The NBA Team Winning this Off-Season: The Bears

By that I mean, not some cutesy nickname for the Grizzlies. I mean: People who are pessimistic about the economy.

As we tiptoe into free agency, I'm feeling there are plenty of signs that big-dollar NBA contract offers will be precious and rare this off-season.

A few of the many examples:

  • Carlos Boozer opts in. He's the kind of player that teams save cap space for in any normal economy. But obviously his judgment was that a guaranteed year was better than facing the 2009 the open market. (By the way, how is he supposed to judge this on Tuesday when negotiating with teams is not allowed until Wednesday?)

  • Shaquille O'Neal for cap space. The suspicion is he may be the most important acquisition of the off-season, maybe even the key piece to a title winner. And it was for almost nothing.

  • Charlie Villanueva teamless. He becomes one of the very best players ever to find himself without a qualifying offer.

  • Marquis Daniels: No chance. He was good for the Pacers this season, but did anybody think Indiana would pick up his option at more than $7 million? That number seems almost laughably high, now.

  • Ryan Anderson. I can't tell you how many people at the draft told me they were surprised that the Nets had to include promising, talented and affordable Ryan Anderson in the Vince Carter deal. The implication is that it's harder than it used to be to find people to pay contracts like Carter's, and it takes more than a little sweetener.

  • Not everyone can plan for 2010. Somebody should do an analysis: How much cap space is out there for 2010 free agents, vs. what is the 2010 market value of the free agents that money will be spent on. My point: At some point, teams might cross the line and be saving more in aggregate than they could possibly spend. That would be a sign that what we're seeing now is more financial pain and less financial planning.

What does all this mean (besides the obvious "Ben Gordon should have taken that money last summer")? My main takeaway message is: If you're a free agent, and somebody comes knocking at your door at midnight tonight with a lavish offer ... sign it.