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by user Wtt02005
A hectic schedule begins in three weeks for the NBA. Sixteen teams will work tirelessly in hopes of capturing the coveted NBA Championship while managements will begin to debate and alter the future of their respective franchises. The advent of the postseason foreshadows the offseason which is of utmost concern for managements who desperately need to make changes to their squads or merely just retain players. There’s gold in dem hills aka the free agent market this year. Who are the significant free agents? Who will stay with their current club, and who will offer their services in a different jersey?
Yao Ming: Restricted. Yao Ming is definitely not leaving Houston. He has shown no desire to leave the city which has embraced him. Yao is the face of the Rockets franchise, and he is beginning to play like it. Yao may never be a dominant center like Shaq or Tim Duncan, but you cannot overlook his career numbers in points (22.1) and rebounds (10.2) which are major improvements from a year ago (18.3 and 8.4). I know the Rockets definitely will not overlook his performance. The only way Yao will leave Houston is if he hates the food at his parents’ restaurant.
Al Harrington: Unrestricted. Harrington is probably one of the more hot commodities in this free agency. An all-star on the rise during his tenure with the Pacers (he finished second to Antawn Jamison for 6th Man of the Year in 2003-2004), Harrington was traded to the Hawks for Stephen Jackson the following year. His numbers improved as he became a permanent starter for the team. There was no better indication of this than a 40 point outburst against his former Pacers team during one meeting. Now only 26 and his prime very much ahead of him, Harrington is definitely capable of making any team competitive. I believe he will leave Atlanta because his play has warranted not only attention but more money. Expect Harrington to play for any team that will offer him a contract worth more than twenty-seven million.
Peja Stojakovic: Player Option. Though only 28, many considered Peja to be slowing down and losing his touch. Peja has apparently quashed the majority of these rumors, having increased his scoring since his departure from the Kings. From what I can see, he is not unhappy with the situation there. Former Kings teammate, Scot Pollard, is there with him, and he is the premier shooter for that ballclub. However, Peja will be able to decide his own future this offseason and will probably test the market to find a suitable place. This once again brings me back to his desire to play for Chicago some years back. However, this was before the arrival of Ben Gordon, and I could see the Bulls management no longer requiring Peja’s services. The Bulls need an inside game; they have enough shooters.
Ben Wallace: Unrestricted. Ben Wallace has shown no signs of wanting to leave Detroit. He and his ‘fro are the main faces of the Franchise and can be credited for the team’s revival these past few seasons. The concern for Wallace now is that he’s 32; however, he does not appear to be slowing down. Wallace is one of the premier post defenders in the game (He is a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year). Defense is the word of this generation of basketball, and the Pistons will definitely be soft on the inside without Big Ben. He may not play any offense, but he is very instrumental to the team’s success which was exemplified when the Pistons struggled during his six game suspension last season. Expect Dumars to figure it out. He knows the Pistons will need Wallace since they traded Darko Milicic this season.
Amare Stoudemire: Restricted. Fans will definitely not see a Eddy Curry-like situation with Stoudemire. The Bulls management decided to not wait on Curry’s irregular heart beat and dealt him to the Knicks where he, like every other Knicks player, had a season best forgotten. Unfortunately, such a move weakened the Bulls interior and foreshadowed a disastrous season. This will not be the case for the Suns who waited on Stoudemire. The patience paid off as Stoudemire appears to be nearly 100% after his microfracture knee surgery. Stoudemire will keep his maximum contract this summer with the Suns.
Tayshaun Prince: Restricted. A priority for the Pistons, Prince is a hot commodity as well because he does many of the little things for the team. I cannot forget the playoff game in which he chased Reggie Miller down court and blocked his lay-up to seal the victory for the Pistons. He is arguably of more concern than Wallace because he is young. However, like Wallace, Dumars is definitely not going to dethrone the Prince of the Palace.
Caron Butler: Restricted. I miss Caron Butler. The Lakers should have found a way to keep him in LA. Originally coming off the bench for Washington, Butler’s play quickly catapulted him to the starting role where he improved his numbers in nearly every category. Butler is young, near his prime, and the third option on the team, so the Wizards will probably do all they can to keep him.
Jason Terry: Unrestricted. The clutch shooter for the very successful Dallas Mavericks, Terry has been very successful, showing he can be unselfish at playing the point. However, Terry, like all Mavericks, are subject to huge changes in the offseason. If Cuban does not feel that Terry is worth the money, then expect Devin Harris to finally show why he’s still on the team.
Drew Gooden: Restricted. Perhaps the second reason why the Cavaliers are successful, Gooden has made a home for himself in Cleveland. Originally maligned for acquiring Gooden and losing Boozer, the Cleveland management is now probably saying “I told you so” as Gooden is unselfish and is not injury prone. However, there are many 15 points, 9 rebounds players out there, so it is up to management to decide if he’s worth the money. I do not believe so considering management is already spending money on James, Ilgauskas, and Hughes. There is a financial crunch coming soon for Cleveland as they will have to offer James a maximum contract. As for Gooden, they could probably draft a similar player without much harm dealt to the team.
Sam Cassell: Unrestricted. Nearing the end of his career, Cassell has been jumping from team to team since his glory days with the Bucks. Though I believe he is the reason for the Clippers revival this season, Cassell might not warrant much attention because of his age. If one considers the Clippers situation, it is probably best to let Livingston have the starting position. Livingston has surprisingly played the majority of this season and continues to show promise. He may not have Cassell’s clutch shooting abilities and swagger, but one should definitely foster the growth of someone who Dick Vitale claims is the next Magic Johnson. Cassell can be a valuable asset for any team because of his deadly mid-ranger, his clutch abilities, his attitude, and his leadership. We will just have to see who will pay this 37 year old.
Wed 03/29/06, 4:12 pm EST