2011/12 NBA Free Agents

Poll: How Many Wins For The Nets This Year?

We witnessed an extremely entertaining summer in the NBA full of teams reloading and, in some cases, completely remodeling.  The Nets may have missed out on Dwight Howard, but they managed to upgrade their roster to the point where it’s hard to imagine that they won’t be highly competitive in 2012/13.  

With all due respect to the duo of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash, General Manager Billy King paired Deron Williams with Joe Johnson to form what may be the best backcourt in the Association.  Gerald Wallace surprised many by opting out of his $9.5MM player option for next season, but the Nets managed to retain him with a four-year, $40MM pact.  Kris Humphries is back to anchor the power forward slot and perhaps the biggest difference maker for the club will be the return of a healthy Brook Lopez at the five.  The formidable starting lineup will be supported by overseas import Mirza Teletovic and MarShon Brooks, who was a badly-needed bright spot for the Nets in his rookie campaign.

It’s probably safe to say that the Nets will top their .333 winning percentage of last season, but how many wins will they notch?

Wilson Chandler’s NBA Return Delayed

According to Yahoo! Sports writer Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter), free-agent forward Wilson Chandler may have to continue to wait before he can sign with a team thanks to the China Basketball Association. The CBA is refusing to provide Chandler with a letter of clearance, which would grant him the ability to play in the NBA. While Chandler will file an appeal with hopes of reaching a resolution within a week, there is a possibility that an agreement may not be reached until mid-March. 

Chandler had reached an agreement with his team, the Zhejiang Lions, to release him from his contract once he helped the squad secure a playoff spot. Unfortunately for the former first-round pick, the CBA has full control over the letter of clearance rather than his team. Currently a restricted free-agent, the fifth-year player out of DePaul is being recruited heavily by the Raptors but is expected to return to the Nuggets.

After arriving in Denver via the Carmelo Anthony trade just over one year ago, Chandler averaged 12.5 PPG and 5.0 RPG during 21 regular season games before struggling during the playoffs.

Assessing This Year’s Free Agent Acquisitions

They lacked the sizzle of the LeBron James-led summer of 2010 group, but the 2011 class of free agents still included some accomplished veterans capable of making an impact. With a week left before the All-Star break, let’s take a look at some of the top free agents to change addresses and evaluate the initial returns for their new teams.

  • Power forward David West signed a two-year, $20MM deal with the Pacers after tearing the ACL in his left knee late last season with the Hornets. The injury allowed Indiana to snap up the two-time All-Star at a relative bargain, considering he’s averaged at least 18 PPG and 7.5 RPG for five years straight. They’ve been judicious in his use, giving him about 30 minutes a night, the least amount of playing time he’s seen since he became a full-time starter in 2005/06. He’s also getting about two fewer shots per 36 minutes, which helps explain his anemic 12.5 PPG this year. He’s making up for it in other areas. His rebounding per 36 minutes (8.2) is as high as it’s been since ‘07/’08, and he’s been more aggressive on defense, coming away with a steal every 36 minutes, as high a rate as he’s ever posted. The most significant endorsement of the signing is seen in the standings, where the Pacers, who sneaked into the playoffs at 37-45 last year, are 18-12 despite losing six of their last eight.
  • When the Knicks signed center Tyson Chandler to a four-year, $55.4MM deal, they envisioned him turning around their defense just as he had done in leading the Mavericks to the 2011 title. New York is giving up just 93.9 points a night after surrendering 105.7 per game last season, but that could be attributed as much to their slowed pace as to Chandler’s presence. Still, he’s averaging a steal per game, which he’s never done, and 1.3 blocks, his most since ‘06/’07. The surprise has been Chandler’s offense. He’s leading the league with a 70.3% field goal percentage, and averaging 11.7 PPG, a tick away from his career high. His greatest contribution may be his health on an otherwise banged-up Knicks team. He has started all 31 games New York has played this season, an auspicious sign for someone whose failed physical scuttled a trade to Oklahoma City three years ago. 
  • The Blazers were looking for offensive punch in the wake of Brandon Roy’s untimely retirement, and so they turned to Jamal Crawford, signing him to a two-year deal worth more than $10MM that includes a player option for next year. Crawford remade himself into an instant-offense bench player in Atlanta the last two seasons after several years spent mostly as a starter on lottery teams in Chicago, New York and Golden State. He won the sixth-man award in 2010, averaging 18.0 PPG, but that average dropped to 14.2 PPG last year. He’s shot more often in fewer minutes in Portland this season, but a paltry 38.6% field goal percentage is keeping him at 14.5 PPG. He’s giving them some minutes at backup point guard, though he’s primarily a shooting guard, and most of his value can be measured in his scoring numbers. His salary is roughly half of what he was making in Atlanta, but unless he can return to his 2010 form, he won’t be able to claim he’s underpaid.
  • The Clippers’ signing of Caron Butler took a backseat to the more ballyhooed trade for Chris Paul and defiant waiver claim of Chauncey Billups, but it’s had a major impact on the sudden rise of L.A.’s “other team.” He’s giving the Clippers a level of production that’s similar to what he was giving Dallas last season before going down with a ruptured patellar tendon in his right knee. That helps justify the three-year, $24MM deal they gave him that approaches what he was making on his last contract. He’s averaging 15.0 PPG and 3.9 rebounds, and kicking in 1.2 steals every night. The major change in his game has been three-point shooting. He’s taking 5.5 three-pointers every night, almost three times his career average. He’s shooting 37.5% on those bombs, trailing the 43.1% rate he made in much fewer attempts last season, but it still gives the Clippers an outside threat that’s even more valuable now that Chauncey Billups is done for the year. Moving him away from the basket has led to his career-low rebounding numbers, but with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Reggie Evans and now Kenyon Martin around, the Clippers shouldn’t hurt for boards.
  • Coming off a season in which he averaged career lows in points, rebounds and assists (14.0/3.8/2.0), Vince Carter’s value was greatly reduced. Due to be paid $18MM this year, the Suns exercised their right to buy him out for $4MM shortly after the lockout ended. Carter wound up latching on with Dallas for the taxpayer mid-level exception at $3MM a year. If you assess him based on the value of his current contract, and not the 25-points-a-game star he was in Toronto and New Jersey, he’s been a worthwhile bargain so far. He’s taken over as the starting two-guard and provided a much needed scoring threat as Dirk Nowitzki has rounded into shape. He’s not asked to carry too much of a load, but since he returned after missing five games with a sprained left foot, he’s scored in double figures in nine of 12 games, including back-to-back 21-point efforts against the Spurs and Suns.

Notable Unsigned Free Agents

Allen Iverson and Gilbert Arenas have 14 NBA All-Star appearances between them, but both players are out of work as this year's All-Star Game approaches. We've heard rumblings lately about the Lakers considering Arenas, and Iverson drawing interest from international teams, but for the moment, they're among the NBA veterans who find themselves unsigned.

NBA teams struggling with injuries or a general lack of production at certain positions will likely eye those unsigned players with some interest in the coming weeks. With 10-day contracts now available, taking a flier on a free agent is an inexpensive way for a team to add depth and experience to its roster.

Earl Boykins, Michael Finley, and Larry Hughes are among the most recognizable backcourt names on the free agent market, while a trio of former Raptors – Jamario Moon, Morris Peterson, and Joey Graham – highlight the available forwards. Meanwhile, former lottery picks who were part of NBA rotations a year ago, such as Al Thornton and Melvin Ely, are out of work, while veterans like Joel Przybilla, James Posey, and Joe Smith also find themselves on the outside looking in.

If a team is seeking youth and energy rather than veteran savvy, it could look at the rosters for the D-League's All-Star Game. A number of players on the squads, including Walker Russell, Greg Smith, Lance Thomas, and Andre Emmett, have recently signed NBA deals, ranging from 10-day contracts to Smith's three-year pact. But many of the D-League's All-Stars, including Gerald Green, Blake Ahearn, JamesOn Curry, and Marqus Blakely, are still out there for NBA clubs in search of new blood.

For a more complete picture of the free agents currently available, check out our list here.

2011/12 Mid-Level Exceptions Update

At this point in the season, the list of available free agents has thinned out considerably, to the point where teams typically aren't signing players for salaries larger than the minimum. However, with J.R. Smith and others potentially arriving back in America in the coming weeks, it's worth a look to see which clubs still have some flexibility. As long as a team is below the luxury tax line, it may still have its $5MM mid-level exception available to sign a player.

We already covered the remaining mid-level exceptions available to taxpaying teams, so let's take a look now at the status of this season's MLEs for non-taxpayers. The amount of these exceptions will be pro-rated starting on Friday.

Available (Full)

  • Magic
  • Nuggets
  • Pistons
  • 76ers

Available (Partial)

  • Bobcats: They have the equivalent of a $2.5MM mini mid-level remaining, having used half of their MLE to sign Reggie Williams to a two-year deal.
  • Grizzlies: They used $2MM to sign Dante Cunningham and another $550K on Josh Selby, leaving them with $2.45MM. The Grizzlies are hovering right around the tax line after waiving Josh Davis today, so I doubt they'll be adding any more salary.
  • Hawks: While they haven't spent any of their $5MM, using their full MLE would take them more than $4MM above the tax line, which isn't permitted. I don't expect them to increase their payroll either though.
  • Hornets: They have about $3.43MM remaining on their MLE after signing Gustavo Ayon to a three-year deal. As a league-owned franchise though, the Hornets aren't likely to use the rest of it.
  • Jazz: After signing Earl Watson to a two-year deal starting at $2MM and inking Josh Howard for one year at $2.15MM, they have just $850K remaining on their MLE — not enough for a signing of any impact.
  • Thunder: Curiously, they used $475K of their mid-level to sign Ryan Reid to a salary slightly above the minimum — perhaps so they could add an extra year to his deal. Still, the Thunder have most of their MLE left if they want to use it.


Note: Teams who used room below the cap to sign players forfeited their full mid-level exception, but may still have leftover cap room or their $2.5MM mini mid-level available. Explanations of salary cap exceptions can be found in our glossary.

Amnesty Clause Victims: Where Are They Now?

Prior to the start of the 2011/2012 NBA season, the league ratified a new CBA under which teams could rid themselves of a bad player contract. The amnesty clause allows for teams to waive one player's contract and not have it count against the cap nor pay any luxury tax on that salary. According to the CBA, the amnesty clause may be used one time on a player signed prior to the 2011/2012 season. Teams were not forced to use the clause before the start of the current season as the proverbial "get out of jail free" card remains in play through the 2015/2016 campaign.

Let's check in and see where the players who were amnestied back in December are now:

  • Baron Davis: The former UCLA star was amnestied by the Cavaliers, acquired by the Knicks and has not played yet this season due to injury.
  • Chauncey Billups: After being sent to New York in the Carmelo Anthony trade, Billups was later amnestied by the Knicks, acquired by the Clippers and is currently averaging 14.8 PPG and 4.1 APG.
  • Charlie Bell: Bell is currently playing in the Lega Basket Serie A with the Pepsi Caserta after being amnestied by the Warriors.
  • James Posey: The former Heat small forward was amnestied by the Pacers and is currently a free agent.
  • Gilbert Arenas: Hibachi was amnestied by the Magic and will be hosting an open workout in Los Angeles later this week with hopes of securing an NBA contract.
  • Travis Outlaw: The former Starkville High School graduate was amnestied by the Nets, later acquired by the Kings where he is averaging 3.1 PPG and 1.5 RPG in limited minutes.
  • Brandon Roy: With injuries making his contract an untenable situation for the Trail Blazers, Portland amnestied Roy, leading to his retirement.

Condensed NBA Schedule Hurts, Leads to Free Agent Signings

The shortened 2011/12 NBA season makes for more games for fans to watch each night, but it's doing a number on the league's players. AP Sports writer Jon Krawczynski examines the effect of the condensed schedule on NBA players.

Pointing to numbers from STATS LLC, Krawczynski notes that 727 games were missed during the first 307 games of the regular season due to injuries and illness. While this is 111 fewer games missed than at the same point last season, the types of injuries observed this season (pulled muscles, turned ankles and bum toes) reveal the stress placed on players' bodies.

"What's kind of stunk about this preseason was that it was so short," said Timberwolves forward Anthony Tolliver. "Our bodies didn't get acclimated to playing this many games in this many nights. … You'll probably see more injuries, on average, this year, than other years because of that fact."

These injuries have had various consequences, including the signing of free agents as stopgaps. Take Mike James, for example. Derrick Rose's sprained left toe caused him to miss five games in January. His first DNP happened on January 11th, when his backup C.J. Watson was still healing from an injured elbow. This left John Lucas as the sole point guard for the Bulls that evening, compelling the team to sign the veteran point guard James, who was released 17 days later.

A more recent example would be Keith Bogans, the 31-year-old guard signed by the Nets to add some depth while MarShon Brooks recovers from his broken toe and Anthony Morrow deals with a bad ankle. Francisco Elson is yet another example. The 35-year-old center was signed by the Sixers last week to give the team added depth in the middle while Spencer Hawes and Nikola Vucevic recover from injuries.

The cascade of injuries hasn't affected just player signings — they've influenced the way coaches approach practice. According to Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins has cut out full-contact practices during morning shootarounds before games, something he favored before this 66-game schedule.

"You don't want to do too much," he said. "We just try to watch film and do a lot of talking."

Ray Richardson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press notes that Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has adjusted his team's practice schedule, canceling some shootaround practices on game days to give his players more rest.

With the 2011/12 NBA season about a one-third finished, we can expect to see more unexpected signings to plug the holes in rosters riddled by injuries.

2011/12 NBA Free Agents

The 2011/12 regular season is in the books, and free agents who were still unsigned when the season ended will now try to land a contract this summer. A number of players from our 2011/12 free agent list have been out of the league for a year or two now, and seem increasingly unlikely to return to the NBA. But the players who still have a decent chance at signing new contracts have been moved to our 2012/13 free agent lists. You can find those lists at the links below: