NBA Free Agency: The Best of the Rest
July 27, 2009 by Scott Shepherd • Print Story •
It's been 25 days since the NBA free agency period officially began, and several high-profile NBA players have already cashed in. While some of the biggest names of the 2009 class signed on the dotted line almost immediately, there are still plenty of players still available that have the potential to be key contributors for some team for the 2009-10 NBA season. Today, we look at the best of what's left in the NBA free agency pool.
Lamar Odom, Los Angeles Lakers
Possible destinations: Lakers, Heat
Lamar Odom's quest for one last big payday this offseason has been well documented. L.O. is seeking a contract that will pay him around $10 million per season over four or five years, and the Lakers, to this point, have been unwilling to make that kind of long-term commitment to the versatile 29-year-old.
Taking full advantage of the stalled talks between Odom and the Lakers, the Heat have swooped in and have offered L.O. their full mid-level exception over the next five seasons (roughly $34 million).
Some reports say that Odom is leaning heavily towards taking the Heat deal, but as each day goes by, I find it harder to believe that he will sign with Miami. The Heat can only offer the mid-level exception, and their offer is pretty much set in stone. They can't offer any more money than what they have on the table right now, and that offer has been available to Odom for almost two weeks.
The fact that he hasn't signed with Miami means that either Odom is confident that he can get more money from the Lakers or he has already decided to return to Los Angeles and he is just using the Heat as leverage to ensure he gets as much money as possible from L.A.
Either way, the fact that Odom hasn't taken the Miami deal is a promising sign for Laker fans. If Odom re-signs, the Lakers once again look like the preseason favorites to win the West. If he does bolt for South Beach, the Lakers lose the length and versatility in the frontcourt that made them so tough to beat last season, and all the sudden the Spurs' and Mavericks' chances of getting back to the NBA Finals look a whole lot better.
David Lee, New York Knicks (restricted)
Possible destinations: Knicks, Bulls
Lee was in a tough spot right from the beginning of free agency. As a restricted free agent, any offer that he accepts, the Knicks have seven days to match that offer. There were only a handful of teams with any real money to spend this offseason, and they certainly weren't going to wait around and let players sign elsewhere while the Knicks decided whether or not to match their offer.
Now, all of the teams with any cap space heading into this offseason (Pistons, Blazers, Raptors) have committed all of their available money to other free agents, and suddenly there is no market for David Lee.
The Knicks have been clearing up cap space for two years now in anticipation for free agency next summer. They certainly aren't going to waste all the work they have put in to get to this point by committing to a long-term deal with Lee.
That leaves only two options for Lee, and neither is very promising. He can re-sign with the Knicks for a one-year deal, then hit the market next summer as an unrestricted free agent. The problem with that is that next season's free agent class should be very deep and he may not be able to score a big deal with so many big names available next summer.
The second option for Lee is to try to work out some sort of sign and trade with the Knicks. While this would allow Lee a chance to cash in and get fair market value this offseason, it seems unlikely that the Kinks would cooperate in any sort of sign and trade because they would have to take on more salary to replace Lee.
Unless Lee can find a team that is willing to pay good money and give the Knicks back nothing but expiring contracts, I can't see a sign-and-trade working out in this situation. Chicago is rumored to be interested in Lee, but I'm not sure they have enough favorable contracts to offer New York to entice the Knicks to do a sign and trade.
Chances are, David Lee is going to have to re-sign for a one-year deal and take his chances next season.
Marvin Williams, Atlanta Hawks (restricted)
Possible destinations: Hawks
Another restricted free agent, the Hawks seem to be holding all the cards in this one. No teams have even really given serious consideration to signing Williams because the Hawks would almost certainly match any deal.
Since no one else is offering anything, the Hawks could conceivably re-sign Williams for very cheap. And while Williams hasn't panned out to be the future star the Hawks hoped he'd be when the selected him second overall in 2005, having averaged nearly 15 points per game last season, he's still a pretty good bargain if they can continue paying him around $5 million per season.
Raymond Felton, Charlotte Bobcats (restricted)
Possible Destinations: Bobcats, Sixers, Clippers
With D.J. Augustine exceeding expectations last season as a rookie, it is unlikely that the Bobcats would have matched any big offers for Felton.
Now that the most that is available is the full mid-level exception, the Bobcats might be wise to match any offer that Felton gets. With Augustine still on his rookie contract, and Felton making around $6 million are year at most, the Bobcats would suddenly have the most cost-effective backcourt in the league.
And if Augustine does develop into a solid starting point guard in the NBA, a reasonably priced Ray Felton becomes a very attractive trading chip at the trade deadline for a team desperate to make a championship push by adding an established point guard.
Ramon Sessions, Milwaukee Bucks (restricted)
Possible destinations: Bucks, Warriors, Heat, Clippers
One of the most underrated players in the league right now, Sessions would benefit greatly from a change of scenery. And with the Bucks' owner going broke, and the recent addition of first round draft pick Brandon Jennings, it is unlikely that the Bucks will match any offer that Sessions gets, especially if he gets the full mid-level from someone.
Sessions has the talent to be a starting point guard on a good team; he just hasn't been given a chance. Now Andre Miller has signed with the Blazers, Sessions might be the best point guard available.
The Clippers have expressed interest in Sessions, and he makes way more sense for them than Allen Iverson does, but I don't think that they are necessarily the best fit for Sessions. He backed up Baron Davis for Los Angeles' junior varsity team. If he's patient, Sessions could definitely land a starting job somewhere.
There are plenty of teams out there looking for help at the point guard position, and if I were a GM, I wouldn't hesitate to give the full mid-level exception to Ramon Sessions and give him the keys to my team for the next four or five seasons.
There will be plenty of suitors interested in Sessions in the coming weeks, but I'd be willing to bet that his current team isn't one of them. Sessions is the best player left that is a lock to switch teams.
While all of the big spending may be over with, with the players listed above still available, and guys like Allen Iverson, Glen Davis, Nate Robinson, Linas Kleiza, and many other still looking for work, there is still plenty of work left to be done before we can close the books on this offseason.
Check back at Sports Central every Monday for Scott Shepherd's weekly column. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/scottosports.