We are one week from free agency. At midnight June 30, all player contracts for the 2011-12 season expire and those players not under contract for the 2012-13 season become free agents. At that moment, and not a moment before, teams can officially begin courting those free agents to sign with their team.
The lucky ones get a call that night, and the truly fortunate get more than one. Often those calls are simply "hey, we love you and want you here. Give us a chance to top any competitor", rather than a solid contract offer, because you never want to outbid yourself. And you might want to call all of your Plan A, B and C candidates just to lodge interest.
Certainly, Deron Williams and Steve Nash's agents will get calls. Lots of them, even from teams unwilling or unable to offer competitive salaries.
The Suns are reportedly interested in four of the top 5 unrestricted free agents this summer, per this recent ranking of the Top 20 unrestricted free agents: PGs Deron Williams, Goran Dragic and Steve Nash, as well as PF Ersan Ilyasova. Of course, another 10-20 teams are interested in those same players to varying degrees, so their agents will be busy on the night of July 1.
Certainly, they don't want to sign all four of those players, who will likely be paid $45 million in 2012-13 between them. But the Suns will want all of them to know of their interest. Reportedly, Deron Williams' agent will say "thanks but no thanks", while the others will say "thanks, and we'll get back to you soon".
Interest in Ilyasova likely depends on the draft (picks and/or trades), while interest in the three point guards is hierarchical. But they will still make all of these players aware of their interest.
Most likely, the order of these players' commitments to new teams will be: Williams first, Nash second, Dragic third. And all three players know this, whether they like it or not. If the Mavericks lose out on Williams, they will likely turn to Nash. If the Suns lose out on Nash, they will likely turn to Dragic. (and then, if all else fails, reportedly to Raymond Felton via multiple outlets...ugh...).
Interest in shooting guards, like the Ilyasova situation, likely depends on the draft as well. If the Suns come away from the draft without a new SG, then Paul Coro mentions Nick Young and the possibility of interest in Eric Gordon, while John Gambodoro mentioned Randy Foye and OJ Mayo (restricted) as potential Suns targets. Shannon Brown is out there as well, loves the Suns and would love to come back. Signing any of these guys in the first week of July would be a mistake because the first week is seller's market (high salaries). Agreeing later in July could mean a significant savings.
Free agents NOT mentioned yet, that I'd hoped the Suns would be reportedly interested in: Nicolas Batum (restricted), Brandon Rush, George Hill.
Free agents NOT mentioned yet, and I'm really glad: Jamal Crawford (too old and one-dimensional), Ryan Andersen (no better than Frye), Michael Beasley (headcase), Jason Terry (old, but small), and Lou Williams (young, but small)
Reading Babby's comments leads me to the following conclusions:
- Suns will register their interest in a lot of free agents on July 1
- Suns will resolve the Nash situation first
- If the Suns want Ilyasova, they will have to commit right away. He will get lots of offers. I only see the Suns doing this if Lopez and/or Frye are no longer in the team's plans.
- All other free agents will come in a trickle. None are worth a bunch of money, no matter how the draft goes.
The draft starts it all off on Thursday, then whatever the Suns don't get on June 28 they will try to fill on July 1 and later.
As Babby says to Coro for the azcentral.com: "The overall goal is to begin the process of returning to elite status and add talent and add people to infuse youth into the team," Babby said. "There is no limitation in resources available to us to improve the team. There are no artificial restraints other than the rules and good judgment.
"We are prepared to be very active with the players who are our targets. I have complete confidence that we'll be an attractive destination for them."
Git er done!