24 June 2007

2008 Free Agency and its Impact on the Magic: Will Trevor Ariza Stay?

I wondered why some articles discussing this year's free agent class -- which includes All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Vince Carter as well as up-and-coming talents Mo Williams and Gerald Wallace -- described it as "weak."

Well, now I know.

This nifty rundown for Insider subscribers (which was available for free yesterday) by ESPN's John Hollinger shows that as many as 10 superstars could be on the free-agent market next summer if they a) don't sign extensions or b) exercise their Early Termination Option (ETO). The top five players listed: Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, and Shawn Marion, all of whom are All-Stars.

The Clippers' Elton Brand is just one of many All-Stars who might be free agents next summer, John Hollinger writes.

Photo by Mark Avery, Associated Press

Hollinger concedes that the possibility of all those players actually being available is slim; it's a lock, for instance, that Duncan will not exercise his ETO. Why? Well, there's no reason for him to want to leave the Spurs; they're perennial championship contenders and they play in a city he loves. Some of that certainty takes away from the fun of the article, but it's still well worth reading, especially considering the implications for the Magic.

John Hollinger thinks Trevor Ariza will attract a lot of attention on the free-agent market next summer. With moves like this dunk over Jermaine O'Neal, it's not hard to imagine why.
Photo by Stephen M. Dowell, Orlando Sentinel

After discussing the superstars with ETOs, Hollinger moves on to discuss lesser-known players with that ability who might attract some attention. He lists Keith Bogans, then writes that the most notable player from that group is our very own Trevor Ariza, whose salary Hollinger describes as "way below market."

It's true that Ariza is underpaid; last season, he earned just $3.1 M, only the ninth-best salary on the team. If he gets the starting small forward position this season and performs well, he'll have made an even stronger case that he's worth more money than he's getting. Thus, I'd expect him to opt-out, but only so he can renegotiate his contract and raise his salary. Barring an unexpected development, the Pistons' Chauncey Billups will do the same thing this summer, and the Wizards' Gilbert Arenas has already said he will do the same thing next summer.

As a Magic fan, the possibility of Trevor opting out scares me. While it seems unlikely that he'd want to go anywhere else, the Magic are notorious for lowballing their own free agents, with the most famous example being Shaquille O'Neal. However, Otis Smith seems committed to Trevor. After re-signing him last summer, Smith had the following to say:
“We are very pleased to bring Trevor back, as he is a key part of our young core. His athleticism and explosiveness will be a great asset to our team on both ends of the floor.”
Amen, Otis. Don't let this future star soar away.

No comments: