It's nice to have a draft order set and the Senior Bowl behind us (other all-star games, too, I suppose). The combine is the other big event of the offseason, so we really are halfway to the draft. Sort of.
Lamar Odom, Lakers (11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.6 apg) Age: 29. Re-signed with Lakers (4 years, $33 million)
Despite being an important part of the Lakers' success the past couple seasons, Odom put up a career-low total in points per game, mainly because he lost his starting job to Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza. Ariza is also a free agent and it is unlikely that the Lake Show can afford to re-sign both players. What makes it more difficult is that the two free agents are different players. Odom is more of a point forward type player on offense who because of his 6-10 height, can play bigger on defense. I am guessing Ariza can be retained at a cheaper price and might be in better favor with Laker management. If the Lakers decide to stick with the younger Ariza, Odom's next-best option would be to sign a mid-level exception with a title contender.
Prediction: Re-signs 3-year, $24 million with Lakers
Marvin Williams, Hawks (RFA) (13.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) Age: 22. Re-signed with Hawks (5 years, $40 million)
Despite having to yet live up to the expectations of being the second overall pick in the 2005 Draft, you have to remember that Williams turns just 23 this off-season and has already played four years in the league. His qualifying offer with Atlanta would come in at about $7.3 million, but the Hawks have a tough decision to make. If they let Williams walk, they will be about $17 million under cap and could make a run at a true power forward which is what they really need. If Atlanta thinks Williams is an important long-term part of their future, they can match any long-term offer he gets.
Prediction: Accepts qualifying offer
Trevor Ariza, Lakers (8.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg) Age: 23. Signed with Rockets (5 years, $33 million)
People didn't think much of the trade the Lakers made during last season when they dealt Maurice Evans and Brian Cook to Orlando for Ariza, but that acquisition has been a steal for L.A. Ariza has developed into a key role player for the Lakers, playing solid defense and not trying to do too much on the offensive end. As I stated above, it wouldn't surprise me to see L.A. try to keep Ariza instead of Odom. If he doesn't return to Hollywood, I would imagine several title contenders would be hot on his tail, offering up their full mid-level exception for his services.
The Matrix misses Phoenix and Steve Nash worse than Britney Spears misses her innocence. Like Britney, Marion is a shadow of the player he was in his prime and likely won't receive an offer higher than the mid-level exception. He posted the worst numbers of his career since his rookie season and will likely have to accept a role coming off the bench. A team like the Mavs could use Marion as they try to make one last gasp with their aging nucleus.
Prediction: Signs 2-year, mid-level exception with Mavs
Childress is the wild card of this position. The Hawks still own his rights and have continued to scout him while he has been playing professionally in Greece. Atlanta would have to tender his qualifying offer or he would become an unrestricted free agent, IF he decides to opt of his contract in Greece and return to the NBA. With the increase in fan violence during his games in the Greek League (fans recently through flares at the opposing team's bench and lit a player's duffel bag on fire), rumors have began to gain steam that Childress is strongly considering a return to the States. It is unlikely the Hawks would match an offer for his services; they have a lot of players in free agency.
Prediction: Signs 4-year, mid-level exception with Clippers
Kyle Korver, Jazz (PO) (9.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Age: 25. Exercised option; stayed with Jazz
It will certainly be an active offseason for the Jazz with Korver, Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur all having player options and Paul Millsap a restricted free agent. Korver has found his niche in the NBA as a long-range shooter. The former Creighton Blue Jay has a $5.1 million option that he could exercise with the Jazz this off-season. He has said that if there is interest from around the league, he would likely opt out of his deal. If that does happen, I find it hard to imagine a team would be willing to pay him more than the mid-level exception.
Prediction: Stays with Jazz
Linas Kleiza, Nuggets (RFA) (9.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg) Age: 24. Signed with Greek Team (2 years)
Kleiza isn't your prototypical NBA small forward, but is effective in his role as a scorer off the bench. He is a threat from outside, but can also play down low when needed. Inconsistent production will hurt his chances of earning a long-term deal this offseason, but is worth more than the $2.7 million qualifying offer he is due this summer.
Prediction: Signs 4-year, $16 million extension with Nuggets
Other Notable Free Agent SFs: Jamario Moon (Signed with Cavaliers), Joey Graham, Grant Hill (Re-signed with Suns) , Desmond Mason (Signed with Kings), Matt Barnes (Signed with Magic), Rodney Carney (Signed with 76ers), Wally Szczerbiak, Ime Udoka, Steve Novak (Re-signed with Clippers), Stephen Graham, Rob Kurz (Signed with Cavaliers).
A list of the top 2009 NBA Free Agent small forwards.
Ron Artest, Rockets (17.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.3 apg) Age: 29. Signed with Lakers: 5 years, $34.5 million
Houston rolled the dice in acquiring Artest last off-season and the risk definitely paid dividends. Artest was first and foremost very well-behaved, showing that he has matured since his days of rushing into the stands and fighting fans. More importantly, he played a major role in the Rockets success, filling the void left behind by the injured T-Mac, and nearly leading Houston to a second round upset against the Lakers. With T-Mac completely unreliable health-wise and in the final year of his contract, the Rockets should do what they can to bring Artest back. The recent news of Yao's season-ending (possible career-ending) injury only adds to Houston's need for Artest to return.
Prediction: Re-signs 4-year, $42 million with Rockets
Hedo Turkoglu, Magic (16.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg) Age: 30. Signed with Raptors: 5 years, $60 million
With his clutch play in the postseason, Turkoglu, as expected, opted out of his $7.3 million option for next season with hope of cashing in on a long-term deal. Orlando is in a bit of a bind since they have invested A LOT of money in Rashard Lewis and Dwight Howard through 2013, and just acquired another monster salary in Vince Carter. Will the Magic want to add another $10 million salary to their payroll? I doubt it.
Prediction: Signs 4 years, $39 million with Blazers
Al Harrington, Knicks (PO) (20.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg) Age: 29. Exercised option; stayed with Knicks
Harrington would be pretty foolish to opt out of his $10 million deal for 2009-2010. He won't find near that amount on the open market and would be better off stomaching another year in New York and trying to cash in on a deal next offseason.