December 4, 2011 in Sports

NBA free-agent signing period likely fast, furious

Superstars missing, but plenty of bang for buck
Mike Bresnahan Los Angeles Times
 

LOS ANGELES – There will be nothing like “The Decision” this year, unless there’s an unexpectedly large desire to see where Rodney Stuckey and Carl Landry end up signing.

Instead of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, this year’s crop of NBA free agents will offer a much smaller yield of Tyson Chandler, Nene, Marc Gasol and Jamal Crawford – steady contributors for playoff teams, but not franchise players.

Nowhere in the crowd is there even a Joe Johnson, who signed a larger deal than any of the Big Three last season, a six-year, $124 million whopper with the Atlanta Hawks.

But there will be a level of excitement in this year’s hurry-up free-agent signing period that has not been felt around the league since the last lockout ended in January 1999.

A frenzied free-for-all started Wednesday morning when team officials were first allowed to contact players’ agents.

General contract terms can be discussed with agents, but verbal and written agreements are not allowed until the free-agency period officially begins Dec. 9, the same day training camps are expected to start around the league. It creates a two-for-one punch in which teams can see the physical shape of their own players the same day they can sign away players from other teams.

Which guys will be in play this year? Some key free agents are listed below by position, with last season’s salary included.

Point guards

Aaron Brooks ($2 million) is a speedster and scorer who doesn’t offer much defensively, but he’s playing in China and might be stuck there this season. Ex-Eastern Washington star Stuckey ($2.8 million) has signs of potential but not much of an outside shot. Jose Barea ($1.8 million) is a restricted free agent who ran rings around the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs and probably re-signs with Dallas.

Shooting guards

Nick Young ($2.6 million) emerged from a dreary Washington lineup to average 17.4 points in his fourth NBA season. Crawford ($10.1 million) has a score-first mindset but can also play point guard. Marcus Thornton ($762,195) quickly wore out his welcome in New Orleans but had an inspiring partial season with Sacramento, averaging 21.3 points in 27 games.

Arron Afflalo ($2 million) added an improved offense last season to an already strong defensive game but probably will be re-signed by Denver. Jason Richardson ($14.4 million) slipped statistically after being traded from Phoenix to Orlando early last season.

Centers

This is the deepest group of free agents thanks to Gasol ($3.6 million), Nene ($11.4 million) and Chandler ($12.6 million). They can all hold their own defensively with the NBA’s best big men.

DeAndre Jordan ($854,389) is an up-and-comer who probably will re-sign with the Clippers after getting a substantial raise.

Samuel Dalembert ($13.4 million) is a shot-blocker with limited offensive skills, and Chuck Hayes ($1.97 million) and Craig Smith ($2.3 million) are physical pluggers down low.

Small forwards

This is an aging group that will provide leadership much more often than 20-point games.

Shane Battier ($7.4 million) is one of the league’s best in the locker room. Grant Hill ($3.2 million) just keeps on going. Caron Butler ($10.5 million) is one of the league’s good guys but played only 29 games last season because of a knee injury.

Tayshaun Prince ($11.1 million) didn’t do much on a declining Detroit team. Mike Dunleavy Jr. ($10.6 million) will take a huge pay cut but can still be a threat from outside.

Power forwards

There’s a glut of potential and productivity here, but no real game-changers after David West, who declined a $7.5 million option with New Orleans despite sustaining a season-ending knee injury last March.

Kris Humphries ($3.2 million) had a career year on and off the court (Kim Kardashian wedding, divorce filing). Landry ($3 million) is reliable and unspectacular. Andrei Kirilenko ($17.8 million) made a ton of money last season with Utah but has signed with CSKA Moscow and might just stay there.

Glen Davis ($3 million) was good and bad with Boston but should be in line for a raise somewhere. Jeff Green ($4.6 million) didn’t do much with Boston after being acquired midseason from Oklahoma City, where he was a solid third option after Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.


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