Wow, I guess you learn something new everyday. Pacers drafted Jerome James? . That must have been before I followed the Pacers.
I almost did not post this article. It is rather obvious and there is no inside info here, but for what its worth
State of the NBA: Free-agent gems coming to market
Scramble will soon be on: Ray Allen and Michael Redd are the most prized players
By Steve Luhm
The Salt Lake Tribune
Third of a four-part series leading up to Tuesday's NBA draft
The NBA draft is Tuesday night in New York.
The league's recruiting-and-signing period for free agents begins in July.
If you believe the two events are unrelated, think again.
Asked about the upcoming scramble for free agents, Jazz coach Jerry Sloan said, "We're aware who's out there. We'll see what happens in the draft - that will have a big impact on what we're thinking - and we'll go from there."
The Jazz need a point guard, and in the NBA, there are two ways a team
can re-stock its cupboards. It can draft players, or it can sign free agents. That's it.
If the Jazz can't position themselves to draft a point guard such as Wake Forest's Chris Paul or Illinois' Deron Williams, they will almost certainly pursue a free agent such as Antonio Daniels or Earl Watson.
Otherwise, they risk entering a new season with a huge hole on their roster.
"There are players we have interest in, when we look at our team," Sloan said. "But whether we can get them, that's another thing."
"I don't know, when we look at the whole list, that we look in terms of all the free agents," Jazz vice president of basketball operations Kevin O'Connor said. "I think we look at the list, decide on the players we're interested in and go to work."
O'Connor prefers chasing unrestricted free agents - players who can unconditionally sign with any team.
When the Jazz have gone after restricted free agents such as Elton Brand and Corey Maggette in recent years, they haven't had much luck. Their offer has been matched and O'Connor's attempt to upgrade Utah's roster has been stalled.
"You wait 15 days and you hold your breath, but unless the home team doesn't want them, the home teams wins," O'Connor said.
This summer, the two key free agents in the NBA are Milwaukee's Michael Redd and Seattle's Ray Allen.
Both are veteran shooting guards who can score as well as any perimeter player in the league. Both will command huge salaries, but both could change the future of whichever team ends up with them.
In Milwaukee, the Bucks are trying to keep Redd, who averaged 23 points per game last season and established himself as one of the game's best pure shooters.
In February, Redd told owner Herb Kohl that staying in Milwaukee was "a priority," but the Bucks are going to have plenty of competition to re-sign him.
Redd attended Ohio State and some believe the lure of home could lead him back to the Cleveland, which is about $25 million under the salary cap and will be the No. 1 player in this summer's free-agent market.
Another possibility: Denver.
The Nuggets, desperate for outside shooting, don't have enough cap space to sign Redd. But they could get him via a sign-and-trade deal, using point guard Andre Miller and his $8.1 million salary as bait.
The Nuggets would give Redd a chance to play for his former coach, George Karl.
"I could see why people could make that connection," Redd said. "Obviously, I played for George. We had a good rapport. So people are going to make that connection."
Indiana and Dallas are also interested in Redd. The Pacers must replace Reggie Miller, and the Mavs already went after Redd once. He signed their $12 million offer sheet in 2002, when he was a restricted free agent. But the Bucks matched the offer.
The same teams interested in signing Redd will also look at Allen, because they play the same position and have similar games.
Sonics general manager Rick Sund recently said that keeping Allen "is a top priority, because he's an All-Star caliber player."
Allen is finishing up a six-year, $71 million contract with Seattle and probably isn't interested in taking a pay cut. When the Sonics offered a five-year, $75 million extension last season, agent Lon Babby turned it down and halted negotiations.
Does that mean Allen is leaving Seattle?
"You can't handicap these things," Babby told the Tacoma News-Tribune. "It's a process that's got to unfold. Where it goes remains to be seen. . . . [But] he had an excellent season and is the premier free agent on the market."
A position-by-position look at some of year's top free agents:
It is not a strong year for free-agent points guards, although Seattle's Antonio Daniels plans to to opt out of his contract in Seattle. His presence deepens a pool that also includes unrestricted free agents Earl Watson of Memphis, Boston's Gary Payton and Charlotte's Brevin Knight.
Marko Jaric (Clippers) and Chris Duhon (Bulls) are restricted free agents but, barring an astronomical offer from another team, neither L.A. nor Chicago expected to let their young and talented point guards get away.
Daniels will be highly sought-after following his departure from Seattle, which is committed to Luke Ridnour as its starter. That's why Daniels left. He wants big money and he wants to start.
Cleveland is a possible destination for Daniels, considering the Cavs could be as much as $25 million under the salary cap. They have another advantage if they pursue Daniels, who played for new coach Mike Brown and new assistant Hank Egan when all three were in San Antonio a few years ago.
Payton is 37, but he might have earned another nice contract by helping lead Boston into the playoffs. His leadership was one reason the young Celtics turned around their season, and general managers around the league probably noticed.
Payton says his top priority is remaining in Boston, but it's known he would not forego a chance to return to the West Coast.
"He has to decide if [Boston] is the right place for him down the road," said Celtics executive director of basketball operations Danny Ainge.
Other unrestricted point guards who are likely to draw interest from teams looking for solidify their backcourts are Damon Stoudamire, Jeff McInnis, Tyronn Lue, Steve Blake, Milt Palacio and Howard Eisley.
Washington's Larry Hughes is a prolific scorer with a knack for getting to the free-throw line. He's unrestricted and will likely be targeted by teams which lose out on Redd and Allen but are left with money to spend.
Others who figure to command plenty of attention - some despite a considerable amount of off-the-court baggage - include Latrell Sprewell, Kerry Kittles, Jon Barry, Lucious Harris, DerMarr Johnson and Casey Jacobson.
The Jazz's Raja Bell also is unrestricted, but Sloan hopes Utah can re-sign him.
"He's done a good job for us," Sloan said. "He's worked hard and he's always tried to with us what we try to do from a team standpoint. That's been important to us, and I think it's helped him a little bit, too. . . . I love Raja Bell."
Phoenix's Joe Johnson and Philadelphia's Willie Green are restricted free agents. The Suns are not expected to let go of Johnson, who blossomed in Mike D'Antoni's freewheeling offense. But Green's situation is different.
He might have a chance to leave capped-out Philadelphia, where he was quietly effective last season in sporadic minutes behind Allen Iverson.
Former 76ers coach Jim O'Brien called Green a "consummate professional" because Green would often sit for long stretches of the season before getting a chance to play. And when Green got into the game, he responded.
In seven games when Iverson was injured, Green averaged 18 points a game. In all, Green averaged 18.1 points and 3.8 assists when he played at least 30 minutes.
The Clippers' Bobby Simmons is the clear-cut king among unrestricted small forwards.
A former second round pick, Simmons was a wash-out for two seasons with Washington before finding his niche as a hardworking member of the improving Clippers.
"I have to weigh my options - to see what's best for my family," Simmons told the Orange County Register. "I'd love to stay here because of my teammates and the coaching staff. . . . But it's going to be very interesting for a guy like me, who's never been in this situation before."
Beyond Simmons, the choices are limited.
New Jersey's Brian Scalabrine and Houston's Scott Padgett are unrestricted. But both have expressed a desire to stay home, and the Nets and Rockets have indicated they will probably re-sign these valuable blue-collar type role players.
Bryon Russell had his moments in Denver last season and wants to stay. But the Nuggets probably will look elsewhere for firepower off the bench. Russell probably will be looking or a new home, and he might find one because of his experience and affordability. Ditto for Shandon Anderson, another ex-Jazz player who spent most of last season in Miami.
Restricted free agents who could help elsewhere but aren't expected to get away from their current teams include Grant Hill (Orlando), Vladimir Radmanovic (Seattle), Kyle Korver (Philadelphia) and Matt Bonner (Toronto).
The NBA draft is deep with power forwards, and so is the free-agent market.
The list of unrestricted players who could be difference-makers next season starts with Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Donyell Marshall and Antoine Walker. Throw in players who can opt out of their contracts - Sacramento's Darius Songalia, San Antonio's Robert Horry and Toronto's Aaron Williams - and teams looking for power forwards have a variety of options.
Walker is one of those baggage-toting veterans whose past might scare off some teams, but he could provide plenty of offense for teams looking for an inside-outside scorer.
Walker returned to Boston via a midseason trade last year and sparked the Celtics' playoff drive. But it's likely Boston will keep Walker only if it can get him for the right price.
"A big part of the decision is on him," said Ainge.
Marshall wants out of Toronto - he became disenchanted with his role behind blossoming star Chris Bosh last year - and could end up in New Jersey. The Nets also are targeting power forwards such as Sean May, Ike Diogu, Charlie Villanueva and Fran Vazquez in the draft, and Marshall could turn out to be a sidekick for one of them.
Memphis' Stromile Swift is probably in the second tier of unrestricted free agents, but a team in need of relative inexpensive experience and athleticism could give him a long look.
Assuming Shaquille O'Neal does not opt out of his $30 million contract with Miami, Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas is the No. 1 free agent among centers.
He is unrestricted and will likely be renounced by the cap-conscious Cavs, who might try to re-sign him at a price that would help them pursue some free-agent help in the backcourt.
It's an interesting plan: team LeBron James with Ilgauskas and Redd - or Allen - and Cleveland could quickly move into a contending position in the Eastern Conference.
Ilgauskas earned $14.6 million last season, and he isn't keen on taking much of a pay cut. In April, the Cavs offered him a three- or four-year deal that would have averaged about $10 million annually, but Ilgauskas turned it down.
Seattle center Jerome James isn't a household name, but he was a key to the Sonics' division championship and playoff run. A former second-round pick by Indiana, he didn't do much with the Pacers, but latched on with Seattle and improved as last season went along. A nice payday awaits, either with the Sonics or another team looking for an up-and-coming 7-footer.
Others on the list of unrestricted centers are mostly veteran backup-types such as Andrew DeClerq, Ervin Johnson, Elden Campbell and Dikembe Mutombo.