Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NBA free agency preview

By Rick Morris

It's on like radon! NBA free agency is upon us at midnight EDT on July 1. While this crop of players pales in comparison to the Lebron/Wade/Bosh/'Melo/etc. group that could become available next summer, it's no disgrace to be overshadowed by what could be the greatest crop on the market in history. The players who sign contracts in the days ahead could still end up tipping the balance of power for the coming season. Here are the positions of note, from the strongest to the weakest:

Small Forwards: What a group! Hedo Bird, Lamar Odom, Al Harrington and Bad Mamma-Jamma Artest can all be big difference-makers in this league. Marvin Williams may never live up to the billing, but he can definitely be a necessary secondary part on a championship team. Trevor Ariza is only scratching the surface of what he can do. Shawn Marion is regressing faster than the level of public sympathy for Joe Jackson right about now. Linas Kleiza will probably never be much more than he is right now. Josh Childress may be coming back from Europe, although the Hawks retain some qualified rights to him.

Point Guards: Dear Romey, Jason Kidd and Mike Bibby are as good as it gets, Sincerely 2001. Raymond Felton probably has the best long-range potential of any of the quarterbacks hitting the market, but he's got more of a "really nice" upside rather than "really bitchin.'" Shouldn't preclude a "really bitchin'" payday, though, given the other choices. Andre Miller is hanging in well for his age, but getting up there in age, Nate Robinson is a poor man's Van Exel, Ramon Sessions will get overpaid for being a good role player and Jarrett Jack/CJ Watson "are what they are." Oh, and Steph Marbury is still nuts.

Power Forward: David Lee and his likely contract will be too rich for the Knicks, so he'll be moving on for big money. Charlie Villanueva is leaving Milwaukee, so he'll end up in a much better situation, potentially Cleveland. Old Sheed, Big Baby, Leon Powe, Drew Gooden, Hakim Warrick and Brandon Bass round out a mediocre group.

Shooting Guards: Kobe's not going anywhere, so let's not even seriously include him with the potentials here. On a thin market, Ben Gordon is in the right place at the right time as somebody who still (at least defensively) computes as a "tweener" is going to get paid solely on his sweet scoring ability. It's way downhill from there. AI better PRACTICE (WE TALKIN' ABOUT PRACTICE) his humility, because he'll be taking what he can get even in a down market. The immortal Marquis Daniels, great-in-small-bursts Flip Murray, one-dimensional Eddie House, late-blooming Dahntay Jones and tragically-named Von Wafer round out the position.

Centers: Sideshow Bob Varejao and his soulmate Birdman Anderson headline an awful group. Antonio McDyess and (not the cop-slapper) Zaza comprise the next tier. From there, it's strictly role players at best: Marcin Gortat, Eddy Curry and Rasho Nesterovic. Yikes!

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