Teams can begin talking and negotiating with free agents tomorrow morning at 12:01 a.m. EDT. Many of the teams in the NBA won’t wait until you wake up tomorrow morning to start pursuing their players of choice, they’ll be calling agents and in some cases even arriving at the doorsteps of free agents as soon as the clock hits 12:01. Free agency, especially this offseason with perhaps the most celebrated list ever of possible player acquisitions, is a serious business.
The Warriors, with the midlevel exception worth $5.85 million, won’t be in the running for the top level of free agents. Stop harboring those dreams of LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Dwyane Wade in a Warriors jersey. It’s not going to happen. The Warriors don’t have the necessary cap space to sign players like that outright and they don’t have the players teams would desire in a sign-and-trade for players of that caliber, unless they’re willing to part with Stephen Curry (they’re not).
There are several free agents out there who could help the Warriors. I’ve narrowed down the list of free agents to the players I think would best fit the Warriors’ needs moving forward. My criteria for selection was simple. The Warriors need rebounding and defense. If the Warriors trade Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis this offseason, they’ll be in the need for another big man or two who can help the team improve in rebounding and defense and will need a shooting guard or small forward who can score, stretch defenses with his shooting and play a little defense. I also only looked at players I figured would be willing to sign for the midlevel exception or a portion of it, and I excluded players who were older than 32. The Warriors are in a rebuilding mode right now. They need veterans but not those who are too far past their prime.
Here’s a look at the free agents I believe would be a good fit for the Warriors. At the end of this article, I’ll include a more comprehensive list of midlevel-type free agents. If you see any on the list you think would be a better fit than the ones I’ve chosen, let me know about it in the comments section.
Mike Miller, Wizards
Notable: Made $9.8 million in 2009-10; averaged 10.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.9 assists, shooting .501, .480, .824 in 33.4 minutes per game with the Wizards; good size at 6-8, 218 pounds.
Analysis: If the Warriors trade Ellis, and even if they don’t, Miller would be a nice pickup. He’s one of the best shooters in the NBA and is also a multi-talented player who can rebound and thrives in a ball-movement offense. If the Warriors move Ellis, Miller could slide in next to Curry at shooting guard. He could also play small forward. He’s a solid help defender, though not great in one-on-one defense. He has had injuries throughout his career. He is 30 years old.
Channing Frye, Suns
Notable: Made $1.99 million in 2009-10; averaged 11.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, shooting .439 from 3-point distance in 27 minutes per game with the Suns; good size for a power forward at 6-11, 245 pounds.
Analysis: Frye isn’t a perfect fit, but when you’re dealing with the midlevel exception, you’re not expecting perfection. Offensively, he would fit in with the Warriors just fine. He’s probably the best-shooting big man in the NBA and played well for the Suns in both roles as a starter and a reserve last season. Rebounding and defense aren’t his greatest strengths, though I don’t think he’s a major liability in either department. His ability to stretch the defense with his unique shooting ability is intriguing. He’s only 27 years old.
Udonis Haslem, Heat
Notable: Made $7.1 million in 2009-10; averaged 9.9 points and 8.1 rebounds in 27.9 minutes per game with the Heat. Listed at 6-8, 235 pounds, but has always played bigger than his size throughout his career. Is 30 years old.
Analysis: Haslem will be available for midlevel money because of his age. He’s a proven performer who still has some good years left. He’ll definitely help the Warriors in the rebounding and defense department. He’s a rugged, high-energy player who will do the dirty work and take care of all the little intangibles that the Warriors’ young, immature players like Anthony Randolph and Brandan Wright don’t understand. He also has a consistent outside jumper that helps keep defenses honest, so he’s not a liability on offense. It’s just not his greatest strength. He’d be a valuable mentor to the Warriors’ young big men, especially Ekpe Udoh, who mirrors Haslem in many ways, though I expect Udoh to be a better defender than Haslem.
Drew Gooden, Clippers
Notable: Made $4.58 million in 2009-10; averaged 10.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 25.1 minutes per game; averaged 15.2 points and 10.2 rebounds in 30.4 minutes per game in March after he was traded to the Clippers. Has good size for a power forward or center at 6-10, 250 pounds and is relatively young at 28.
Analysis: Gooden is somewhat of an enigma. He is a very talented player but has been dogged by inconsistency throughout his career. That being said, he’s still a good player who has been a valuable member of a starting unit or rotation for every team he has played. He can be a dominant rebounder and is a skilled player on offense and defense. He can play power forward or center equally well. If he’s not looked to as an emotional or energizing leader on a team, he can be a valuable player. His presence would improve the Warriors’ weaknesses because he is a good rebounder and plays good defense.
That’s my list. Not the sexiest group of players, but I think they could all help the Warriors. Here’s a list of the free agents in the midlevel price range (or lower). If you like any of the players on the following list more than my suggestions, let me know about it. Tell me why. If you disagree with my take, give me your reasons.
Free agents (list courtesy of ESPN.com): Shaquille O’Neal, Raymond Felton, Josh Howard, Tracy McGrady, Randy Foye, Travis Outlaw, Al Harrington, Nate Robinson, Luke Ridnour, Steve Blake, Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jermaine O’Neal, Brad Miller, Larry Hughes, Kyle Korver, Darko Milicic, Chris Duhon, Sergio Rodriguez, Craig Smith, Roger Mason, Earl Watson, Eddie House, Antoine Wright, Amir Johnson, Bobby Simmons, Rasual Butler, Dorell Wright, Kwame Brown, Joe Alexander, Oleksiy Pecherov, Javaris Crittenton, Ian Mahinmi, Adam Morrison, J.R. Giddens.