Candidates: Emeka Okafor (3 years, $40.5 million), Trevor Ariza (3 years, $21.8 million), Jarret Jack (2 years, $10.4 million)
What should you do if two of your top four players are grossly overpriced, yet you have no capable back-ups at those respective positions? Well, the Hornets are currently in that predicament, as they’re trying to save money, keep CP3 happy, and build a contender. Okafor’s deal is a little too pricey, Ariza doesn’t consistently produce (or address their shooting need), and Jack isn’t the answer at the shooting guard position.
Final Verdict: Jarret Jack
If the Hornets release Okafor or Ariza, they will immediately fall from playoff contention. Despite the hideous nature of both their contracts, it just can’t be done if they want to keep CP3. Jack would be the likely choice as a replaceable back-up point guard, although New Orleans will probably pass.
Candidates: Kendrick Perkins (4 years, $33.6 million), Thabo Sefolosha (3 years, $11.6 million), Nick Collison (4 years, $11 million), Nate Robinson (1 year, $4.5 million)
Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Serge Ibaka will be needing a pay raise over the next few seasons, so the Thunder will have to remain frugal to keep their core in tact. Sefolosha plays the same position as their third best player (Harden). Robinson is dead weight on the bench. Collison is a glue-guy, but he’s up there in age and it’s just a matter of time before he eventually stops producing. Perkins has yet to return to his pre-injury form (and production), and will be a bust for the Thunder if he doesn’t.
Final Verdict: Thabo Sefolosha
With Harden’s development throughout these past playoffs, it appears he’s ready to take on a much larger role, possibly even as a starter. Although Sefolosha is the much-needed defensive stopper that every team desires, the Thunder may actually need Harden’s offense more (you’d agree if you watched Westbrook take erratic shots all season).
Candidates: Josh Childress (4 years, $27 million), Hakim Warrick (3 years, $12.8 million), Channing Frye (4 years, $24.8 million)
Warrick isn’t as badly as overpaid as Frye or Childress, but it appears he’ll be the odd man out in the frontcourt rotation next season with the drafting of Markieff Morris. Frye is a one-dimensional player – a shooting big man – and doesn’t contribute enough overall value to warrant his contract at times. Childress was expected to come over from Olympiacos and contribute right away, yet all he’s done is disappoint so far (6.3% on 3-pointers!).
Final Verdict: Josh Childress
This is another tough choice. Without Childress, the Suns will be stuck with Jared Dudley and an unhappy Mikael Pietrus at the wing positions, as Vince Carter will be released and Grant Hill is an unrestricted free agent. This is a big gamble that has to be done, though, as Warrick and Frye at least add size to a franchise in dire need of some.
Candidates: Brandon Roy (4 years, $68.7 million), Marcus Camby (1 year, $12.9 million)
The Blazers are in a tough position here, as they have a strong nucleus (Aldridge, Wallace, Matthews, Batum, Felton), but are missing a few key pieces (mainly a center and another go-to scorer). Hmm. Roy and Camby fit those needs on paper, right? With Roy’s injury history and Camby’s wear and tear, neither appears to be more than a temporary fix. Both have capable replacements (Oden and Matthews), but with a dire need for size, Camby may be needed more.
Final Verdict: Brandon Roy
Honestly, this decision may make or break the Blazers’ organization. They don’t have to release Roy, but doing so would free up a bunch of cap space and put the team in the right direction moving forward. Unless he can recapture his Game 4 performance vs. Dallas for an entire season, Roy should be released.
Candidates: John Salmons (4 years, $31.2 million), Francisco Garcia (3 years, $18.3 million)
So what was Sacramento thinking when they made their trade “down” for Jimmer? Say what you will about the BYU star, but was it worth taking on Salmons’ contract AND missing out on the highly ranked Brandon Knight and Kemba Walker? We’ll see. Nevertheless, Salmons isn’t worth $31.2 million, and should be released ASAP. Unless, of course, you’re not a big fan of Francisco Garcia’s 9.7 points, 1.2 assists and 43.6 percent shooting.
Final Verdict: John Salmons
Garcia was actually the more productive player last season (13.5 PER to Salmons’ 12.8), despite making significantly less money and getting less playing time. Salmons, who will be 32 years old in December, is only getting worse, so the Kings might as well get of this mess now.
Candidates: Richard Jefferson (3 years, $30.5 million), Matt Bonner (3 years, $11 million)
The Spurs always seem to find the steal of the draft or an overlooked role player, systematically crafting the perfect team around Tim Duncan. Sometimes though, a player outgrows the system (Bonner) or just doesn’t seem to fit (Jefferson). Jefferson has been a misfit throughout his short tenure in San Antonio, while Bonner doesn’t provide the strengths (rebounding, toughness, defense) that Duncan’s big man sidekick needs at this time in his career.
Final Verdict: Richard Jefferson
It’s difficult to release a player as talented as RJ, but the truth is he will never be the player San Antonio covets. He had to compromise his offensive abilities (scoring and slashing) to turn into a spot-up shooter for the team’s benefit, and has never been the elite defender they need. Kawhi Leonard should solve their SF issues, if not serve as a much cheaper replacement.
Candidates: Paul Millsap (2 years, $16.7 million), Al Jefferson (2 years, $29 million), Raja Bell (2 years, $6.7 million), Mehmet Okur (1 year, $10.9 million)
Enes Kanter’s arrival makes one thing clear: there are going to be changes in Utah. The question is, who will stay? Bell was one of the league’s worst shooting guards last season, but only makes $6.7 million over the next couple of seasons. Okur’s contract is grossly overpriced, but has an expiring contract. It should come down to Jefferson vs. Millsap. Jefferson is the better player, but commands almost double the dollar amount as Millsap. Dun. Dun. Dun.
Final Verdict: Raja Bell
It’s tough not putting Jefferson here, as he definitely merits a lot of consideration with Kanter in town. All in all, Jefferson will likely not be released, as teams tend to stay away from such brash moves. Therefore, the Jazz let Bell go after he played arguably his worst season as a pro. Any takers?
Jovan Buha is a sophomore at the University of Southern California majoring in print & digital journalism. He also writes for ESPN TrueHoop’s ClipperBlog.com.