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The free agent market gets smaller

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Today is the first day that free agents can officially sign contracts. Not surprisingly, there were a slew of commitments made in the last 24-48 hours, including a bunch made by players the Pistons were believed to be targeting. Let's recap:

  • Elton Brand goes to Philly (five years, $82 million). The Pistons never had a chance at him, but his arrival to the 76ers will definitely affect them come next year. This won't make the Sixers into instant favorites like the Kevin Garnett deal did for the Celtics, but at the very least it does make them a threat to get home court advantage in the East. And let's be blunt: if the Sixers had a healthy Brand in the playoffs last year, would the Pistons have still won in six? I'm not so sure.

    All of a sudden, the Atlantic Division -- with the defending champs in Boston, Jermaine O'Neal joining Chris Bosh in Toronto, Brand joining an already feisty squad in Philly and Mike D'Antoni running the show in New York -- looks like one of the most competitive in the entire league. (I'm not saying it's one of the best -- that's probably still the Southwest Division -- but top to bottom it should be damn competitive.)

  • Corey Maggette to the Warriors (five years, $50 million). Let's see: accept the MLE and a reduced role on a contender, or take the money and play a leading role for the Warriors. It's an easy call, and one most of us would have made, as well, were we in his shoes. I really, really would have liked to see Maggette sign with the Pistons, but guys with his skills deserve to be paid. This deal just makes more sense.
  • Mickael Pietrus to the Magic (four years, $24 million). He's getting a shade under the MLE, which the Pistons probably never considered giving him. Strictly in terms of talent this makes sense for the Magic (their backcourt was a joke last year), but my gut says Orlando overpaid.
  • James Jones to the Heat? (five years, $20-ish million) Last I heard it's just an offer, but Jones was born and raised in Miami and spent four years at the University of Miami. The last three years are conditional so the Heat can have flexibility come 2010 (read: re-sign Dwyane Wade), so it's possible Jones might still be convinced to sign elsewhere if someone guarantees the entire contract.

There are still some of guys left, but it's mostly the second-tier guys that aren't anyone's first, second or third option. That's not always a bad thing -- I was blindsided by Jarvis Hayes' arrival last summer, and even though Hayes was out of the rotation by the end of the year, I actually thought he exceeded expectations.

That said, we knew from the get-go this summer that the biggest change wouldn't happen through free agency. If (or when) it happens, it'll be in the form of a trade. According to "Boobie" Dumars, though, nothing is brewing at the moment. From (as usual) A. Sherrod Blakely:

"I can tell you that there is nothing imminent and there have only been conversations," Dumars said. "But nothing imminent in terms of a deal or close to a deal."

One of the reasons for that might have been the base-year compensation limitations on Billups' contract, which was signed last summer.

Players who re-sign with their respective teams, have a trade value that's equal to half of their actual salary in the first year of the deal. Those restrictions will be lifted Wednesday.

[...] "I like to act decisively whenever I'm trying to get something done," Dumars said. "But I'm well aware that there has to be another team that's willing, and there has to be a good deal for both teams. Those two things will slow you down in doing a deal.

"What you have to do is be patient. What you can't do is run out and make a knee-jerk deal just to prove a point. You have to be smart about stuff like this and you have to know that it's a deal that you know is going to help your team get better."

ASB makes an interesting point regarding Billups' contract that I think most fans (myself included) forgot about. Now that there are no more restrictions and the first batch of free agents have signed, don't be surprised to see the rumor mill churn out fresh material in the coming days.