Top Free Agent Small Forwards
As the NBA world waits to see if there will be a lockout or not, many teams have holes they need to fill. Of course, they are unable to do so until a new collective bargaining agreement is in place if they do not act before the deadline. Most expect few teams to do that, as they would rather sit back and wait to see how much money they will have to spend. Whenever the day comes when there is a new agreement between the NBA and the NBA Players Union, you can bet there will be movement as normal throughout the NBA.
Of any position, the small forward position may have the most intrigue with the players on the free agent market. There are young players with many, many years left in their careers and there are veterans who have made their money, are currently on a contender, but may look to move to another contender. Here are some highlights of which small forwards are available this summer.
Caron Butler, Dallas Mavericks – $10.8 million – Unrestricted
Coming off a devastating knee injury, there were reports that Butler was nearly healthy enough to play in the NBA Finals. Although he never laced them up in the big show, that seems to indicate he should be ready at the beginning of next season. The Dallas Mavericks won the title without him, but his presence was missed. If anyone in the league has the money and willingness to keep a good player around, it is Mark Cuban. Since Butler is an unrestricted free agent, this is an opportunity to show whether he wants to remain in Dallas and attempt to help the team repeat—more than likely taking a pay cut with a new CBA—or if greener pastures are elsewhere for him.
Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers – $2.9 million – Restricted ($4.0 million Qualifying Offer)
The only restricted free agent on the list and all indications point towards Philadelphia making the qualifying offer to Young. Coming off a season in which he averaged 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds—similar numbers to his 2009-10 season and 6 minutes less this year—Young has become a part of the young core in Philadelphia. At only 23 years of age and with fine versatility, sometimes playing either forward position, Young will be a target for many teams, yet it is difficult to imagine Philadelphia not making a qualifying offer, giving them the opportunity to match any offers he may receive.
Grant Hill, Phoenix Suns – $3.2 million – Unrestricted
After years of disappointment with a myriad of injuries and surgeries keeping him from playing in the NBA, Grant Hill has bounced back to have a fine past few seasons. Now, as an unrestricted free agent, he will have the opportunity to decide which team provides him for his best chance at the NBA title that has eluded him. Sixteen years into his career, Hill still averaged 13.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists and that gives him options. He still has enough game to be a regular contributor to a title contender or he could choose to play fewer minutes with a team which may already have strengths at his position. Either way, Hill will be just fine.
Tayshaun Prince, Detroit Pistons – $11.1 million – Unrestricted
After spending all of his nine year NBA career in Detroit, many believe the Pistons and Prince will finally decide to part ways this offseason. While nothing is set in stone until he signs on the dotted line elsewhere, Prince does have quite a lot of value around the league and many teams will be interested in his services. This past year was not a happy one in Detroit, so Prince must decide if the bad taste in his mouth now ranks higher than the championship memories of years past.
Shane Battier, Memphis Grizzlies – $7.4 million – Unrestricted
At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Shane Battier was a wanted man. He is a solid veteran, who is severely underrated as a player. While his stats may not always show his value, those who watch the game closely know Battier’s value on the basketball court. After his trade in-season to the Memphis Grizzlies, Battier’s minutes went down, but he was more than happy. He was a mentor to a young team, who surprised many by upsetting the number one seed in San Antonio. Some may argue the Grizzlies may have done so without Battier, but it is difficult to imagine the youngsters remaining as calm as they seemed as they were pulling off the feat without his veteran presence. This offseason, Battier will remain a wanted man.
Others small forwards to keep an eye on…
Reggie Williams, Golden State Warriors – $0.8 million – Restricted ($1.1 million Qualifying Offer)
James Jones, Miami HEAT – $1.1 million – Player Option ($1.3 million) UPDATE: Jones declined the option – Unrestricted
Al Thornton, Golden State Warriors – $0.9 million – Unrestricted
Josh Howard, Washington Wizards – $3.0 million – Unrestricted
Rasual Butler, Chicago Bulls – $0.9 million – Unrestricted
Now, the players—along with the fans—must wait to see what becomes of the potential lockout and agreement between the two sides.
Be sure to follow Stephen Litel on Twitter @stephenlitel.