A look ahead at the potential 2011 free agent pool
With the 2010-11 season entering its final throes, many teams (and fans) are already looking ahead to what next year may bring. The future is made murkier by the impending lockout that could potentially lead to the cancellation of the 2011-12 season, but if there is basketball played in the NBA next season, teams will be filling out their rosters with these players.
Here are the 20-best potential free agents at each position. (Note: T=Team Option, P=Player Option, Q=Restricted Free Agent with Qualifying Offer).
Breakdown: The 2011 point guard pool is not as stocked as a number of teams would like and does not feature big names like the 2012 pool may with Chris Paul and Deron Williams, but there are serviceable players to be found here. Billups and Miller each have team options; however, it remains to be seen whether either New York or Portland will exercise them considering the impending lockout and labor negotiations. Stuckey and Brooks will be restricted free agents while the top unrestricted point guards are Dallas’ Barea and Miami’s Bibby and Chalmers. Quality backups are fairly plentiful with Watson, Boykins, Arroyo, Price, and Ford all guaranteed to hit the market.
Breakdown: There are a lot of middle-of-the-pack shooting guards in this free agent group. After Richardson, Crawford, and Young, the talent dips a bit. Teams may still have players like Carter, Smith, Thornton, Barbosa, and Afflalo to choose from, but teams looking for a game-changing two guard will need to look elsewhere. There will be plenty of quality shooters to choose from, though.
Breakdown: Small forward may be the most stacked position in free agency this year. The top five small forwards will all hit the market either as unrestricted free agents or restricted free agents, and no matter what a team may be in the market for regarding the three position, it can probably be found here. There are scorers (Chandler, Howard, Budinger, Williams), defenders (Prince, Hill, Kirilenko, Pietrus, Battier, Mbah a Moute), shooters (Jones, Barnes, Dunleavy Jr., Kapono), and all-around players (Butler) to be had for the right price.
Breakdown: This group will take a significant hit talent-wise if Memphis works out an extension with Randolph and West exercises his player option in light of his recent ACL tear. Yet, teams in need of solid big men who may or may not be starting-lineup material will not be disappointed. Green can be stolen away from Boston for a high price, but it will remain to be seen whether teams will line up to pay the hybrid power forward. Davis, Landry, Martin, and Hayes lead the established bigs while Humphries and Young could be major additions if picked up by teams that can provide the right roles for them.
Breakdown: Yao and Oden will be major wild cards this off-season. When healthy, each player has the potential to be a game changer — again, when healthy, which has been a rarity lately. Nene will likely exercise his player option, and Memphis sounds intent on keeping Gasol. That leaves Chandler, Jordan, Dalembert, and Hawes as the best, most-sure options available. Steady veterans like Thomas, Mohammed, Gadzuric, and Foster will also be up for grabs.
By: Eric Lorenz
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