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Who Will Pay Walker?

I was just reflecting on the new collective bargaining agreement and it donned on me that Antoine Walker might be one of the players with the most at stake in these negotiations. Basically 2 major points of negotiation could have a huge effect on who can offer Walker the most money.

1. The new salary cap - some say it could rise up to the $47 - $50M range. This is good news for Antoine as more teams will have room under the cap to sign free agents. However, its not as many as you might think. The ones that will have the most room are the ones that look a lot like the Atlanta Hawks team he just left. If he wanted to chase the money, I'm sure he could return there or look into the Hornets. I doubt the Clippers would be willing to offer him any cash.

2. The MLE - one proposal on the table is to split the MLE into two pieces (25% and 75%). One of the guidelines being used to determine Walker's market value was the MLE. The thinking is that a number of GMs (like Zeke) would be willing to give Walker the full MLE (the only question was how many years he could get - and that's another issue that could be dictated by the new CBA). The MLE is around $5M unsplit and the thinking was that Walker's value was between $5M and $7M - and if he could get more elsewhere, happy trails. Now if the MLE is split, then he loses a lot of leverage. No way he takes a partial MLE (the bigger one would be for around $3.75M) so he's left with the Celtics and anyone with the cap room to give him more than $3.75M.

A few teams that aren't jokes could have some money to work with under the new CBA, but even they have questions. Seattle has a slew of FA's and its likely that they'll resign a number of them, taking them out of the mix. Washington has some room, but will likley use it to resign Larry Hughes. That only leaves Cleveland, and nobody yet knows what they'll chose to do this offseason - especially when their new President is still coaching in the Finals.

Maybe I'm forgetting some team that could swoop in and offer Walker a great offer, but no team jumped out at me as I was looking through the salary situations. If this is the case, then maybe a sign and trade really is the most likely option. Regardless, I think Walker and his agent will be carefully following the labor negotiations. Its possible that he could see his options severely limited.