Free Agency 2012 May Be a Monster
Hopefully the lockout is resolved before some or all of the season is lost. As far apart as both sides are today, there’s hope that at least 50 games are played . . . if not all 82. Still, the possibility remains that won’t be a 2011/12 NBA Season.
If that’s the case, the free agent pool from this summer will join the 2012 class in what would be a tremendous class of available players.
A few players stand out as the best of 2011 but it’s not an overwhelming group: David West, Nene, Tyson Chandler, Jamal Crawford, Kris Humphries, Andrei Kirilenko, J.J. Barea and Jason Richardson (among others).
The restricted free agents are solid but difficult (under the current rules) for another team to acquire: Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Jeff Green, Rodney Stuckey, Aaron Brooks, etc.
In theory with a lost year, restricted players would likely remain as such in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) . . . although technically any existing rule could go through major changes or be abandoned completely.
Add in the possibility that teams could be granted another amnesty clause to waive a single undesired contract from their cap (although the player would still get paid) would only add to the list in 2012.
The biggest name would be Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic, who can opt out of his deal and search for a better chance at a title elsewhere. If the lockout doesn’t end in time, he may have played his last game already for the Magic.
Even before amnesty, it’s an impressive list, going position by position:
1) Derrick Rose (restricted) – The Chicago Bulls won’t let him go. Rose, the league’s reigning MVP, would normally be discussing a maximum contract extension this summer.
2) Chris Paul (early termination option) – Both Paul and Deron Williams can get out of their contracts a year early. Both are franchise point guards.
3) Deron Williams (early termination option)
4) Russell Westbrook (restricted) – The odds are high that Westbrook will stay in Oklahoma City even if shot selection is a concern.
5) Steve Nash – He’s older, but in the right situation he could end up with a ring like his former teammate Dirk Nowitzki.
6) Jason Kidd
7) Raymond Felton
8 ) Chauncey Billups
9) Andre Miller
10) J.J. Barea – Is he a shooting guard or a point? Does it matter when he cuts into the lane as quickly as he does?
Honorable mention: Jameer Nelson (opt out), Aaron Brooks (restricted), Kirk Hinrich, Rodney Stuckey (a restricted combo guard), D.J. Augustin (restricted), Mario Chalmers (restricted), Nate Robinson (also an undersized shooting guard), T.J. Ford and Mike Bibby.
1) Eric Gordon (restricted) – one of the best young shooting guards in the league.
2) Jason Terry – Jet rewrote the book on his game by helping the Dallas Mavericks win their first NBA title.
3) Ray Allen – Ray is deep into his career but he’ll be hitting jumpers for years to come.
4) Jamal Crawford – Instant scoring.
5) Jason Richardson – He’s been talking about playing for less to win a title.
6) Arron Afflalo (restricted) – One of the better young two-way players in the league.
7) O.J. Mayo (restricted)
8) Nick Young (restricted) – He’s got a little Ricky Davis to his game which isn’t a knock.
9) Rudy Fernandez (restricted)
10) Courtney Lee (restricted)
Honorable mention: J.R. Smith, Landry Fields, Marco Belinelli (restricted), Jodie Meeks (restricted), Vince Carter, Mickael Pietrus, C.J. Miles, Shannon Brown, Leandro Barbosa, George Hill (restricted, also can play the point), Marcus Thornton (restricted), Jerryd Bayless (restricted), Randy Foye, Delonte West, Brandon Rush (restricted), Josh Howard (also plays small forward) and Michael Redd.
1) Nicolas Batum (restricted) – A very underrated player who can defend, hit outside shots and understands what kind of dirty work it takes to win games.
2) Danilo Gallinari (restricted) – Gallinari may be overrated her or underrated here. There’s a lot of potential in the Italian.
3) Thaddeus Young (restricted) – Young can play either forward position.
4) Jeff Green (restricted) – The Celtics traded away Kendrick Perkins for Green. It doesn’t make sense to just let him go, even if he’s not the absolute best at what he does.
5) Tayshaun Prince – Prince is well past his prime but still a capable defender and versatile scorer.
6) Caron Butler – Caron was the forgotten man during the NBA Finals but he can still play when healthy.
7) Andrei Kirilenko – Versatile and capable of playing up to power forward if needed.
8) Grant Hill
9) Wilson Chandler (restricted)
10) Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (restricted) – Beyond under the radar but one of the better defenders out there.
Honorable mention: Shane Battier, Matt Barnes, Carlos Delfino, Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Tracy McGrady
1) Kevin Love (restricted) – The Wolves have to do everything they can to keep him but Love is one of the brightest young fours in the league.
2) David West – David needs to get healthy after an ACL injury. The extra time off may do him wonders.
3) Kevin Garnett – Older but still a major problem for teams to deal with.
4) Tim Duncan – The mileage should drop him on this list – but it’s Tim Duncan.
5) Kris Humphries – Rebounding and youth gives him a slight edge over Odom.
6) Lamar Odom ($2 million of $8.2 million guaranteed) – Lamar is getting up in years but he’s still one of the most versatile players in the league.
7) Michael Beasley (restricted) – He’s not the easiest player to manage but he is extremely talented.
8 ) Glen Davis
9) J.J. Hickson (restricted)
10) Darrell Arthur (restricted) – Another underrated player.
Honorable mention: Carl Landry, Antawn Jamison (age is the only reason he’s off the top 10), Reggie Evans (instant rebounding, minimal scoring), Ersan Ilyasova, Kenyon Martin, Brandon Bass (opt out), Jason Thompson (restricted), Anthony Randolph (restricted), Craig Smith, Antonio McDyess, Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Tolliver, Marresse Speights (restricted), Jermaine O’Neal, Troy Murphy and Yi Jianlian.
1) Dwight Howard (opt out) – Dwight will have a long, long list of suitors come 2012.
2) Nene – One of the most efficient big men in the game.
3) Brook Lopez (restricted) – If only he could rebound as well as he can score.
4) Marc Gasol (restricted) – Underrated . . .
5) Tyson Chandler – Tyson is aging but one of the best defensive role-playing centers in the league.
6) DeAndre Jordan (restricted)
7) JaVale McGee (restricted)
8 ) Chris Kaman
9) Roy Hibbert (restricted)
10) Marcus Camby – If he doesn’t decide to retire.
Honorable mention: Chuck Hayes (undersized but a surprisingly capable defender), Samuel Dalembert, Spencer Hawes (restricted), Greg Oden (restricted and if he ever gets healthy, much higher on the list), Robin Lopez (restricted), Joel Przybilla, Mehmet Okur, Brad Miller (partial guarantee) and Kwame Brown.
In theory the Lakers can opt out of Andrew Bynum’s contract which would shake up the top five.
Ideally this list will become superfluous the moment a new CBA is reached, but if compromise cannot be reached the summer of 2012 may be a momentous offseason for the NBA.