- Chad Ford, ESPN Senior Writer
So far during this free agency season, the guards are getting most of the love, while the big men sit and watch.
There are at least five reasons for this reversal of the usual state of affairs:
First, the quality of the guards available has exceeded that of the frontcourt players. All-Stars Ray Allen and Michael Redd along with Larry Hughes, Joe Johnson and reigning Most Improved Player Bobby Simmons have drawn great interest and have big offers lined up.
Second, some of the teams in the market for big men are not in a financial position, thanks to the salary cap, to make moves at this point, especially Dallas, New York and Los Angeles.
Third, the best bigs this year are restricted free agents, which means the urgency to make a deal is lower, thanks to the moratorium on signing free agents (which is scheduled to end July 22) and the fact that teams have to wait seven days to see if the player is theirs.
Fourth, most of the top big men available will be retained by their current teams, if we believe those teams when they say they will match any offer their free agents receive.
Fifth, the Hawks. Instead of making reasonable attempts to sign free agents who would want to play in Atlanta, Billy Knight, the Hawks' GM, wasted his time and energy on Ray Allen, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and others who would never consider going to the bottom-feeding Hawks.
Now, however, as most of the big-time guards have been taken off the board, the market is heating up, thanks to Knight and other GMs. We have our first major deal for a big man, as the Cleveland Cavaliers have retained Ilgauskas for five years at an estimated $55-60 million.
These teams have been slow to re-sign these guys, but as the Hawks get active -- and perhaps the Seattle SuperSonics and New Orleans Hornets do too -- with their available dollars under the salary cap, the Sixers and Bulls may also jump into the ring.
Insider made some calls around the league during the past few days and offers this status report.
3dEthan Sherwood Strauss
4dMatt Walks, ESPN.com