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NBA free agency series: Southeast Division

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This is part 1 in a series looking at each team in the league and their free agent situation. The free agent period starts on July 1st when players who's contracts have expired become "free". At that point teams can begin negotiations but signings can't occur until July 8th when the official salary cap is set.

The salary cap currently is projected to be about $59m while the luxury tax line is thought to be around $71m.

We begin our tour in the Eastern Conference with the Southeast Division.

 

 

 

Washington Wizards 19-63

SBN Blog: Bullets Forever

The Wizards had a horrible year which saw more injuries to key players then any other team. It is easy to look at their record and discount this team, but going into next season they have a solid core of Arenas, Haywood, Butler, Jamison and Young. The injuries this season forced some of their younger players to develop and if healthy, this team has potential.

Salary Cap situation

The Wizards have 14 players under contract at $76m assuming Mike James and Etan Thomas pick up their player options (and they would be insane not to) and the team opts to retain Javaris Crittenton and Dominic McGuire. Given that those two combine to make on only $2m, it would make sense for them to stay but frankly their loss wouldn't be all that impactful.

The Wiz also have what  will most likely be a top 3 or 5 draft pick and could be a top 1 or 2 if they get lucky in the lottery. Signing a top 5 rookie will add another $3-$4m pushing this team close to $80m in salary which would have them paying around $9m or $10m in luxury tax. I don't think they are keen to do that.

Off season options

The Wizards are in a funny situation given how much they like their core group but they also have a huge salary burden going into next season and not a lot of options for cutting back. They desperately need a better back up point guard given Gilbert's history of injuries.

Depending on where they end up in the draft after the May 19th lottery, this is a team that might look to package a top 3 or 5 pick with James' $6.4m expiring contract for a future 1st round pick and a less expensive point guard.

I hate to say it, but consider Portland an option. Paul Allen might be one of the few owners willing to buy out James' contract (or live with it) to get another great pick and in return send Sergio Rodriguez ($1.5m) to Washington. The Wizards would save about $9m in the deal which would get them back around the luxury tax line and Sergio is a better option backing up Arenas then James.

There will be other teams though willing to take on James to get a high pick in this draft too which is good because the thought of the Blazers getting yet another top pick is sickening. If the Wizards end up with the top 1 or 2 pick they will have a harder time making a deal and passing on Rubio or Griffin but if any team might do it, it could be the Wizards.

This team wasn't much fun to watch during the season but the next few months might just make up for that.

 

Charlotte Bobcats 35 - 47

SBN Blog: Rufus on Fire

The Bobcats were one of the league's darling underdogs this season and were in the playoff hunt until the final stretch. The trade with the Suns to replace Jason Richardson with Raja Bell and Boris Diaw was initiatilly panned as another bad personnel move by Michael Jordan. In the end, it seemed that adding Diaw's unique set of skills was an upgrade for the team.

Salary cap situation

The Bobcats have 12 players at $66m next season but that assumes retricted free agents Raymond Felton ($5.5m) and Sean May ($3.6m) return. It is hard to imagine any team wanting Sean May at this point so I think it's fair to say his NBA career is over. Felton on the other hand is still a solid point guard who can score the ball and despite being a frequent trade rumor participant would figure to be brought back by the Cats if for no other reason then to trade him later.

The team also has an option on Sean Singletary for about $790k which it probably wouldn't use. You have to think there are better options out there for the end of the bench.

It is fair to assume then the Bobcats will enter the free agency period with about $65 in 11 signed contracts including their 1st round pick which should be around the 12th spot. This puts them over the cap but about $6m under the luxury tax.

Off season options

The Bobcats with Augustine and Felton (assuming he returns) are pretty solid at the point but have no depth on the wings behind Bell and Wallace. They do have a stock pile of three very similar bigs in Nazr Mohammed, Dsegana Diop and Emeka Okafor. I would not be surprised to see the Cats move either Diop or Mohammed (both are due about $6m next season) to try and shore up their wing depth. Diop is the better player of the two but has 4 years left on his contract while Nazr only has two.

What Charolotte really needs is a super star caliber player but it is hard to see how they pull that off any time soon. At best, they could use a mid-level exception to sign one of the many quality free agents on the market. Trevor Ariza would be a great fit on this team with his defense and improving range. He's an upgrade over Bell at the two and is a good insurance policy for when Crash Wallace goes down again.

 

Miami Heat 43 - 39

SBN Blog: Peninsula is Mightier

If you could merge the Heat and Bobcats together you would have one hell of team. While the Cats have solid role players and no super-star the Heat have Dwayne Wade and not much else. To make matters worse, they don't have a lot of flexibility to improve their roster.

Salary cap situation

The Heat will lose solid (and cheap) bench guys Joel Anthony and Jamario Moon to the vagaries of free agency while they will likely be on the hook for $31m in salary for Jermain O'Neal and Mark Blount assuming their agents don't commit gross malpractice and allow those guys to turn down their player options.

That all leaves the Heat with 10 contracts valued at about $69m. Throw in some bench filler at the Heat are right at the luxury tax line with no hope of getting better. They don't even have a 1st round pick this summer since it was traded to Minnesota as part of the Ricky Davis deal.

Off season options

It is really hard to see what this team can do this summer to get better. At best, they could try and move Blount's expiring contract to a team with a long term deal they are willing to unload in return for nothing. It's possible some one out there is willing to do a deal like that but the player isn't likely going to be good enough to make a difference.

The good news is for Miami fans is that the Heat will go into the Summer of 2010 with a boat load of cap space. They can easily afford to pay Wade the max and make a run at another big name. The watch word in South Beach should be patience.

 

Atlanta Hawks 47 - 35

SBN Blog: Peachtree Hoops

The Hawks are still fighting for their lives but honestly, I give Spirit the Hawk more of a chance to fly across the Atlantic then for the Atlanta Hawks to beat the Cavs. So let's go ahead and call this one done and over and look at the summer situation in Hotlanta.

Salary cap situation

The Hawks are going to be another interesting team to watch this summer. With Zaza and Bibby coming off the books and into free agency the team has only 8 players signed to about $48m in salary and that assumes the Hawks gives Marvin Williams a qualifying offer of about $7.3m. It is hard to imagine Williams will get a better offer in this market so I would look for him to return.

That puts the Hawks in the driver seat at about $11m under the salary cap and $23m under the luxury tax.

Off season options

Clearly, the first order of business in Atlanta will be the point guard position. Bibby has done well for them and there's a good chance they would keep him but at a lower salary given his age. They could also change directions and go after Andre Miller or even use their salary room to make a run at retricted free agents Raymond Felton or Nate Robinson. Felton is an interesting option for the Hawks given his age and scoring ability which they need to take the pressure off Joe Johnson. They could even try and get Jason Kidd to play a couple of years cheap in addition to Felton.

Up front, they clearly see Al Horford at the future center but will need another big to replace Zaza. Joel Anthony. Marcin Gortat. Antonio McDyess. There are plenty of options for the Hawks.

Unlike most teams, the Hawks are a buyer in a buyers market and have a lot of flexibility to add a couple of key pieces to an already solid team.

 

Orlando Magic 59 - 23

SBN Blog: Third Quarter Collapse

The Magic are a very good team who weathered the loss of Jameer Nelson fairly well. You have to think that the Magic will go into this summer thinking more about having Jameer back next season then anything else.

The only other priority will be a decision on Hedo Turkaglo who has a player option for next season. The Magic would like to extend him but if I were them I wouldn't offer too much. Hedo's a solid player but at 30 doesn't warrant a contract more then say 3 or 4 years at about $10m and even that feels high.

Salary cap situation

The Magic are sitting at $70m with 10 players for next season. This doesn't give them enough space to sign free agent Marcin Gortat to the kind of money he's going to want. Unfortunately, they will also be stuck with Tony Battie's $6m contract next year as well. I am sure Magic fans are wishing they could swap those two. But they can't.

Off season options

It should be a pretty quiet off season in Orlando. The only real drama will be the previously mentioned negotiations with Turkaglo. If the Magic make a low ball or even a reasonable offer and Hedo opts out that would give the Magic some salary space breathing room that might in the end serve them better. It is hard to imagine any player opting out of $7m this summer even an extension isn't offered.