Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Look at the 2006 NBA Free Agent Class

What, this topic hasn’t been burning a hole through your brain?  Well, maybe it will be now.  Here’s a glimpse at the money chasers in this pending offseason.  I’m going to omit the non-difference-makers and sure-to-resign types such as Ben Wallace and Jason Terry. The starting horn is July 1st!

Big Boys
Joel Przybilla and Nazr Mohammad are rarities: unrestricted centers that can actually play.  Neither are All-Stars, but both are capable starters that can plug the middle for donut teams such as Chicago or Seattle.  The more typical damaged goods are Michael Olowokandi, Kelvin Cato, and Lorenzen Wright.

The power forward collection is fair, though not exhilarating.  Chris Wilcox played like a demon after the Clippers gave up on him, but buyer beware when an upcoming free agent with a reputation for a poor work ethic “just happens” to double his career averages in March and April.  Reggie Evans is also out there, with a reputation of his own that was augmented with his uninvited jock check on Chris Kaman.  Nene Hilario is available, but with health concerns and failed to meet expectations before his injury.  A major shocker out of Philadelphia: Chris Webber may not exercise his player option to see if he can do better on the open market than the $21 and $22 million seasons remaining on his contract.  If you’re keeping score, that will make him the highest paid player in the league for the next two years.  

Three’s A-Plenty
Al Harrington and Predjag Stojakovic should be the two big dogs on the open market this summer.  As I’ve noted before, I don’t buy that Peja (or as I might call him, Preddy) plans on staying in Indianapolis.  Chicago has cap space, so do the Clippers, and he’s long been connected to those cities because of their Yugoslavian communities.  Harrington will likely let the money do the talking, though one would think his Hawk tenure has shown him that winning is a lot more fun than being the main man.  Tim Thomas certainly won’t make half the money he did on his last contract, but has to be happy with the way the Suns system is making him shine.  His rebounding and defensive deficiencies are almost unnoticeable on this team, and the open court style covers up the fact that he struggles to execute designed plays.  He will either face a tough rotation with the returns of Amare Stoudamire and Kurt Thomas in Phoenix or a sour fanbase elsewhere if they bite into his lemon-filled career.  Vladimir Radmanovic will kick his agent all summer for turning down the Seattle offer last year, but he’s a tough player to use with his almost stereotypical European game.  Devean George, Matt Harpring, and Jared Jefferies can’t give a team big numbers, but they are fairly reliable role players that would help good teams.

Backcourt Offerings
Bonzi Wells figures to cash in this summer, for two reasons: his eyepopping showing against the Spurs and the fact that he is the only true starting shooting guard on the market.  His competition is principally from combo Iversonian guards (Jason Terry, Mike James, Flip Murray, Bobby Jackson, Marcus Banks).  However, as much as I’ve poo-pooed undersized 2’s in the past, it’s become very apparent that the NBA rule changes have paved the way for Phoenix-style small ball to dominate the league.  Playing a Kirk Hinrich next to a Ben Gordon may become more attractive when it was originally a forced hand.  If Dwayne Wade (6-4) is so successful next to Jason Williams (6-1), a Mike James-Andre Miller backcourt might be intriguing to Denver management.  Strike that, George Karl’s assuming GM input.  If Dwayne Wade (6-4) is so successful next to Jason Williams (6-1), a Mike James-Chris Paul backcourt might be intriguing to Hornets management.  

I hope your team isn’t in need of a point guard this year, because the selection (aside from the above combo guards) is awfully bare.  You could choose the soon-to-be 37 Sam Cassell, but bare in mind he was recently owned by a 32 year-old Canadian with a congenital back condition and he only plays well when he’s gunning for a new contract.  Aside from that, he’s fantastic.  Gary Payton should retire, but won’t, so he’s available.  That leaves Speedy Claxton, who’s better than currently advertised but nobody’s point guard of the future.

The Fatcats
The teams that can make at least some splashes in free agency by virtue of being under the cap and not restricted to the approximately $5 million MLE:  Utah, Toronto, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, L.A. Clippers, New Orleans/OKC.


Post a Comment

<< Home