Going to market
Players, teams to watch during the free-agent period
Posted: Monday July 2, 2007 1:05PM; Updated: Wednesday July 4, 2007 12:01PM
The NBA shopping season started Sunday when some 100 free agents made their services available across the league. While players will be wined and dined over the next few weeks, no signing can become official until July 11, although word on what deals have been agreed upon is sure to leak out beforehand. To give you a sense of where all the dollars might be directed, and by whom, we offer this primer to the 2007 free-agent campaign.
Five teams that could make a splash
Orlando Magic: With up to $13 million in salary-cap room, a young big man in Dwight Howard to open up the court for his teammates and no state income tax, the Magic are potential suitors for almost any free agent. And they've reportedly secured one of the top targets by coming to terms with Rashard Lewis on a maximum contract, a deal that should help bolster the attack of one of the league's lowest-scoring teams last season. The deal, however, will cost the Magic even more than the dollars they are shoveling Lewis' way. The offer forced Orlando to make restricted free agent Darko Milicic unrestricted, allowing the young big man to depart to the highest bidder without giving the Magic the chance to even work a sign-and-trade.
Milwaukee Bucks: Another one of the few teams this summer with salary-cap space, Milwaukee will be looking to beef up its frontcourt, which, in turn, would help bolster the team's woeful rebounding and even worse defense. Some of that space may well be ticketed to finding an alternative for first-round pick Yi Jianlian, who seems none too enthused about playing for the Bucks, and for retaining point guard Mo Williams, a free agent whose youth and perimeter range will make him a very wealthy man this summer.
Houston Rockets: New GM Daryl Morey already has begun to alter the Rockets' approach by hiring Rick Adelman as coach. Next up is a roster long on age and short on offense. Hard against the cap, the Rockets will need all of Morey's number-crunching savvy to freshen up a team that hasn't seen the second round of the playoffs since 1997. The targets may not be the obvious ones, but they'll likely be efficient, perhaps underutilized talents, along the lines of a Chuck Hayes. Of course, with Adelman aboard, the additions will have a decidedly more offensive flavor.
Charlotte Bobcats: If Michael Jordan can get owner Bob Johnson to open his pocketbook just a little bit more, the Bobcats could advance from promising to contender. And with salary-cap room, Charlotte could add some much-needed experience quickly. If his stint with the Wizards is any guide, Jordan will have no problem moving bodies and bringing in name talent such as Jason Richardson. But it's questionable whether he has the savvy to do so while keeping Charlotte's budget fluid enough to retain its young core, a task Johnson's tight-fisted history will likely make very difficult.
Dallas Mavericks: For the first time in a long time, owner Mark Cuban didn't overhaul the roster, and they got bounced in the first round of the playoffs. Think Cuban won't respond? True, Cuban may not be as quick to travel into luxury-tax territory as he was in the past, but he may not have to return too deeply if Dallas focuses on proven veterans hoping to play for one more ring or specialists who might bring that "something" Dallas seems to be missing.