NBA Handicapping: Free Agent Situations that Could Distract
by Trevor Whenham - 3/5/2013
This year’s NBA free agent class isn’t going to be the most splashy we have ever seen, but it could be very interesting. Several teams have lots to spend, and there are some attractive players out there for bid. At this point in the season handicappers need to look at impending free agents to determine whether they could be a distraction for their teams the rest of the way and if that can create a betting opportunity. Here’s a look at eight of the highest-profile free agents and their situations.
Brandon Jennings, J.J. Redick, Monta Ellis - Milwaukee Bucks
Milwaukee is running with a three-headed monster in the backcourt, and all three are free agents — or will be if Ellis exercises his early termination option as expected. It’s doubtful that all three could work together over the long term and very unlikely that the team could afford them even if they could. That means that there is an odd man out, and it could realistically be any of them. Redick is the most likely to stay because he provides good value and was just acquired. On the other hand, he has had a breakout year and will be in demand. Ellis is a total disaster and a liability to the team, and if I were in charge I would certainly ship him out. Jennings overlaps with Redick to some extent, and he will be in demand on the market. He’s also a restricted free agent, so he will be easiest to keep even though he has eyes elsewhere. Until the team knows for sure what they are going to do, this is going to be an increasing distraction for a likely playoff team — especially since Jennings and Ellis don’t always have a stellar attitude. It would be easy to overestimate the impact, though. The team already isn’t playing great, and they aren’t likely to be a real threat in the playoffs. However, they would really have to collapse to miss the playoffs.
Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks
This situation will be disruptive down the stretch, but the damage here has been done for months already thanks to the trade demand and all that drama, so it’s not likely to elevate significantly. This one isn’t going to turn out well. The Hawks would probably keep him if they could but at the right price. He thinks he is a max-contract guy, but no one else seems to think so. His agent is giving off strong hints that he won’t sign in Atlanta, but the extra money and time they can offer means that we can’t logically rule it out.
David West, Indiana Pacers
West is having a very good season on a strong team, and he is going to be very attractive. The last time he was a free agent he wasn’t healthy, so this is his one chance to really cash in, and teams will be lined up to throw money at him. Though the Pacers may very well end up without the guy who seems to be the heart and soul of the team, I don’t expect his situation to be a distraction at all down the stretch. West is all class — a totally focused and dedicated pro. He won’t let next year get in the way of this year, and he won’t let his own situation impact the team. Refreshing attitude, isn’t it? Too bad it isn’t more common.
Chris Paul, L.A. Clippers
Twenty five teams would love to have Paul, but I don’t think there is a real chance he is going anywhere. He’s in a good spot, he likes it, and they can and will offer more than any other team. This shouldn’t be any distraction at all.
Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers
Bynum is a very interesting case. He has missed the season so far, and his health has always been a major liability. He’s only 25, though, and when he is healthy he is one of the best centers in the league — a position that isn’t overflowing with talent. The Sixers gave up Andre Iguodala in the Dwight Howard trade last summer, so they won’t want to walk away with nothing in this one. They could be forced to commit more than they would like to a risky player, though, because other teams are likely to get aggressive. The Sixers have a very tough decision. They have been really terrible lately, and not having Bynum is a big part of the reason. Now his future is likely to be an increasing distraction — the only thing people want to talk about around the team. Betting on the Sixers has not been a good idea for a while, and it is only likely to get worse.
Dwight Howard, L.A. Lakers
Bynum is far from the only player in the Howard trade who is a question mark and a distraction (we could talk about Andre Iguodala, too, but I lean towards the belief that he won’t terminate this year). Howard has been far from happy in L.A., and his return is uncertain. It will help that the team is winning recently and that the playoffs are a real possibility now. It also helps that the Lakers can offer an extra year and much more money. As soon as the season ends or the team falls out of contention, though, you know that this will be a massive distraction. Howard loves being the center of attention, and he hasn’t proven to be able to handle things with class. If the Lakers stumble, then Howard and this situation will ensure that they collapse.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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