NBA Free Agency post “The Decision”

A not so long time ago, in an NBA galaxy close to home…

FREE AGENCY

Since the coup d’état and emergence of the Miami Thrice there have been a remarkable amount of moves, signings, and trades by teams. So many moves have occurred in fact that it is almost dizzying. Sure, the major names that have filled the 2010 Free Agency marquee banner for two years were quickly off the table but there are certainly a number of key players that are out there that will make a great addition to any franchise looking to improve. We, hear at the Beef have taken it upon ourselves to help keep you as up to date as possible with free agency. It is likely that within hours of this posting many more signings and trades will have occurred (the number of times this piece had to be updated while being written over a two day span is proof positive of that), making this piece slightly dated but, as always, keep apprised of all the movers and shakers in free agency with up to the minute information, or at least as soon as we are able to report it, by following the Kobe Beef on Twitter.

Miami Heat

When Miami attempted to buy itself a soul by acquiring both LeBron James and Chris Bosh they had just two players under contract with the team for the coming season. Those players were Mario Chalmers and Michael Beasley. Since that time, the Heat have dealt Beasley, in what equates to a salary dump, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for two second round draft picks in 2011 and 2014. Ouch, he was the second overall pick in 2008. Relieving themselves of Beasley’s services allowed the Heat to free up enough to award the Miami Thrice (will this catch on?) close to maximum contracts. Both James and Bosh will receive six-year, $110 million contracts while Wade receives $107.5 million over the same period of time. Each player also has an early termination option after the 2013-14 season.

So the Heat, at that point, had just four players under contract for the coming season. That is certainly grounds for championship speculation. Since then the organization has been in overdrive recruiting and signing free agents to bolster their roster. Mike Miller looked like a lock to join the Heat after meeting with Pat Riley and other organization officials on July 1, but now the Miami Herald is reporting that Miller may be backing out of the deal. Miami has a qualifying offer out on Joel Anthony which would pull the reins even tighter on the money that they could offer Miller. Nothing about Miller’s situation with the Heat is certain yet. At least that was the latest news as of early Wednesday afternoon. As of today, Mike Miller is in Miami and has signed a five-year contract with the Heat.

Udonis Haslem, after being pursued by the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets (who have had a knack to engage in bidding wars this summer), has decided to resign with the Heat. Haslem’s deal is worth just over $20 million over four years. The Heat are also close to a minimum level deal with Juwan Howard.

In yet another blow to the city and fans of Cleveland, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, for the second time this calendar year, is leaving. This time he is leaving on his own accord and not part of a multiplayer and multi-team deal to help entice a certain player to stay put. He is following James to Miami. Ilgauskas has played his entire career in Cleveland, he was traded to the Wizards but he never played a single game for them, let alone put on a Wizards’ jersey. The deal with the Heat is expected to be for two years with a player option for the second year. How many knives will Cleveland have to remove from their back when free agency is over?

Gordon Gekko…err, Pat Riley, has done an excellent job of using the Bud Foxes at his disposal as incentive for players to join the Heat. Ilgauskas’ close relationship with James was the deciding factor in his move to South Beach. Yet, the team still lacks a point guard. Miami lost out on its attempt to lure Derek Fisher away from the Lakers and the aura of Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant. Certainly, the combo of Jackson and Bryant is Sir Lawrence Wildman to Riley’s Gekko.

New York Knicks

New Yorkers and Knickerbockers alike should not feel all too bad about missing out on the Miami Thrice (I’m going to make this stick). They successfully procured Amar’e Stoudemire. That is a very solid consolation prize. It is better than what the soon to be cross town rivals got. New York should be happy that they convinced any player to join their team since they employed Isiah Thomas to help them recruit free agents. Isiah Thomas! This is the man who gave monster contracts to “superstars” like Eddy Curry (who is going into the final year of his contract and will be paid $11.3 million) and Jared Jeffries. He almost singlehandedly drove the organization into the ground. Well, Knicks owner, James Dolan, helped too. However, the acquisition of Stoudemire was not a bad one but it meant that fan favorite and perennial double-double (this is a statistic that STAT cannot claim on a regular basis), David Lee, would no longer be a part of the Knicks’ future.

Lee was dealt to the Golden State Warriors (the AND1 Mix Tape Tour’s only NBA equivalent) via sign-and-trade where mad scientist, Don Nelson, will undoubtedly have an insane number of offensive schemes already planned with him in mind. In return the Knicks received Anthony Randolph, who was the main chip New York wanted in return, Ronny Turiaf, and Kelenna Azubuike. Randolph will make $1.96 million this coming season, Turiaf will make $4 million, and Azubuike, who is going into the final year of his contract, will make $3.3 million. Dorell Wright is also joining the Warriors. He became expendable when the Heat orchestrated a Gekko-esque takeover and cornered the market on top free agents. After that they needed to pay them and Wright would eat up more money that they needed for their new stars. Dwyane Wade is reported to have really like Wright as a teammate but money seems to have trumped friendship. Wright has agreed to a three-year deal worth $11.5 million.

The Knicks lost Chris Duhon in free agency to the Orlando Magic so for a time they were without a starting point guard. In a Mike D’Antoni coached offense, this is the most important position. New York quickly found a solution to their vacancy in Raymond Felton. They had been after Felton since last season but the Bobcats were in no mood to trade him. Felton was originally in talks with the Knicks to sign a three-year deal with the Knicks but the two parties reached an agreement on a two-year contract worth nearly $15 million.

In addition to these players the Knicks also signed Timofey Mozgov, a 7’1” center from Russia. He is expected to sign a three-year contract worth $9 million but not all the money will be guaranteed. The Knicks are buying him out of his contract with his former team, Khimki Moscow, and are reportedly paying them $500,000. Some reports have said that he is the best prospect in Europe. We at the Beef have not read that, in fact we know nothing about him. Honestly, we thought all the Russians were in New Jersey.

The Knicks have also shown interest in resigning Earl Barron, who played the last seven games of the season with New York last season. Yet, nothing has been made official. Even after all these signings the Knicks will still have about $2-3 million in cap space. With the expiring contracts of Curry and Azubuike at the end of the season, the team looks poised and ready for free agency next summer when Carmelo Anthony becomes available if he chooses not to sign an extension with the Denver Nuggets.

Minnesota Timberwolves

What the hell is general manager David Kahn doing? Does anybody know? In recent days it has been said that an avocado would do a better job than he would. As of right now (July 14, 2010 at 1:05 pm central standard time) the Timberwolves have just reached an agreement with point guard Luke Ridnour on a four-year $16 million deal. Minnesota now has four point guards; yes that is right, four. They have Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, Ridnour, and Spaniard holdout, Ricky Rubio. If Kahn is trying to entice Rubio to leave the now perpetually drunk Spain, he sure is sending mixed signals. However, many see the signing of Ridnour as a possible prelude to the Wolves trading Sessions. Reports say that Minnesota has been in talks with Charlotte, who just lost Felton to the Knicks, about the possibility of a trade for Sessions. The Bobcats, however, have just extended an offer to free agent guard, Shaun Livingston, which likely means that all Sessions discussions are dead.

The acquisition of Ridnour comes just days after the Timberwolves traded away their best player, Al Jefferson, to the Utah Jazz. Minnesota, in return, gets two first round draft picks and center Kosta Koufos. Utah swooped in, seemingly at the last minute, to snag Jefferson as the Timberwolves and Dallas Mavericks were in serious trade discussions. The Jazz had the advantage of having a trade exception, acquired when Carlos Boozer left for Chicago, and were willing to give up first round draft picks. Minnesota’s motive for moving Jefferson was based on his style of play, slow and post oriented, which they are trying to move away from. If there is any sense of style coming out of Minnesota it is a frenetic one, spearheaded by Kahn.

David Kaaahn!

Minnesota has finalized its contract with Darko Milicic making him one of the veterans on the team. Veterans, as a term, should be used lightly since Milicic has just seven years of NBA experience. The T-Wolves have also signed draft picks, Wesley Johnson and Lazar Hayward. Center Nikola Pekovic has also agreed to terms with the team. All of these moves, along with the addition of Beasley, have, as David Kahn hopes, bolstered the frontcourt and made the team sleeker and quicker on the court. Yet, it is still hard to discern what Kahn in actually doing other than trying to improve upon last year’s 15-67 record. His roster now has four centers, and a host of wing player. This is also now one of the youngest teams in the league and plays in a division where the four other teams won at least fifty games last season. Hell, Utah is a division rival and they just shipped their best player to them for virtually nothing other than “financial flexibility.” Kahn must be leaving his team’s fan base screaming his name in anger, much like Captain Kirk in Star Trek II, every time he makes any sort of move. Though they have become a player in free agency this summer none of their moves consolidate into a coherent plan, Kahn appears to be a madman, deranged by power, hunting his white whale. His whale, of course, is Ricky Rubio.

Chicago Bulls

Chicago has benefited from defectors from Utah. Both Carlos Boozer and Kyle Korver have left the confines of the Great Salt Lake and head to the Windy City. No, neither of these players is named James, Bosh, or Wade but they are still major pickups for the Bulls. Korver should help the Bulls in their three-point shooting. As a team the Bulls shot 33 percent from downtown which ranked them 28th in the league. The Bulls are also looking to further strengthen their long-range shooting as they have signed J.J. Redick to a three-year, $20 million offer sheet. Redick is a restricted free agent so his current team, the Orlando Magic can match the Bulls offer and retain him. If history is any indication (matching the Mavericks offer to Marcin Gortat last summer) of their intentions, Orlando will likely match the offer. Yet, the Magic recently agreed to a deal with Quentin Richardson so maybe they are prepared to let Redick go.

Korver’s deal is worth an estimated $15 million over three years. Boozer agreed to a five-year deal worth roughly $75 million that became a sign-and-trade with Utah with the Bulls also receiving a future protected second-round draft pick. The trade exemption that the Jazz used to trade for Al Jefferson was part of the Boozer trade.

New head coach, Tom Thibodeau, should be very pleased with the work that general manager Gar Forman has done this offseason. Fans of the Bulls should also be quite pleased with the moves the team has made. They may have been slighted in their quest to land one of the Miami Thrice but they have found themselves in a formidable position heading into next season. The same cannot be said for all the teams who were in the rat race for the big three.

New Jersey Nets

Seriously, the Nets should change the name of their team to the New Jersey Nyets. Despite the fact that they were shot down by every major free agent this summer, they constantly thought themselves to be leading the pack to land each one. The team confidently suggested in the media that they had the upper hand in landing James. Why? What hallucinogen gave them this notion? It must be some pretty potent shit to make them have pipe dreams such as this. Everyone in the world seemed to know that James would not go to the Nets except for the Nets. This ordeal has seriously hurt the reputation of Jay-Z and his supposed ability to land James due to their friendship. Who listens to a minority owner anyway? Greatest rapper alive? Give me a break, Rakim is still alive. Mikhail Prokhorov said he had a hunch that James would not be coming to his team. What tipped him off? Everyone he talked to?

What have the Nets done then, other than move to the cesspool that is Newark? Well, they lost their general manager, Rod Thorn and replaced him with Billy King. Yawn. They have reached a contract agreement with Johan Petro worth $10 million over three years. He will back up Brook Lopez. The Nets need to lure a big free agent this summer to make up for their failures thus far and they may have found just the player. Two time NBA champion, former Lakers great, Jordan Farmar has agreed to a three-year, $12 million deal with the struggling franchise. Good job, Jay-Z. I doubted you earlier but you really came through with this one. It should prove to be a spectacular competition for starting point guard when training camp begins. Farmar stated that his desire to leave the Lakers was to be a starting point guard on a team. He has a good chance of doing just that in New Jersey. Oh, wait…Devin Harris still plays in New Jersey? Oh, I see. Is that common knowledge? Did anyone tell Farmar that? Sorry, Jordan, looks like you will simply be a backup on a bad team.

By far their biggest acquisitions are those of Travis Outlaw and Anthony Morrow. Outlaw agreed to a five-year, $35 million deal. New Jersey signed Morrow to an offer sheet worth $12 million over three years that the Golden State Warriors did not match. The teams eventually worked out a sign-and-trade where the Warriors receive the Nets’ second-round draft pick in 2011.

These moves, in the wake of not landing James, are…well, they are moves. Morrow and Outlaw have the potential to thrive alongside Harris and Lopez but it will all depend on how Avery Johnson chooses to utilize their talents on the court. As for right now, the Nets look to be at least three wins better than they were last season, maybe. At least in a few years the team will be in Brooklyn where they can overcharge hipsters for tickets and merchandise. Hipsters love ironic failures and chronic underachievers. Financially, the Nets will be winners then.

Phoenix Suns

The Suns have been one of the biggest movers in the Western Conference this summer. They had to be after losing Stoudemire to the Knicks. They recently welcomed back to the league, Josh Childress and his iconic Afro with a five-year contract. Phoenix acquired him via sign-and-trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who still retained the rights to his contract. Atlanta will receive the Suns’ 2012 second-round draft pick.

Phoenix has also traded for scorned Raptor, Hedo Turkoglu for Leandro Barbosa and Dwayne Jones. Turkolgu thrives in offenses where he gets to control the ball so a pairing with Steve Nash seems a bit odd but any situation has to be better for Turkolgu than what he went through in Toronto.

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas’ attempts to land players named Al have been thwarted at every attempt this summer. First they were in position to land Al Jefferson. Then, out of nowhere, the Jazz swooped in and nabbed him so that they could fill the void left by Boozer’s departure. Next the Mavericks set their sights on Al Harrington. Talks were advancing nicely but then the Denver Nuggets struck. They offered Harrington a longer and more valuable contract (five-year, $34 million) than the Mavericks were willing to offer him.

The Mavericks have made some moves this summer, though they are not earth shaking; they are moves to build on for the future. Dallas’ second priority this summer, after resigning Dirk Nowitzki, was signing Brendan Haywood. They did just that as the team and Haywood agreed on a six-year deal worth $55 million. The way Haywood’s contract is structured he will make $7-8 million a season, and as the Mavericks are prone to do, the last year of his contract is not fully guaranteed.

For the Mavericks, the elephant in the room was Erick Dampier’s nonguaranteed $13 million contract and their ability to use it in an attempt to lure a max free agent to Dallas to team up with Nowitzki. Dallas missed out on the marquee names but was able to move Dampier’s contract. Dampier, along with Matt Carroll, Eduardo Najera, and cash were sent to the Charlotte Bobcats for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca. It was not the blockbuster move that Mavs fans were hoping for and many are quite discontent at the moves their team has made this summer after being force-fed rumors and speculation about the possibility of landing a superstar. Honestly, this deal fits the Mavericks plan better than landing the likes of Jefferson who would have either been forced into a sixth man role or center. Neither of which would have been ideal for either party. Chandler gives the Mavericks and versatile shot blocker with the ability to run the floor. Running the floor is something that Chandler was accustomed to during his time with Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets and is something that he will get back to on the Mavericks with Jason Kidd and Rodrigue Beaubois. One thing is certain, the alley-oop dunk will return to prominence in Chandler’s offensive repertoire.

This deal also gives the Mavericks some financial breathing room as they have dumped Carroll’s bloated contract. It also gives the team added size and length in the frontcourt, something the team wanted so they could compete with the Lakers’ bigs. This deal came just in time too. It also acts as a counter to their in-state arch rival San Antonio Spurs’ addition of the great threat, Tiago Splitter. This nobody is making folks quake in their boots from the filthy, disease laden River Walk to the Alamo. Team front offices are whispering amongst themselves about the domination that Splitter could unleash on an unsuspecting league. Hold on, he is a South American seven footer? How many floppers do the Spurs need on their roster? The only threat he poses is to himself. It is a long way to the floor when flopping from seven feet up, concussions could become a problem.

Chandler is going into the last year of his contract which has led some to speculate that if a player became available during the season the Mavericks could use Chandler and Caron Butler, who is also entering the last year of his contract, as trade bait. However, the people who are the ones speculating this are the same ones who almost guaranteed Mavericks fans that they would land a superstar player this summer.

Utah Jazz

The Utah Jazz have acquired Raja Bell and thwarted Kobe Bryant’s attempts to get Bell to sign with the Lakers. Los Angeles had $1.8 million left of their mid-level exception to offer Bell while the Jazz offered him a three-year deal worth close to $10 million. (It is always about the money.) With the signing of Bell the Jazz chose to let Wesley Matthews sign with the Portland Trailblazers as they were unwilling to match the offer sheet that Matthews signed with the Blazers which was worth $32.7 million over five years.

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