Monday, June 30, 2008

Free Agent Rundown- Post-Draft, Pre-Signing

The free agent signing period begins today, (and who can wait for all those apocryphal stories about GMs calling a player "at the stroke of midnight"?) so I thought it might be helpful to discuss the faces that might end up in different places come next season. The draft made things a lot more clear; for instance, since Toronto traded away T.J. Ford, they've made it clear that they will re-sign the turnover-allergic Jose Calderon. But it's still possible that this off-season will be a circus of signings and sign-and-trade offers. Except for one problem.

No one has any money. Of all the teams in the league, the only ones who appear to have any salary cap room to splash around are the 76ers, Grizzlies, and Nets. A few teams have the mid-level exception, but that won't be enough to attract many of the players who will be free agents. There simply isn't enough dough to go around this season, so it was thought that many of the dudes who would have normally opted out of their deals, would sit tight and wait until the smoke clears next year. Then today, a bunch of stars (Elton Brand, Baron Davis, Gilbert Arenas) opted out and became unrestricted free agents, so now I don't know what to think.

"So I had the right time zone after all. The problem was that my clock radio was about five minutes too fast, and someone else called him at exactly midnight. So I missed out. Long story short, I took on four more contracts and gave cash considerations to Mitch Kupchak in exchange for a Hormel Party Tray."

For this column, I'll be focusing on the guys I think will definitely be playing for a new team come the 2008-2009 campaign. I'll run down the situation, then speculate about what their first extravagant purchase with their new money will be.

By the way, I'm leaving out Gilbert Arenas, since he's reportedly becoming an unrestricted free agent and then going right back to Washington for a max deal, which is a terrabull idea for them. I like him, but his checks for the $125 million range are basically a letter of intent to never get higher than the sixth seed of the playoffs. Turning in the performance he did in a contract year was kind of like getting straight A's all through high school, date-raping a girl in December, and then still hoping for a Super Nintendo on Christmas day.

- Corey Maggette

The Scenario:
Maggette has already signed his early termination offer (a player option that makes him an unrestricted free agent instead of taking the final year of his contract), so with the Clippers trying to re-sign Elton Brand, he's surely gone. While he is a dependable scorer, he's looking to get paid based on the 22.1 points per game he averaged last year, and there's no way he would get the points or minutes anywhere else that he did as L.A.'s number one option during this past injury-plagued season. It's unrealistic for that to be the measuring stick. The Hornets are looking at him, but he'll want more than the $6 million or so they have to offer, which is basically what he received this year. Maggette's problem is that he thinks he's Chick-Fil-A's polynesian sauce, when he's really more like McDonald's sweet and sour. If he were going to be the go-to guy on a winning team, it would have happened by now.

His First Purchase:

He's all set on a car, so I'm guessing Maggette will buy a grand piano that he doesn't know how to play. He'll learn how to play the first four measures of "When the Saints Go Marching In" (casually, on one hand), then he'll say, "That's all y'all get" and move on. Fun fact I didn't know until this column? His charity is called "Uh-Oh Maggette-O Kids."

-Ben Gordon

The Scenario:
Since the Bulls just added Derrick Rose to their roster, they need to start cutting guards from their payroll. Plus, Luol Deng is their first priority in the negotiation process. Plus, Ben Gordon actively hurts their team with his turnovers, foul trouble, and inability to play defense. (I'm biased.) Both Gordon and Deng--who was supposedly offered $60 million over five years--killed themselves by not signing extensions last year, since Chicago is a much different team now than it was then. I'm guessing they let Gordon go and follow it up by trading Larry Hughes for some forwards who can score.

His First Purchase:

Three ounces of marijuana.

- James Posey

The Scenario:
In winning a championship for Boston with his poise and outside shooting, Posey has positioned himself as the middle-class man's Robert Horry. Lots of teams could use a versatile veteran forward, so he'll have his fair share of interest. $3.7 million would be a qualifying offer, so a three year contract at that rate would be much more realistic for the Hornets or the Magic.

His First Purchase:

Posey is a no-frills kind of guy, so I would guess underwear, pants, and braces for his baby girl. Then again, what do I know? Maybe he'll get a personal driver to avoid any more DUIs.

- Monta Ellis

The Scenario:
The Warriors have made it clear that they plan on re-signing Baron Davis, so there isn't a whole lot to go around for another guard, especially one who shows as much promise as Ellis. Since he was a second round pick, dude has been paid virtually nothing up to this point, so he'll definitely want to score a large payday for his surprising performance. I'm not sure if he's attractive enough to warrant a five or six year deal, but his youth and speed will be persuasive to potential suitors. No homo. I'm guessing he would want around $50 million over six years.

His First Purchase:

Colored clothing.

- Josh Smith

The scenario:
As a restricted free agent, Smith can field an offer from any team, and then the Hawks have a week to match that proposition. The bad news for them is that he has even more upside than Monta Ellis. He already averages a shade over 15 points a game and can run the floor with the best of them. Add to that the fact that he's the youngest player to earn 500 blocks at only twenty-two years old. He's going to be a superstar, and I can't see him getting any less than $75 million over six years, possibly more. Philadelphia is courting him, and I expect him to sign within the week. And I expect to go to a lot of 76ers games next year to watch him dunk on people.

First Big Purchase:

A recording studio for his rap group with Donta Smith and Josh Childress, Da High Flyerz. (If you're scoring at home, J-Smoove is MCA, Donta is Ad-Rock, and Childress is Mike D.) They will independently release an underwhelming LP called Game of Our Life.

For the record, Gilby's first big purchase would be a down payment on a tiger. Didn't want to feel incomplete there.

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