Dwight Howard and Deron Williams headline the potential 2012 free-agent class. Several teams continue to maneuver in the wake of a revamped collective bargaining agreement to create a palatable offer to Magic GM Otis Smith or the cap space necessary to land the NBA’s best center, and in some cases, one of its best point guards as well.
Do not doubt that Orlando and New Jersey top the list of suitors for Howard and Williams. The Magic front office knows that no available trade package would assuage the loss of the game’s most dominant interior intimidator.
The Nets did not jettison third overall pick Derrick Favors to rent Deron Williams for a season and a half with no playoff appearances. Whether Smith and New Jersey GM Billy King can succeed in their quests to convince those big cheeses to re-sign remains uncertain.
This summer will feature the most coveted superstar-led class since LeBron James left Cleveland in July 2010. Howard and Williams, though, could loaf for the remainder of this truncated campaign or suffer debilitating, season-ending injuries and still net massive paydays. Teams are chasing them like pubescent teenage girls running after Justin Bieber’s getaway car.
What about the best of the rest?
The stretch run will matter for a number of players looking to stick and stay or break the bank and bolt. Grant Hill and Omer Asik, two unrestricted free agents, just missed the cut.
Since Jeremy Lin—the undrafted Harvard product with a made-for-Hollywood, hypersonic rise to prominence—has done enough to merit a guaranteed deal with some team next year, I did not waste space by including him in the following roll call.
The Knicks figure to lock up Lin for another year or two to see if he can grow as a point guard, with tremendous court vision and tenacity to use as starting markers. Here are 12 other free agents who can use the stretch run—and in most cases, playoffs—to solidify an expected bank account bump starting July 1.