The NBA punditry world is already abuzz at the possibilities for 2010, so now is the time to give everyone VFT’s first heads-up on what to look for and what teams should be doing. After much deliberation, I decided to just list the teams in alphabetical order by city, since there isn’t really a good sorting mechanism for it.
Naturally, some teams should be trying to clear cap space while other capitalize on that by accumulating talent. Those decisions come from a few important team-specific variables, what are as follows:
1. Possibility of getting under the cap– It doesn’t matter how nice a city is if the team just does not have the right combination of contracts to make 2010 viable.
2. Desirability as a free agent location– Not all cap space is created equal. While there are Carlos Boozers in the NBA who will sign to play in Salt Lake City, most of the big names will have more preference and more desirable options.
3. Moveable pieces– Some of these are guys like Mike Miller that are a solid combination of contract and skill for a 2010-interested team, and some are more in the vein of immovables (Jerome James). Elements like player quality, contract size, contract length, and age are the major variables, though system and other things can come into play too.
Big decisions are coming up awfully fast
Core guys locked up: Josh Smith (through 2013), Al Horford (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Joe Johnson (2010), Marvin Williams (2009- RFA), Mike Bibby (2009), Zaza Pachulia (2009)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $19,985,701 (Al Horford, Josh Smith, and Acie Law). Maurice Evans also has a $2.5m player option, which I do not expect him to pick up.
Of course, any players they sign in the 2009 off-season factor in as well.
What they should do: The Hawks’ best chance for the future is to make a real impact is this off-season. The biggest problem is that Marvin Williams has a maximum cap hold (thanks to his early draft position). As such, they’ll need to sign him to an extension if they want to keep him before they start to make moves in free agency, which limits their potential freedom. The key to their 2009 offseason is Speedy Claxton- if they can move his $5.2m salary for 2009, they have enough space to get a $10m player like Memo Okur, Rasheed Wallace, or Andre Miller. The best thing for them is to bite the bullet by moving down in the 1st round to dump Speedy, then go hard after Andre, Sheed, and Okur, hopefully getting one and moving Bibby in a sign-and-trade if they can pull Andre Miller. The only way they can make 2010 relevant is by getting the players now to convince Joe Johnson to stay, and it will be hard to pull a big name in 2010 without him, though I wouldn’t sleep on Amare if New York/New Jersey is out of the question.
Will they retain what they’ve got? Probably
Core guys locked up: Kevin Garnett (through 2012), Paul Pierce (through 2011), and Kendrick Perkins (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Ray Allen (2010), Leon Powe (2009), Tony Allen (2010), Glen Davis (2009)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $54,528,736 (Garnett, Pierce, K. Perkins, JR Giddens, and Rajon Rondo’s cap hold)
What they should do: The Celtics are in a compelling position because they are set for the long term as far as the cap is concerned yet wield considerable clout in terms of players either with 2010-friendly contracts, solid talent, or both. Brian Scalabrine’s $3.4m expiring deal in 2010 could prove incredibly useful in terms of garnering a piece with a little longer deal. Since at least one of the Leon Powe/Glen Davis duo should re-sign with Boston, they will have a solid big man grouping. One other avenue they might want to consider if KG starts slowing down is to move Perkins for a guy like Mike Miller who can take over Ray Allen’s swingman to help keep the team competitive. Assuming they don’t need it to retain talent, the MLE is another key weapon for the Celtics, as they will continue to be a desirable squad as long as they are competitive.
Core guys locked up: Emeka Okafor (through 2014), Gerald Wallace (through 2012 or 2013), Boris Diaw (through 2012), and DJ Augustin (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: Raymond Felton (2009- RFA), Sean May (2009 RFA), Adam Morrison (2010 RFA)
Immovable contracts: Nazr Mohammed (signed through 2011) and Matt Carroll (signed through 2012 or 2013- player option)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $34,264,575 (Okafor, Wallace, Augustin, Boris Diaw, Alexis Ajinca, Nazr Mohammed, and Matt Carroll). Also worth mentioning are the cap holds for a lottery pick in 2009 and 1st round draft pick in 2010 and that I’m not including the gargantuan cap hold for Adam Morrison because I fully expect him to either be cut or extended by that time.
What they should do: The Bobcats can have some space, but only if they don’t re-sign their expiring talent (especially Felton) or trade it for players with 2010 salaries. We are too early along to see what will happen with Diaw and Bell, but assuming they play out their contracts, the cap situation in 2010 isn’t dramatically better than it was pre-trade. As such, they can feel free to make decisions on Felton, May, and Morrison without the cap being at the forefront of their minds. It is also incredibly hard to gauge Charlotte’s potential viability as a free agent destination because they haven’t really played the market a whole lot. My guess is they could draw in some guys with ACC ties (Sheed would be compelling if they had 2009 cap space), but the appeal is more limited in 2010 because of the big cities being on the list.
A home for D-Wade (and thus, the NBA’s dream back-court)
Core guys locked up: Derrick Rose (through 2012), Luol Deng (through 2014), Kirk Hinrich (through 2012), and Andres Nocioni (through 2012 or 2013- team option)
2010 or earlier free agents: Ben Gordon (2009), Drew Gooden (2009), Larry Hughes (2010), Tyrus Thomas (2010- RFA), Thabo Sefolosha (2010- RFA), and Aaron Gray (2009)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $57,917,427 (Rose, Deng, Hinrich, Joakim Noah, Nocioni, Tyrus Thomas’ max cap hold, and Thabo Sefolosha’s cap hold). It does not include any future picks or Cedric Simmons’ cap hold.
What they should do: The Bulls’ committed salary # may look big, but it is misleading because it includes over $20 million in cap holds for Tyrus and Thabo which will likely be much smaller either by extension or by renouncing one or both. As such, Chicago could get room for a max contract offer fairly easily, either by renouncing those guys or moving one of their signed guys, most likely Hinrich who does not make much sense with Derrick Rose doing so well already. The Bulls should try and sign+trade Ben Gordon, potentially including Tyrus Thomas to net a better talent since he and Noah are largely redundant. Moving Hinrich or Noc Def is absolutely an option since both have value to the league and their salaries will become more palatable with time since both are front-loaded. The best thing the Bulls can do is make sure they have a little more than the max free (use $23 million as a good benchmark) and do their best to woo D-Wade or another top-tier guy while also having enough for an MLE-level player who could come along for the ride.
It’s woo time! Gotta keep the King happy.
Core guys locked up: Mo Williams (through 2012 or 2013- player option), Daniel Gibson (2013), and Delonte West (2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Lebron James (2010- player option), Zydrunas Illgauskas (2009), Anderson Varejao (2009 or 2010- player option), Wally Szczerbiak (2009), and Ben Wallace (2010)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $20,357,143. (Mo Williams, Delonte, Boobie Gibson, JJ Hickson, and Darnell Jackson). I did not include Lebron’s player option.
What they should do: The Cavs need to convince Lebron that he can win championships at home and that he is more likely to do it there than in the greater New York area. Luckily, they have a ton of contract-related goodies that can help them procure talent, as Lebron himself may be able to this offseason. While some may say that having cap space gives them potential to swing a bigger cull from the 2010 class, I sincerely doubt they’ll woo The King back unless they already have the talent, since other franchises will give him the same freedom in a preferable location. The other factor is that Cleveland would have a rough time of it getting free agents should Lebron end up elsewhere, so pulling guys with more long-term contracts allows them to keep some semblance of quality for another season or so. The best of these moves can be done now, while the iron on the 2010 season is hot and other teams have delusions of grandeur. Because of Wally’s contract, they can try and give a team 2009 cap space what they are looking for and then turn around Ben Wallace to a squad looking to 2010. Potential targets for Wally could be Portland (for some combination of Travis Outlaw, Channing Frye, Ike Diogu, and Joel Przybilla) or Charlotte (for Gerald Wallace). For Ben Wallace, just look to the rest of the list. Some of my favorite possibilities are Andrei Kirilenko, DeSagana Diop, and maybe even Josh Howard.
I’ve heard murmurs about them being a 2010 mover and shaker, but I just don’t see it with what they have locked up.
Core guys locked up: Josh Howard (through 2010 or 2011- team option), Jason Terry (through 2012), Erick Dampier (through 2011), and Desagana Diop (through 2012 or 2013- player option)
2010 or earlier free agents: Dirk Nowitzki (2010- player option), Jason Kidd (2009), Jerry Stackhouse (2010), Brandon Bass (2009), and Gerald Green (2009)
Immovable contracts: Erick Dampier (through 2011), Jason Terry (through 2012), and DeSagana Diop (through 2012 or 2013)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $51,101,798. (Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Dampier, Diop, Jose Juan Barea, and Shawne Williams’ cap hold). I did not include Dirk’s player option.
What they should do: Unless the Mavs can find a taker for Terry, Dampier, or Diop, I cannot see how cap space for 2010 is reasonable. Even if Dirk opts out, they would have to not have any players other than the guys committed to 2010 on their books to even have a chance at another free agent of any note, and that simply is not happening. If they move Josh Howard for someone expiring sooner, they could open up some more, but his team option is incredibly reasonable at $11.8m for his talent level even with the headaches. In my book, the Mavs should use their expirings if they can’t get their big deals off the books, possibly getting a SG who can reliably carry some of the scoring load. Even though their contracts are gigantic, the Mavs’ C combo settles what can be a very expensive position for playoff teams in terms of cap space and trading.
The Billups trade locked in their roster for the foreseeable future, for better and for worse.
Core guys locked up: Carmelo Anthony (through 2011 or 2012- player option), Chauncey Billups (2011 or 2012- team option), JR Smith (2011), Nene (2011 or 2012- player option), and Kenyon Martin (2010 or 2011- player option)
2010 or earlier free agents: Linas Kleiza (2009- RFA), Steven Hunter (2010), and Chucky Atkins (2010)
Immovable contracts: Kenyon Martin (signed through 2010 or 2011) and Nene (signed through 2011 or 2012)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $71,669,846 (Melo, Billups, Kenyon, Nene, JR Smith (estimate), Sonny Weems, and Renaldo Balkman’s cap hold).
What they should do: The Nuggets cannot reasonably be either buyers or sellers in this context, as their current roster puts them right at the luxury tax threshold. Should a team be interested in one of their long-term holdings, they might get some leeway, but that’s about all that can happen for them besides bringing in a few low salary guys through the draft and free agency.
Ohhh, the Billups trade was for cap space, not for Iverson!
Core guys locked up: Rip Hamilton (through 2013), Tayshaun Prince (through 2011), Rodney Stuckey (through 2011), and Jason Maxiell (through 2013)
2010 or earlier free agents: Allen Iverson (2009), Rasheed Wallace (2009), Kwame Brown (2009 or 2010- player option), and Walter Herrmann (2009)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $32,750,463 (T. Prince, Rip (estimated), Rodney Stuckey, Jason Maxiell (estimated), and Arron Afflalo).
What they should do: The Pistons have a world of possibilities, and much of it depends on how Rodney Stuckey progresses. Assuming he develops into a starting-caliber PG, Detroit is set at PG, SG, and SF for the 2011 season, with Maxiell and Afflalo playing key roles. This allows the Pistons to use their cap clout to sign bigs, which could work out very well for them, with them being a logical landing place for either Amare or Chris Bosh if either chooses to change his area code. What the Pistons bring is a strong core already in place and recognizable as well as a strong history of success in both the present and the past. While it isn’t Chicago in terms of desirability from a city standpoint, the Pistons franchise could benefit greatly from what they have going. Also of note is that they could very well end up doing a sign + trade with either Sheed or AI, especially if it can work with them getting a 2009 free agent should that be a desired course for them since they have a large amount of cap space for either off-season. What makes them so different is that they shouldn’t make any moves to help their cap situation- everyone is where they should be for 2009 and/or 2010. Dumars can just woo free agents hard and end up with the best combination for the long-term success of the team.
Golden State Warriors
A non-factor. Thanks management!
Core guys locked up: Andris Biedrins (through 2013 or 2014), Monta Ellis (through 2013 or 2014), Stephen Jackson (through 2013), Corey Maggette (through 2013), Jamal Crawford (through 2011- player opt-out for 2009), Brandan Wright (through 2011), and Anthony Randolph (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: Anthony Morrow (2010), Richard Hendrix (2009 or 2010), Marcus Williams (2009)
Immovable contracts: Stephen Jackson (through 2013), Corey Maggette (through 2013), Jamal Crawford (through 2011- player opt-out for 2009), and Ronny Turiaf (through 2011 or 2012- player option)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $63,238,061 (Biedrins, Monta Ellis, Crawford, Maggette, S. Jackson, B. Wright, Kelenna Azubuike, Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph, and Marco Belinelli).
What they should do: The Warriors better have what they’re looking for, because this roster ain’t changing any time soon. It would take moving two of the bigger contracts for the Warriors to even sniff relevance in 2010 as a buyer, and they do not have any expiring salaries to pitch to 2010 cap seekers. Should they choose to want flexibility, what they would need to hope for is a team like the Cavs or maybe another team in an unattractive locale for free agents choosing to use their cap space on talent the Warriors have under contract. If not, the team they field when Monta comes back from injury is the team you’ll see in 2010-2011 and beyond.
The under the radar player that can majorly impact the market
Core guys locked up: Yao Ming (through 2011), Shane Battier (through 2011), and Aaron Brooks (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Tracy McGrady (2010), Ron Artest (2009), Luis Scola (2010), Rafer Alston (2010), and Luther Head (2009- RFA)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $33,304,841 (Yao Ming, Shane Battier, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes (team option), Aaron Brooks, and Joey Dorsey).
What they should do: The Rockets have a situation sort of like the Hawks in that their 2010 prospective will be dramatically different after the 2009 off-season. Ron Artest will not sign a one-year deal in all likelyhood, so his status next year should have a significant impact on the Rockets in both an on-court sense and a front office sense. Regardless, all of their meaningful contracts are quite moveable should they desire to do so (Shane Battier to the Cavs is one example, as is Yao anywhere if they want a revolution of casual fans). Even if Artest re-signs, the Rockets have the flexibility to add another major piece to a potentially re-signed T-Mac thanks to Bird rights, which will probably prove necessary unless one of their PG’s steps up in a major way considering the dominance of CP3, Deron, and the like in the West.
Re-signing Granger took them out of the 2010 sweepstakes but made them a better team.
Core guys locked up: Danny Granger (through 2014), Mike Dunleavy Jr (through 2011), Troy Murphy (through 2011), Brandon Rush (through 2012), and Roy Hibbert (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: TJ Ford (2010 or 2011- player option I expect him to decline), Rasho Nesterovic (2009), Marquis Daniels (2009 or 2010- team option), Jarrett Jack (2009- RFA), and Maceo Baston (2009)
Immovable contracts: Mike Dunleavy Jr (through 2011) and Troy Murphy (through 2011)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $50,784,557 (Danny Granger (estimated), Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert, Jeff Foster (estimated), and Jamaal Tinsley). I did not include TJ Ford’s $8.5m player option.
What they should do: The Pacers are likely not clearing space for 2009, but they can use what they have in a few different ways. First, they should move Rasho for either some young talent and a scrubby contract that expires further out or a better player on a less desirable contract. While there is a chance of the Pacers having the freedom to make a small move this offseason if they decline Marquis Daniels’ option, it is hard to see who would be worth it in terms of attainability. They could potentially move guys like Dunleavy and Murphy late in the 2009/2010 season if a team really wanted them, but what makes the most sense for Indiana is to just let them expire, accumulate talent, and then use the 2011 season as the jumping off point for a bigger free agency get at that time.
Apparently, Z-Bo > Cap space.
Core guys locked up: Baron Davis (through 2013), Chris Kaman (through 2012), Zach Randolph (through 2011), Eric Gordon (through 2012), and Al Thornton (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Marcus Camby (2010), Ricky Davis (2009 or 2010- player option), and Jason Hart (2009)
Immovable contracts: Baron Davis (through 2013) and Zach Randolph (through 2011)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $49,222,987 (Baron, Kaman, Randolph, Eric Gordon, Al Thornton, Deandre Jordan, and Mike Taylor). I did not include Mardy Collins’ cap hold.
What they should do: The Clippers don’t have a ton that they can do in terms of 2010. What makes the Clippers different is that they do not have a ton of space to make the team better that way, but they have a potentially big chip in Marcus Camby and there should definately be a way to turn him into a starter at the very least. My favorite part about where the Clippers are is that they already have a decent 2010 starting lineup under contract even if Camby expires in Baron / Gordon / Thornton / Z-Bo / Kaman. Depth would be a major issue of course, but they’ll also have the benefit of a high draft pick this year. Also, a great deal depends on what they do with Kaman now. If they end up getting something that expires in 2010 or before with him, they can be players in the 2010 FA bonanza too. Granted, the biggest thing to do between now and then isn’t to move Camby- it’s to fire Dunleavy before he sours the whole team and necessitates moving the pieces that should not be moved.
If it aint broke, don’t fix it (especially if you can’t).
Core guys locked up: Kobe Bryant (through 2009-2010 or 2011- player ETO), Pau Gasol (through 2011), and Andrew Bynum (through 2013)
2010 or earlier free agents: Lamar Odom (2009), Derek Fisher (2010), Trevor Ariza (2009)
Immovable contracts: Vladmir Radmanovic (through 2011)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $55,145,152 (Kobe, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Jordan Farmar (RFA- cap hold), Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, and Vladmir Radmanovic’s player option).
What they should do: The Lakers likely won’t have much to do in 2010, which is a good thing for them. Even if Kobe opts out after this year, it is reasonable to assume that he would just re-up with LA for more years at about the same rate. With the main guys set up through then, Mitch and company should work to lock up the rest of the young guys by re-signing Ariza this off-season and giving eventual starter Jordan Farmar a reasonable extension when they can. It is possible that Odom could be used as trade bait either at the deadline or in a S+T deal, but the Lakers don’t have any 2010 flexibility anyway, so it all depends on what Buss wants to do with his money. They could move Fisher too, but he has value to the Lakers at his current contract and it’s hard to see what the market would be anyway.
Everyone’s favorite divisive team has a ton of absolutely pivotal decisions to make.
Core guys locked up: OJ Mayo (through 2012), Mike Conley (through 2011), Marc Gasol (through 2011), and Darrell Arthur (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: Rudy Gay (2010- RFA), Darko Milicic (2010), Hakim Warrick (2009- RFA), Kyle Lowry (2010- RFA)
Immovable contracts: Marko Jaric (through 2011)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $37,545,863 (Rudy Gay’s cap hold, OJ Mayo, Mike Conley, Mark Gasol, Kyle Lowry’s cap hold, Darrell Arthur, and Marko Jaric). NOTE: Does not include any salary for Hakim Warrick or cap holds for 2009 or 2010 draft picks.
What they should do: In essence, this all depends on whether you think Memphis will (or can, either way) retain Rudy Gay. The Grizz’ cap # for 2010 isn’t too bad, but it is hard to see a major FA that does not have a background from the area going there as a free agent. However, space could be used well in terms of trades with teams that want space that off-season. I expect some of this to be made more clear in time, as trade rumors have surrounded a few of the non-stars on the team, and what happens to them may very well dictate their best course of action. Of course, if the Grizz can lock up Gay, it would be fantastic for the franchise and take another position off the board in terms of needing to use picks/money on it. Also worth noting is that the Grizz should have a solid pick this year, which takes some cap $ away but also hopefully adds a talent that would eliminate a position of need, ideally a PF or my dream of a big, ball-handling guard who can allow Mayo to play off-guard but defend PG’s.
It all comes down to making sure D-Wade stays.
Core guys locked up: Michael Beasley (through 2012), Mario Chalmers (through 2011), and Daequan Cook (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Dwyane Wade (2010- player option), Shawn Marion (2009), Udonis Haslem (2010), Dorell Wright (2010), Shaun Livingston (2010), Chris Quinn (2009 or 2010- player option)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $17,374,096 (Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Daequan Cook, James Jones, and Marcus Banks). I did not include Wade’s option. Also, I think there is some sort of buy-out for James Jones, but I do not have exact figures on it so I’m ignoring it until better info is available.
What they should do: The Heat are in a similar situation to the Cavs from a salary cap perspective, but with dramatically different ramifications. The Heat essentially have the whole cap to work with, depending on how far over the cap (but under the luxury tax) they would be willing to go since they have Bird rights on D-Wade. However, it is worth noting that Wade would probably like some understanding of where the team is headed before he hits free agency, much like Lebron. This leads me to the idea that since the Heat have a ton of 2010 expiring guys of middling talent but helpful contracts, they could try to move some of them for better talent on longer deals to show Wade they mean business. One idea is the oft-rumored Shawn Marion for Kirilenko possibility and another could be moving a guy like Shawn (or a combination of Daequan Cook and something else) for Gerald Wallace. Both would fit well with Beasley as a SF/PF combo and would still allow the Heat to sign another big-name guy along with Wade. Luckily, the Heat have two good players in Beasley and Chalmers that allow them to spend more money on fewer positions as they try to improve the team.
If they can’t pull high-level free agents, it should be bon voyage time.
Core guys locked up: Andrew Bogut (though 2014), Michael Redd (through 2010 or 2011- player option), Richard Jefferson (through 2011), Joe Alexander (through 2012), and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Luke Ridnour (2010), Ramon Sessions (2009), Charlie Villanueva (2009- RFA), Tyronn Lue (2009), Malik Allen (2009 or 2010- player option)
Immovable contracts: Dan Gadzuric (through 2011)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $59,126,350 (Michael Redd’s player option, Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Charlie Bell, Joe Alexander, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (estimate), and Dan Gadzuric)
What they should do: The Bucks’ situation all depends on their swingmen. If Redd picks up his option, there isn’t a whole lot the Bucks can do in terms of creating space for 2010. Assuming Richard Jefferson stays, the Bucks will have those positions locked up through 2011 with Joe Alexander and Luc waiting in the wings as a fascinating potential SF/PF combo (with a starter PF ideally in front of Luc). I think Bogut’s deal will prove reasonable for his production, and that helps because C is the hardest spot to fill in the league. I see no reason for them to just led Ridnour expire, so moving him to a 2010-looking team for a young piece and a contract would make a ton of sense, especially if he was a PF/C, where they need potential and should have some minutes to spare. They also could have a sign+trade market for Charlie V, who I hate next to Bogut but holds value in other systems.
Possibly my favorite 2010 team in terms of possibilities.
Core guys locked up: Al Jefferson (through 2013), Kevin Love (through 2012), Ryan Gomes (through 2013), and Corey Brewer (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Mike Miller (2010), Randy Foye (2010- RFA), Sebastian Telfair (2010- player option), Brian Cardinal (2010), Jason Collins (2009), Rashad McCants (2009- RFA), and Craig Smith (2010)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $35,169,035 (Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Randy Foye’s cap hold, Ryan Gomes (estimate), and Corey Brewer). I did not include Rodney Carney’s cap hold, and it is worth noting that this does not include cap holds for draft picks in 2009 and 2010, where the T-Wolves have 4 first rounders combined.
What they should do: Those who criticize the Love/Mayo deal on draft night do not have 2010 in mind, because the deal was a stone-cold steal from that perspective. Part of what makes the T-Wolves so fascinating is that they have a ton of solid rotation players on roster and most of them are on cheap deals for the time being. If I’m Minnesota, I’d be looking hard at trying to move under the cap for 2009, when they could be one of a relatively small pool of buyers for an underrated group of talent. Would this be worth trading Mike Miller for Wally? No, but moving one of the lesser future firsts to a team like the Knicks for a Malik Rose/Brian Cardinal swap could work incredibly well. Either way, the Wolves have a ton to work with in cap space, expiring contracts, or both. What makes them such a fun 2010 team is that guys like Brian Cardinal become assets very soon, and if Minnesota decides they’d rather add contracts now, they could probably get a mint for him and Mike Miller from the right team. What’s more, they have Jefferson, Love, Gomes, and Brewer holed up, so they can spend close to the max to get a #1 perimeter scorer even if they want to keep Randy Foye around. There is no team other than the Blazers in better position to coalesce their assets into a few great players than the T-Wolves.
New Jersey Nets
All they need is One.
Core guys locked up: Devin Harris (through 2013), Brook Lopez (through 2012), Vince Carter (through 2011 or 2012- team option), Yi Jianlian (through 2011), Ryan Anderson (through 2012), and Sean Williams (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Bobby Simmons (2010), Josh Boone (2010- RFA), Trenton Hassell (2010), Jarvis Hayes (2010), Chris Douglas-Roberts (2010)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $48,974,089 (Devin Harris (estimate), Vince Carter, Brook Lopez, Yi Jianlian, Ryan Anderson, Sean Williams, Josh Boone’s cap hold, Eduardo Najera, and Keyon Dooling). It is worth noting that I believe both Najera and Dooling have buy-outs for 2010 purposes. I have not included them.
What they should do: Cap-wise, no team is in better 2010 position than the Nets. They have a mint of space available and they could definately move Vince Carter’s contract. What makes them so special is how many rotation-worthy players they already have locked up at that point. If they trade Vince, they could max out two players with their PG and C positions set in the long term already with Devin and Brook Lopez. If they can’t get LeBron to come, I could see them go hard after Rudy Gay who will be in his RFA year, T-Mac, and/or Joe Johnson. Furthermore, the Nets even have depth locked-up long term with a stable of PF’s (Yi, Anderson, Williams) and guys like Najera and Dooling. Rod Thorn can do an absolute ton with this team, and all he has to do is run the pitch and pull a top-tier swingman. The other awesome thing is how well the talent on this team fits with Lebron if he should choose to come- they have PF’s that can spread the floor, decent defenders, and the space to add in even more talent. That may not be enough for him, but it certainly does make the possibility even more imposing.
New Orleans Hornets
They’ve got what they want.
Core guys locked up: Chris Paul (through 2012 or 2013- player option), David West (through 2011 or 2012- player option), Tyson Chandler (through 2010 or 2011- player option), Peja Stojakovic (through 2011), James Posey (through 2012), Morris Peterson (through 2011), and Julian Wright (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Tyson Chandler (2010- player option), Antonio Daniels (2010), Rasual Butler (2010), Melvin Ely (2009)
Immovable contracts: None (though Peja moves into that territory now and then)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $75,957,780 (Chris Paul, David West, Tyson Chandler’s player option, Peja Stojakovic, James Posey, Morris Peterson, Julian Wright, and Hilton Armstrong’s cap hold)
What they should do: Simply put, the Hornets aren’t a major player for 2010. They’re over the cap and don’t have many meaningful 2010 contracts, though Antonio Daniels and/or Rasual Butler could be swung in the right circumstances for a small piece. That said, the Hornets have a solid team and with a few draft picks and a little more $, they can have the depth they need to be a threat for a title.
New York Knicks
Baby, you’re the inspiration.
Core guys locked up: Wilson Chandler (through 2011) and Danilo Gallinari (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: David Lee (2009- RFA), Nate Robinson (2009- RFA), Chris Duhon (2010), Stephon Marbury (2009), Malik Allen (2009), Al Harrington (2010), Tim Thomas (2010), Quentin Richardson (2009 or 2010- player option), and Jerome James (2010)
Immovable contracts: Jared Jeffries (through 2011). Apparently, some teams want Eddy Curry (through 2011), but he’s worth a mention too
Projected 2010 committed salary: $23,595,304 (Eddy Curry, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Jared Jeffries)
What they should do: The Knicks are one of the few teams that has a reasonable reason to believe they can get free agents with cap space. It’s the reason so many people (including me) advocated them clearing cap when they finally decided to re-build. Since the Knicks look to be the only true NYC team in 2010, they can play that card in full force, and they have a great system to lure in players as well. One thing worth noting that has not been as discussed is that the Knicks would be wise to save their cap space until 2011 if they somehow strike out on big name guys in 2010- they will be dropping Curry and ared effries off the books then and the only guy with a cap hold of note is Wilson Chandler, and his isn’t bad since he was a late 1st. I would be floored if the Knicks didn’t end up with two max-quality guys between the 2009 and 2010 offseasons, and they have a few draft picks to use to make the team even more desirable. I’d make a promise with a certain PG from Spain that he can come over whenever he wants if he enters the draft this year…
Oklahoma City TeamThiefs
Do players want to play there?
Core guys locked up: Kevin Durant (through 2011), Russell Westbrook (through 2011), Jeff Green (through 2011), and Nick Collison (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Earl Watson (2010), Chris Wilcox (2009), Joe Smith (2009), Desmond Mason (2009), Johan Petro (2009- RFA), Damien Wilkins (2010), Robert Swift (2009), and Saer Sene (2010- RFA)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $22,212,854 (Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, Nick Collison, DJ White, and Kyle Weaver). I did not include Saer Sene’s cap hold for what I hope are obvious reasons. Also, the Nonics hold the rights to DeVon Hardin and Serge Ibaka, who we can reasonably expect will be on the squad by then.
What they should do: Any interpretation of what the Nonics should do hinges on whether or not you think they can pull free agents to Oklahoma City. If you think they can, they are in amazing position. However, I am in the group of people that doubts that higher end players will do so. Either way, management needs to get a decent team on the court by the time Kevin Durant becomes a free agent (probably 2013 since they would match any and every offer if he tried to leave during his RFA year). Luckily, they actually have a decent amount of talent under reasonable contracts from the starter quality guys (KD, Westbrook, and Green) to role players like Serge Ibaka, DJ White, and Kyle Weaver. As such, they have plenty of options (along with some high draft picks) to make this team better while still maintaining flexibility. One particularly logical move is to parlay either Chris Wilcox or Earl Watson at the deadline when their contracts expire (2009 and 2010, respectively) for a guy with a longer contract. Watson will have some value as a 2010 guy with the skill to be a very good backup PG. The more pieces the Nonics can have in play, the easier it is to lure a Boozer-type of guy who wants to build his legacy or just use the space to get even more talent in salary dumps. Sam Presti is a great GM and has a lot of pieces to work with, but he still needs to do a whole lot to get the team in playoff contention.
They better like what they have.
Core guys locked up: Dwight Howard (through 2012 or 2013- player option), Rashard Lewis (through 2013), Jameer Nelson (through 2013), Mickael Pietrus (through 2011 or 2012- player option), and Courtney Lee (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: Hedo Turkoglu (2009 or 2010- player option), Brian Cook (2009 or 2010-player option), JJ Redick (2010- RFA), Tony Battie (2010), Keith Bogans (2009), and Marcin Gortat (2009)
Immovable contracts: Rashard Lewis (through 2013) and possibly Jameer Nelson (through 2013)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $50,398,462 (Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis, Jameer Nelson, Mickael Pietrus, and Courtney Lee). I have not included JJ Redick’s cap hold.
What they should do: The Magic’s situation is amazing because they have $50m committed to just five players, one of whom is on his rookie deal. Barring the extremely unforeseen, the Magic can just add draft picks and guys for the MLE or less. That said, they would be wise to try and move some of their pieces expiring in the nearer term to teams for longer contracts and picks/talent. Tony Battie definately holds value as a big off the bench with a 2010-expiring deal and of course they can move Hedo in a sign+trade should the opportunity present itself. In a way, 2010 is when you start to see the effects of heinously overpaying Shard, since that is the first time the team really could have done something if they had reined in his salary and Jameer’s insane extension.
The new Titletown! Oh wait…
Core guys locked up: Elton Brand (through 2013), Andre Iguodala (through 2013 or 2014- player option), Thaddeus Young (through 2011), Samuel Dalember (through 2011), Louis Williams (through 2012), and Marreese Speights (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: Andre Miller (2009) and Theo Ratliff (2009). Interesting, the Sixers don’t have a single player expiring in 2010 right now.
Immovable contracts: Elton Brand (through 2013) and Samuel Dalember (through 2011)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $61,868,463 (Elton Brand, Andre Iguodala, Samuel Dalembert, Thaddeus Young, Louis Williams, Marreese Speights, Willie Green, Reggie Evans, and Jason Smith)
What they should do: The Sixers’ core pretty much has to stay the same for the time being. While they could move Andre Miller for a piece, they’d be best served to just keep him (I like him with what they have). What may end up being the Sixers’ biggest problem is that Iggy’s natural position is SF, which just happens to be the position Thaddeus plays very well and they don’t have a SG worthy of making those roles work. Ideally, what they would do is start Iggy at SF, then led Thad get his mins there (and a few at PF), with Iggy playing the rest of the SF minutes and getting the rest of his at SG. Unless they don’t replace Miller and find a way to move Dalembert, the Sixers will not be a factor in 2010 in any meaningful way besides possibly changing the needs of other teams through deals. But in the end, they actually have a pretty deep long-term roster (I really like Speights and Smith especially), which helps.
Another team with a large amount of moving pieces in play for 2010 that can take them in a few different directions.
Core guys locked up: Jason Richardson (through 2011), Leandro Barbosa (through 2011 or 2012- player option), Robin Lopez (through 2012), and Jared Dudley (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Steve Nash (2009 or 2010- team option), Amare Stoudemire (2010- player option he’ll opt out of), Shaq (2010), Grant Hill (2009), and Matt Barnes (2009)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $29,469,287 (Jason Richardson, Leandro Barbosa, Robin Lopez, Jared Dudley, Goran Dragic, and Alando Tucker)
What they should do: The J-Rich trade changed everything for the Suns. They now have a reliable SG for their system long-term (reliable in terms of what he brings, not his health) as well as a few depth guys in Dudley and Lopez that are useful to have. I personally see it as somewhat inevitable that Nash’s next contract will not be with Phoenix (I see him joining D’Antoni or trying to grab a ring somewhere like Portland). If that is true, the Suns have to work to figure out how to make the team/system desirable in the long term. One option that was more intriguing before he started on his tear was Shaq for Marbury, which would give the Suns around $10m in cap space this offseason if handled correctly. That could have been used to offer Sheed a 2-3 year deal and offer Nash a little more to stay until 2011. That would hopefully be enough to keep Amare around (at least for his option year), and the team would be competitive until that point at the very least. With that now largely by the wayside, the Suns can still likely be buyers in 2010, but they need a strong sales pitch to get the higher-level guys interested if guys like LBJ and Wade are pitching too.
2009 or 2010?
Core guys locked up: Gregory Oden (through 2011), Nicolas Batum (through 2012), Rudy Fernandez (through 2012), Joel Przybilla (through 2011), Jerryd Bayless (through 2012), and Martell Webster (through 2013),
2010 or earlier free agents: Brandon Roy (2010- RFA), LaMarcus Aldridge (2010- RFA), Travis Outlaw (2010), Steve Blake (2010), Channing Frye (2009- RFA), and Ike Diogu (2009- RFA)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $54,049,737 (Brandon Roy’s cap hold, Greg Oden, Lamarcus Aldridge’s cap hold, Rudy Fernandez, Martell Webster (estimate), Joel Przybilla, Nicolas Batum, Jerryd Bayless, and Sergio Rodriguez’ cap hold).
What they should do: Considering they have Paul Allen’s money to work with, the best thing for the Blazers is probably to go after someone in 2009- they have a fair amount of cap room if Miles’ contract stays off their books. One problem for the Blazers is that they have a ton of talent and not nearly enough minutes to maximize the happiness of the players involved (or even the talent). If it were my team, I would keep Batum first because he is amazingly talented and under contract for a while. From there, it would depend on demand. Also, one alternative if 2009 isn’t working out too well would be to make a move involving LaMarcus and Kevin Love. Love is a native Oregonian who has the added benefit of another two years before his RFA year (and cap hold), so 2010 would become an option for Portland thanks to LMA’s max cap hold being pushed back. Portland is in a fantastic position, but they have some big decisions to make quickly.
A better situation than you’d think
Core guys locked up: Kevin Martin (through 2013), Beno Udrih (through 2012 or 2013- player option), Spencer Hawes (through 2011), Francisco Garcia (through 2014), Jason Thompson (through 2012), John Salmons (through 2011), and Donte Greene (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: Brad Miller (2010), Bobby Brown (2010), Mikki Moore (2010), Shelden Williams (2010- RFA), Bobby Jackson (2009), Kenny Thomas (2009), and Quincy Douby (2010- RFA)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $35,146,025 (Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes, Beno Udrih, Jason Thompson, Francisco Garcia, and Donte Greene). I did not include Shelden Williams and Quincy Douby’s cap holds.
What they should do: The Kings are a team that I had essentially written off for 2010, which seems to have been a mistake. Even with the pick holds, they should be able to offer a sizeable contract. In some ways, what they do should depend (like for OKC) on whether they can lure free agents to Sacto. With Spencer Hawes having his RFA year in 2011, 2010 is probably the best opportunity to get another player. One great option is trading Brad Miller for Gerald Wallace, which has been rumored a little bit since the J-Rich trade. That would give Sacto a good perimeter complement to Kevin Martin and allows them to focus on getting another long-term big and a PG of the future. The ability to key on certain positions with more of a long-term focus should help.
San Antonio Spurs
A tabula rasa + Timmay and Parker
Core guys locked up: Tim Duncan (through 2012), Tony Parker (through 2011), and George Hill (through 2012)
2010 or earlier free agents: Manu Ginobili (2010), Kurt Thomas (2010), Michael Finley (2009), Roger Mason (2010), Matt Bonner (2010), and Ime Udoka (2009)
Immovable contracts: None
Projected 2010 committed salary: $35,305,910 (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, George Hill, and Ian Mahinmi).
What they should do: Whatever they want. Simply put, the Spurs’ front office can do whatever they want. They’ve got a great PG duo long-term in Parker and Hill. I assume they’ll keep Manu, and the big piece left is if they can get Tiago Splitter to come to the US and start next to Timmay.
It all comes down to one man
Core guy locked up: Jose Calderon (through 2013)
2010 or earlier free agents: Chris Bosh (2010- player option), Jermaine O’Neal (2010), Andrea Bargnani (2010- RFA), Jamario Moon (2010), Anthony Parker (2009), and Roko Ukic (2010 or 2011- player option)
Immovable contracts: Jason Kapono (through 2011)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $29,841,440 (Jose Calderon, Andrea Bargnani’s cap hold (estimated), and Jason Kapono). I did not include the player options for Bosh, Kris Humphries, and Roko Ukic.
What they should do: From what I have heard, Mr. Bosh is a loyal guy, so what the Raptors need to do is show him enough love so that he won’t get wooed by one of the high-end FA’s to come join his team. Unlike for Lebron, I think the Raptors can worry less about how the team looks beyond 2010 and make sure they have the best product on the court the next two seasons. Unfortunately, it is hard to figure out how they can dramatically improve their talent, so they may just have to hope what they have plays more like they did last year, which is absolutely possible. For 2010, much of what happens depends on Bosh. If they keep him, they can add a 2nd tier guy (around $10m a year), ideally a swingman who can put the ball in the net. I see Lamar Odom as a good fit, but he’s hard for them to get since he expires this year and not then, but he is the type of guy that could work well. Additionally, drafting some talent would help as those guys are relatively inexpensive and locked up for enough time to build a core should Bosh decide to go elsewhere.
Where 2009 player options happen.
Core guys locked up: Deron Williams (through 2012 or 2013- player option), Andrei Kirilenko (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Carlos Boozer (2009- player option), Memo Okur (2009 or 2010- player option), Paul Millsap (2009), Ronnie Brewer (2010- RFA), Matt Harpring (2010), and Morris Almond (2009)
Immovable contracts: Andrei Kirilenko (through 2011) and possibly Kyle Korver (through 2011), though his isn’t so bad.
Projected 2010 committed salary: $51,711,203 (Deron Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Ronnie Brewer’s cap hold, CJ Miles, Kyle Korver, and Kosta Koufos).
What they should do: The Jazz have a solid amount of 2010 cash locked into AK47 and Deron. Essentially, the Jazz’ decision-making comes down to a few things: First, they should try to retain Okur- he is a good player for them and fits in no matter what direction they go. In terms of Boozer, they need to ask three questions.
1. Will he re-sign?
2. How good are we with him the rest of the season?
3. How good are we without him the rest of the season?
Assuming he isn’t going to re-sign, the Jazz have to determine what they would be losing this season by trading him. It will be a rough market for Carlos since any team that gets him will either be expecting to re-sign him or want to dump some longer deals on Utah. One possible deal I cooked up is Boozer to the Lakers for Odom who then gets sent to Toronto for Bargnani (with some other pieces, naturally), but that’s one idea. Of course, a sign and trade is a possiblity too, and the Jazz would be wise to hold firm and wait for the right offer, because they can just use the cap space should that be better than a weak crop of offers. Either way, the Jazz should have money in 2011 thanks to AK47 and Korver coming off the books. They’ll probably need to throw alot of money at a FA (Utah can be a hard sell), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go after a more uptempo coach after Sloan leaves, which I think would better fit their talent, especially if Kirilenko can log some minutes at PF.
If they could turn back time…
Core guys locked up: Gilbert Arenas (through 2012 or 2014- ETO), Antawn Jamison (through 2012), Caron Butler (through 2011), Andray Blatche (through 2012), Deshawn Stevenson (through 2012), JaVale McGee (through 2012), and Nick Young (through 2011)
2010 or earlier free agents: Etan Thomas (2010), Mike James (2009 or 2010- player option), Brendan Haywood (2010), and Dominic McGuire (2010)
Immovable contracts: Gilberto (2012 or 2014), and potentially Jamison (2012)
Projected 2010 committed salary: $62,769,485 (Arenas, Butler, Jamison, Andray Blatche, JaVale McGee, Nick Young, DeShawn Stevenson, Darius Songalia, Oleksiy Pecherov, and Javaris Crittenton).
What they should do: See what happens when you binge poorly in free agency? The Wiz are locked in with their roster until 2011 at the earliest. What is so shocking about their situation is that even if they can unload Jamison, they are still SOL for 2010 cap space. That’s how much money this team has locked up. Luckily, they’ve got some very good talent in Butler, McGee, Jamison, Arenas (when healthy), Blatche, and their SG monster. It will just be monumentally hard for them to get better with just trades, the draft, and the MLE to work with for the next few offseasons. What I would love to see from them is a little bit of Gilbert off the ball- a SG/PG like Jrue Holliday could work wonders for their ball movement and team D.