NBA front-office executives know it's never too early to start examining the offseason free-agent class. Deals start happening at a rapid rate once the signing period opens, so general managers can't wait until the playoffs end, or they will get burned.
Let's take a look at three potential unrestricted free agents who have set themselves up for monster contracts during the summer. While they each bring something different to the table, all of them should be coveted commodities.
Since Dwight Howard agreed to waive his player option before the trade deadline, Williams has become the biggest prize of the free-agent market. The 27-year-old point guard will have no shortage of options due to the position's lack of depth.
The New Jersey Nets were hoping to build around him following their move to Brooklyn, but he doesn't seemed interested in rushing into any decisions. That's a smart move on his part. With a lack of other marquee players on the market, teams will likely be offering him the farm.
There simply aren't many point guards in the league with as much offensive talent as Williams. He's averaging 22 points and nine assists despite a lackluster supporting cast. Look for him to get a huge contract and to thrive with more talented players around him.
Which player will provide the most value?
Allen has expressed interest in sticking with the Boston Celtics, but it's still unclear what direction the team plans to go during the offseason as the return has begun to diminish with their veteran-laden lineup. If they don't bring Allen back, a lot of teams will be interested.
Even though Allen is now 36, he's still one of the league's top outside shooters, and you won't find a more team-first player out there. Basically, every team that's angling toward a title would view him as the potential final piece to the puzzle.
Allen still has a handful of productive seasons left in his legs, and there would probably be a bidding war among contenders to land him, driving up the price even more. Most impressively, he'll earn every single dollar with his play and veteran leadership.
Ilyasova's stock has skyrocketed since being inserted in the Milwaukee Bucks in mid-February. He's recorded 14 double-doubles during that span and has displayed terrific all-around ability. He couldn't have picked a better time for a breakout season.
Since the NBA has so few productive big men, forwards and centers who aren't even that good usually get big contracts. That means the price tag for a 24-year-old player who can stretch the floor and continues to improve will be enormous.
Even though the casual NBA fan might not know about Ilyasova yet, that's going to change this offseason. One way or another, he'll get a hefty deal, and assuming he continues to develop, his first All-Star Game isn't far away.