While it’s incredibly clear that guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be paid top dollar this off-season, establishing the market for the moderately-skilled free agents is a bit more complex. There will certainly be some teams looking to spend their cap room this summer, regardless of whether that’s on James, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, or John Salmons. Then, there are others that would bide their time and wait until 2011 should they strike out on the summer’s big names, wisely opting for a fresh market and a new CBA to dictate their free agent pursuits.
The unpredictability makes it a bit difficult to place which player could end up where, as so much of it depends on who whiffs on which potential signings, and which teams are left holding a bag full of cap space in late July. Obviously that’s where team-specific positional needs really come into play, but we can’t know for sure which teams will be able to offer which players however much money, because we don’t know who will be where when and why.
All of this is to say that even as of June 15th, we know little more about how free agency will play out than we did in the months prior, particularly in regard to how the middle-of-the-pack FAs will make their decisions.
Raymond Felton is such a free agent, and even though he was a part of the first Bobcats team to ever make the playoffs, his future with the team is murky at best. From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
“I’m not going to say it is a better thing (to leave) or it’s not.
But at the same time, whatever is going to be best for me and my
family, that’s what I’m going to have to do,” [Felton said.]
Let me tell right here; Ray has never before said anything
suggesting he’d be just as well off somewhere else. He’s an intensely
loyal person and, perhaps more importantly, he loves living in the
Carolinas. That reinforces what I wrote Sunday: That Felton’s future as
a Bobcat has never been more uncertain.
Even after Felton turned down their best offer last summer, instead
playing on the one-year qualifier, I thought there was an 80-percent
chance Felton would eventually sign a long-term deal here. Now I’d drop
that percentage to 50-50, maybe less. The message I got from that quote
is staying home is no longer so important he’ll compromise to stay.
Felton would be an interesting addition for a number of teams, particularly for his defensive abilities. Still, it would definitely be in the Bobcats’ best interest to hold on to him, particularly since the only alternative would be to throw D.J. Augustin — who regressed some this past season after his somewhat stronger rookie campaign — into the fire. That likely wouldn’t bode well for the ‘Cats on either side of the ball, which would put retaining Felton (or finding a more suitable replacement) high on Charlotte’s to-do list.
If only it were so simple, as this summer’s market, the previous struggles in negotiations between Felton and the Bobcats, and the fact that Ray is now an unrestricted free agent make the situation rather complex.