Although the ’09 NBA free agent class isn’t as stacked as in years past — not to mention the League is being more thrifty than ever due to the slumping economy — teams still have holes they want to plug, and players have moves they want to make. On the eve of the negotiation period (players can’t officially sign until July 8), we’re taking the next few days to break down each team’s free agent situation…
G – Mo Williams, Delonte West, Daniel Gibson, Wally Szczerbiak, Danny Green, Christian Eyenga
F – LeBron James, Anderson Varejao, Joe Smith, J.J. Hickson, Darnell Jackson, Tarence Kinsey, Jawad Williams
C – Shaquille O’Neal, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Lorenzen Wright
Varejao, Szczerbiak, Smith, Wright
Danny Ferry might as well give LeBron the routing number, PIN number and whatever else LBJ needs in order to feel like he’s in charge here. In the summer before LeBron’s likely 2010 free agency, and coming off another playoff exit in which his teammates didn’t pull their weight, it’s all about keeping ‘Bron happy in Cleveland.
The Cavs already made their biggest offseason splash by trading for Shaq, and otherwise don’t have a lot of money or roster space to work with. There have 16 players on the roster, which drops to 15 if they do the sensible thing and keep 1st-round pick Eyenga overseas for at least a year, and will have a couple of open spots assuming they don’t re-sign all their free agents. Ilgauskas has an $11.5 million player option, and while Big Z is the quintessential unselfish team guy, there’s no way he’s passing that up, even if he knows he’s gonna be a backup to Shaq now.
If the Cavs lose Varejao, they’ll need a big body to replace his rebounding, defense, hustle and overall glue-guy-ability (sounds like a word Jay Bilas would make up). Size in the backcourt is a priority, plus somebody who can create their own shot and not just watch LeBron. And if there’s a young center to be had cheap, that would be a smart move given Shaq and Big Z’s injury history. Nobody wants to venture into the luxury tax, but if that’s what it takes to keep LeBron, the Cavs have to do it.
SG – Grant Hill, Marquis Daniels, Von Wafer
PF – Charlie Villanueva, Birdman Andersen, Brandon Bass, Leon Powe (R), Mikki Moore, Pops Mensah-Bonsu
C – Channing Frye, Aaron Gray (R), Ryan Hollins, Joel Anthony (R)