With no more definitive news on the Orlando Magic's pursuit of free-agent point guard C.J. Watson--they're reportedly close to signing him to an offer sheet, and GM Otis Smith declined to comment on him or any other free agents when the Orlando Sentinel reached him last night--and with other Eastern Conference teams making moves, it's as good a time as any to survey the landscape and size-up what everyone else is up to.
Marquis Daniels to Boston
Orlando native Marquis Daniels, who told the Sentinel on Friday that he Magic were among the teams to contact his agent, will play for the Celtics next year. That's a given. What's up in the air is how, exactly, he'll arrive. He can sign outright for the $1.9 million bi-annual exception, the same salary-cap provision the Magic used to sign Anthony Johnson last summer. Alternatively, he can head to Beantown in a sign-and-trade deal with the Indiana Pacers, who own his rights, in order to give him a higher salary. Boston would likely send riff-raff (in the persons of Bill Walker, Gabe Pruitt, and Tony Allen) to Indy in the transaction.
It's hard to dislike this move for Boston. Daniels had a fantastic, bounce-back season last year, with career-best averages of 13.1 points and 4.6 rebounds pe game. The only reason Indy declined to bring him back is because the $7.5 million team option on his contract is too rich. In Boston, he'll back-up Paul Pierce at small forward and could spot Ray Allen a few minutes at shooting guard as well. A potentially underrated aspect of Daniels' game is his ability to handle the ball, at 6'06". Although not a nominal point guard, he can at least run an offense for brief stretches, which will free reserve point guard Eddie House, a three-point specialist, to play off the ball on occasion. Even if you aren't a fan of Daniels' game, you must at least concede that he's a better backup for Pierce and Allen than Tony Allen is.
Anthony Parker to Cleveland
The other Eastern Conference contender, the Cleveland Cavaliers, signed a veteran swingman of their own last week when they used $2.75 million of their mid-level exception to sign Anthony Parker, formerly of the Toronto Raptors. Like Daniels, Parker is a solid swingman who can play a few minutes at point guard, if need be. Unlike Daniels, Parker can hit a three-pointer. He's connected on 41.5% of his long balls in his NBA career and figures to help the Cavs' bench unit spread the floor. It's not hard to imagine him playing point-forward with LeBron James shifting to power forward, and two of the Cavs' 3 combo guards manning the backcourt. 3 three-point threats, the world's best player, and either Shaquille O'Neal or Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the pivot? Scary team.
About the only worry for Cleveland, even at Parker's modest price tag, is that his production could fall. From 2006/07 to 2007/08, Parker averaged 12.4 and 12.5 points, shot 47.7% and 47.5% from the field, and 44.1% and 43.8% from three-point range. Crazy consistent. Last year? 10.7 points, 42.6% from the field, and 39% from distance. Another slip-up, and Parker's an older, slightly cheaper Sasha Pavlovic, which is a polite way of saying he's worthless. But maybe playing alongside James and Shaq will give him more open shots than he had last year. We'll see.
After the jump, a look at Detroit, Toronto, and Indiana.
Chris Wilcox to Detroit
Last night, league sources told Yahoo! Sports that forward/center Chris Wilcox, once seen as a player with a brighter future than Amar'e Stoudemire, will sign a 2-year deal with the Detroit Pistons for $6 million. On the surface, the signing doesn't do much to alter the East's balance of power, but a closer look shows that it almost guarantees the Celtics will retain Glen "Big Baby" Davis, a restricted free agent power forward in whom the Pisotns were reportedly interested. And Wilcox, whose career-worst season in 08/09 lowered his value considerably, gives the Pistons another solid, offensively-minded big man. I'm wholly unconvinced that their splurging on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva earlier this summer makes them anything better than the fifth seed--they punted their entire last season for Allen Iverson's expiring deal, then used the cap space on those two?--but they are undoubtedly more talented now than they were when the Cavs swept them out of the playoffs. If John Kuester, their new coach and a former Cavs assistant, knows what he's doing, this team could be pesky.
Dahntay Jones and Earl Watson to Indiana
Earlier this week, Indiana pried defensive specialist Dahntay Jones away from the Denver Nuggets with a 4-year, $11-million deal. That's probably an okay move, but the length of the deal is a bit prohibitive, especially for a player of Jones' age (29 in December) and caliber (9.1 career PER). And, as Kelly Dwyer wrote after the deal became official, the Pacers ought to be blowing their team up, not applying a bandage like Jones, to use a horribly mixed metaphor of my own device. When point guard Earl Watson--whom the Oklahoma City Thunder cut loose on Friday--clears waivers later this week, he'll join the team, giving it a steady backup behind T.J. Ford.
Jarrett Jack to Toronto
Watson's arrival can't come a moment too soon, as the Raptors have signed combo guard Jarrett Jack to an offer sheet the Pacers won't match. Quietly, Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo has made some solid moves in hoping to convince franchise power forward Chris Bosh, who can become a free agent next summer, to re-sign with the team when the time comes. He overspent to sign Hedo Turkoglu and to extend Andrea Bargnani, but the 4-year, $20 million offer to Jack is reasonable. Jack and Bosh are old friends and former roommates from Georgia Tech, so Colangelo's pitch to Bosh now includes an emotional component.
Toronto will reportedly try to play the Magic's offensive style next season, surrounding Bosh with three-point shooters and daring defenses to double-team him. The Raptors have the personnel, what with Turkoglu (38.5% career mark on treys), Bargnani (37.7%), Jose Calderon (38.3%), and Jack(33.9%, 34.8% since an off-the-mark rookie season) surrounding him. The issue will be defense, which was actually Orlando's strongest suit last year. If coach Jay Triano can devise some schemes to hide his players' considerable weaknesses on that side of the ball, Toronto could find itself back in the postseason after a one-year absence.