Posted: Friday June 30, 2006 1:45PM; Updated: Monday July 24, 2006 5:41PM
The NBA free-agency period officially began on Saturday. Teams can negotiate with players, but no contracts can be signed until Wednesday, July 12.
Only five teams have significant cap room (Bulls, Hornets, Hawks, Raptors, Bobcats) to make a run at a top-tier free agent. The league's 25 other teams can only offer a deal starting at the mid-level exception (around $5 million). However, as in past years, the league's collective bargaining agreement allows teams, in most cases, to go over the salary cap to re-sign their own free agents.
Here's a look at SI.com's top 10 free agents on the board, and the early rundown on where they stand:
2006 NBA Free Agency Tracker
Marty Burns analyzes the best of the NBA's 2006 free-agent class.
On the Market
Al Harrington, Atlanta Hawks
Leader in clubhouse:
This versatile wingman is the biggest name left on the market now that Ben Wallace has signed with Chicago. The 6-foot-9 Harrington averaged a career-high 18.6 points to go with 6.9 rebounds a year ago, and his ability score in the post, shoot from outside and defend makes him an attractive commodity. At age 26, with his best years seemingly ahead of him, he should command a deal starting at around $10 million per year. The Hawks, with a crowd in the perimeter, almost certainly will look to fill their holes at point guard and/or center by using Harrington in a sign-and-trade. The Pacers, who have a hole at small forward with the departure of Peja Stojakovic, could be a willing partner.
Drew Gooden*, Cleveland Cavs
Nets, Suns, Hawks
Leader in clubhouse:
This former No. 4 overall pick is a good rebounder and scorer around the basket. At age 24 he could be entering his prime. Gooden is a restricted free agent, meaning Cleveland would have the right to match any offer. But if he gets a multiyear deal starting at, say, $8 million or $9 million per year, GM Danny Ferry might think twice.
Bonzi Wells, Sacramento Kings
Leader in clubhouse:
This rugged swingman upped his stock considerably in the postseason by averaging 23.2 points (on 60.9 percent shooting) and grabbing 12.0 rebounds against the Spurs in the first round. While there are doubts about his character, he is a proven talent who can score all over floor and rebound. The Kings say they want to bring him back at the right price, but his agent says there are six teams interested in his services. Wells, who made $8 million last season, reportedly wants a five-year deal. The Kings are the only team with cap room that appear interested, but they could do a sign-and-trade with the Nuggets or Pacers.
Chris Wilcox*, Seattle SuperSonics
Warriors, Nets, Suns
Leader in clubhouse:
The 6-10 former Maryland star blossomed last year in Seattle after being acquired from the Clippers in a midseason trade for Vladimir Radmanovic. In 29 games with the Sonics he averaged 14.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, nearly double his career marks. The Sonics say they want to keep him, and have the right to match any offer, but his reported asking price of a deal for Nenê money ($60 million over six years) is too high given that only a few teams have the salary cap room to make such an offer. Seattle is hoping Wilcox will accept something in between his asking price and the more realistic midlevel exception ($31 million over five), but if he refuses they could work a sign-and-trade.
Best of the Rest
Keith Van Horn, SF, Dallas; Devean George, SF, L.A. Lakers; Jared Jeffries*, SF, Washington; Melvin Ely*, PF, Charlotte; Alonzo Mourning, C, Miami; Reggie Evans, PF, Denver; John Salmons*, SG, Philadelphia; Michael Olowokandi, C, Minnesota *Restricted
Off the Market
Ben Wallace, Detroit Pistons
The four-time Defensive Player of the Year left the Pistons to sign a reported four-year, $60 million deal with the Chicago Bulls. Wallace had said last season that he was happy in Detroit, but apparently felt slighted by the Pistons' offer of four years and $49 million. He also indicated he was unhappy at times with his role in the team's offense. The Cavs and Knicks reportedly tried to get involved in a sign-and-trade for Wallace at the last minute, but no deal could be reached.
Peja Stojakovic, Indiana Pacers
Stojakovic signed a five-year deal worth about $64 million with the Hornets. The three-time All-Star was expected to stay in Indiana, but New Orleans stepped up with a better offer. Though Stojakovic struggled much of last year and early this season, he regained his stroke after being traded to Indiana for Ron Artest. He opted out of the final year of a contract that would have paid him $8.1 million, and now hopes to rejuvenate his career playing alongside Chris Paul.
Nenê*, Denver Nuggets
Nenê signed a reported six-year, $60 million deal with the Nuggets. The Brazilian big man is a former high draft pick (No. 7) with a promising future. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered on opening night, but he says he is now fully recovered.
Joel Przybilla, Portland Trail Blazers
Przybilla is staying in Portland with a five-year, $32 million deal. NBA GMs are always willing to pay more for a decent center, and this shot-blocking pivot has come into his own over the past two seasons. Przybilla has battled tendinitis in his knees, and he still needs work on his passing and foul shooting. He was probably the best center on the market along with Nazr Mohammed, who agreed to a deal with Detroit.
Jason Terry, Dallas Mavericks
Terry agreed to a six-year deal with the Mavs about 12 hours after becoming a free agent. Despite his John Starks-like shooting in Game 6 of the Finals, he was Dallas' second-leading scorer and a key catalyst for the Mavs all season. At 28, heading into his eighth season, he is arguably entering his prime.
Tim Thomas, Phoenix Suns
The sweet-shooting big man agreed to a four-year, $24 million contract with the Clippers. After being traded by the Nets and exiled by the Bulls, Thomas enjoyed a rebirth with the Suns. In 26 games he averaged 11 points and five rebounds while shooting 42.9 percent from downtown. Phoenix wanted to keep him but apparently couldn't match the Clippers' offer. In L.A., Thomas will look to replace Vladimir Radmanovic, who has agreed to leave the Clippers for a free-agent deal of his own with the Lakers.
Sam Cassell, L.A. Clippers
The brash and clever veteran QB, who helped transform the Clippers into winners last season, signed a two-year deal reportedly worth $13 million that will keep the 36-year-old with the team. The two-time NBA champ (1994, '95) and one-time All-Star (2004) had said all along that he wanted to stay with the Clippers but planned to test the market. The T'wolves, Nuggets and Mavs were among the teams that showed interest, but none could offer more than the mid-level exception. The Clippers offered slightly more, and it was enough to keep Cassell in the fold.
Mike James, Toronto Raptors
The veteran point guard signed a four-year deal with the T'wolves. The deal will pay James the mid-level exception (around $5 million in 2006-07), and contains a player option after the third season as well as a trade kicker. James, who averaged career bests of 20.3 points and 5.8 assists last season after being traded by the Rockets during training camp, chose Minnesota over Dallas and Houston. The 31-year-old guard will likely be given a starter's role in Minnesota, where he can also serve as mentor for rookie point guard Randy Foye.
Others off the market
Vladimir Radmanovic, SF (Lakers); Nazr Mohammed, C (Pistons); Speedy Claxton, PG (Atlanta); Bobby Jackson, PG/SG (New Orleans/Oklahoma City); Matt Harpring, SG/SF (Utah); Darius Songaila, PF, (Wizards); Ronald Murray, SG, (Detroit). (New team in parentheses)