Top free agents still on the market
(Editor's note: This column was updated after the Nuggets re-signed J.R. Smith on Friday.)
With free agents J.R. Smith (Nuggets), Theo Ratliff (76ers), Devean George (Mavericks), Dorell Wright (Heat) and Jannero Pargo (Dynamo Moscow of the Russian League) having reached agreements this week, and Michael Finley reportedly close to doing the same (with the Spurs), the list of remaining available free agents is getting pretty thin.
Ben Gordon is clearly the biggest prize left, mainly because of his ability to score in bunches. But he is a restricted free agent, meaning the Bulls can match any offer he might receive. The rest of the free-agent field at this point consists of mostly role players.
Don't expect much movement in the days ahead, either. The Grizzlies are the only team left with any salary-cap room, and they don't seem inclined to use it (after striking out in their bid to land Josh Smith). In other words, general managers can afford to sit back and wait until right before training camp if necessary, rather than rush out now and overpay.
Here's a look at our most intriguing free agents left on the market:
A former Sixth Man Award winner and the Bulls' leading scorer each of the past three seasons, Gordon said recently that he would not take the team's one-year qualifying offer ($6.4 million), even though it would enable him to become an unrestricted free agent next year. He also said he thinks he has played his last game for the Bulls.
Gordon can hope for a sign-and-trade, but it's going to be tough to pull off. Any team would have to have players (and contracts) that Chicago is willing to take back in return, and there are base-year compensation issues. The consensus among front-office types seems to be that Gordon will change his mind and end up taking the one-year qualifier.
With Mo Williams now aboard in Cleveland, this 6-3 combo guard who started for the Cavs down the stretch last year suddenly finds himself with virtually no leverage. The Cavs' backcourt is already crowded with Williams, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak and Sasha Pavlovic. West still hopes to get a chunk of some team's mid-level money, but it could be tough. His best move might be to take Cleveland's $2.8 million qualifying offer, and then test the market next season as an unrestricted free agent.
The hard-working but undersized power forward was a big contributor off the bench for Houston a year ago, averaging 8.1 points (on 61.6 percent shooting) and 4.9 boards in just 16.9 minutes. The Rockets say they want to bring him back, and they still have all of their mid-level exception, but they don't want to pay more than the market dictates. For now, it seems they can sit back and wait, knowing they can always match any offer the restricted free agent might receive anyway.
The former No. 4 overall pick (in 2004) is an unrestricted free agent after being let go by the Clippers this summer. On the comeback trail after suffering a horrific knee injury in February 2007, Livingston has begun playing high-level pickup games in Chicago with other NBA pros. At age 22, with his incredible passing skills, he will have plenty of interest around the league. But how much will any team guarantee Livingston without having seen him play in NBA competition for a year and a half?
He's aging fast, and he didn't look all that great (while being a bit of a ball hog) for the Celtics last year. But there's something about the 38-year-old Cassell that makes one wary of writing him off just yet. He still knows how to play the game. Cassell won't get big money, but he could be worth a look for a team seeking a savvy veteran QB with three title rings.
The former Final Four hero from Maryland has played for four teams in his six NBA seasons. Last year he hit a career-high 41.7 percent of his three-pointers while playing for the Raptors and Pistons. He could be a nice value addition for a team seeking a floor spacer and a solid character guy in the locker room.
The 6-5 veteran swingman averaged 9.1 points and 4.5 boards in 21.4 minutes last year in a season split between the Rockets and Hornets. He has playoff experience, including a dazzling showing as a member of the Kings against the Spurs a few years ago. But Wells is also a malcontent who has clashed with his coaches throughout his career. It's definitely a case of buyer beware, but some team just might take a chance for the right price.
The 6-6 swingman quietly made a decent showing with the Timberwolves after coming over in a trade from the Rockets in February, averaging 8.4 points (on 51.6 percent shooting) and 4.2 boards in 25.2 minutes. But he doesn't figure into Minnesota's long-term plans as the Wolves did not make him a qualifying offer. Snyder, an unrestricted free agent, has played for four teams since the Jazz selected No. 16 overall in the 2004 draft.
Like Cassell, he's well past his prime. Howard, 35, also is coming off a season in Dallas in which he barely got off the bench except to wave a towel. But the 15-year veteran was productive two years ago in Houston (9.7 points and 5.9 boards per game in 26 minutes) and he is a consummate pro seeking a long-sought championship ring. Could he be this year's P.J. Brown?
Others of note: Jamaal Magloire, Robert Horry, Quinton Ross, Robert Swift, Donyell Marshall, Salim Stoudamire.