch this offseason, with about $73MM in commitments on their books for 2013/14. They have the amnesty clause available, and it's widely expected that they'll try to move Andrea Bargnani to cut costs, but the team could still end up in the tax. Of course, that shouldn't necessarily preclude the Raptors from bringing back Anderson -- the club will have to fill out its roster somehow. It may limit the team's ability to offer Anderson much of a raise, however.
Assuming the Raptors have the interest and the flexibility to bring Anderson back, returning to Toronto would be the veteran forward's preference, after spending the last season and a half with the franchise.
"They're the ones that gave me my second chance back in the NBA," Anderson said of the Raptors, who signed him to a 10-day contract in 2011/12 after he'd been out of the league since '06/07. "So yeah, I would definitely want to come back."
Whether or not Anderson will be wearing a Raptors uniform next season remains to be seen, but Anderson and agent Mark Bartelstein should be looking forward to this summer. After spending years looking for NBA teams to give him a chance, Anderson may very well receive interest from multiple suitors this July.
Monta Ellis appears likely to exercise his early-termination option and get out of his $11MM contract with the Bucks for next season, and the GMs who spoke to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times agree he's in line for a paycut. Ellis is the NBA's 11th leading scorer this year at 19.2 points per game and is headed for his third straight finish among the top five in steals per game, but those figures belie his inefficiency and inattentiveness in defense.
The former second-round pick of the Warriors has seen his field goal, three-point and free throw shooting percentages decline in each of the past two seasons. This year, his shooting line is .413/.279/.772, and part of the reason his scoring output is so high is because he's taken the fifth most field goal attempts in the league. He's jacking up 3.9 three-pointers a game this season, far too many for someone who makes less than 30% of them. Observers, including Rob Mahoney of SI.com, have pegged him as a defensive liability during his career in part for his habit of watching the ball when he should be looking at his man. Ellis' defensive win shares leaped to 3.3 this season, a drastic improvement on his previous career high of 1.9, though it's hard to accurately convey defense through statistics.
Woelfel hears Ellis would be "quite receptive" to joining the Grizzlies, though he points to their likely shortage of cap space as reason to doubt that Ellis winds up in Memphis. The Journal Times scribe mentions the Hawks, Suns, Mavs and Timberwolves as teams that figure to be in the market for two-guards in the offseason, noting the connection between Atlanta and Ellis at the trade deadline this year. The Hawks made Ellis their primary target in a proposed Josh Smith trade with the Bucks. I don't think Ellis will be that high on Atlanta GM Danny Ferry's list come the summer, since the Hawks will no doubt go after Dwight Howard and other maximum-salary level talents first.
Ferry and company may view him as a complementary piece and pursue Ellis after they sign another player for the max, a stance that other teams with cap room, like the Suns and Mavs, could take as well. The Mavs and Ellis' teammate Brandon Jennings reportedly have mutual interest, so if Jennings signs in Dallas and the Bucks fail to match, that would probably take the Mavs off the table for Ellis, unless the team is eager to duplicate a backcourt that's proven only mediocre in Milwaukee.
The Timberwolves could have plenty of cap space, too, if Andrei Kirilenko declines his $10.219MM player option and the team allows restricted free agent Nikola Pekovic to depart. If Kirilenko opts in and the team is confident Nikola Pekovic won't see an offer close to the max, the team would have room sign Ellis to fill its longstanding hole at shooting guard with a starting salary in the neighborhood of $10MM. That would be less than Ellis would make next year on his option, but a contract for three or four years could give the 27-year-old much more guaranteed cash in the long run.
Players are often attracted to the offer with the most guaranteed money, with plenty of reason given the fragility of an NBA career. Still, there's no indication that Ellis' value will significantly decline in the next 12 months, so he could probably collect his $11MM option, hit the market in 2014, and see the same offers he'd get this summer. The news that he's likely to turn down the option would seem to indicate Ellis and agent Jeffrey Fried think he can get more than $11MM for next season, though that's just my speculation. If any team makes that kind of offer, it would probably be a club with trouble attracting marquee talent but intent on making a splash with its cap space — perhaps the Suns, Bobcats or Pistons.
Ellis could improve his stock with a few memorable moments against the Heat in the first round of the playoffs. No one expects the Bucks to win, but if his contributions help the Bucks steal a game or two, it could increase his chances of a raise. Either way, I still think a long-term deal with a starting salary of around $10MM is his best bet, especially if he aspires to play for a contending team anytime soon.
The Grizzlies haven't missed a beat following their trade of Rudy Gay, going 24-9 since adding Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, and Austin Daye to the active roster in Gay's place. Zach Randolph and other Grizzlies have even come around on management's stance that Memphis may be a better team without Gay, as Randolph told Sam Amick of USA Today last month.
However, while the Grizzlies have survived the loss of Gay, there's another player on the perimeter in Memphis who is even more essential to the team's success: Tony Allen. One of the league's best defenders, Allen is a key piece on a Grizzlies club that hopes to make a deep run in the 2013 playoffs. But after Memphis' season ends, either with a postseason defeat or a title, Allen will become an unrestricted free agent, giving him the opportunity to sign anywhere.
As Chris Mannix of SI.com wrote in March, Allen has been a perfect fit in Memphis, where the defense-first Grizzlies get a good chunk of their scoring from big men Randolph and Marc Gasol, meaning they don't need much offense from Allen. Like Andre Iguodala in Denver, Allen has a role in Memphis that plays to his strengths, something that wouldn't necessarily happen if he were to sign with another team. Still, at least one Eastern Conference executive told Mannix that he thinks the 6'4" guard would be a good fit just about anywhere.
"I like him a lot," the exec said. "He adds instant toughness and a defensive mentality to your team. He's a leader on the floor and he isn't going to back down from anyone. I think everyone in the league would love to have him."
Not only would every team in the NBA likely have some interest in a player like Allen, who has the ability to shut down the league's premier perimeter players, but his price tag may be affordable enough that just about every club could have a real shot. The Oklahoma State product is playing in the final year of a three-year contract that paid him just over $3.1MM annually, and one Eastern Conference general manager predicted to Mannix that Allen could sign a similar deal this time, perhaps with a slight raise -- "three years at $4MM per year sounds right," said the GM.
At age 31, Allen seems to be hitting the market at an ideal time. His last three seasons in Memphis have been the best three-year stretch of his career, as he's seen his playing time steadly increase (from 18.4 career MPG prior to joining the Grizzlies to 27.1 MPG this season). His defensive prowess has also become more widely recognized, culminating with a spot on the NBA's All-Defensive First Team in 2012. Based on his production and his reputation, I could see the bidding going even higher than $4MM per year on Allen. He seems to me like the kind of player to whom a contending team would be willing to commit its full mid-level exception.
While that sort of salary would still put him within most teams' price range, it may make it tricky for the Grizzlies to bring him back. Even after clearing Gay's and Marreese Speights' projected salaries for 2013/14 from their books, the Grizz have over $60MM committed to next year's roster. The team could still re-sign Allen for a fair market price and avoid going into tax territory, but barring any further cost-cutting roster moves, it wouldn't leave much wiggle room for other upgrades.
Still, based on Allen's comments and his attitude since arriving in Memphis in 2010, I get the impression that the veteran would be reluctant to leave, particularly if the difference in money elsewhere wasn't significant. As such, I expect Allen and the Grizzlies to work something out this July, perhaps for a slightly lesser salary than the 31-year-old would receive from a rival suitor. A multiyear deal would provide some long-term security for Allen, while the Grizzlies would avoid having to try to replace Allen's production as effectively as they replaced Gay's.