Several teams in position to better themselves

Updated: July 2, 2004, 9:16 AM ET
By David Aldridge | Special to ESPN.com

The K factor
Shaquille O'Neal
O'Neal
Mike Krzyzewski has a military (school) background and a sparkling resume, which means he should have plenty to impress Shaquille O'Neal. Except that O'Neal still doesn't want to play for him.

It's not because Shaq has anything against Coach K. Shaq simply sees his possible hiring as yet another slight, another concession the Lakers have made to Kobe Bryant without Shaq's consultation.

With the belief spreading that Krzyzewski is Bryant's hand-picked choice to replace Phil Jackson, Shaq may be even more determined to force a trade, insulted by the appearance of another player on his team being allowed to make all the decisions.

Problem is, a Shaq trade is even tougher now than it was when the week began, after the Mavericks lost free-agent point guard Steve Nash to Phoenix without compensation. Dallas and Sacramento are widely considered the only feasible destinations for O'Neal, but the Mavs, without Nash, suddenly don't have a spare star to build a trade package around.

The Lakers are insisting on receiving Dirk Nowitzki in any deal that sends Shaq to Dallas. The Mavericks insist they won't trade Nowitzki and were hoping to involve Nash in a sign-and-trade deal with Golden State that would route Warriors free-agent center Erick Dampier to L.A. as Shaq's replacement. That seems impossible now without Nash, and even if the Mavericks were suddenly willing to part with Nowitzki, O'Neal would probably hesistate to commit to a Dallas team without Nowitzki or Nash.

If obstacles keeping cropping up at their current rate, convincing the Lakers to move Shaq could prove as challenging as the Lakers' quest to lure Coach K away from his Duke empire.

-- Marc Stein
We are about to enter an offseason that may be unprecedented in NBA history.

Never have so many superstar players been on the block. Tracy McGrady is only the first of a half-dozen prime dominoes that may fall this summer. From Shaquille O'Neal to Ray Allen to Jason Kidd to Paul Pierce, several big-time players may have new addresses in the fall. Never have so many teams had so much room under the salary cap to make huge offers. Denver, Utah and Phoenix are primed, with between $15 million to $20 million available to have a whack at the league's elite, and San Antonio isn't far behind.

Plus, there are a lot of veterans in the final year of their contracts who could be attractive to teams looking to max out on cap room for next summer. Each of these guys could come off a team's cap after next season (2004-05 salary listed in parentheses).

  • Alan Henderson, Hawks ($8.273 million)
  • Michael Stewart, Celtics ($4.8M)
  • Antoine Walker, Mavericks ($14.625M)
  • Elden Campbell, Pistons ($4.4M)
  • Bo Outlaw, Grizzlies ($6.585M)
  • Kerry Kittles, Nets ($10.266M)
  • Othella Harrington, Knicks ($3.15M)
  • Andrew DeClercq, Magic ($2.547M)
  • Glenn Robinson, Sixers ($12.071M)
  • Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Blazers ($14.625M)
  • Dale Davis, Blazers ($10.068M)
  • Damon Stoudamire, Blazers ($12.5M)
  • Vitaly Potapenko, Sonics ($6.191M)
  • Donyell Marshall, Raptors ($5.328M)
  • Larry Hughes, Wizards ($5.455M)

    What follows is our humble estimation of the free-agent landscape. With so many players up for grabs, there isn't a team in the league that shouldn't be able to add at least one guy who could help fortify its roster next season. Some are obvious; others, less so. Some teams will no doubt talk themselves out of being aggressive for fear of being a luxury tax payer which is a shame. Here's hoping your squad has the courage to bite the bullet and do what it takes.

    David Aldridge, who covers the NBA for ESPN, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Also, click here for Aldridge's chat on July 1, the start of free agency.

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