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Forecast: A Tepid Free Agency Starts Tonight

Published: June 30, 2009

The NBA Free Agency period commences tonight, as NBA teams may begin negotiating with Free Agents at 12:01 AM July 1st.  Usually, free Agency is usually a time for optimism.  The past few years, the Hornets have identified primary targets, and then gone out and signed them, picking up Peja Stojakovic, Morris Peterson and James Posey.  This time, however, I have a feeling a lot of Free Agents – and the fans of a lot of teams – are going to be disappointed because only a small number of teams are willing or able to offer sizeable contracts.

What the Hornets Can Offer

First off the Hornets are over the Salary Cap.  In the NBA, that means they can only make better than minimum offers to their own players or take advantage of a pair of Exceptions offered to all NBA teams.  The first is the Mid-Level Exception.  Every year a team is allowed to offer a contract or contracts equal to the average salary of an NBA player.  The past two years, the Hornets have made that offer to James Posey and Morris Peterson.  Teams are also allowed to offer a bi-annual exception every two years as well, which is a contract worth roughly double what most players would make on a minimum contract.  Both of these exceptions will be available to the Hornets this off-season.  So all together, if they wanted to spend, they could contracts worth about $7.5 million, with the biggest possible contract being worth about $5.6 million.

What Will the Hornets Offer?

I don’t have a clue.  Really.  I’ve posted a lot here about the Luxury Tax and its effects – and how I think some combination of Tyson Chandler, Hilton Armstrong, Rasual Butler and Antonio Daniels could be moved to get the team under the Luxury Tax Line.  That’s all well and good – but without knowing what trades may happen, it’s impossible to really figure out what sort of players the Hornets might target in the off-season.

The latest rumors have Tyson Chandler(plus a minimum contract like Devin Brown) possibly being traded to Phoenix in return for Ben Wallace.  Ben Wallace has expressed a desire to retire – which could allow the Hornets to pay Wallace a much smaller portion of his $15 million guaranteed contract and have him leave, giving them the Luxury Tax relief they are seeking.  There are some interesting roadblocks – The Hornets would only want to have to pay Wallace $5 million or less in order to cut the salary they need to – but Wallace will probably want more – and I don’t blame him.  He doesn’t have to retire, in fact, he could just sit around out of shape and collect the $15 mil.  That he’s giving up any of that guaranteed cash at all seems pretty decent of the guy.

Regardless of what happens on the trade front – whether Tyson gets sent out for peanuts like I’m expecting or not – the Hornets already need big men who can rebound.  If Tyson goes, they need it even more badly.  So who could the Hornets get?  Here’s a list of big men they could target – as well as how much each would probably cost.

Tier 1:  Will demand the full Exception.

(Some will want more and probably not get it)

Antonio McDyess – McDyess has always been a very solid rebounder, and he combines that with being a low mistake player with adequate scoring and solid defense.
Marcin Gortat – Someone is going to pay the Polish Hammer their full exception.  I have no clue if he’s worth it because of the limited minutes he played – usually against another teams backups.  He did post some crazy statistics, grabbing a huge 20% of available rebounds and scoring efficiently.  I think he’s probably worth the risk, but who knows.
Drew Gooden – over the course of his career, Gooden’s been a pretty good rebounder, and his scoring has been solid too.  He’s also always been a headcase and lame defender, but he’s still an okay player.  I doubt San Antonio lets him go.
Anderson Varejao – Varejao is a pretty up and down player.  Overall, he’s an okay rebounder, a good defender, and a fairly decent finisher.  He also thinks he’s much better than he is.  I’d stay away.
Brandon Bass – Bass is going to be grossly overpaid.  I know he’s pointed at by a lot of Hornets fans as “the one that got away” and pumped up into some awesome player who the Hornets made a terrible mistake over, but that’s not reality.  As a scorer, Bass is fairly solid, getting points efficiently on a nice number of shots.  As a rebounder, he’s pretty awful, actually.  his best season as a rebounder he dragged down 13.4% of rebounds.  David West beats that number – and like I said, West isn’t so hot himself.

[Edit] I somehow let Chris Andersen off the above list.  He should be there, right below Gortat – since he’s 31.

Tier 2: Probably will get a deal in the $3.5-5 Million range.

Zaza Pachulia – Pachulia is pretty tough, is a better than average rebounder for a center, and scores efficiently.  He does turn the ball over more than he should, but he’s definitely serviceable.
Jamaal Magloire – Magloire has never figured out he should shoot less often than he does.  He likes to turn the ball over and has always been mediocre as a scorer.  However – throughout his career he’s been good for delivering some pain in the paint – and controlling the boards nicely.  He could be serviceable in a backup role.
Chris Wilcox – Wilcox’s talent is putting the ball in the basket. He’s always scored well and kept his turnovers to a reasonable level.  However, he’s a worse than average rebounder, and hates passing the ball.  I’m still fixated on a rebounder – and he’s not cutting it.
Joe Smith – Joe Smith has been Chris Wilcox Lite over the last three years.  Same bad rebounding, slightly less scoring.  If we’re going to go for someone, go for Wilcox.
Rasho Nesterovic – I’ve always been a fan of Nesterovic, who never got enough credit for what he did well.  Unfortunately, he’s now 33 and declining – so whoever pays him probably won’t get his best.  As a scorer and passer, he’s at his best.  As a rebounder – he’s poor.  The Hornets need boardwork, so I’d pass on him.
Glen Davis – Big Baby is horribly overrated.  He’s mediocre at scoring – and the worst rebounder in this group.  In fact, he barely surpasses Hilton Armstrong as a rebounder.  No. Thank. You.

Tier 3: Scraping the bottom of the Barrel

These guys probably can be had for the minimum.  I’m not happy about any of them – so ranking them by preference was too annoying to bother.  Instead, I simply ranked by boardwork.

  • Aaron Gray
  • Shelden Williams
  • Ike Diogu
  • Sean May
  • Sean Marks
  • Chris Mihm
  • Stromile Swift
  • Donyell Marshall
  • Mikki Moore
  • Austin Croshere
  • Joel Anthony


  • Richard Hendrix
  • Courtney Sims

Tier 4: Please Don’t.  Please.  These guys either suck or are done.  Two of em couldn’t ever crack the big man rotation for the SuperThunder – where they were desperate for big men.

  • Jason Collins
  • Jarron Collins
  • Robert Swift
  • Juwan Howard
  • Melvin Ely
  • Saer Sene
  • Raef Lafrentz
  • Michael Ruffin
  • Theo Ratliff
  • Calvin Booth


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