So Far, Marquee NBA Free Agents Staying Home

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Joe Johnson Hawks

LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are still undecided.  But so far free agency has not provided the roster shake-ups that most were expecting.  Joe Johnson and Rudy Gay surprised some by deciding to stay home (which will ultimately screw over one of the teams with a ton of cap space.)  To nobody’s surprise Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce are also staying home.  Here are David’s thoughts on what has happened so far this off-season.

By: David Kay

Hawks re-sign G Joe Johnson to 6-year, $119 million deal
I was wrong about this one. I thought for sure Johnson was a goner after Atlanta’s embarrassing second round exit in the playoffs in which it seemed the team didn’t care at all. But money does talk and in the end, Atlanta realized the only way they would be able to keep their franchise player is by ponying up the max contract which includes more money than any other NBA team could offer. And despite the allure of bolting for Chicago or New York, Johnson decided not to wait around for LeBron, Wade, and Bosh to make decisions, and remain a Hawk.

In a way, I cannot blame Johnson for staying in Atlanta. They have emerged as one of the best team’s in the Eastern Conference and every key player from last year’s team returns meaning they should once again be near the top of the pack. If Johnson had gone to New York, he would be joining a re-building team that likely would not have been immediate contenders.

Now is Johnson worth an average of $20 million per year? I certainly don’t think so. Did you see the massive crap he took in that Orlando series? Would you give a max contract to your team’s best player after that performance? I wouldn’t. But Atlanta really did not have much of a choice. They knew the teams with a ton of cap space were making a hard push for his services and rather than losing him and taking a step back, Hawks management decided to cough up the cash.

In my opinion, the most intriguing aspect of the Johnson contract is the incredibly negative impact it will have on either the Knicks, Bulls, Heat, or Nets who all lose out on landing one of the coveted, marquee free agents. If Bron stays in Cleveland and Wade in Miami, the Bulls and Knicks could really have screwed themselves over and would have to go the trade route to make all the dumping of salary seem worthwhile.

Mavs re-sign PF Dirk Nowitzki to 4-year, $80 million deal

Believe it or not, there is actually some loyalty left in professional sports.  Nowitzki probably deserved the max contract of 4-years, $96 million, but as it has been reported, Dirk promised Mark Cuban he would take a “hometown discount” and actually kept his word rather than exploring other options in free agency that would have almost certainly netted him a bigger payday.

Dirk opting out of his deal was really nothing more than a necessary step to get him a contract before next off-season when speculation suggests that player salaries will drastically drop under a new bargaining agreement owners are trying to put into place.  The Mavs were going to exhaust every resource possible to make sure Nowitzki remained in Dallas but it really was not needed as the two sides came to an agreement rather quickly.

That loyalty is admirable but is it the best situation for Dirk?  The Mavericks are coming off another tremendous regular season finish but yet another disappointing early post-season exit.  Like LeBron has faced in Cleveland, Dallas has not been able to find the perfect line-up to compliment the big German.  That makes me wonder if Nowitzki has what it takes to carry this franchise to the title that Cuban so desperately desires or if he may have been better off signing elsewhere and teaming up with a LeBron or Dwyane Wade in Chicago, New York, or Miami.

In the past few years, there has been a musical chairs type feel among the roster that has ushered in and out players like Antawn Jamison, Devin Harris, Antoine Walker, Jerry Stackhouse, Josh Howard, and of course, Steve Nash.  The new group has solid pieces like Jason Kidd, Caron Butler, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry, but is that enough to compliment Nowitzki?  Dallas must also try to re-sign center Brendan Haywood or pursue a big man free agent (Shaq anyone?) to provide a physical inside presence that Nowitzki lacks.

Celtics re-sign G/F Paul Pierce to 4-year, $61 million deal
Like Nowitzki, Pierce opting out of his deal with Boston was more a formality than anything as there was no real risk of him leaving a Celtics team that advanced to the NBA Finals this past season.  And even more so than Dirk, Pierce’s contract is a tremendous deal for Boston that was signed with the interest of the team in mind first over an individual cashing in on a monster paycheck.

Pierce could have easily received a more lucrative contract offer if he actually would have tested the market.  It would have been somewhat foolish and shocking if he would have left Beantown to sign with a re-building franchise just to cash in a huge contract.   In signing this deal with Boston, it gives them the ability to try and re-sign Ray Allen while adding another piece with the mid-level exception without massively surpassing the luxury tax.

Rudy Gay GrizzliesGrizzlies re-sign SF Rudy Gay to 5-year, $81.6 million deal

An average of $16-plus million per year for five years is A LOT to pay a player who averaged less than 20 points and 6 boards a game last season.  I agree the Grizzlies HAD to re-sign Gay instead of letting him leave and getting nothing in return.  However, why not wait a few days to see what other offers are on the table before throwing that massive amount at him.  He was a restricted free agent so Memphis had the option to match any offer sheet he signed.  Did Chris Wallace not realize this?  Gay signing takes one of the major players off the market which has to sting teams like the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, and Heat who would have been after Gay with all their cap space as a plan B in case they did not land LeBron.

Check out David’s thoughts on the other NBA free agent signings.

Click here for team pages including salary cap, depth chart, and off-season transaction updates.

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