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Years, Not Dollars May Set The Bar

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There's a lot of talk about the free agents not getting what they want.  People look at the teams under the cap who can offer free agents over the MLE.  The group of free agents able to get that kind of cash is expected to be a short list.  After that, players will have to settle for the MLE.  Lots of teams will be willing to use the MLE to snatch up a top free agent player.  Players will prefer teams with a chance at winning something (Boston, Cleveland, San Antonio, etc.).  However, annual salary and city preference won't be as big of a factor as you might think.

I think the key will be how many years teams are willing to pony up.  The MLE for all 5 years is a lot better than the MLE for 3 or 4.  For older players, the MLE for 3 years is better than 2 years at a higher annual salary because they might be on their last contract.

Look at last year.  The Celtics could have held onto James Posey if they had added a year to their offer.  Look at the free agents this year.  I'm willing to venture a guess that someone like Shawn Marion or Rasheed Wallace would be willing to take (or be forced to take) the MLE.  But how many years is a team willing to commit?  Marion is 31 years old and appears to have started declining already.  Wallace is 34.  How many good years does he have left?

Will teams be willing to pay a player past his projected usefulness in order to get him now?  We'll see starting tomorrow.

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