Free agent signings filled with potential pitfalls
Posted: Wednesday July 5, 2006 12:48PM; Updated: Thursday July 6, 2006 12:49AM
Jason Terry's reported new contract not only will give Dallas the benefit of his best years, but the flexibility to deal him if necessary.
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Technically, not one free agent has changed teams. Not one trade has gone through, no player was needlessly made into a multimillionaire, and no team vaulted out of the lottery and into the playoff picture. But, on July 12, the NBA's free agent season officially starts, and if players and agents are to be trusted (stop laughing), a whole host of names will hit the transaction wire. Below are some thoughts on the best and worst signings of the bunch.
What a coup for Chicago! They make a significant upgrade at basketball's most important position while significantly weakening their division's best team. Wallace may be 32 on opening night, but he'll get his act together for one season Roger Clemens-style, and give Chicago as good a chance as any to dethrone the Heat as Eastern Conference champs.
Topping that, any deal involving Tyson Chandler, whether he goes to New Orleans for P.J. Brown or J.R. Smith (likely), or to Minnesota in a package that brings Chicago Kevin Garnett (don't bet on it), adds to the score. Even at 36, Brown had a better season than Chandler last year, and his expiring contract would give the Bulls cap room next season to extend the contracts of their young contributors, or further explore the free agent market.
We don't buy the rumors about the Mavericks flirting with the notion of adding Mike James, or handing the ball to Devin Harris for 40 minutes a night. Dallas knows what it has with Terry, the type of guard who can provide an inside/outside threat most teams can't counter, but is also willing to throw entry passes all night just to bring home a win. Five seasons in Atlanta will do wonders for your sense of priority and obligation. When Terry is on, no NBA team is better than the Mavericks.
Also, the 6-year, $50 million pact Terry will reportedly ink is exceedingly affordable (i.e. quite tradable should "JET" go off his rocker and spike coach Avery Johnson's orange Gatorade), while, at the same time, securing Terry's services for the length of his prime.
Claxton cooled off considerably in the second half of 2005-06, but Claxton at his worst is still years better than what his new team in Atlanta had to field at point guard last season. Royal Ivey started 66 games for the Hawks last year, and though he made a game effort, he was probably the worst player in the NBA who had to play significant minutes. He played 975 minutes, in fact -- and for every 13.4 of them (his per game average) Ivey managed one whole assist on a team full of finishers. Claxton may have his issues (height, no 3-point range, a nickname that may seem ironic toward the end of his contract), but mere competence will serve as huge upgrade in this situation.
This goes both ways. At 23 years old and coming off a stellar 29-game stint as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics, Wilcox appears poised to breakout. And yet, teams chasing the 6-foot-11 power forward (including Seattle, itself, the likely frontrunner) should be wary of that two-month run in contrast to the 213 career games that came before it.
As a starter in Seattle, Wilcox averaged 14.1 points on just 9.7 field-goal attempts, and 8.2 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game. His pro-rated, per-30.1 minute averages with the Los Angeles Clippers last season were 9.9 points, 7.7 shot attempts and 7.9 rebounds. It bears noting that Seattle coach Bob Hill rarely ran plays for Wilcox while having to share the ball and the court with (rightful) ball-hoggers such as Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis.Still, Wilcox did his damage against starter-quality talent. So not only did he develop into a significantly better player within a week, he did so against significantly better opposition.