In The Hunt For Aldridge: The flood gates of the 2015 NBA Free Agent class open at 12:01am EST tonight, and while teams can start to deliver their free agent pitches and players can verbally agree to terms, actual contracts cannot be signed until the July Moratorium is lifted on July 9th.
The nine day window creates an interesting stage for teams as they try and wiggle their way into face to face meetings with coveted players and no one seems to have a bigger list of suitors than Portland free agent LaMarcus Aldridge.
Aldridge will start meeting with teams tonight in Los Angeles, with the Lakers expected to be the first team to pitch, followed by Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas. Toronto and New York are expected to get the final two meetings on Thursday.
While the overall opinion among NBA insiders is that Aldridge is looking for a new team and leaving the Blazers behind sources close to the process say the dialogue between Aldridge and the Blazers has been good and that Portland has made a serious offer to keep Aldridge and simply has to wait out the process.
The Spurs have long been considered the favorites to land Aldridge and are actively looking at trades that could offload salary to allow them to sign Aldridge to a full max deal starting at $18.8 million and, while retaining many of their cornerstone veteran players such as Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
The Lakers are also believed to be serious suitors for Aldridge and have been expressing an increasing confidence that they are in the running in a serious way.
League sources have said that the Lakers are willing to reshape the team around Aldridge if he wants to be a Laker and that includes exploring trades for some of the young guys on the roster in return for proven, win-now veterans. The Lakers would rather not part with second overall pick D’Angelo Russell, but the notion that Aldridge was frustrated with the younger core around him in Portland is not lost on the Lakers and they at least seem to be open to the idea if that would yield a commitment.
The Toronto Raptors were an interesting addition to the Aldridge list. Sources say that veteran point guard Kyle Lowry may have been in Aldridge’s ear a little to help secure the sit down. The Raptors dumped off the contract of Greivis Vásquez to ensure they had a full max salary slot to offer and are pitching the “one player” away concept. The fact that both Lowry and shooting guard DeMar DeRozan are said to be actively recruiting helps the Raptors since both are well respected by other NBA players. The Raptors may be the long-shot in much of this, but it seems they are being aggressive and their existing roster players are trying to help.
Sources close to the process said while everyone is hopeful for a quick decision from Aldridge, they understand this may not get resolved until after the Fourth of July holiday.
The next player on many of these team’s wish list is Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan, who is expected to meet with teams in Los Angeles so at least they won’t have to travel far to get in the next line.
The Value Players To Consider: While much of the focus in free agency will be at the top of the board, there are a few free agents that could be obtained at a more reasonable price, especially as the dominoes start to fall off the board.
K.J. McDaniels (Restricted, Houston Rockets)
While the Houston Rockets would love to bring McDaniels back, he is in a position where an enterprising team with cap space can do what the Rockets did to the Knicks and Bulls, and that’s backload a deal that makes it unfavorable to the Rockets.
As Houston tries to lure in another big named player, McDaniels could likely be had for a number north of the mid-level, in fact there is a sense that if the offers for McDaniels get much higher than $3-$4 million per year, Houston may bow out altogether.
The dialogue between the Rockets and McDaniels has been extremely positive, so there is a sense that if McDaniels did get a serious offer, the Rockets might be willing to sign and trade him rather than lose him for nothing, but preserving cap space at this point seems to be the bigger concern for the Rockets.
Because McDaniels is a one year player he does not have any of the two Bird Right options, so the Rockets must use cap space to match anything McDaniels is offered in free agency, making him obtainable for the right price.
Kyle O’Quinn (Restricted, Orlando Magic)
Like McDaniels, there is a sense that Magic forward Kyle O’Quinn could be had if the price is right. The Magic are pursuing forward Quincy Acy in free agency, which could signal a less than interested stance with O’Quinn as they are very similar players. O’Quinn fell out of the rotation in Orlando after the coaching change and seems resigned to the fact he’d be playing elsewhere next season.
There are a number of teams expressing interest in O’Quinn the big questions becomes what’s he really worth and what number is enough to ensure the Magic let him walk.
The general sense among NBA teams is that O’Quinn is going to fetch somewhere in the $4-$5 million range, making him a less expensive option for teams looking to bolster their front court without breaking the bank.
Shane Larkin (Unrestricted, New York)
The New York Knicks did not pick up the option on Larkin last year, making him an unrestricted free agent. Larkin’s camp is not looking for a crazy deal, understanding that Larkin has more to prove before he’s worthy of a bigger payday. In terms of obtainable, low cost guards, Larkin could be the best on the board. There is a sense that teams that are willing to get into the $2-$3 million per year range and have a defined role for Shane could land him.
The New York Knicks have expressed an interest in keeping Larkin, although the fit in the Triangle was less than ideal for Shane’s style of play. That said, Larkin is not opposed to staying in New York, but he is unrestricted so he has the ability to choose his next situation.
Austin Rivers (Unrestricted, LA Clippers)
Like Larkin, Rivers is an unrestricted free agent after the Pelicans opted not to pick up his option and subsequently traded him to Boston, who flipped him to the Clippers.
Rivers had a solid run for the Clippers, finally showing flashes of why he was thought of so highly in the NBA draft. The Clippers can offer River’s 105 percent of the $2.43 million he earned last season without tapping into their exception money.
However the Clippers look to be as capped out as anyone in the league and are likely facing stiff luxury tax penalties.
The narrative on Rivers is if all things are equal he’s staying in LA, but if someone wants to poach him away, a multi-year offer in the $4-$5 million range might get him. Given how unimpressive Rivers was in New Orleans, signing him to a large dollar deal might be too risky to rationalize, but on a two-year deal, it might get his attention and lure him away from the Clip show.
Will Barton (Restricted, Denver Nuggets)
Barton might not be as available as some teams would like, but he is a restricted free agent and the Denver Nuggets have a cash flow problem. It’s not very likely that anyone poaches away Barton, unless the number get silly, but there is no doubt he might be a guy worth testing the Nuggets resolve on in the $5-$6 million per year range.
Of the bunch he might be the hardest to obtain, but if you rewind back to 2011 when the Sacramento Kings backed the truck up to Marcus Thornton’s house with a five-year $40 million deal, it reminds us that something silly could always happen.
Gerald Green (Unrestricted, Phoenix)
After a couple of failed stops early in his NBA career and stopovers in China and Russia, Green reemerged as the NBA player he was supposed to be in the 2005 NBA Draft.
Green is an unrestricted free agent and is drawing interest from a number of teams, including the Dallas Mavericks who view him as a slightly cheaper answer to Monta Ellis who may be headed elsewhere for monetary reasons.
Sources close to the process say Green could be had in the $5 million range, or slightly less if the deal is three or four years. Green turns 30 next January and has posted respectable numbers. Green is not a future All-Star, but he does have an athletic, up-tempo game and while he has clashed with head coaches that have been demanding of him, there is a sense that he is in demand in the middle of the market and for what it may cost, he could be a real value given how valuations are looking to soar.
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