Sunday, May 10, 2009

Free agent frenzy - Part 1

While NBA teams are positioning themselves for the 2010 free agent market for a chance to sign perennial all-stars like Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Joe Johnson, many are overlooking the free agent pool of 2009. At first glance the pool looks kind of shallow due to its lack of all-stars but on closer inspection, it actually yields a few diamonds in the rough and grizzled vets. Teams can look to sign young players to build for the future or add a player to put them over the top on their quest for an NBA championship. I will be discussing the free agents in a 3-part series: guards, small/combo forwards and bigs. So put on your swim trunks because its time to take a dip into the 2009 free agent pool and try to predict the future for some of the more notable players:

Mike Bibby
Raymond Felton (R)
Jason Kidd
Jarrett Jack (R)
Ramon Sessions (R)
Nate Robinson (R)
Andre Miller

Ben Gordon
Allen Iverson
Anthony Parker

Marvin Williams (R)
Linas Kleiza (R)
Ron Artest
Lamar Odom
Trevor Ariza
Hakim Warrick (R)
Jamario Moon
Desmond Mason
Grant Hill
Shawn Marion

Glen Davis (R)
Rasheed Wallace
Antonio Mcdyess
Charlie Villanueva (R)
David Lee (R)
Drew Gooden
Paul Millsap (R)
Carlos Boozer

Chris Andersen
Marcin Gortat (R)
Part 1: Guards

Jason Kidd signs with the L.A. Lakers: Jason's career is winding down and his assist and rebounding numbers have clearly made him a lock for the hall of fame but he has yet to taste the glory of an NBA championship. With that being said, I believe Kidd will sign with either the L.A. Lakers or the Cleveland Cavs on a 1 year deal. Kidd enjoyed his time on the U.S. Olympic team because he was playing with elite players who run to the right spots in the open court. Therefore making Kidd's job easier in facilitating and delivering the ball to the players in areas where they have the greatest success. Two of the players he enjoyed playing with the most were Kobe and Lebron. Kidd has also alluded to his desire to re-join his Olympic teammates on various occasions throughout the season. Some pundits believe Kidd will be lured to return to the Mavs but after two failed postseason attempts, Kidd will choose to ply his trade elsewhere next season. The Mavs have peaked and missed their opportunity to win with their current squad. Kidd knows this and will follow through on the supposed secret agreement between Olympians to join forces when possible through free agency.

Mike Bibby re-signs with the Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks are slowly rising up the ranks in the Eastern conference and much of their recent success can be attributed to the acquisition of Mike Bibby. After acquiring Bibby at the deadline last year, the Hawks came together as a team and began putting up wins. Enough wins to get them into the playoffs and push the eventual champion Celtics to the brink in a tight 7 game series. They followed that up by finishing 4th in the East this season and advancing to the second round, only to be swept by the Cavs. The Hawks lacked leadership and direction before the arrival of Bibby and due to the slow progression of former lotto pick Acie Law, Bibby is that much more important to the Hawks. Atlanta needs a contending team in the worst way in an attempt to fill seats in the perpetually empty Phillips Arena. While Bibby doesn't really draw fans to the gate, he knows how to win and if the winning continues, the fans will return.....and so will Bibby as he recently reiterated his desire to return to the Hawks.

Andre Miller signs with the Portland Trailblazers: The 76ers are in the midst of some internal dissension and turmoil, which all but gurantees Miller will take his game elsewhere. The Sixers had moderate success with Miller running the show but at this stage of his career Miller needs a to be with a team with higher aspirations than moderate success. Miller skipped the mandatory team metting after being eliminated in the first round by the Orlando Magic, a clear indication that he will also be skipping town in the near future. But Philly's loss is Portland's gain, the Blazers need a point guard that can control the offense and distribute the ball. That's why Miller's pass first game will be a perfect fit. He also has become a better overall offensive player in recent years and an obvious uprgrade over Steve Blake. Signing Miller would move Blake to the backup and give them one of the better guard tandems in the league, while allowing them to move Rodriguez.

Jarret Jack re-signs with the Indiana Pacers: Jack earned the nod as the starter over TJ.Ford towards the end of the season, gaining coach O'Brien's trust as the season progressed. Jack put up numbers that legitimized his status as a starter in the NBA and the Pacers will reward him with a long term deal. Jack displayed an all-around game and the level of maturity needed to run the offense in Indiana, a trait that TJ lacked at times as teammates were visibly upset with his shot selection (a problem he also encountered in Toronto and Milwaukee.) Look for the Pacers to re-up Jack and deal Ford for a power player, to fill a glaring hole in their lineup.

Raymond Felton re-signs with the Charlotte Bobcats: Felton has had to deal with trade rumours since his second year in the league, but still remains with the Cats after three tumultous seasons. Many thought last year's drafting of DJ Augustin spelled the end of Felton's time in Charlotte and it almost did as he was almost dealt to the Mavericks. The Cats eventually reneged and settled on trading Matt Carroll for Desagna Diop instead. A move that proved to be wise as Felton responded to the near trade by putting up his best numbers as a Bobcat. Felton solidified his position as a starter and never looked back, leaving Augustin in his shadow as the back-up. Felton proved to Coach Brown (who was not a believer in Felton's ability to run a team effectively) that he was the answer at the PG position. Felton posted career highs in single game and career scoring averages, while still keeping his assist number high and turnovers low. Felton proved invaluable as he led the Bobcats surge for the playoffs as Charlotte barely missed getting in as the 8th seed. Felton is a decent defender who can beat bigger guards to the spot with his quickness while still being able to find ways to score despite his size disadvantage allowing him to play both guard positions. A role he will flourish in for years to come in Charlotte.

Nate Robinson signs with the Sacramento Kings: The Kings have 7 million in cap space this summer and they need depth in the backcourt. The draft may provided the Kings with Blake Griffin or Ricky Rubio, lessening their need to sign a big ticket free agent. Enter Nate the GR8, Robinson proved he could be a Barbosa type scoring guard in D'Antoni's uptempo system, a similar style the Kings should adopt with their plethora of young athletic players. By adding Nate, the Kings get a guard that can play both guard positions and fill-in for injured starters. Plus Nate's infectious energy and penchant for the big play will endear him to the loyal fans in Sactown. Nate will never be confused for a distributor when he plays PG but he did average 4 asts, a respectable number not to be discounted. Crypto Nate's scoring and ability to play both guard positions make him invaluable to the Kings as he is content coming off the bench and adds depth to a backcourt that underperformed and was chronically injured.

Ramon Sessions re-signs with the Milwaukee Bucks: Sessions is one of the few restricted free agents that will almost surely garner an offer from another team and force the Bucks to match. The Bucks have 2 young free agents in Sessions and Villanueva and a tough choice to make as cap limitations will only allow them to sign one to a long term deal. Sessions should be the answer as he has put up staggering numbers when he starts including a 24 ast game two seasons ago. Villanueva is soft at the power forward spot and while he put up good numbers and improved drastically this season he does not fit coach Skiles hard nosed system. Sessions may want to sign elsewhere as he has been in and out of the starting lineup and never had a defined role in Milwaukee. Unfortunately his restricted status means the Bucks will pay whatever to keep him and deal other big money players on their roster to compensate.......namely Jefferson and/or Redd.

Ben Gordon signs with the Detroit Pistons: Joe Dumars has never been shy about making a big splash and thats exactly what I look for him to do this summer. Gordon is the exact player Detroit has been missing, a scorer who can hit a big shot when they need it(too bad they gave up Mr.Big shot himself for next to nothing.) Signing Gordon would give the Piston's what they thought they were getting when they traded for Iverson, but let's be honest they knew they weren't acquiring much more than cap space anyways. The Pistons still have a nice core with Prince, Stuckey and Hamilton, adding a free agent or two should keep them in the playoffs. Detroit would be wise to sign two players in a reduced market this summer rather than save their cap space for 2010. Let's face it, Detroit isn't exactly a place where top players in their prime look to sign long-term deals. Detroit lacks the media and advertising exposure to reap the full rewards of being a star in the NBA. Places like New York, Boston, Miami and Chicago are more likely destinations for these type of players (eg. Bosh, Wade, Lebron.) Gordon won't get the money he turned down last summer, but not many players will be getting thier full value as the 2010 free agency period looms large on GM's minds.

Allen Iverson signs with the San Antonio Spurs: A.I. is one of the hardest players to predict a destination for this summer. He requires special situations and certain offensive systems to be truly effective. His last two stints in Denver and Detroit have been utter failures, not to mention leaving Philly admist much controversy. So the team that takes the chance on signing the aging vet must have the right conditions and teammates. I believe San Antonio is that place, coach Popovich is one of the best at getting players to buy into his system. While Iverson is not really one to follow a restrictive system, the Spurs will look to use Iverson as a sixth man in the same way he used Manu earlier in his career and Finley more recently. Iverson will enter the game and look to score, as the Spurs most glaring weakness in the playoffs was the lack of scoring outside of Parker and Duncan. Much of that can be attributed to Manu's injury but also on a bench full of role/specialty players that is without any true scorers who can create their own shot. Iverson will of course have to buy into his role as sixth man and spot starter but it is possible in the right situation. Michael Curry was not able to reach A.I. due to his lack of experience and championships but the same cannot be said about Popovich. Coach Pops with the help of Tim Duncan, should be able to get the most out of Iverson and he may well be the piece that returns the Spurs to the NBA's elite.

Anthony Parker re-signs with the Toronto Raptors: Parker is a do everything type of player who never complains about his role....he just goes out and plays hard every game. The Raptors have glaring holes and need to add players from outside the organization but not at the expense of team chemistry. Parker is well liked by his teammates and within the organization. Parker also enjoys being a Raptor and the city of Toronto, a sentiment he has conveyed to the media and fans whenever he's had a chance. Parker will take a pay cut to help the organization add players to take them to the next level. He understands the team's success hinges on keeping Bosh happy and content in Toronto and most importantly playing in Toronto. Therefore he will re-sign for less money and be the teams sixth man, furthering his reputation as a team first player and a class act.

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