Friday, December 18, 2009

2010 NBA Free Agency = Fantasy Auction Draft (& a Bulls' FAIL!)

Regular readers know that all 3 BBS writers/contributors are involved in an NBA Fantasy Auction Keeper League. To save some time, here are the basic rules (+our strategies), and here are my pre-season predictions. [Note: DC is currently leading the league and is a lock for 1st place with CP3, Bosh and Boozer. Kmart is in 2nd place, and I am ranked a few spots lower (no details needed).]

The draft basically went down in 3 big steps:

(a) the top players were called (DC set the market by getting CP3 at $26 dollars) and everyone bid to get one of the top players for about $21 to $26 dollars. Everyone had money to spend and wanted a big name on their roster.

This basically included:

CP3 $26
Granger $24 (more than LeBaby and KD if you're keeping track)
Lebron $23
KD $23
DWade $22
Kobe $21

(b) Everyone started to realize we spent about 1/3 of our salary cap ($60 or $65 with the luxury tax) on 1 guy, and eased off for a while. This lead to some incredibly great deals on some really good fantasy players.

Dirk $18
Bosh $17
Pau $15
B Roy $13
Melo $11
Joe Johnson $10
Devin Harris $9
Timmy D $8
Pierce $7
Booxer $6
Gerald Wallace $6
J Smoove $4

(c) Some people had a decent amount of money remaining and were able to get whoever they wanted by out-bidding the other owners. Certain owners had money to spend, and needed to fill out their rosters. Some of the players weren't as good, but everyone had needs to fill and money to spend. The rest of the owners had to wait until they could fill out their rosters with $1 players.

Instead of going for $1-$2 like most guys at this point in the, these players had a slightly elevated price. I would provide examples, but I don't recall how our draft order played out and there were a lot of players in that $3-6 range. You get the idea.

The 2010 Free Agency period will look exactly like (a) then (c) above, then maybe a little (b). I think we will skip the (b) part (where players go at a discount after an initial big spending period) because too many teams have freed up cap space and convinced their fans to sit through some really bad seasons waiting for a "savior" in the summer of 2010. When that "savior" ends up signing elsewhere (in part (a)), each team is going to panic, needing to get something, and jump right into overpaying a player from the next wave (just like part (c)).

First, let's take a look at the 2010 free agent players available ...

The Big 3:
DWade (Player Option)
Bosh (PO)

The next level:
Kobe (PO)
Dirk (Early Termination Option)
Rudy Gay
Joe Johnson
Amare (ETO)
Paul Pierce (ETO)
Yao (ETO)

Other notables:
Ray Allen
Josh Howard
Will Bynum
David Lee
Carl Landry
Przybilla (ETO)
Ty Thomas
Ronnie Brewer
Michael Redd
Mo Evans

(Source: ESPN)

Second, the teams that have cap space ...

Many teams have planned the past couple seasons based on creating or maintaining cap space for next summer's free agent market. According to Chad Ford (Insider), that list includes: "nine teams -- the New Jersey Nets, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings."

And for more details on teams with cap space, check NBAroundtable:
Max Contract Players

* New York – $20.2-to-$23.4 million in cap space – link
* New Jersey – $20.35-to-$25.5 million in cap space – link
* Miami – $18.4-to-$21.9 million in cap space – link
* Chicago – $9.2-to-$17.9 million in cap space – link

The Rest Of The Group

* Minnesota – $7-to-$14 million in cap space – link
* Oklahoma – $9.2-to-$12.7 million in cap space – link
* Houston Rockets — $6-to-$12.7 million in cap space – link
* LA Clippers – $6-to-$11 million in cap space – link
* Sacramento – $6-to-$10 million in cap space – link
* Atlanta Hawks — no substantial cap space (below MLE) – link

In part (a), the teams will sign the big players for max contracts early in the free agent period. This is where DWade, Bosh and Bron will sign with their "new" teams.

I have a hard time believing Wade will leave Miami (that extra year at $25 million would be tough to pass up). The only reason I see Wade going elsewhere is if there is truth the the rumor (conspiracy theory?) that there was a late-night meeting in Beijing where Bosh, Bron, Wade, CP3 (next year) and a bunch of them decided to play together and win 8 straight titles.

I would say the same for LeBron staying in Cleveland, but he is a selfish, cocky ass-clown who thinks he will be a "global icon" - even though he's making plenty of people dislike him with his antics. I have no idea what he will do, but I think it depends on how the Cavs do this season (and since I've said from the beginning that Shaq makes them worse, I dont see it going well).

So that leaves us with Bosh from the top group ... it seems very, very unlikely that he will remain in Toronto. But no one seems to know where he will end up. Could he go to the Knicks with LeBaby? Sign in Miami to play with DWade? No idea, but I have a feeling he plans on joining a legit team, with the hopes of pushing them over the top and competing for titles. So let's just say the Bulls have not made a great impression.

OK, so let's assume the Bulls make a run at hometown hero, DWade. Maybe there is a chance he leaves Miami to come home and play with DRose for the Bulls? That would seem conceivable if the salary/contract would be identical. But as I said, the Heat can offer an extra year at $25 million, so Chicago has to seem $25 million better than Miami. Seems much less likely considering that. (As a side note, I have made the argument that the Bulls shouldn't sign DWade (scroll way down). I was basically being devil's advocate, but there is an argument, right?)

LeBaby either stays in Cleveland, signs with the Knicks or Nets, or does something drastic like signing with the Clippers (why not? Eric Grodon, Blake Griffin and LeBron would be an excellent core).

No Idea what Bosh is doing, so I guess there is a chance the Bulls could get him. I thought he had "maxed out" as NBA player, reached his peak and would just be the same old same-old for the next 10 years. But with the way he bulked up this offseason and is crashing the glass (one of only 2 players averaging 20points/10rebounds this season), I have changed my mind. I think he has become much better, and the EXACT type of player the Bulls need - scrappy, hard-working 4 who can run the pick-and-roll and score in the post. Pair him up with D-Rose and we are looking excellent!

The pessimist Bulls fan in me feels like there is 0% chance that this happens. The Bulls big stroke of luck was landing D-Rose, and we cannot expect 2 things to work out this perfectly less than 2 years later, right?


So now let's get into why I absolutely fear/dread/despise the summer of 2010 ... This is where we will see part (c): teams that missed out on the big name players, but cannot come away empty-handed. Assuming the Bulls miss out on CB4, this is where they still have money to spend and need to get something from the "greatest year of free agency in NBA history."

So the Bulls miss out on Wade and Bosh, but will still be looking at some legit players (most likely): Boozer, Rudy Gay, Joe Johnson and Amare. I really like all four of these guys, but I don't love any of them for the Bulls. The key here is that the Hawks have $ that they will aim at JJ, the Knicks will have $, etc - so the price on these guys will be max or near-max. So none of these "second-tier" free agents next summer will sign for "second-tier" dollars. With all of these teams creating cap space, every player will be playing teams against each other to get a bigger contract.

If the Bulls can land one of these 4, we are automatically much improved in any way you look at it. Boozer (the other player averaging 20points/10rebounds) would have a similar effect to Bosh - great in the pick-and-roll, would be excellent with D-Rose and Noah. Rudy Gay gives us a young, athletic, scoring 3 that could play off (and grow together with) Rose. It would give us versatility on both ends with him and Luol playing the 2/3, giving us an athletic, big lineup and creating plenty of matchup problems. Joe Johnson would have that same effect, and give us the much-needed aplha dog to takeover at the end of close games. Amare is having a down year (for him) since eye surgery, but has been hitting the boards much better recently. His killer 17-20' jumper would work incredibly well with D-Rose in the pick-and-roll, which would create much more space for Rose to use his speed/quickness.

(Note: I don't even want to think about what will happen if the Bulls put their time/effort into signing Wade and Bosh, then those second-level players sign deals with other teams before the Bulls get a chance at them. Could be panic-mode where the Bulls end up throwing too much money at Landry/Przybilla/Camby. I'm just saying - be prepared).

At first glance, it appears the Bulls come away from the summer of 2010 much better than they were before with any of JJ/Gay/Booz/Amare, but the long-term effects will end up destroying our team ... leaving us stuck as a 45-52 win team that is always competitive and in the playoffs, but never a real elite team that has a chance to win the title. I will cover the details in my upcoming post: "Why the Bulls Must Trade Luol Deng: To Keep Joakim Noah and Win a Championship"

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