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Wednesday July 18, 2007 6:39 am

The Rich Get Richer: Steve Francis, Free Agent

Franchise: Taking his cufflinks elsewhereI’m not sure where I went wrong, but while I’m sitting here in an office that faces a parking garage, Steve Francis is not only fresh off of a $30 million buyout, but he’s now the NBA’s newest free agent.  A free agent that’s likely to sign a deal with a very good team, for even more money. 

The Miami Herald reports that “Franchise” cleared waivers last night and will now test the free agent market.  Conveniently, Francis has narrowed down his list of possible destinations.  Here’s a hint: Milwaukee is not on the list.

Of the four teams that the veteran has chosen to be possible suitors, three of them are Western Conference teams looking to go a bit further in the playoffs than their past suggests, and one Eastern Conference team that I hear has a fairly nice beach scene near by.

The fantasy impact of possible Francis’ destinations ranges from “pretty high” to “nearly worthless.”  Now, if i started off with the “high” one (calm down, Darius), I’d likely lose you by the end.  With that said…

Destination: Houston Rockets
Fantasy Impact: Minimal

I say “minimal” because Francis was one of several point guards in New York last season and had some flashes of brilliance.  Couple that with the fact that neither Rafer Alston or Mike James are exactly Stephon Marbury (or Jamal Crawford, for that matter) and Francis could find some floor-time in Houston.  However, the emergence of rookie guard Aaron Brooks doesn’t help matters much and the Rockets easily have other matters to tend to (read: the frontcourt). 

Needless to say, with the current Rockets roster, a Francis homecoming wouldn’t net him the 30+ minutes neccessary to have a fantasy impact as a point guard.  Now, if Alston or James were moved for a power forward and some backcourt minutes were created in the process, we may have a different discussion.

Destination: Dallas Mavericks
Fantasy Impact: Not-quite-as-bad-as-Houston

The Mavericks have expressed some interest in Francis, and why not?  It’s Mark Cuban, and he expresses interest in a lot of big names.  Unfortunately, Cubes is dead wrong on this one and Francis would not help him get to the Finals - let alone past an eighth seed.  All signs point to Devin Harris getting the reigns as the starting point guard.  To compliment Harris’ speed game that comes with a side dish of “no outside shot,” the Mavs still have veteran Jason Terry hanging around. 

The last thing they need is a shoot-first guard that will only get in the way of Dirk Nowitzki and Josh Howard, who will both continue to be the primary focus of the Dallas offense.  The only thing that bumps the Mavs ahead of their Texas colleagues is the fact that they have one less point guard that would prohibit minutes for the $30 million man.

Destination: Miami Heat
Fantasy Impact: Not Too Bad

Francis would like to (obviously) go to a team that could offer him some decent playing time.  Of the four teams that are in the mix, Miami is one that has not been shy about letting Jason Williams know that he’s not the answer for their distribution needs.  Gary Payton is likely calling it a career, and Mo Williams picked the wonderful weather of Milwaukee over the frigid tundra of South Beach. 

While Miami doesn’t have a ton of money to offer Francis, let’s face it: He doesn’t need it.  He needs someone that can give him 25-30 minutes a night, and the Heat can do just that.  The offense will continue to revolve around Dwyane Wade and Shaquille O’Neal (when healthy), so as long as Francis can give Coach Pat a solid option to depend on, several thousand people in white t-shirts may be looking at a new point guard come the fall.

Destination: Los Angeles Clippers
Fantasy Impact: Decent Mid-Late Round Option

With Shaun Livingston about to join the Grant Hill team of All-Injured Potential, the Clippers have to decide if they can trust Sam Cassell to be the man this season.  Jason Hart is still a possibility, but all signs point to the Clippers letting him go to Utah (pending a physical).  With that said, Los Angeles is simply running out of options in the backcourt and may be forced to rejoin Francis with his long-lost buddy Cuttino Mobley.

Neither Francis or Cassell are exaclty spring chickens, but the Clips need to win now.  Elton Brand’s entering a dangerous territory where he could regress over the next few years.  Corey Maggette is rumored to be on his way to a different team every other week.  The aformentioned Mobley is on the wrong side of 30-years old.  In fact, Al Thornton has to feel like a kid whose parents had a bit too much fun in their mid-40s and popped out an extra one to join a slew full of teenage siblings. 

Nonetheless, Francis’ best option to have a fantasy impact this season will be if he joins the Clippers for one last hurah.  Now don’t get all crazy and think that this will boost LA to the forefront of the Western Conference…We’re talking about Steve Francis here.  Steve Francis in 2007…not 2002.



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