Mighty Moke’s Top 50 Free Agents – July 9 Update

Metta World PeaceThis post will not be leading the site anymore tomorrow, when the NBA will be back open for business.

It will be replaced by a Top 25 Remaining Free Agents list, and Metta World Peace will be right up there among the top if nobody claims him on waivers—though we don’t foresee that happening.

News broke Monday that the Lakers are going to use their amnesty provision on World Peace, a cost-cutting move that will save the Buss children some luxury tax money. Now that Howard is going to Houston, might as well cut the losses in what will be a rebuilding year in Los Angeles.

Thankfully, the Lakers will still have a character in their locker room in the form of Chris Kaman, whose long wait for a suitor ended when the Lakers decided to make him Dwight Howard’s replacement. (Maybe Kaman’s crazy tweet helped).

So World Peace will join Tyrus Thomas (Bobcats) and Linas Kleiza (Raptors) on the league’s shame-on-me list, meaning 12 teams still have the freedom to use it (one of them is the Bucks, who need to decide whether to use it on Drew Gooden; another is the Kings, who could use it on John Salmons to clear cap space for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, who was acquired from Milwaukee today for two second-round picks). The full list of who has been amnestied can be found here.


On the Andrew Bynum front, the Cavs have offered him a two-year $24 million deal with only the first year guaranteed, but the offer could be pulled if the Cavs instead come to an agreement with Andrei Kirilenko and/or Elton Brand. Bynum is meeting today with the Atlanta Hawks, and the Dallas Mavericks remain in the picture.

“There should be a deal today,” a person familiar with the negotiations told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

Another Top 5 Scrap Heap candidate is Monta Ellis, who is being courted by Atlanta and Dallas but lost his chance to join the Sacramento Kings when they dealt for Mbah a Moute. For a guy who turned down a monster extension from the Bucks, we expect him to take the money while it’s still out there. You don’t want to be known as the guy who made a $30 million mistake and became the poster child for someone’s “I Got Squeezed” campaign.

Andre Iguodala 1The Andre Iguodala deal that will land him in Golden State has morphed into a sign-and-trade scenario that would cost the Warriors and extra second-round draft pick and send Randy Foye to Denver. The upside for the Dubs is that if they pull this off, they will preserve their full mid-level exception. Per Marcus Thompson of the San Jose Mercury News: “Previously, the plan was to renounce Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry — and possibly cut the non-guaranteed contracts of Murphy, Machado and Jones — to get the Warriors under the cap enough to sign Iguodala to a four-year, $48 million. But doing that would leave the Warriors with ZERO cap space. What’s more, they would have had to give up their mid-level exception, rookie exception and the trade exceptions they received from Utah. Golden State would only have minimum contracts and a $2.6 million “room exception” to fill out its roster. The Nuggets would get a $12 million trade exception.

More on what Iguodala will bring to the Warriors in this podcast from Chris Sheridan on 95.7 The Game in San Francisco.

The top five available remaining free agents, per SheridanHoops’ rankings: (1) Nikola Pekovic, (2) Monta Ellis, (3) Jeff Teague, (4) Brandon Jennings and (5) Andrew Bynum.

Corey Brewer and Mo Williams are still out there, as well, and any of those three players can have a profound impact on a playoff team looking to take a step forward in next season’s playoffs, though, obviously, the road to the NBA Finals will probably travel through Miami out East and San Antonio Oklahoma City Houston Oakland Memphis Los Angeles some city west of New Orleans.

Here’s your Tuesday evening update.

LAL_Howard_Dwight1. Dwight Howard (Center, LA Lakers)

Still just 27, everyone is willing to overlook the disappointing 2012-13 campaign since D12 was playing hobbled for most of it. Fair questions persist as to whether he can lead a team to the promised land, but we know that any team would be willing to roll the dice to find out. If you called any GM and offered Howard in exchange for his starting center, all (except Orlando) would say yes. That’s why he’s still numero uno.  JULY 4 UPDATE —  The Lakers removed a Howard banner and Hakeem Olajuwon and Daryl Morey both believe that “H-Town” will become “Howard” town. JULY 5 UPDATE — Word now expected to come via Dwight’s Twitter account. If you spend your weekend checking Twitter 2,491 times, you, too, are living the life of a sportswriter. We are expecting Houston, but still awaiting an official announcement. JULY 6 UPDATE — Howard has chosen to sign with the Houston Rockets. The terms? Four years, $88 million. He left a fifth guaranteed year and $30 million in guaranteed salary on the table to defect from the Los Angeles Lakers. Howard has an opt-out after 2015-16, Yahoo reports.

Paul70X1002. Chris Paul (Point Guard, LA Clippers) 

After leading the Clippers to their best season in franchise history and first division title, Paul has gotten over the fact that Donald Sterling outed him as the reason for Vinny Del Negro’s departure. Sterling needed to bring in Doc Rivers to make peace with CP3, and acquiring the coach from Boston was a move that assured Paul is staying. JULY 2 UPDATE — Paul has agreed to re-sign with the Clippers on a five-year, $107 million max. deal. 

UTA_Jefferson_Al (1)3.  Al Jefferson (Center, Utah Jazz)

One thing we know: A big man who has proven that he can score with his back to the basket is a very valuable commodity. Jefferson is arguably a better all-around offensive weapon than Howard. He is still relatively young at 28 and has been a consistent force in the paint for the Jazz. The bum knee that limited him to 50 games in 2008-09 is now a distant memory. A max player, for sure. JULY 2 UPDATE — Jazz offering 80 percent discount on his jersey (and Paul Millsap’s). Will meet with Bobcats Wednesday. JULY 4 UPDATE — He surprised the entire NBA by agreeing to terms with the Charlotte Bobcats on a three-year deal worth $41 million. The final year has an opt-out.

IND_West_David4. David West (Power Forward, Indiana Pacers)

A run to the conference finals could not have come at a better time for West, who had made it known (as had the Pacers) that his preference is to remain in Indianapolis, where he is perfectly cast as a third scorer and is depended on mostly for his sweet mid-range touch and tenacity in the paint.  Paul George hits the market next summer, and returning president Larry Bird says West is No. 1 priority but Pacers will not pay luxury tax under any circumstances. JULY 3 UPDATE — David West has agreed to re-sign with the Indiana Pacers on a three-year, $36 million deal. 

ATL_Smith_Josh5. Josh Smith (Power Forward, Atlanta Hawks)

J-Smoove made headlines this past season when he made it known he would be seeking a four-year max deal worth upwards of $15 million per year. It is difficult to justify paying that kind of money to a player who has not made a single All-Star team in nine years. Still, Smith is one of the most effective defensive players in the league and an explosive finisher in the paint. But which GM will risk his reputation on Smith? That’s a big question. JULY 1 UPDATE — Met with Pistons president Joe Dumars, who is unwilling to make a max offer. Then met with Rockets, who would try to add him in a sign-and-trade with Atlanta if Howard picks Houston. JULY 4 UPDATE — Smith has not been offered the max deal he was looking for, but the Houston Rockets would like to pair him with Howard if D12 signs on. Smith would like for that to happen, yet another waiting on D12. JULY 5 UPDATE — Omer Asik is being dangled to the Atlanta Hawks in exchange for a sign-and-trade deal that sends Smith to the Hawks to form the worst free-throw shooting frontcourt in recent memory… IF Dwight signs with the Rockets. JULY 6 UPDATE — Now that Howard has agreed to join the Rockets, general manager Daryl Morey is expected to intensify his pursuit of Smith. JULY 6 UPDATE (2) — After hearing that Smith was potentially headed to the Houston Rockets to be paired up with childhood friend, Dwight Howard, it was first reported by Yahoo! Sports that Smith had agreed to terms with the Detroit Pistons on a four-year deal worth $56 million. That less than the max. he was looking for, but it was probably the best offer out there for him. Smith is the final member of the SH Top 5 to be signed.

MIN_Pekovic_Nikola6. Nikola Pekovic [R] (Center, Minnesota Timberwolves)

Guaranteed to be this year’s recipient of a fat, risky contract. Although significantly older than Omer Asik, Big Pek has a higher upside and more polished offensive game. When it comes to big men, general managers roll the dice quite often. We will see it with Andrew Bynum and we will see it with Pekovic. But the thinking here is that Pekovic will get more money — unless he gets hurt bowling. JULY 2 UPDATE — Quiet on this front, although the Cavs are reportedly interested. Have cap flexibility to offer backloaded contract. He is waiting on Dwight to make his Dwecision. JULY 4 UPDATE — The Timberwolves, according to the Pioneer Press, want to bring Pekovic back. JULY 6 UPDATE — With Howard off the market, Pekovic becomes the top center on the market, and arguably the top free agent, depending on how you rank him, head-to-head with Josh Smith. Pek’s time to get paid is coming, whether it be with the Timberwolves or another team. JULY 8 UPDATE: Wolves have a four-year, $48 million offer on the table, should get an answer soon. Minnesota also trying to move J.J. Barea and/or Luke Ridnour. 

Iguodala-Denver7. Andre Iguodala (Small Forward, Denver Nuggets)

Interesting question: Who is worth more to you? Iggy? Or Monta Ellis? If you answer Ellis, it probably means you overvalue a volume scorer who cannot elevate his teammates. If you answer Iggy, though, it means that you properly recognize and appreciate his ability to affect every single facet of any game he plays, even if he is not shooting or scoring particularly well. A great defender — and GMs value that nowadays more than they used to. JULY 3 UPDATE — Kings offered a four-year, $52 million deal, but pulled it after not being given an immediate “Yes.” JULY 5 UPDATE — Nuggets offered more money, but Iggy chose to sign with the Warriors, who were positively Dolanesque in their willingness to pay a very steep price.

ELLIS_MONTA-bucks8. Monta Ellis (Shooting Guard, Milwaukee Bucks)

The secret is out: Ellis is a volume scorer who is probably best served as a sixth man who’s only responsibility is to light it up off the bench. Only problem? He turned down a two-year, $24 million extension from the Bucks that we think was more than fair. If Ellis is looking for more on the open market, it shows that he has a false sense of his value. A very talented player, he should draw interest from a team that has cap space and a dearth of options as to whom to spend it on. JULY 1 UPDATE — Knicks are interested, but can only offer $3.2 million. Nobody takes a $9 million haircut. JULY 4 UPDATE — With J.R. Smith, Tony Allen, Tyreke Evans and Kyle Korver all off the market, Ellis and O.J. Mayo are the top shooting guards out there. We peg Ellis’ fair market value at four years, $36-$40 million. JULY 6 UPDATE — Ellis is all but guaranteed to find a new home, as the Milwaukee Bucks have agreed to terms with O.J. Mayo. That’s the bad news for Ellis. The good news? He is arguably the best scorer still available on the market, and there are teams with cap space that still need a scorer. JULY 7 UPDATE — Latest rumors say Hawks and Nuggets both interested, but Denver would need to trade Andre Miller first. July 8 UPDATE — Kings owner Vivek Ranadive began inquiring about Ellis around the time his purchase of the Sacramento franchise was completed in late May. Ranadive, a former minority partner in the Golden State Warriors, identified Ellis as a possible free-agent target as he was finalizing his group’s purchase of the Kings. July 9 UPDATE: The Kings appear out of the picture after stealing Luc Richard Mbah a Moute from the Bucks for a pair of second-round picks. Down to Dallas or Atlanta, maybe Charlotte.

SAC_Evans_Tyreke9. Tyreke Evans [R] (Point Guard/Small Forward, Sacramento Kings)

One of this generation’s enigmas, Evans is still searching for the touch that enabled him to become one of the few rookies in history to average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Still just 23, NBA GMs will think a new coach and system can re-tap that potential, and potential gets you paid. The Kings will have a new coach and a new system, so they should have a “should we match?” question on their hands come July 10. JULY 2 UPDATE — Pelicans have made a four year offer for between $40-$48 million. See how Reggie Miller reacted. JULY 3 UPDATE — Though it does not hold much weight, Evans has reportedly let it be known that he wants a change of scenery and hopes to end up with the PelicansJULY 4 UPDATE — Evans will get his wish and be dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans. He will sign a four-year deal worth $44 million once the moratorium is over on July 10.

ATL_Teague_Jeff10. Jeff Teague [R] (Point Guard, Atlanta Hawks)

Perhaps the most intriguing young point guard on the market, his value has been established at about $8-$9 million thanks to the extensions doled out to Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson. He probably stays in Atlanta, though in-demand restricted free agents sometimes get overpaid. (Ask Landry Fields.) Much depends on what GM Danny Ferry pulls off with all his cap space. For a team with only five players under contract (not counting draftees), he is somewhat expendable given that Lou Williams is one of those five. JULY 1 UPDATE — Where does Teague rank among point guards? Read this. JULY 3 UPDATE — Bucks coach Larry Drew likes him and would like Milwaukee to pursue. JULY 7 UPDATE — Word is, the Atlanta Hawks are interested in bringing Monta Ellis into the fold. That could mean Danny Ferry is ready to hand the starting job over to Atlanta native, Lou Williams. Teague is the top rated point guard in the SH Top 50 who is still a free agent. JULY 8 UPDATE — Marc Stein of ESPN.com is going heavy on the story that Teague will be swapped for the guys sitting beneath him in these rankings, Jennings, in a sign-and-trade deal.

MIL_Jennings_Brandon11. Brandon Jennings [R] (Point Guard, Milwaukee Bucks)

We are still trying to figure out how good of a floor general Jennings is. He is the epitome of a feast-or-famine player and may end up getting squeezed. During four years in Milwaukee, Jennings’ teams have made two playoff appearances (good), but “Young Money” (his back tattoo) has shot just 39 percent from the field over his career (not good). He, Teague and Jose Calderon are probably the top point guards on the market. JULY 1 UPDATE — Bucks GM John Hammond says team intends to match any offer. We’ll see about that. JULY 2 UPDATE — Jennings has given the Bucks a number, Yahoo reports. JULY 7 UPDATE — It has been eerily quiet on the Jennings front. The Mavericks were thought to be a potential landing spot before they signed Jose Calderon. With the money drying up, we would not be shocked to see Jennings sign Milwaukee’s qualifying offer and hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next season. The Los Angeles Lakers, after all, will have tons of cap space. JULY 8 UPDATE: Never mind what we said yesterday. If the sign-and-trade for Teague goes down, Jennings will get what he wanted: Money.

UTA_Millsap_Paul12. Paul Millsap (Power Forward, Utah Jazz)

Millsap has been one of the NBA’s more solid power forwards for quite a few years. Backing up Carlos Boozer and sharing time with Derrick Favors in Utah  kept his minutes somewhat low. In 30 minutes per game this past season, his 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds paid huge dividends. Now it is his turn to collect. JULY 2 UPDATE — Has already met with Jazz once (no offer was made), and another meeting was planned. JULY 5 UPDATE — The Jazz had to renounce their rights to him in order to clear the cap room for Golden State’s three stiffs (and four draft picks). Millsap should become a hot commodity as the dominoes fall. JULY 6 UPDATE — After having his Bird rights renounced by the Utah Jazz on Friday, true to form, Millsap rebounded rather nicely, agreeing to terms with the Atlanta Hawks on a two-year deal worth $19 million. That’s two less years and $17 million less than the San Antonio Spurs committed to Tiago Splitter. It pays to be big, and in Danny Ferry’s case, patient.

MEM_ALLEN_TONY13. Tony Allen (Shooting Guard, Memphis Grizzlies)

Always a virtuoso on the defensive end and got Sheridan’s DPOY vote, but let’s note that Allen has quietly developed an effective offensive repertoire. Not many guards in the league are better at slashing and finishing in traffic, especially not any of the few who are nearly as effective at guarding the perimeter. JULY 3 UPDATE — Tony Allen has agreed to re-sign with the Memphis Grizzlies on a four-year, $20 million deal.

PHI_Bynum_Andrew14. Andrew Bynum (Center, Philadelphia 76ers)

Despite not playing a single game for the Philadelphia 76ers this past season, Bynum is going to get paid by someone. If he can get right—and yes, it is a big “if”—he is arguably a better two-way player than Howard. The real question is not where Bynum will land (it’s anyone’s guess), but how much guaranteed money he will get. Let’s not forget that he was a starter in the 2012 All-Star Game. JULY 4 UPDATE — With Al Jefferson agreeing with the Charlotte Bobcats, the Mavericks may intensify their pursuit of Bynum, but will only sign him for the right price. JULY 6 UPDATE — Bynum joins Pekovic as the two best centers on the market, but since each will command $10 million salaries, it would not be a complete shock to see Chris Kaman sign with a team before either of them. JULY 6 UPDATE (2) — Bynum is being heavily courted by the Dallas Mavericks, who seem intent on buying low. The Mavs seem to have the most interest in Bynum, at least for the time being. JULY 6 UPDATE (3) — Bynum odds of landing in Dallas may have taken a hit with the Mavericks agreeing to bring Devin Harris back on a three-year, $9 million deal. According to ESPN Dallas’ Tim MacMahon, the Harris deal leaves the Mavericks with just about $8 million in cap space. We are still of the opinion that Bynum can get $10 million out of some team, though the market is drying up. Would Sixers be amenable to a sign-and-trade? JULY 7 UPDATE — J.J. Hickson took a deal we believe to be below market value, but the expectation is that Bynum will still sign somewhere for somewhere close to $10 million per-year. It is a major risk for an NBA team, but as the proverbial saying goes… No guts, no glory. JULY 8 UPDATE — The Cavs met with Bynum and are reportedly willing to give him a two-year contract, with only the first year guaranteed.

Mavericks15. O.J. Mayo (Shooting Guard, Dallas Mavericks)

One of the more respectable rookie campaigns in recent history has become a distant memory, just like the above-average expectations of Mayo being a no-brainer prolific scorer in the NBA. One of our personal favorites, Mayo will likely end up with the highest bidder that promises him a starting role, because he feels he has been miscast as a reserve in the NBA. We agree. Best served by playing with a post-up big and playmaking point guard. JULY 2 UPDATE — Wolves interested; Mavs would like to sign-and-trade him to Clippers. Having lunch Tuesday with Doc Rivers. JULY 3 UPDATE — Mayo’s odds of landing with the Clippers took a hit when the team acquired J.J. Redick on Tuesday. JULY 3 UPDATE (2) – Mayo has been linked to the Milwaukee Bucks, who seem intent on getting a shooting guard to (perhaps) replace Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick, the latter whom they traded on July 2. JULY 4 UPDATE — Mayo and Monta Ellis are the top two shooting guards on the market, and the Bucks were said to be finalizing a deal for Mayo. Now that Kyle Korver and J.R. Smith are off the market, the deal may be closed soon. JULY 6 UPDATE — The Milwaukee Bucks were obviously intent on replacing Monta Ellis as their shooting guard, and they have done so. After negotiating with the Bucks for four days, Mayo finally agreed to terms on a three-year deal worth $24 million.

Warriors16. Jarrett Jack (Point Guard, Golden State Warriors)

After finishing third in the league in Sixth Man voting, Jack played an integral role in the Dubs’ first playoff series win since 2007. Showed combo guard ability and made big shots all season long. Jack can fairly hope for a $5-$7 million payday from a team looking for a solid point guard. He probably deserves more. Depends how GMs feel about him. Could be a value signing as $7-$8 million per. JULY 2 UPDATE — Has spoken with Warriors, Mavericks and Nuggets. JULY 3 UPDATE –Jack may be pursued by the Detroit Pistons if Jose Calderon opts to leave the Motor City. JULY 5 UPDATE — Tweeted: “Well it was fun while it lasted” after Dubs renounced his rights to make the deal for Iguodala. JULY 6 UPDATE — That did not take too long. Jack has agreed to join the Cleveland Cavaliers on a four-year deal worth $25 million. The news was first reported by Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group.

POR_Hickson_JJ17. J.J. Hickson (Power Forward/Center, Portland Trail Blazers)

Hickson can easily be the “next” Andray Blatche—the type of player who rewards a GM’s gamble on him despite seeming to lose his hunger. Coming off by far his best season, Hickson’s 40 double-doubles could earn him a $10 million salary, although we are not counting on that. Bigs tend to get overpaid, though, so it would not a total shock. He appeared as “center” in many box scores, and need we repeat the point about centers? JULY 2 UPDATE — All quiet on Hickson news front. Another Dwight domino. JULY 3 UPDATE — May benefit from the four-year, $36 million offer the Spurs agreed to with Tiago Splitter. It may set a market value. JULY 6 UPDATE — It seems as though concerns over Hickson’s consistency have negatively affected the attention he has received on the open market. Either that, or teams in need of big men were waiting to see what Howard did before pouncing. We would bet the latter, but the former may be a contributing factor. JULY 6 UPDATE (2) — With Josh Smith off of the market, we are inclined to believe that J.J. Hickson is the top power forward available, though Andrei Kirilenko may have something to say about that. JULY 7 UPDATE — Hickson now finds himself off of the free agent market after agreeing to join the Denver Nuggets on a three-year deal worth $15 million. For the Nuggets, it represents a high-value signing, although Hickson is a defensive liability all too often. A relatively young big man who grabbed 40 double-doubles last season, arguably, should have fetched more on the open market.

MIN_Kirilenko_Andrei18. Andrei Kirilenko, (Power Forward, Minnesota)

Opted out of a guaranteed $10.2 million on Saturday — two days before the start of free agency — because at 32 he wants a one more long-term deal that will keep him in the NBA for three or four more years. He is no longer the 5X5 guy he was back in his Utah days but is a smart and savvy player who is effective on both ends. His free agency increases the chance that someone backloads a poison pill offer to Pekovic. JULY 2 UPDATE — Wants a 3-4 year deal. Has ruled out Heat and Thunder because LBJ and KD play his position. JULY 3 UPDATE — Kirilenko’s return to the Minnesota Timberwolves looks doubtful after the team agreed to terms with shooting guard Kevin Martin. JULY 7 UPDATE — With Josh Smith and J.J. Hickson off the board, Kirilenko is arguably the top power forward on the market. The problem? He left $10 million on the table in search of a multi-year deal, and there is no telling whether that will end up being a good decision, especially since the money is drying up.

19. J.R.Knicks Smith (Shooting Guard, New York Knicks)

Seemed destined to end up with a $8-million-per-year paycheck from some team looking for a prolific scorer, but his poor playoff performance against Indiana and the attention paid to his nightlife activities may have adversely affected his market value to the point where the Knicks can pay him closer to what he is really worth—$5 million. Early word suggests that the Milwaukee Bucks are interested, so we will see. JULY 1 UPDATE — After Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr., Smith tweeted to Knicks fans “It was fun while it lasted.” JULY 3 UPDATE — The Mavericks, Pistons and Bucks are all said to be interested in Smith, but Rockets might make biggest offer if they don’t get Dwight. JULY 4 UPDATE — The reigning Sixth Man of the Year has come to terms with the Knicks. He will stay in Gotham on a four-year deal worth about $25 million.

DET_HS_CALDERON_JOSE20. Jose Calderon (Point Guard, Detroit Pistons)

Was one of the game’s best in assist-to-turnover ratio just a few short years ago. Still a capable backup point guard, but at 31 won’t sniff anywhere near the $12 million he made this past season from Toronto and (after being traded) Detroit. Calderon is arguably the best floor general on the market, so it will be interesting to see how much love he gets once he is free. JULY 2 UPDATE — Drawing interest from Mavs, Rockets, Pistons, Hawks and Knicks. JULY 4 UPDATE — Once he broke off negotiations with Kings, they took Vasquez from Pelicans in three-way deal. JULY 6 UPDATE — After learning that they would not sign Dwight Howard, the Mavericks responded by coming to terms with Jose Calderon on a four-year deal worth $29 million


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