1. The Class of 2003 re-ups
The big four (Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh) all re-signed with their respective teams. ‘Melo and Wade both said all along that they would re-sign with their teams. Bosh wavered a little bit, but ee is apparently happy enough with the Raptors after they drafted Andrea Bargnani and traded for TJ Ford.
However, tons of speculation swirled around Lebron. The entire city of Cleveland nearly went insane in anticipation of his decision. The name Art Modell hovered in the air. Would Cleveland ever recover as a sports city if Lebron left?
We’ll have a few years to find out.
Instead of signing for the maximum contract (six years and approximately $80 million), James signed a shorter, 3-year extension for approximately $60 million with an option for a fourth.
The rationale in signing a shorter deal is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement will be up at that time. The last CBA put a restrictive limit on the maximum size of contracts and in all likelihood, there will be a higher salary ceiling for the top players at that time.
Lebron will also have seven years of service with the Cavs. If he decides to re-sign with the team, he will be eligible to make up to 30% of the team’s salary cap, instead of 25%, which he is will be making under this deal.
James will be 24 when his new deal expires, meaning that he will probably be able to sign two more big contracts during his career. If he follows up this deal, he will be 30 under this scenario and 33 if he signed the longer deal. At 30, he would be more likely to get another max contract than if he were 33.
He also puts pressure on Cavs management to continue improving the team. If he feels that he will be unable to win in Cleveland, he will be able to sign with another team while he is still in his prime.
Wade and Bosh both decided to follow in James’ footsteps and signed the shorter deal.
As a Knick fan, there is a silver lining in all this. The Knicks are currently buried under financial obligations, but their longest contracts, the ones with Eddy Curry and Jamal Crawford will be off the books by then. If the Knicks can refrain from signing any huge deals in the next four years, they will be able to make a run at James, Wade or Bosh. There are clauses in shoe contracts, which gives an automatic increase in endorsement money, if the player under contract plays in New York, Los Angeles or Chicago. Stay tuned.
2. Big Ben bolts Motown for the Windy City
Just a few months ago, Detroit looked like a dynasty in the making. They were challenging the ’96 Chicago Bulls for the most wins in a season and looked like they would get to the finals easily.
They got knocked out in the conference finals and lost their team’s heart and soul, Ben Wallace to free agency. With the defection of Big Ben, it looks uncertain if they will be able to win their division next year.
The shut down defensive Piston team of 2004 is gone. Wallace anchored the team’s defense, allowing their guards to be overly aggressive with pressuring the ball.
Detroit will try and replace Wallace with Nazr Mohammed. After watching him for a year in New York, Knick fans know that he is no defensive stopper. He will give them a little more offense than Wallace would have, but Detroit is getting 50 cents on the dollar on the defensive end if they’re lucky.
Flip Saunders wanted to play a more offensive-minded, up-tempo game last year. With Wallace gone, they Pistons will need to score more in order to be successful. They added Flip Murray to their team, who will give them some scoring punch off of the bench.
The Bulls led the league in field goal defense last year and they will be much better with Wallace in the middle. They are young, but they have a solid nucleus to contend with for the next few years.
The Cavaliers will only be getting better as Lebron gets more comfortable playing in the NBA. He might have been the best player in the league last year and he was only 21. He is only getting better.
The Pistons have an uphill battle ahead of them if they are to win the division again. In all likelihood, their days as the beast of the east are over. Chicago and Cleveland are the favorites to win the Central Division next season.
3. Hornets Make a big splash
The 2005-06 Hornets were expected to struggle. However, rookie point guard Chris Paul and power forward David West led the team to exceed expectations. Paul averaged 16.1 points, 7.8 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals en route to winning the rookie of the year award. West emerged as one of the league’s most improved players, averaging 17.1 points and 7.4 rebounds.
The Hornets electrified crowds in Oklahoma City and New Orleans and were in the playoff race until the last week of the season.
After years of fiscal conservation, Hornets owner George Shinn opened up his wallet this summer.
The Hornets came out as the most aggressive team during free agency, immediately signing Peja Stojakovic and Bobby Jackson.
Stojoakovic is a fantastic shooter, with career numbers of 18 points and 5 rebounds a game on 46% shooting from the field and 40% from beyond the three-point line. His sweet stroke will help spread the floor, giving Paul room to drive to the basket.
Jackson is an up-tempo player, who will make the Hornets fun to watch. He is a veteran point guard who will help mentor Paul. Despite both being point guards, he worked really well with Mike Bibby in Sacramento.
The problem with both of these players is that they are both injury prone. Jackson has played 70 games in just three of his nine NBA seasons. Stojakovic missed most of Indiana’s playoff series with the Nets due to an injured knee.
Both signings are high risk, high reward for the Hornets.
The Hornets then went out and traded for Tyson Chandler. They gave up their veteran leader, PJ Brown and a young prospect, JR Smith to get him. Brown’s leadership will be missed, but the Hornets hope that Peja and Jackson will be able to provide some of that for their young players.
The Hornets were the boldest team so far in the offseason. They took on nearly $150 million in financial obligations. The team appears better on paper, but if the moves don’t turn out well, they will be saddled with huge contracts for years to come. A starting lineup of Paul, Desmond Mason, Stojakovic, West and Chandler should be good enough to challenge for a playoff spot next season.
4. Clippers spend some money
Much of the talk about LA’s other team focused on the need to keep things as they were. After years of having promising players and little results, the Clippers put together a fine season last year, reaching the second round of the playoffs.
Donald Sterling is another owner who is known for having his hand tightly clenched around his wallet.
Sam Cassell was a great veteran presence on the team last season. He averaged 17.2 points and 6.3 assists with a fantastic 2.81 assist-to-turnover ratio. Under his leadership at point guard, the team improved from 37 wins to 47. Despite, having Shaun Livingston at the same position, the Clippers felt that Cassell was an essential part of their team and keeping him there was their number one priority this offseason.
General Manager Elgin Baylor was able to resign Sam “I am” for just $13 million over the next two seasons. That is extremely reasonable for a top-flight point guard who takes care of the ball, gets his teammate involved and has made a living at taking big shots. Cassell is the type of guy who plays with the pedal to the metal at all times and he should be a great influence on the development of Livingston.
The Clippers lost Vlad Radmanovic, who signed with the Lakers, but they replaced “Radman” with Tim Thomas for four years and $24 million. Thomas was fantastic in the playoffs for the Phoenix Suns. This would be a bargain except for the fact that Thomas has always played well in contract years and dogged it during his other seasons.
The good thing for LA is that they don’t need him to do too much. He has all the talent in the world. He can shoot, drive to the hole, play down low and even play some defense when he wants to. Thomas, Livingson and Corey Maggette will make up the league’s strongest bench next season. The Clippers will be formidable again next season. With improvement from some of their young players, they could contend for the title.
5. Dallas keepts it together
After coming within two games of winning the NBA title, the Mavs knew they didn’t have much to do. Priority number one was to re-sign Jason Terry. After averaging 17 points per game during the regular season and 19 during the playoffs, the Mavs rewarded Terry with a six-year $50 million deal.
With Terry, Devin Harris and Jerry Stackhouse locked up in the backcourt, the Mavs traded shooting guard Marquis Daniels to Indiana for Austin Croshere.
Daniels is a good player, but he is still owed nearly $30 million. That is too much money for the team’s fourth guard to be making. The acquisition of Croshere, allows Dallas to let Keith Van Horn sign with another team. Croshere is in the last year of his contract.
With this trade, the Mavs will be able to compete for the title again next year with their core of Nowitzki, Howard, Terry, Harris, Stackhouse, Dampier and Diop. If it doesn’t work out, the Mavs have put themselves into position to get under the salary cap and sign an impact free agent. They saved about $20 million dollars with this trade and will have money to pursue Vince Carter in free agency next summer if they decide they need another scoring guard.
For years the talk was that owner Mark Cuban spent money too lavishly on players. The Mavs are now in one of the best financial situations for a contending team.
6. Where have all the centers gone?
This has gotten pathetic. Ben Wallace is not a center. Nene is not a center.
Ten years ago, the Centers in the league were Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning.
Ben Wallace is Charles Oakley with ups. Nene is a power forward who has career averages of 10.2 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Both players got paid like superstar centers. Each player signed for $60 million (Wallace for four years and Nene for six).
The other centers on the market this summer were Joel Przybilla, Nazr Mohammed, Rafael Araujo, Rasho Nesterovic, Francisco Elson and Jackie Butler.
The NBA games has increased in pace over the last decade. Big men are often just too slow. Most offenses revolve around their guards. Big guys are only necessary to protect the rim on the defensive end.
The league has officially been Garnett-ified. He is a seven-footer who plays like a guard. Big men are now so versatile that they are more comfortable playing away from the hoop and weary of going inside and guarding other big men. (see Tim Duncan, Chris Bosh, Dirk Nowitzki).
The days of the dominant center are long gone.