I came across a list of the next two season’s worth of free agents at ESPN.com, and it’s worth looking at to see which players could be playing for new contracts this season. I’m not convinced that a guy in a contract year will be a good value because it all depends on the player’s situation and his role on the team.
I’ve put together a list of the notable free agents below. These are most of the free agents who will appear in my rankings before the start of the season. I’ve broken down the free agents to groups based on their current career situations, which could help determine their value.
Playing for their last big payday:
Allen Iverson, G, Denver: I know, I know. He’s getting older, he takes a beating, he’s going to slow down/fall apart soon. Well people have been saying that for years and Iverson is not slowing down.
He doesn’t score as much because he’s not the only scorer in town, but his combination of points, assists and steals is hard to match. Another season like his last one and he’ll get big money for probably the last time in an astounding career.
Jason Kidd, PG, Dallas: As you will soon see in my rankings, I’m down on Kidd. He’s not an elite fantasy point guard anymore. He looked shaky too often with Dallas late last season. But, he also certainly knows that a good season will earn him another big money contract somewhere, even if he will never play up to it.
Kidd will help you in rebounds, steals and assists and the fact that he doesn’t have to shoot as much as he did in New Jersey mean his horrid FG% is less of a drain. I don’t expect a big step back for Kidd this season. I think that happens AFTER he gets the big contract.
Mike Bibby, G, Atlanta: No matter what happens, Bibby is unlikely to land anything like the seven-year $80 million deal he got with Sacramento in 2002.
Playing with more scoring talent around than the lean teams in Sacramento, Bibby is less of a shooter and more of a passer now, but he is still a solid fantasy point guard. Pushing the young Hawks to another playoff berth may raise his stock enough to get him a big contract with a contender or a team trying to become one.
Andre Miller, PG, Philadelphia: Miller experienced a resurgence with the Sixers last season and now, with the addition of Elton Brand, has ore weapons than ever. He will be a top-flight point guard that can help you control assists but expect his scoring to go down.
Jermaine O’Neal, F/C, Toronto: O’Neal has a player option after this season, so it’s not a necessity for him to have a big season. He is now the No. 2 option in the frontcourt behind Chris Bosh, which means his stats will never be what they were at his peak. However, if it means he can play more efficiently and stay healthy, he’ll have the most value he has had in a few seasons.
Rasheed Wallace, F/C, Detroit: I would love to be in the room during any Rasheed Wallace contract negotiations, just to see if he’s even aware of what’s going on, or if he just has his headphones on (which how I’ve usually witnessed him in the locker room).
The Pistons are starting to transition from their longtime to core to a younger group as seen in the dwindling minutes of Wallace, Billups, Hamilton, etc. As wacky as Wallace is, he doesn’t strike me as the type of guy who will play different to get some extra money that’s on the table. His value will decrease a little because his minutes will, plain and simple.
Charlie Villanueva, F, Milwaukee: By all accounts it seems Villanueva will start the season as Milwaukee’s starting power forward. He’s surrounded by plenty of other guys who will dominate the ball, but he has always shown flashed of being able to register double-doubles on a consistent basis.
Milwaukee has never seemed to give Villaneueva the chance to be a lead player, and won’t this season either, but he could be playing to show the rest of the league he can be the man for their team.
Playing for their first big payday:
Danny Granger, F, Indiana: Granger is on the verge of becoming a star, especially in fantasy, because he does everything well. With Jermaine O’Neal gone, Granger is the face of the Pacers future.
There have been reports of a contract extension in the works for a while, but nothing has gotten done. Frankly, it does not matter. Whether he is a free agent or not, Granger will be a fantasy stud.
David Lee, F, New York: Has any young player been through more than Lee? He was played sparingly in his rookie season despite impressive per minute numbers, earned more minutes early in his second season before eventually getting hurt and saw his minutes wildly fluctuate early last season until the Knicks wised up (aka gave up on the season) and played him 30-plus minutes a game.
One thing we know about Mike D’Antoni, he likes big men who can run, rebound and finish around the basket. Lee fits the mold and should get minutes and big numbers, leading him to a big contract. If New York is smart, it will be a long-term deal. If it’s not the Knicks, it will be someone else.
Hakim Warrick, F, Memphis: Warrick has been jerked around by the Grizzlies a lot in his short career, alternating between being stuck on the bench and getting major minutes. When he is out there, he produces, and he may have a lucrative opportunity to show that he’s worth big money to a team that needs young, athletic talent. I’m high on him.
Trying to salvage their career:
Stephon Marbury, G, New York: Hard to tell if Marbury is really aware of anything, but his career could be on the line. He seems to generally viewed as a locker room cancer but has always been effective on the court, even if his teams have not.
With a new coach and a new system, who knows how Marbury will fit in. But if he’s able to run-and-gun and gets a hint that he’s playing to keep himself in the game, maybe he returns to form.
Other notable free agents:
Shawn Marion, F, Miami: Marion sulked his way out of Phoenix and wound up on one of the worst teams in the NBA. With one spectacular season, he could probably name his price to any team with available cap space in the league. Overall, I’m a little down on Marion, who was once a sure-fire first round pick. I’m having a little trouble convincing myself he’s going to excel trying for a new big deal, but it wouldn’t surprise me either.
Ron Artest, F, Houston: With all his talk about retiring to become a rapper or a Circuit City employee, just forget about the contract status and draft him as normal.
Lamar Odom, F, Los Angeles Lakers: Odom is entering the last year of a big contract and the Lakers frontcourt is crowded with Pau Gasol and the returning Andrew Bynum. After his disappearing act in the postseason, it would be no surprise if the Lakers traded him during the season if Bynum returns fully health.
Another player who likely won’t put forth any extra effort for a contract.
Raymond Felton, PG, Charlotte: Has made minor strides his first couple of seasons and just saw teammate Emeka Okafor get huge money.
Ramon Sessions, PG, Milwaukee: Sessions proved to be an effective player filling in for the injured Mo Williams late last season. Now Williams is in Cleveland and Sessions has a chance to prove he can be a solid NBA player with teammates such as Michael Redd, Richard Jefferson and Andrew Bogut.
Sessions may have to compete for the job with newly-acquired Luke Ridnour, but the Bucks want to take a long look at their potential point guard of the future before they invest.
Jason Maxiell, F, Detroit: With the longtime Pistons starters getting older, Detroit is going to be looking to their younger players. Maxiell may be part of the frontcourt future for the Pistons, who will likely shed Rasheed Wallace’s contact after the season. If Maxiell is productive, he could cash in on his teammate’s inevitable absence.
Grant Hill, F, Phoenix: Can Hill sucker another team into giving him lots of money (any money?) before all the pins and screws fall out of his body and he falls apart like some rusted out robot.
Did I forget anyone? Let me know and I can add a follow up post?