The Memphis Grizzlies have astounded everyone by offering a near-max contract to Rudy Gay. Since they can offer him higher raises and a longer contract, their near-max is more than any other team can offer, so it’s expected to be a done deal. Meanwhile, Atlanta finally kicked it’s offer up to the max for Joe Johnson, so he’s now presumed to remain a Hawk. Even New York’s Backup Plan R, getting John Salmons, is off the table with him now seeming likely to also re-up with his current team (the Milwaukee Bucks).
That’s the bad. Here’s the possible good.
Another surprise name joined the free-agency when San Antonio Spur Richard Jefferson opted out of the last year of his contract worth over $15 million. Wow, he must’ve really not enjoyed his time there. Particularly ‘cuz he was so awful while there that he dramatically hurt his stock. With all the money that’s gonna be left after teams like New York and say the Nets are left empty-handed, it’s possible that players like him might still get overpaid. However, had he not stunk up the joint so badly this past season, he might’ve had a decent shot at getting a $13 mill/yr contract. Now, even with money to burn, I’ll be surprised if he gets $10 million. But we need pieces, so he’s another backup possibility.
Also, as Chase reported the other day, Carmelo Anthony still hasn’t re-signed the 3 year $65 million extension with the Denver Nuggets. If he doesn’t do it in the next few days, it’s reasonable to assume that he plans to test the free-agency waters, which would give us some serious hope for 2011. Particularly if we can get enough semi-decent pieces to turn our team into an 8th seed. Right now it’s hard to sell free agents on a team that has such a long distance to go to compete for a ring. However, if we were in the position of say Chicago, we could say hey, we already made the playoffs without you, and with you we’d be a contender.
Another bit o’ good news is that the Phoenix Suns upped their offer to Channing Frye, ensuring his commitment as they seem to realize Amar’e Stoudemire is gone. Adding further fuel to that fire is that they now appear to be pursuing backup power forward Hakim Warrick. Whether Stoudemire signs with the Knicks (as Chase reported hopefully), at least this means he’ll be taking up some team’s cap space.
Teams have cleared almost enough room for eleven max players (three for Miami, two for New York, New Jersey, and Chicago, and one each for the LA Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves), so each time a player like Gay or Joe Johnson stays with their current team rather than using up a max slot, it hurts our chances. In fact, with Wade all but certain to return to Miami, basically those now 10 slots are open for the following players expected to get at least a starting salary of $10+ million: LeBron, Bosh, Amare, Carlos Boozer, and David Lee. In fact, with Bosh seeming to really want to team-up with either LeBron or Wade, that means some teams could load up while others get nothing. Yes, Paul Pierce and Dirk Nowitzki opted out of their contracts too, but no one expects them to leave their current teams. The next grouping of players who could get somewhere from $5-10 includes Ray Allen, Richard Jefferson, Luis Scola, Al Harrington, Ray Felton, Josh Howard & Brendan Haywood. All decent pieces, but none of ‘em particularly exciting if that’s all you’re gonna get.
By the end of the weekend we might have a clearer picture of where some players might go, with secondary maxes like Bosh, Amare and Boozer more likely to commit before LeBron decides what to do.