When the NBA decided to have the free agency signing period coincide with the start of the training camps, it was bound to create a dilemma because most deals take considerable time to get consummated. What used to get resolved between July and October now has to get done in less than three weeks if free agents hope to play on opening night of the regular season.
Restricted free agent Nick Young is in a difficult position, because he likely can’t sign an offer sheet until other big-name free agent signings (Nene, Arron Afflalo) or trades (Chris Paul? Dwight Howard?) take place and teams know how much salary cap space is available.
Only a few shooting guards have been taken off the market, with Marcus Thornton signing with Sacramento, Shannon Brown going to Phoenix and Tracy McGrady landing in Atlanta. Thornton signed a deal (four years, $31 million) that is closer to what Young is likely seeking, but few teams have the means to offer that much. New Orleans and New Jersey have money, but the Hornets are trying to deal Paul and the Nets are in pursuit of Howard.
Jamal Crawford, Rodney Stuckey, and the recently amnestied Richard Hamilton and Gilbert Arenas are also competing for the same roster spots around the league, though Arenas can likely be had as a cheaper alternative. Hamilton also appears set to join Chicago for a two-year deal that would eliminate another potential location for Young.
But while Young waits for some those dominoes to fall before getting the sizeable contract that he desires, the Wizards’ ability to retain their other free agents, Maurice Evans and Josh Howard, remains somewhat on hold because the team doesn’t know how much money it would have available to spend – especially if Young signs a front-loaded offer sheet that eats up most of the team’s cap space.
Evans and Howard are still speaking with other teams in the interim. Evans would like to come back, and Howard continues to keep the Wizards in the mix despite getting an offer from San Antonio over the weekend, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Howard is also expected to meet with the Utah Jazz this week.
The Wizards have tendered a $3.7 million qualifying offer to Young that he may have to eventually settle for, if the situation drags on much longer. The team will play its first preseason game against Philadelphia on Friday, playing another next Tuesday and starts the regular season on Dec. 26.
Young’s desire to get a long-term deal is understandable, because only 10 players have signed their qualifying tenders since rookie scale contracts were established in 1995. Spencer Hawes signed his one-year, $4.1 qualifying offer from Philadelphia and Greg Oden was prepared to sign his one-year, $8.9 qualifying offer from Portland before another knee setback resulted in his deal getting restructured.
Ben Gordon, Raymond Felton, Michael Olowokandi, Stromile Swift, Robert Swift, Mickael Pietrus, Melvin Ely, Vladimir Radmanovic and Rasho Nesterovic are the other players who decided to sign qualifying offers to become unrestricted free agents a year later. That’s a short list, not even one per season on average, of players to make a decision that carries considerable risk.
Restricted free agents are at a decided disadvantage because teams have to be confident that they can retain a player before tying up their money for three days. Marc Gasol flirted with Houston before signing a four-year $58 million deal with Memphis, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan signed an offer sheet with Golden State that was eventually matched, and Philadelphia tied up Thaddeus Young for $42 million without much delay.
Either way, the Wizards have plenty of power with the first right of refusal on any deal Young signs, and they certainly aren’t waiting for him during two-a-day practices at Verizon Center.
Coach Flip Saunders and his staff have to move forward and can’t plan for anyone that isn’t around, so the starting spot that Young had when he last played isn’t assured when or if he comes back. Saunders has repeatedly praised Jordan Crawford for his efforts in practice and Roger Mason Jr. has also played well and provided leadership for the second unit.
“Everyone that’s here is ahead in the depth chart. We don’t have those guys right now,” Saunders said of Young, Evans and Howard. “They are not on the depth chart right now.”
Young played regularly during the lockout and is working out on a daily basis in Los Angeles, but he hasn’t played an NBA game since March 27 and missed 16 of the final 18 games of the regular season. Getting back in game shape could take awhile.
“I think anybody that comes in is going to be behind,” Saunders said. “No matter who you are, you can’t be in a situation where you’ve missed four practices, four days or whatever, come in and you haven’t played organized basketball in 10 months, and you’re going to step in and be able to compete at the level that these guys are. That is the negative of our guys that don’t get here.
“The positive is, you have guys here and we comfortable with the guys that we have that they are going to step in and it’s not like we’re taking a big, big step back,” he said. “What happens is, it hurts you depth-wise. Hopefully, we’ll get some things resolved in the next few days and see what happens.”