Monday, September 17, 2007

Heat Sign Bell: 5 years, $18 million

Well that didn't take long. The Miami Heat, having been spurned by Mo Williams earlier this summer, took another shot at a Bucks guard by giving Charlie Bell a five-year, $18 million offer sheet. The Bucks now have seven days to match the deal or let Bell walk. No word on whether the salaries in the deal are flat or escalating. Either way, kudos to Bell and Bartelstein--playing the emotional card worked and Bell now has a much better offer on the table than he would have otherwise had. It may not have been pretty, but Miami has again proven a valuable ally to Bartelstein. It's also vaguely reminiscent of a few years ago when Riley signed Elton Brand to a massive offer sheet that the Clippers matched, only to see Riley then go after Lamar Odom, who the Clips let walk.

What will the Bucks do? Charlie Bell at $3.6 million per year is a reasonable amount; the problem is that the new deal will keep Bell under contract until he's 33 years old. Given his age and the fact that Michael Redd and Mo Williams are now entrenched as the starting backcourt in Milwaukee, it's not likely that Bell will become much more for the Bucks than he already is. Miami would probably give Bell extended time at PG, a position he's only played in limited spurts with the Bucks. Still, it could be a great situation for Bell: given Dwyane Wade handles the ball much of the time, Bell would be able to focus on spotting up from the perimeter and defending the opponents' best guard.

Bell's age was probably the biggest factor in the Bucks' insistence on a three-year deal during their tumultuous negotiations, so Larry Harris now faces a tough decision. Even without the recent drama it wouldn't have been shocking if the Bucks didn't match this sort of offer, as five years is an awfully long deal for a role player. While a guy like Bell wouldn't be grossly overpaid and his contract would be movable down the road, a young team like the Bucks could reasonably prefer to save their money in case they give Bogut (likely) and Villanueva (less likely) big extensions. Larry Harris has fared well in the past in finding role players on the cheap (Bell two years ago, Mo Williams in 2004), and their decision here will go a long way to showing how much they believe in Lynn Greer and Ramon Sessions. Even if they like both of them expect a guard like Dee Brown to be brought in as insurance. One can only hope that Bell's not-so-veiled threats won't affect the Bucks' decision, as I still don't see how a guy like Bell would "sabotage" the team that is paying him.

From a basketball standpoint, allowing Bell to walk would be a major blow to the team's backcourt depth, as Greer has only limited experience as an NBA point and 2nd rounder Sessions was in all likelihood headed to the D-League for a year of seasoning. With the Bucks' playoff chances being iffy to begin with, letting Bell walk now would add an extra degree of difficulty to the 07/08 season, especially considering the meager pool of free agents that the Bucks could sign. The Bucks have let RFAs walk before--Atlanta signed Zaza Pachulia two years ago to a very reasonable four-year, $16 million deal that the Bucks elected not to match. There's plenty of pressure on Harris and company to make the playoffs this coming season, but at the same time it's obvious the team is too young to make serious noise for at least a year or two. Is Harris that worried about the 07/08 season that he'd lock Bell up for five years? It probably won't look good for the Bucks either way, given Bell claimed last week he would have signed (for much less) if he only had gotten a player option for a third year. Check back in a week.

1 comment:

Gregg said...

This "It probably won't look good for the Bucks either way, given Bell claimed last week he would have signed (for much less) if he only had gotten a player option for a third year." I have a hard time believing. In particular the idea that he would have signed for much less just to get that option. Why leave money on the table when you don't have to? When you consider who his agent is I highly doubt Bartlestein would have let him sign for less than what he could have gotten. Sounds like Bell is attempting to paint the organization in a bad light like most of his recent comments have.

As for him leaving for Miami at this point I'm torn. I don't want him for 5 years but its at such a cheap price signing him for that length of time isn't a huge problem. If I was LH I'd probably match and keep him around until he become a piece of a trade. Plus it will keep him away from Miami where he would be pretty good.