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July 1, 2010 5:37 PM

Free Agent Insanity Begins with Smaller Names

trio free agents.jpgThis has been the most anticipated offseason in NBA history and it's just getting started. In about 20 years there's a good chance that 10 of this year's free agent class will be in the Hall of Fame. Just look at these names - LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Shaquille O'Neal, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki just to name a few. The courtship of some of these big name players is getting ridiculous. The rumors are flying and I get the feeling a lot of these players like it that way. But that's not the insane part. Any team would be willing to pay LeBron and Wade max contracts if they could. Those players are worth every single penny of those deals. But so far, the deals that are going down are the ones that are, at best, head scratchers.

Darko Milicic
Remember how all last year Darko Milicic kept complaining about how he wanted to go back to Europe? Well, the Timberwolves just couldn't let him leave. They've agreed to a four-year $20 million deal. It's easy to jump all over this deal because Darko is synonymous with bust - but it's actually not terrible. Darko averaged 8.3 points and 5.6 rebounds in 24 games with the Wolves. But the Wolves also signed Nikola Pekovic, their second-round pick from the 2008 draft to a four-year $13 million deal. What this means is the Wolves are just $5 million under the cap. And with that amount of money they won't be able to find someone to significantly improve their team. They better hope Wesley Johnson is the steal of the draft because  he's one of the few differences from a team that went 15-67 this past year.

Drew Gooden/John Salmons
The Bucks have been active so far as it looks like they'll sign Drew Gooden and re-sign John Salmons. Gooden is set to sign a five-year $32 million deal. This actually looks to be a good value signing for the Bucks. Gooden has always been consistent and he's still only 28. He should be able to produce at a fairly high level throughout the five-year deal.
But Salmons is another story. He has agreed to a five-year $39 million deal. The good thing is that Gooden's and Salmon's deals will expire at the same time and give them plenty of cap room...in five years. But Salmons is 30 years old and unless you shoot like Ray Allen (which he doesn't), that's about the end of the road for many wing players. He fit in well with the Bucks last year but the chances of him playing like that for even two of his five-year deal aren't good.

Rudy Gay
Grizzlies' owner Michael Heisley is one of the cheapest (if not THE cheapest) owners in the league. But he has shelled out $82 million over five years to keep Rudy Gay. Anyone think Rudy Gay is one of the elite players in the league? How many All-Star appearances does he have? 0? Yet the Grizzlies paid him just $3 million under a max contract. He's still just 23 years old but he's not someone you build a franchise around. If the Grizzlies want to become a contender, they must build through the draft. I guess that's difficult though with them selling their picks.

Joe Johnson
SIX-YEARS, $119 MILLION. And lucky for the Hawks Johnson just might accept that offer. How generous of him. Although, he is still going to hear other teams out first. Maybe the Hawks should listen to other teams and realize that they'd be destroying their franchise for the next six years if they sign Johnson to this insane contract. This is an Allan Houston type contract. It's not that Joe Johnson is a bad player. Last year he led the Hawks with 21.3 points. But he's not a max contract player. He's a good number two option and would be a great third option on a championship-caliber team. You don't build your franchise around Joe Johnson. Seems like the Hawks panicked.

So, even though the big names haven't yet landed, free agency has still given us plenty of drama and panic from some teams that have little hope of competing for a title next season.

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