Sports Illustrated has a list of this offseason’s crop of NBA free agents, last updated on Wednesday afternoon. While some minor signings have occurred since then (Theo Ratliff with the San Antonio Spurs, for example), there are still some productive players out there for the taking.
Here is a quick list of the top 10 free agents who are still unsigned as of early Friday morning, in approximate order of fantasy value:
- Lamar Odom: He’s still versatile and capable of putting up great all-around numbers on a nightly basis if given sufficient playing time. If he ends up back with the Los Angeles Lakers, Odom’s stats will be a bit muted, though still desirable. However, if he ends up on the Miami Heat or the Portland Trail Blazers, expect a more solid fantasy season for Odom.
- Andre Miller: The reliable point guard for the Philadelphia 76ers for the past three seasons is having some trouble finding a new crew to run. Miller’s entering this season at the ripe old age of 33, but he has shown no signs of slowing down, playing in all 82 games during the past two seasons. It seems that he’s most likely to end up with either the Trail Blazers or the New York Knicks, two teams that have been searching for an upgrade at point guard all summer. Miller should see value similar to last season if he ends up on either team.
Allen Iverson: Oh, you forgot about him? Iverson, once one of the most impressive, respected and productive point guards in the NBA, is now struggling to find an NBA team who is willing to cough up more than a mid-level exception for the former MVP. The buzz is that the Los Angeles Clippers are pursuing Iverson’s services, along with the Memphis Grizzlies. Obviously, he probably isn’t jumping for joy at the prospect of playing for either team, but with the lack of offers on the table, he might just have to swallow his pride and sign on if he wants to remain in the NBA. Iverson will have more fantasy value on the Grizzlies. He’ll have too much competition for playing time with Baron Davis and Eric Gordon locked in for major minutes on the Clippers.
- David Lee: The restricted free agent had a career year for the Knicks last season, averaging 16.0 points and 11.7 rebounds, while shooting 54.9 percent from the field. True, he doesn’t get many steals or blocks, but he’s as close to a surefire double-double as you’ll get from a guy not named Dwight Howard. He’s understandably frustrated by the apparent lack of appreciation from the Knicks, but it seems that Lee’s agent is asking for $12 million per year, a bit high even for a player of Lee’s caliber. Wherever he ends up, expect him to continue his dominance on the boards.
- Ramon Sessions: The restricted free agent made a name for himself in the fantasy world during the final 10 games of the 2007-08 season. In his last two games for the Milwaukee Bucks he totaled 45 points and 38 assists, though he played the full 53:00 in the final overtime game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Sessions followed up with a strong showing last season, averaging 12.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.7 assists in just 27:30 per game. Keep an eye on where he ends up. If given 30+ minutes a night, Sessions will put up solid numbers for your team.
- Raymond Felton: The restricted free agent on the Charlotte Bobcats has struggled to reach any kind of agreement with his current team. The point guard played well for the Bobcats last season, though he took a slight step back from his 2007-08 campaign. He’s frustratingly inconsistent at times, but his averages are nothing to scoff at. Expect him to reluctantly re-sign with the Bobcats, unless the Trail Blazers can come through with a big offer that will turn off the Bobcats from matching.
- Marvin Williams: Another restricted free agent, Williams has shown consistent production during the past three seasons on the Atlanta Hawks. His health is a minor concern, but so long as his health is there, he remains a promising young forward who is always good for some points, rebounds and solid shooting percentages. There hasn’t been much said about Williams’ situation, so expect him to continue his solid production on the Hawks next season unless we hear otherwise.
- Nate Robinson: A restricted free agent on the Knicks along with Lee, Robinson also had a career year last season in New York, though he sputtered out at the end. True, he was helped by the stats-friendly system headed by coach Mike D’Antoni, and the absence of Stephon Marbury cleared up major minutes for him, but Robinson showed flashes of real solid play last year. Like Lee, Robinson will likely end up back in a Knicks uniform. If he does, expect good production. However, if the Knicks land a solid point guard, like Miller, expect Robinson’s stats to take a hit, thus reducing his value.
- Flip Murray: The Hawks shooting guard did an admirable job backing up Joe Johnson last season. The backcourt in Atlanta looks a bit more crowded with the arrival of Jamal Crawford, so look for Murray to take his knack for scoring in bunches elsewhere. Wherever he ends up, so long as he gets 20+ minutes per game, Murray will always provide your team with double-digit points, along with a couple rebounds and assists, a three-pointer and a steal. Not shabby.
- Linas Kleiza: The capable forward has always produced in limited playing time on the Denver Nuggets and has put up big numbers when playing as a starter. He’s getting interest from Olympiakos, the team that has retained Josh Childress for another season. The Nuggets will have difficulty matching any substantial offer for Kleiza, so expect him to take his shooting specialties elsewhere.
Kobe Bryant thinks there’s a good chance that Lamar Odom will re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. However, after talks have soured between Odom and team owner Jerry Buss there have been a number of rumors about the versatile forward heading to multiple destinations not named Los Angeles, including New Jersey and Miami.
The New Jersey rumors are unlikely to bear any fruit, but the Miami Heat appear to have the best chance of stealing Odom away from the defending champions. Why? Because Odom played there in the 2003-04 season and his house is still located in Miami.
Dwyane Wade even told the Associated Press that he wants Odom “to come home.”
Nevertheless, there are big reasons why heading to even Miami is unlikely for Odom.
As Craver notes on Fantasy Basket Blog:
First, Odom would be taking a pay cut of roughly $9 million. The Heat can only offer him a little above the mid-level exception which would be just below $6 million a year. Where as he already had an offer from the Los Angeles Lakers at $9 million a year for three years that he sat on for too long before the Lakers decided to pull the offer off of the table.
Second, Dwayne Wade may be on his way out the door himself for free agency after next season. He has said that he would sign an extension if the Heat committed to rebuilding toward a Championship, but he would leave if they weren’t able to convince him that they were truly making the effort. Is signing Odom enough for Wade or would he need the Heat to do more? Does Odom want to risk being locked into a contract and be stuck on a team without a bonafide star should Wade choose to leave?
Two very valid points.
Still, Odom’s reputation precedes him in situations like this. It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see him squander a perfectly wonderful opportunity to make a feasible trip back to the Finals with his newly revamped defending-champion Lakers team, especially now that Ron Artest is likely to cut into his minutes.
Craver’s prediction? “My money is on the Lakers resigning Odom to a contract around 4-5 years for $35-40 million.”
I’d be a bit more conservative and expect a 3-4 year deal for about $27-35 million with the Lakers as the most likely outcome, but I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Odom spurn the Lakers for another team, like the Heat or even the Portland Trail Blazers.
Now we’ll see where Odom’s heart is at: with the chance at another ring, or with more money and/or playing time.
If Odom stays with the Lakers, his fantasy value will take a hit. If he heads east to join the Heat or heads north to join the Trail Blazers, his value will see a boost.
Here’s to Odom not making an oh-so-dumb decision.
Update: Now Derek Fisher is getting into the act: a post titled “Trying to Bring Lamar Odom Back” is now up on his Web site. Odom must feel really important these days.
Grant Hill has finally decided to re-sign with the Phoenix Suns for one season at $3 million with a player option for another year at $3.24 million, according to The Arizona Republic. It seemed that the New York Knicks had a good shot at signing Hill but they fell short, along with the Boston Celtics.
For Hill, who came off of a solid season stats-wise and a stellar season health-wise (he played in all 82 games for the first time in his career), stands to benefit from the likely departure of Matt Barnes. This will give Hill, 36, less competition at the small forward spot, which will mean more than the 29:48 per game he played last season.
Don’t expect anything more than 32 minutes a night though, and remain wary of his health. It’s almost inevitable that he’ll make up for last year’s perfect attendance by reverting back to the mean and missing at least a handful of games this season. Still, expect around 12 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and a steal per game, about what Hill produced last season. He’ll remain an efficient player with high field goal and free throw percentages and low turnovers, who won’t carry your team but will be a solid utility player in most leagues.
Maybe the most interesting implication here is how much of a guarantee this is that Amar’e Stoudemire will be staying in Phoenix this year. Stoudemire was the center of loud trade speculation in June, particularly with the Golden State Warriors, who were said to have offered Andres Biedrins and their No. 7 pick (Stephen Curry) in return for the Suns’ stud center.
Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic mentions Hill’s agent, Lon Babby, and his thoughts on Stoudemire’s status:
Babby said Amaré Stoudemire’s status after June trade talks was also a “concern” for Hill, who strengthened his relationship with Stoudemire this summer.
“I think the expectation is he would be there next year,” Babby said. “There was no reason to think he wouldn’t be there next year.”
With Shaquille O’Neal gone and with all signs pointing to a successful recovery from surgery on his retina, Stoudemire seems set to boost his numbers back to 2007-08 levels (25 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks per game), assuming he actually stays with the Suns.
In case you were looking for another perspective on this summer’s active free agent activity and its bearing on fantasy values, here’s Brian McKitish and his view on how things will pan out for the free agents that have joined new teams this summer. He discusses Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Rasheed Wallace, Hedo Turkoglu, Ron Artest and Trevor Ariza, along with the teammates they will likely affect.
McKitish’s conclusions seem well-grounded. He makes a good point about Turkoglu’s potential value in 2009-2010:
Turkoglu is at his best when he can act as a playmaker from the forward position, but Jose Calderon is a pass-first point guard, and the Raptors won’t need Turk to create as much as he did in Orlando. Turkoglu handed out an average of 4.9 assists last season, a number that’s sure to go down as Calderon runs the show.
His discussion of Ariza’s rising value in Houston is also helpful:
Not only is Ron Artest gone, but the Rockets could miss both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady thanks to injuries for at least the beginning of the season (if not the entire season). Suddenly, the Rockets have become a team with limited offensive options, and Ariza immediately could become a go-to player on the offensive end. And although Ariza is much better suited as a role player, his fantasy owners could be in for a treat in 2009-10. In Houston, he’ll see more minutes than ever, which will lead to a corresponding jump in statistics across the board. Expect career highs in every relevant fantasy category, but be careful with his field goal percentage because he’ll likely struggle mightily from the floor with the additional attention that he didn’t receive as a role player.
Look for Ariza to make more turnovers and commit more fouls, too.
Here’s a glimpse into some juicy murmurs circling the NBA:
He said, he said: LeBron James is denying reports that he told former free agent and soon-to-be Houston Rocket Trevor Ariza that he was staying in Cleveland beyond next summer, when James becomes a free agent himself. Back-and-forth aside, Ariza could still pull a Turkoglu and sign with the Cavs tomorrow, when free agents can officially sign with their new teams. Regardless, Ariza stands to gain a boost in minutes, especially if he ends up in Houston, where Artest’s absence leaves a big hole for him to fill. Throw in the possible absence of Yao Ming for the season and Ariza’s potential for a breakout season is even more sexy. On the Cavaliers, Ariza’s value would only see a modest boost, since he plays the same position as James and would be competing for shots with the King and Mo Williams, not to mention Shaquille O’Neal.
- It seems like there is more and more reason to believe Grant Hill will be leaving the Phoenix Suns and sign on with the Boston Celtics. First off, if he does sign with the Celtics, they would have a lineup filled with big names: Hill, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rasheed Wallace? It reads like an All-Star lineup a few years ago. But, as everyone knows, all of these players, save Pierce, are seeing age and mileage catching up to them, muting their production. Still, Hill would provide the Celtics a solid, dynamic sixth man. His value would decline on the Celtics, where he would likely see around 20 minutes per night. Hill is still being sought after by the New York Knicks where his value would be higher than it would be on the Celtics, and the Suns, so this is far from done.
- Once upon a time, Shawn Marion was a perennial top three fantasy basketball player. Then he got selfish and whiny and went to the Miami Heat and then to the Toronto Raptors and his value hasn’t recovered since. Now there are reports that the Dallas Mavericks are trying to engineer a sign-and-trade involving a Jerry Stackhouse buyout. There are a few ways this could go down, but Marion stands to benefit either way. Playing alongside a distributor like Jason Kidd and a star like Dirk Nowitzki should boost Marion’s scoring and rebounds per night.