A change didn't do 2006 free agents much good

Updated: April 2, 2007, 6:29 PM ET
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com
This is a story about the perils of shopping, so let's start with a fruit analogy:

Let's say you wanted to get a cantaloupe from the grocery store.

But let's say last year wasn't a good year for cantaloupes. Let's say only one of the 44 cantaloupes that sold on the market turned out to be sweet.

It'd make you think twice about bringing home a melon this year, eh?

Maurice Williams
Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty ImagesWill the Bucks still with Mo or go after Chauncey Billups?

Well, it wouldn't if you were Larry Harris, general manager of the Milwaukee Bucks.

He's going to be one of the biggest shoppers on the NBA free-agent market over the summer, and the stunning lack of success found by other NBA teams on the most recent free-agent market is not going to keep him from squeezing the merchandise.

How bad was last summer's crop? Well, those 44 cantaloupes who changed teams are listed below, and congrats to you if you can guess which one we're judging as the lone sweet one. (Hint: He's an Eastern Conference guard.)

"No, I won't [let last season's extraordinarily high failure rate affect my plans]," Harris told Insider. "I don't look at trends. I look at the needs and successes we've had before in free agency. Teams like different players, and they'll make judgments on different guys differently."

Milwaukee will have between $10 million and $15 million to spend over the summer, depending in large part on whether Earl Boykins exercises a $3 million player option for the 2007-08 season. The Bucks will be looking to sign a point guard (right now, Harris sounds more enamored with keeping his own free agent, Mo Williams, than he does of blowing his whole bundle on one of the big names that could be out there, such as Chauncey Billups or Mike Bibby), a swingman and some depth along the front line to help make up for the possible departures of free agents Charlie Bell, Ruben Patterson and Ersan Ilyasova.

Other major players on the free agent market will be the Charlotte Bobcats, Memphis Grizzlies, Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, and although he didn't want to speak to any team's specific situation, Wizards general manager Ernie Grunfeld offered some general advice:

"Everything goes in cycles, and the thing about last summer was there weren't too many impact-type players leaving their teams. Aside from Ben Wallace and one or two others, those players were not primary scorers or rebounders on their teams," Grunfeld told Insider. "Players don't want to change teams too often because there's a comfort level there, so there has to be a compelling reason, whether it's playing time, money or whatever. And when you make a change, there's an adjustment period. And some players take longer than others to adjust."

Indeed they do, as we'll see by looking back on last summer's market and detailing the 44 free agents who changed teams, grading the impact (positive, negative or neutral) of each move.

And to end the suspense, we'll start with that single, solitary ripe cantaloupe that Grunfeld was lucky enough to find.


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