INDIANAPOLIS: Next summer’s rich free-agent talent pool perhaps swelled a little deeper last week, providing teams with cap space (like the Cavaliers) even more options from which to choose.
Only six members of the 2010 draft class signed extensions prior to the Oct. 31 deadline, leaving talented players like Gordon Hayward, Greg Monroe and Eric Bledsoe playing on the final year of their contracts. All 2010 class members will be restricted free agents, giving their current teams the opportunity to match any deal they sign. Still, some of the names on the list — particularly Hayward — could be intriguing to a team like the Cavs
The list of established veterans who can be unrestricted free agents after the season (LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Luol Deng, etc. … ) is fairly well known. Here is a look at next summer’s restricted free agents, along with a handful of players from the 2011 draft who had their fourth-year options declined by the team that drafted them.
SG/SF, 6-foot-8, 220 pounds
Hayward is intriguing because he could fill the Cavs’ biggest remaining need at small forward. The ninth overall pick in 2010 has averaged 10.5 points and 2.9 rebounds throughout his career, but his production has increased every season. He scored better than 14 points a game last season and shot 44 percent.
His agent, Mark Bartelstein, told Utah reporters he wasn’t looking for a max deal, but Yahoo! Sports reported the two sides were still a few million dollars apart when talks ended shortly before the deadline. He won’t come cheap (teammate Derrick Favors received $47 million for four years and Hayward is believed to want at least that much) and the Jazz will want to match any reasonable offers.
Hayward grew up in Indiana and played at Butler and perhaps could have an interest in returning close to home.
PF/C, 6-11, 250
The Cavs already have a loaded frontcourt with Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Anderson Varejao, Andrew Bynum and Tyler Zeller, so Monroe doesn’t make much sense for them, but Monroe is a terrific young player who is still improving.
Monroe averaged 16 points and 9.6 rebounds last season and could receive an offer richer than the ones signed by Favors and the Milwaukee Bucks’ Larry Sanders (four years, $44 million).
The Pistons hold $17 million in expiring contracts to Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, so they should have the payroll flexibility needed to match any offer Monroe receives.
PG, 6-1, 195
Bledsoe was difficult to extend because he has been a backup his whole career to All-Star Chris Paul. He only played one game for the Suns prior to the extension deadline and will likely set his market value in this his first season as a starter. A big season could propel him to about $10 million annually.
The Cavs were high on Bledsoe in the 2010 draft (he went 18th, but they didn’t have a pick), but now they have Kyrie Irving.
PG, 6-6, 211
Vasquez is playing for his third team in four years despite being fairly steady and consistent. He averaged 13.9 points and nine assists last season (his first as a full-time starter) with the New Orleans Hornets, but went to the Kings in the sign-and-trade deal that sent Tyreke Evans to the Hornets.
The Kings are telling everyone they plan on matching whatever offer Vasquez receives. The Cavs were rumored to have interest in Vasquez last summer, but have instead filled their backup point guard role with veteran Jarrett Jack. Vasquez is no longer a fit for the Cavs based on how much he’ll command.
SG, 6-7, 216
Turner’s raw numbers have improved during his first three years, but he has failed to live up to expectations as a No. 2 overall pick. Turner has been the source of constant trade rumors, and with the Sixers in a full rebuilding mode, the former Ohio State star will be elsewhere next season.
PG, 6-2, 195
Fredette will be an unrestricted free agent next summer because the Kings did not exercise his fourth-year option. It will be mildly surprising if he even finishes the season with the Kings, since he obviously doesn’t have much of a future there and is trapped behind Vasquez, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton and rookie Ben McLemore.
Fredette was a shooting sensation at BYU and the 10th pick in the 2011 draft after a brilliant college career, but has struggled to find a place in the NBA. He’ll get a fresh start somewhere else next summer, if not before.
PF, 7-0, 242
The Wizards selected sixth and 18th in the 2011 draft and could have nothing to show for it after failing to pick up the options on both Vesely and Chris Singleton.
Vesely struggled as a rookie and his numbers worsened last season.
The option year on his deal was worth $4.2 million, but instead the Wizards have freed up more than $15 million in cap space for next summer.
SF, 6-9, 228
Singleton has been out since September with a fractured foot, but regressed last season and fell out of coach Randy Wittman’s rotation. Singleton entered the league with the reputation of being a strong defender, but right now he’s just trying to reclaim a spot in a rotation.
Incidentally, now that a little time has passed, it’s getting easier to evaluate that 2011 draft. The Cavs came away with Irving (easily the most talented player) and Tristan Thompson.
The Thompson pick was sharply criticized even into last season, but he is really beginning to flourish. It appears the 2011 draft will be viewed historically as weak, but it’s difficult to compile a list of the top five players from it and not have both Irving and Thompson on the list.
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Cavs blog at http://www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow him on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ. Follow ABJ sports on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.