By John Schuhmann, NBA.com
Posted Jun 30 2009 7:59PM
With a handful of big trades leading up to the Draft, it's already been an interesting summer. And on Wednesday, it could get even more intriguing.
Starting at midnight ET on Tuesday, teams can begin negotiating with free agents. Contracts can't be signed until July 8, but we'll start hearing of deals being reached as early as Wednesday afternoon.
With the trades that went down last week, we saw the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Teams without a realistic shot at a title are choosing to save as much money as they can, while a select few potential contenders are taking financial risks in the hopes of acquiring the player(s) who will put them over the top.
With the economy slowing ticket and advertising sales, teams are tightening their purse strings. If teams spend at all, they're at least trying to spend smarter. Gone are the days when Jerome James gets the full mid-level exception.
The cream of the free agency crop will still get their money, but the economy will likely affect the players further down the list below. They'll have fewer suitors this summer than they would have had a few years ago, while the contracts given out are likely to be shorter and more reasonable financially.
The great free agent class of 2010, led by LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, is a year away. That will also keep some teams from spending their money right now. But there's plenty of talent to be had this summer.
The status of some of the players listed below may not be determined until Tuesday night, when decisions on team, player and early termination options are due.
Ages are as of Oct. 1, 2009, when training camps open.
Key stats: 17.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 3.3 apg
Artest is still one of the best two-way players in the league and gave the Rockets the toughness they needed to get past the first round. With Tracy McGrady not likely to return to action for a while, Houston needs him back, but he's bound to have other suitors.
Key stats: 16.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.9 apg
Turkoglu will give back the $7 million on his current contract for 2009-10 to take advantage of his strong postseason and get a new deal. Plus, the Magic's trade for Vince Carter likely puts Turkoglu out on the free market. If you need somebody to make plays and hit big shots, Turkoglu's your man.
Key stats: 11.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.6 apg
Odom sacrificed his minutes and stats in a contract year, which is not an easy thing for NBA players to accept. But it paid off with a championship and it will pay off when teams start calling agent Jeff Schwartz on Tuesday night. The numbers don't tell the whole story. Odom's versatility and ability to handle the ball at 6-foot-10 are valuable, especially to the Lakers, who can't count on Andrew Bynum to stay out of foul trouble.
Key stats: 13.5 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.8 apg
Boozer's absence this season gave Millsap the chance to showcase his skills and earn a big paycheck this summer. He's an elite rebounder with an improving offensive game. The 24-year-old has missed just six games in his first three seasons, making him a better long-term investment than Boozer.
Key stats: 16.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 1.8 apg
The Bucks did not extend a qualifying offer to Villanueva, making him an unrestricted free agent. He lacks toughness down low, but is a potent scorer with versatility. He should get some offers at the mid-level exception (Cleveland is one possibility), but may not get more than that.
Key stats: 16.0 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 2.1 apg
Like many on this list, Lee had his best season in a contract year. Thanks to Mike D'Antoni's system, Lee led the league in double-doubles (65) as the only true big man in the Knicks' lineup. He'd be a great role player to complement any star that the Knicks might bring in next summer, but re-signing him will take away some 2010 cap space.
Key stats: 8.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 1.8 apg
What do you get when you combine a lock-down defender with a guy who can knock down open threes? You get Ariza, the perfect role player. He made a big contribution to the Lakers' championship run, which came just in time to take a step up in salary.
Key stats: 13.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.3 apg
Williams has never justified his status as the No. 2 pick in the 2005 Draft. But he has improved steadily over his four seasons and became a solid shooter last season before back problems sidelined him down the stretch. He's the youngest player in the top 10 and can fill holes on both ends of the floor.
Key Stats: 20.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 3.4 apg
It's a bit baffling that the Pistons are reportedly ready to offer Gordon a big contract. They're losing their two starters on the frontline and have made signing a 6-3 shooting guard a priority when they're pretty well set in the backcourt with Rodney Stuckey, Rip Hamilton and Arron Afflalo.
Key Stats: 12.9 ppg, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 apg
The Raptors need defense and rebounding, and that's exactly what Marion brings. So, they'd be wise to try to keep him. Whether he wants to stay is another story.
The Next 15:
11. Rasheed Wallace, C, Detroit
12. Jason Kidd, PG, Dallas
13. Andre Miller, PG, Philadelphia
14. Anderson Varejao, PF, Cleveland
15. Mike Bibby, PG, Atlanta
16. Allen Iverson, SG, Detroit
17. Glen Davis, PF, Boston (Restricted)
18. Raymond Felton, PG, Charlotte (Restricted)
19. Ramon Sessions, PG, Milwaukee (Restricted)
20. Marcin Gortat, C, Orlando (Restricted)
21. Antonio McDyess, PF, Detroit
22. Brandon Bass, PF, Dallas
23. Zaza Pachulia, C, Atlanta
24. Chris Andersen, C, Denver
25. Jarrett Jack, PG, Indiana (Restricted)
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