NBA teams can begin negotiating with free agents Tuesday night at midnight. Thunder fans should be forewarned: It's unlikely general manager Sam Presti will make a major splash for three reasons:
1.) Presti wants ample salary cap space for when Kevin Durant, Jeff Green and Russell Westbrook are due major pay raises.
2.) The plan is to allow young players to grow together instead of acquiring veterans that could provide immediate help.
3.) Presti essentially purchased two "free agents" when he signed Nenad Krstic last December and traded for Thabo Sefolosha in February.
"We've been fortunate to create some (salary cap) flexibility," Presti said. "But at the same time, we'll continue to be methodical about decisions on how we build our team.
"We feel good about the position we're in. We think we have a young group of guys that work hard and like playing with each other. But it's our job to explore ways to maximize the group. That's part of the process in free agency."
Forget about Oklahoma City signing a big-name free agent such as Hedo Turkoglu or Ben Gordon.
But because of economic concerns, there could be some bargains among the 148 free agents, including 41 restricted free agents.
Players who might interest Presti are restricted free agents, young players with upside. In those cases, that player's current team has the opportunity to match the Thunder's offer.
"You can sign players, but I also think there will be opportunities via trade," Presti said. "But it's not going to be prudent to let restlessness be our nemesis. We need to approach this summer with an eye toward the future as well as the present."
Big-buck free agents
No need for Sam Presti to contact players on this list. These are players that could command $8 to $10 million-a-year salaries and will want multi-year deals.
AGE POS. PLAYER (2008-09 STATS)28 PF Carlos Boozer (16.2 ppg, 10.4 reb)Jazz might try sign-and-trade Olympic star but he has an option
26 SG Ben Gordon ( 20.7 ppg, 3.4 apg)Pistons expected to make a major play for Bulls guard
30 SG Hedo Turkoglu (16.8 ppg, 4.9 apg)Uncertain which teams are targeting one of the top free agents
34 PG Allen Iverson (17.9 ppg, 5.0 apg)If a team doesn't offer big Bucks, is he willing to play for less?
30 SG Ron Artest (16.1 ppg, 5.1 reb)Will Rockets spend big Bucks to re-sign controversial All-Star?
36 PG Jason Kidd (9.0 ppg, 8.7 apg)Mavs want to re-sign him, but other teams could be interested
Second-tier free agents
Sam Presti won't actively pursue players on this list because the price would be too high, and he probably would have to commit several years. These players should command sizeable contracts, but in a tough economy, it's uncertain how much money teams will are willing to spend.
AGE POS. PLAYER (2008-09 STATS)
31 PG Mike Bibby (14.9 ppg, 5.0 apg)Could re-sign with the Hawks but they drafted Teague
31 SF Shawn Marion (12.9 ppg, 8.5 reb.)Might contemplate signing for less to play for title contender
32 PG Stephon Marbury (incomplete)Wants to return to Celtics. Won't command big dollars
28 PF Drew Gooden (11.9 ppg, 7.1 reb.)Solid player would be valuable asset on a playoff team
31 PF Jermaine O'Neal (13.3 ppg, 6.4 reb.)Uncertain future but could provide solid production
30 C Mehmet Okur (17.0 ppg, 7.7 reb.)Expected to re-sign with Utah but should get some offers
Bargain bin free agents
This is a list Sam Presti will monitor, but he probably will focus more on restricted free agents by making qualifying offers.
Some players on this list will get decent money. Others could be disappointed.
Age Pos. Player (2008-09 stats)24 SF Trevor Ariza (8.9 ppg, 4.3 reb.)The Lakers have made it priority No. 1 to re-sign him.
30 PF Lamar Odom (11.3 ppg, 8.2 reb.)Can the Lakers find enough money for Odom and Ariza?
31 PF Chris Andersen (6.4 ppg, 6.2 reb).High energy player greatly improved his stock last season
26 C Anderson Varejao (8.6 ppg, 7.2 reb.)Cavs want to re-sign him, but he might receive sizeable offer
29 SF Matt Barnes (10.2 ppg, 5.6 reb.)Role player who could be valuable scorer off the bench
28 SF Marquis Daniels (13.6 ppg, 4.6 reb.).Solid player might draw attention from several teams
27 PF Chris Wilcox (7.2 ppg, 4.5 reb.)Former Thunder player should get a few decent offers
24 PF Brandon Bass (8.5 ppg, 4.5 reb.)Dallas wants to re-sign him. Will some team overpay to get him?
31 SG Eddie House (8.5 ppg, 1.1 apg)Uncertain if Celtics can re-sign one-dimensional shooting threat
32 SG Wally Szczerbiak (7.0 ppg, 1.1 apg)Picked a bad time to have a career-worst season
23 SG Gerald Green (5.2 ppg, 1.4 reb.)Some team could end up getting a bargain if the price is right
26 SG Dahntay Jones (5.4 ppg, 2.1 reb.)A few teams already expressing interest in Nuggets guard
26 PF Shelden Williams (4.1 ppg, 3.4 reb.)Uncertain future. No. 5 pick in '06 has been huge disappointment
Tier I restricted free agents
It's doubtful Sam Presti will make qualifying offers to anyone on this list. Most, if not all, should receive big offers for multiple years.
Some teams will face difficult decisions if another team offers big money to these restricted free agents. Do they match the offer or let them leave? Some teams might try to find a sign-and-trade partner.
AGE POS. PLAYER (2008-09 STATS)
24 PF Paul Millsap (13.5 ppg, 8.6 reb.)Jazz determined to re-sign him but price tag might be very high
26 PF David Lee (16.0 ppg, 11.7 reb.)Rumors indicate Knicks might settle for a sign-and-trade
23 SF Marvin Williams (13.9 ppg, 6.3 reb.)Former No. 2 pick has huge upside. Should get some good offers
25 PG Raymond Felton (14.2 ppg, 6.7 apg)Solid point guard might be too expensive for the Bobcats
25 PF Charlie Villanueva (13.4 ppg, 6.3 reb.)Trade should allow Bucks to re-sign the Georgetown product
23 SG Ramon Sessions (12.4 ppg, 5.7 apg)Trade with Spurs should allow Bucks to re-sign him, too
26 SG Jarrett Jack (13.1 ppg, 4.1 apg)Uncertain future with Pacers. Depends on qualifying offer
Tier II restricted free agents
This is the one list that's most attractive for Sam Presti, especially if he can add a quality player without making a long-term commitment.
Most players on this list shouldn't command big dollars, which is why their current teams could be in position to re-sign them.
AGE, POS., PLAYER (2008-09 STATS)
24 SF Linas Kleiza (9.9 ppg, 4.0 reb.)Former Mizzou star might be too expensive for Denver
25 SG Rashad McCants (9.6 ppg, 1.2 apg)Kings' guard could draw interest from several teams
23 PF Glen Davis (7.0 ppg, 4.0 reb.)Celtics think they can re-sign Big Baby at reasonable price
27 PF Hakim Warrick (11.6 ppg, 5.0 reb.)Minnesota might face a tough decision depending on offer
29 PF Jamario Moon (7.2 ppg, 4.6 reb.)Valuable bench contributor should draw some interest
27 SF Joey Graham (7.7 ppg, 3.7 reb.)Former OSU star showed promise after All-Star break
26 SF Steve Novak (6.9 ppg, 1.8 reb.)Underrated Clippers forward might draw some interest
25 C Marcin Gortat (3.8 ppg, 4.5 reb.)Vince Carter trade should enable Magic to re-sign him
25 PF Sean May (3.9 ppg, 2.9 reb.)Coming off a sub-par season. Weight issues are a concern
25 PF Leon Powe (7.7 ppg, 4.9 reb.)Not expected to return with Celtics but depends on the offer
Sam Presti is going young. It's doubtful anyone on this list interests Presti other than Desmond Mason because of his Oklahoma City ties.
Most players on this list will sign with playoff contenders. Some might be willing to sign for the veteran minimum ($1.3 million).
AGE, POS., PLAYER (2008-09 STATS)
33 PG Andre Miller (16.3 ppg, 6.5 apg)Underrated point guard would be valuable addition
37 SF Grant Hill (12.0 ppg, 4.9 reb.)Savvy veteran will mull over possible destinations
34 C Zydrunas Ilgauskas (12.9 ppg, 7.5 reb.)Cavs would like to re-sign him but Shaq now on board
31 PF Jermaine O'Neal (13.3 ppg, 6.4 reb.)Veteran's resume could be attractive to several teams
36 SF Michael Finley (9.7 ppg, 3.3 reb.)Veteran's postseason experience could be very attractive
35 PF Antonio McDyess (9.6 ppg, 9.8 reb.)Still productive after 13 solid seasons with five teams
34 SF Anthony Parker (10.7 ppg, 4.0 reb.)Could be valuable reserve for playoff contender
32 SF Desmond Mason (7.5 ppg, 4.0 reb.)Wants to play in OKC but it's uncertain if he will return
34 PF Joe Smith (6.6 ppg, 4.6 reb.)Savvy veteran showed value with the Cavs in the playoffs