NEW YORK — It pays to be a center, whether you are an All-Star or a promising young Turk.
Also, there is a lot of interest in a 38-year-old two-time MVP.
And, the main domino has not yet fallen, although Monday will be a key day in the life of Deron Williams, the Brooklyn Nets and the Dallas Mavericks.
One more thing: For the first time ever, restricted free agents rather than unrestricted free agents ruled the day on Day One of the 2012 free agency market, and we won’t know until July 11 what deals will be matched and which won’t.
Roy Hibbert is now a max player. The Portland Trail Blazers made him one. But the Indiana Pacers will have final say on where the All-Star center spends the next four seasons of his career.
Omer Asik is a stud center. Or at least he’ll be paid like one on the back end of a three-year deal he is close to with the Houston Rockets. Unless, of course, the Bulls match.
Again, an issue for July 11.
The NBA’s 2012 offseason spending season officially got underway on Sunday. Day One, as usual, brought forth some deals, but the big dominoes usually don’t fall until later on in the process.
This summer marks the first offseason of the 2011 CBA and as such, some things have undoubtedly changed. Less guaranteed years are being thrown around, smaller raises are being given out, and all teams—including the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers—are cognizant of the luxury tax implications that the rich deals of today will have tomorrow.
But after the first day of free-agency, we have already seen a few deals made.
Some teams come into the summer with a plan and specific targets and wasted no time getting to work, perhaps prematurely enough that they violated NBA tampering rules.
Others sat back, surveyed the scene, watched how the dominoes were set up, and scheduled meetings. And as the NBA’s new economic era got underway, many dynamics have changed.
Still, one truism seems to have stayed the same …
Centers Always Get Paid
On the first-day of free-agency, Roy Hibbert received a four-year offer from the Portland Trail Blazers worth $58 million. The offer seemed to surprise most of us, particularly because the new economic era that the 2011 CBA was supposed to was supposed to bring forth fiscal restraint.
Instead, Hibbert’s annual salary—$14.5 million on average—is very similar to what Al Jefferson, Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, and Emeka Okafor are earning in their current deals.
Yes, Hibbert is coming off of his first All-Star appearance, and he had a decent showing against the Miami Heat in the second round of this year’s playoffs, but the Trail Blazers signing him to an offer sheet worth this much has already ensured that Hibbert will be paid maximum money.
And that assertion is quite difficult to argue with when you hear that the Houston Rockets have agreed with the biggest flopper ever, Omer Asik, on a three-year offer sheet worth $25 million. Personally, I’ve been high on Asik for quite some time, but I’m not sure if the flashes he’s shown warrant an average salary of $8.3 million.
Next summer, Andrew Bynum will be an unrestricted free-agent, so he’s obviously getting the maximum. But how do we gauge the value of Denver’s Timofey Mozgov? The Timberwolves’ Nikola Pekovic? The Thunder’s Serge Ibaka? How about the 2014 center crop of Marcin Gortat, DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe?
No doubt, all of the aforementioned players’ agents are happy. The deals handed out to Hibbert and Asik have ensured that centers will continue to be amongst the highest paid players, even if their production doesn’t come close to warranting it.
Ask Mark Cuban and Eric Dampier, Brendan Haywood, Raef LaFrentz, Shawn Bradley, et al.
That being said, there does seem to be one positive emanating from the Hibbert and Asik offer sheets…
GMs Are Looking Harder at Restricted Free-Agents
In the Summer of 2010, Rudy Gay was tendered a max offer and most believed he was paid too highly. And over the years, we’ve seen scores of general managers give their restricted free-agents maximum dollars without being forced to.
Often, totally asinine.
The point of restricted free agency is to give the incumbent team the right of first refusal over an offer-sheet signed by a restricted free agent. Sometimes, as in the case of Gay, owners and general managers have not let their restricted free agents go out onto the open market and set a price. Those dubious decisions have left us dumbfounded plenty of times, because everyone that goes into business knows to never bid against yourself.
Thus far, it seems that NBA general managers got the memo on this one, though. As of this writing, all of Chris Bernucca’s Top 12 Restricted Free-Agents are coveted commodities. None have been taken off of the market by their incumbent team, because July 11 might be the day when the deck is totally reshuffled. On Monday, the Denver Nuggets meet with JaVale McGee. Let’s wait and see where that takes things.
This patience approach has been particularly surprising in the case of Eric Gordon (New Orleans Hornets) and Jeremy Lin (New York Knicks). Gordon was the centerpiece of the December trade that sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers and the Knicks recently found out that they can re-sign Lin without using their coveted midlevel exception.
Gordon is about to embark on a tour of potential suitor cities.
Nicolas Batum is due in Minnesota, and he could realistically get something close to a max offer.
If Asik set the RFA market, other GMs seem ready to follow suit.
Speaking of following suit…
The Celtics, As We Know Them, Are Coming Back (Hopefully)
Danny Ainge quickly re-signed Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers is happy about that. Although they’ve been written off as too old and too slow, the Celtics took the NBA Champion Miami Heat to seven games this postseason, and that’s something no other team was able to do. Sure, Chris Bosh wasn’t healthy, but neither was Avery Bradley. My opinion was and is that the Celtics need to build around their core four and try to plug some holes the way the San Antonio Spurs did this past season.
Now, after drafting Jared Sullinger and Fab Melo, and making a two-year offer worth about $12 million to Ray Allen, it seems as though that’s exactly what the Celtics are trying to do.
As a basketball fan, I’m happy about that. The only thing that remains to be seen is whether Allen’s relationships with Rajon Rondo and Doc Rivers have soured to the point where he’d be willing to take roughly half the money to play for the Miami Heat or accept a two-year $10 million offer to play for the Memphis Grizzlies.
What else we learned today…?
The Raptors Need Nash More Than Nash Needs Them
We all expected Steve Nash to be a much sought after free-agent, but the reports of the Raptors offering him a three-year deal worth $36 million are a bit staggering. That’s especially the case when you consider that Nash earned about $11.7 million last season and has been showing signs of his age recently. Though there are conflicting reports as to the dollar amount of the Raptors offer, we do know that it has blown the doors off of just about anything any other team would offer Nash at this stage in his career.
Nash is expected to play for either the Raptors, Knicks, or Mavericks next season. The Raptors could offer him the most money but virtually no chance to win, while the Knicks could offer a better chance to win but would have to execute a sign-and-trade to get the money to a respectable level. The Mavericks seem to be right in the middle, as they can offer Nash a decent payday, and at least two solid running mates in Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion.
If Nash wants to chase a ring, of these three teams, the Knicks would give him the best opportunity. It will also be interesting to see whether the Suns would be willing to do Nash the favor of executing a sign-and-trade deal with the Knicks, since their only incentive for doing so would be to help Nash get a larger payday from the team he’d want to play for.
And while we’re on the subject of larger paydays…
stands to lose about $26 million in guaranteed money if he elects to bolt Brooklyn for Dallas. At the end of the day, professional athletes don’t usually leave that kind of money on the table, so I’d be shocked to see Williams leave Brooklyn.
Still, Williams’ first sit-down will be with the Mavericks on Monday morning before officially being tendered his five-year $99 million deal from the Nets.
From what I hear, the Mavericks and Nets are the only two teams that have a realistic shot at Williams, but that doesn’t mean that he won’t make the right decision for himself and his future.
One thing to consider in all of this is that if Williams signs with the Mavericks, he’ll do so with the knowledge that Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson have proven themselves to be excellent team managers and capable of building a champion. The same can’t be said of Mikhail Prokhorov and Billy King. And although the Mavericks’ money offer would come without a fifth guaranteed year, Williams knows that Cuban would spare no expense to find him a running mate.
And yes, that running mate could be…
The Dwightmare has gotten pretty old, pretty fast. And the recent allegations from his camp that the Orlando Magic “blackmailed” Dwight into opting in are childish, to say the least. Even still, if Dwight plays out the final year of his deal and the Mavericks either trade Vince Carter or Shawn Marion, or amnesty Brendan Haywood, they could find themselves in a position to sign Howard next summer. There’s no telling whether that will have an impact on Williams’ decision making.
Things are bound to get more interesting as the days go by. Other potential difference making free-agents out there such as Batum, Jamal Crawford, and Raymond Felton have already begun speaking with teams, while others like Jameer Nelson and O.J. Mayo have been more on the quiet side. Remember, it’s often the value deals that GMs get on the “B Level” Free-Agents that make all the difference.
We’ve only just begun, but if you stay plugged in to SheridanHoops.com, we’ll make sure we keep you up to date on the latest free-agency happenings and provide the educated and high-level commentary you’ve grown accustomed to.
Let’s see what Day Two brings.
Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com and will be providing the latest news and commentary during the NBA’s free-agency period. Follow him on Twitter to stay up-to date.