By Fran Blinebury, for NBA.com
Posted Jul 24 2009 11:38PM
The gates to free agency barely had been opened when the offers and the money started to pour in for the likes of Ben Gordon, Charlie Villanueva, Rasheed Wallace, Ron Artest and Antonio McDyess. Those guys were gobbled up faster than the dots in an old-time Pac-Man game.
Now, nearly a month into a free agent season that has been filled with fiscal restraint by some teams and splurges by others, there are some big-name buys still sitting on the shelf. Here are the top seven free agents waiting to find a place to call home when training camp opens in October:
Does anybody really think that the Lakers can afford to let both Trevor Ariza and Odom get away in a matter of weeks following their championship?
Odom, of course, wants the love and respect (money) that every role player craves in the aftermath of a title. He's had calls from Dallas and is being pursued by Miami. Dwyane Wade has made his pitch for Odom to come back to south Florida and help write a new chapter to his career by re-establishing the Heat as contenders.
When Odom plays up to his potential, he's worth the bundle he'd like. Trouble is, he doesn't often enough. He'll get the love and admiration (money) if he jumps ship and turns up in a different uniform next season. But he'll only get to play for another championship if he stays in LA with Kobe.
Who wouldn't want this hustling bundle of energy? But the clock is ticking and nobody has yet stepped up to dangle an offer sheet in front of the Knicks' restricted free agent.
It was supposed to be Memphis making room on the front line with plenty of cap space and finally a plan for the future. But that was before the Grizzlies stunned everybody by reeling in Zach Randolph instead. Likewise, no offer ever came from Portland, even after the Blazers tried and struck out on Utah's Paul Millsap.
Knicks president Donnie Walsh says he's not in a panic mode and has every intention of getting Lee back into the fold. With the Knicks reportedly dangling no more than $7- $8 million a year at Lee, the two sides are still far apart. Of course, if the Knicks sign Lee and still want to play in the 2010 free agent sweepstakes for LeBron James, they're going to have to unload Eddy Curry or Jared Jeffries.
The Celtics have said they'll match any reasonable offer for "Big Baby," who didn't set the world on fire in the regular season but stepped it up in the Playoffs when Kevin Garnet was on the sidelines. Do you really open up your wallet and count on Davis to be an every-night producer in the starting lineup? Or was his postseason showing a harmonic convergence of opportunity meets contract year?
Davis has been linked to the Pistons, Bobcats and Trail Blazers. All are said to have been trying to get Celtics general manager Danny Ainge interested in a sign-and-trade deal. Ainge reportedly offered Davis and guards J.R. Giddens and Gabe Pruitt to Detroit in exchange for forward Jason Maxiel and a first-round draft choice, but that was quickly rejected.
The Hornets also have shown some interest and the Nets are the latest to poke around.
The handwriting was on the wall in Milwaukee when Draft night delivered point guard Brandon Jennings to the Bucks. He's the quarterback of the future for a team looking to step back, get healthy and start all over again.
There was also the matter of the Bucks rather blatantly dumping the salary of Richard Jefferson when they sent him to San Antonio for old, expiring contracts, and then letting free agent Villanueva walk out the door while getting nothing in return. The door is open for Sessions to go.
The 23-year-old solid passer and ballhandler averages six assists a game while playing just 27 minutes a night. He'll be somebody's solid investment in the future.
Update July 24: Andre Miller and the Portland Trail Blazer have agreed to a multi-year deal.
For all that he did in helping keep the Sixers on track over the past 2 1/2 seasons, Miller thinks he merits a new deal in the ritzy neighborhood of $30 million for three years. But in the current economy, that kind of yearly rate is not going to happen for an aging point guard not named Steve Nash.
Philly has Lou Williams set to open next season at the point with first round Draft pick Jrue Holiday waiting in the wings. So they're only offer to Miller was $6 million for one year.
Miller can still lead a team. But all of the playoffs contenders --- LA, Boston, Orlando, Cleveland, San Antonio, Dallas, even New Orleans and Utah --- are set at his position. That leaves middle-of-the-road teams and also-rans. Maybe the Knicks.
The Answer is surrounded by nothing but question marks. Here's a former MVP who is at his best when his team is built around him. The trouble is he's not that MVP-level performer any more after his stop in Denver and then his disastrous experience in Detroit.
No team that's a serious contender wants to risk bringing him in as instant offense off the bench because, despite a few statements to the contrary, there is no evidence he'd be happy in that role.
Does he catch on with the Clippers as a sideshow act to sell tickets, or does he go crawling back on his hands and knees to Larry Brown for one more chance? Could his ego handle mid-level for one year?
Slam dunk contests and jumping over Superman aside, can anybody really justify giving big, big money to a 5-foot-9 point guard who isn't really a point guard? And doesn't Mike D'Antoni's offense crave a pass-first man at the point?
N8 the Great is a solid scorer, and his assists were up to 4.1 a game last season, but he doesn't shoot for a good percentage and is hardly a long-range threat. High energy and good offensive skills make him a fourth-quarter closer for a team that needs a jolt.
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