NBA Free Agency 2012: Power Ranking Best Veterans Available
The summer of 2012 was supposed to be the summer of Dwight Howard. Suspense had been building for the past year. Where would Howard sign? Would the Magic trade their star? Which other superstar would Dwight try to pair up with?
Then, with one surprising decision, the summer of 2012 became the summer of the free agent point guard.
As we all know now, Howard decided to commit to the Magic for another season, forcing us all to wait and suffer through another full year of Dwight Howard speculation. The discussions about the marquee center in the NBA all became moot points, and we all had to shift our attention elsewhere.
The free agent class of 2012 isn't necessarily riddled with superstars. It's nothing like 2010, when several teams had to worry about losing their centerpiece players. However, that doesn't mean that there won't be some terrific players available to help teams who want to contend for a title.
The following slides rank the best 25 free agents who will hit the market this upcoming offseason. Some players, like Andrew Bynum, have been left off because they will only become free agents if their teams decide not to pick up their options for next season. That seems unlikely for most of those players, especially Bynum.
In any case, here's the list of players who can help teams get to the next level next season!
25. Ryan Anderson
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Ryan Anderson is a super-skilled big man who currently plays for the Orlando Magic. There are not many players who can combine Anderson's size (6'10") and skill (40 percent from beyond the three-point line) in the entire NBA.
Anderson is a guy who could step onto a team and instantly help them become a more prolific outside shooting team. Though he doesn't create off the dribble very well, Anderson's a dead-eye shooter and he has an ultra quick release, making him especially dangerous in the pick-n-pop game.
Anderson's defense, or lack thereof, is the main reason he couldn't be ranked higher. Anderson isn't strong enough to guard good power forwards, and he isn't quick enough to guard small forwards. Having him on defense basically just creates a mismatch for opponents.
Even though he's a subpar defender and he struggles to create his own shot, Anderson is really good at being a specialty role player in the NBA, and that will make him very appealing to a lot of teams.
24. Randy Foye
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Randy Foye, the former Villanova standout, has never really lived up to his hype after being selected 7th overall in the 2006 draft by Boston. However, for the Clippers this year, Foye has become a go-to player off the bench, and he hasn't disappointed.
Foye isn't spectacular in any one specific area.
He is a pretty good shooter, and can hit shots from all over the court, but he's not a dead-eye shooter. He is very athletic, and can get to the rim with relative ease. Because he gets to the rim as much as he does, Foye also draws a lot of fouls for a guard.
Though he's not having the best season of all time, his numbers are starting to creep back up again this year, and he could be poised for a real breakout year next season.
The team that gets Foye will need to focus on where exactly they want him to play. He's never been really great at orchestrating an offense as a point guard. On the other hand, he struggles to defend other shooting guards because of his lack of size.
Foye still has some work to do, but I think he could sign on with a team this offseason and truly make a difference, whether it's as a starter or in a bench role.
23. Robin Lopez
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Everyone is talking about the Lopez brother that will be hitting the free agent market this year.
That would be Brook Lopez.
Most people are not really talking about his twin brother Robin, who also hits the free agent market after four seasons with the Phoenix Suns. At 7-feet tall, Robin Lopez has been a bit of an underwhelming performer for the Suns. Playing with Steve Nash, one of the game’s greatest point guards, one would think that an agile big man like Lopez would get a plethora of open looks and benefit greatly from that partnership.
That hasn’t really been the case for Lopez.
With a career average of just 5.7 points per game, Lopez hasn’t been able to display the skill and scoring ability of his more highly demanded brother. Lopez has also been a disappointment on the glass, as he averages just 3.3 rebounds per game over the course of his career. While none of this screams that he’s a player worth going after, there are still some intriguing reasons he should find a home rather quickly.
As a 7-foot, athletic big man, Lopez may take some time to develop his skills in the NBA.
His size and agility cannot be discounted. Lopez has been solid in the pick-and-roll game and he can hit open mid-range jump shots. Lopez clearly needs to work on his aggressiveness and awareness, but he could still turn out to be a very solid center for whichever team he winds up with.
22. Nick Young
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Nick Young is one of the more intriguing players on the list. Currently in his fifth season in the NBA, Young has changed from an out of control, mistake-prone shooting guard, to a lethal scorer and decent defender.
Young made the leap last year from a player who struggled to score nine points per game in about 15 minutes per game, to a player who scored over 17 points per game in just over 30 minutes per game for the Wizards. The difference was in his playing style. Young went from a pound it out dribbler who thought he could just penetrate when he wanted (which often led to a turnover), to a catch and shoot type player who can knock down shots from anywhere on the court.
Assists and rebounding are the areas that are currently really holding Young back, as he struggles in both. With the right coaching, and a steady flow of playing time, Young could become a good shooting guard option for several teams lacking in that area.
21. Jeremy Lin
No player has grabbed the headlines in the NBA quite like Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks.
Linsanity shook the entire basketball universe when Lin stepped in for the injured and struggling New York Knicks and seemingly carried them when they were without their superstar Carmelo Anthony.
He took control of the team in the country’s biggest market, on the league’s biggest stage, and he played his heart out, all the while electrifying the tormented fan base.
For a few weeks, Jeremy Lin was truly the biggest name in basketball.
Things have died down a bit for Lin since his debut with the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony returned and the team has positioned itself for a playoff berth. Lin was still playing solid basketball (before getting injured for the rest of the season), but the other players on the team resumed their former rolls, which knocked Lin out of the spotlight, which seems to be just fine by him.
The former D-Leaguer was averaging nearly 15 points per game and over six assists per game, the kinds of numbers that should guarantee him a home next season. Lin doesn’t necessarily do one thing spectacularly well, but he does a lot of things well, and that will make him a solid addition to a team that needs a little point guard help.
20. Ersan Ilyasova
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At just 24 years old, Ersan Ilyasova is currently having his best year for the Milwaukee Bucks.
The Turkish power forward is averaging nearly 13 points and nine rebounds per game, and he’s doing all of this rather efficiently. In just under 30 minutes per game, Ilyasova makes about 50 percent of his shots from the field, and an exceptional 45 percent of his three pointers. He seems to be poised to take on a larger role with a team looking for an offensive minded big man.
The area that Ilyasova is lacking a bit is his mobility. He’s not extremely fast, and he’s below-average athletically. He is a physical defender inside, but that still doesn’t stop him from being pushed around by players who are bigger and stronger.
Ilyasova really struggles when he has to guard perimeter players. His foot speed doesn’t allow him to keep up with those faster and more athletic players.
Even with his weaknesses, Ersan Ilyasova should be viewed as a player who can make an impact right away for a team needing frontcourt help.
19. Landry Fields
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Landry Fields is a bit of a perplexing player who is eligible for free agency this year. Last season, Fields was absolutely outstanding for the Knicks before they acquired Carmelo Anthony. After that, and really ever since, Fields has faded to the background a bit as players like Anthony and Amare Stoudemire dominate the ball.
Fields has never really been a great shooter, but his numbers really tanked after the Anthony trade. Fields seems to be a shooter who needs to get into a rhythm and really feel his jump shots. With other players controlling the ball so much, Fields isn’t able to do that with the Knicks. He really needs to get involved in the offense to make an impact.
When he does get involved in the offense, he really has no problem making plays to help his team win. He is a big, strong player who seems to like playing inside as much as he does outside. Fields will bring a dynamic offensive element to whichever team he winds up with next year, as long as he is allowed to participate in the offense.
18. George Hill
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This season, George Hill left the comfortable confines of San Antonio to join the young up-and-coming Indiana Pacers. As the backup point guard, he’s been a solid reason the Pacers have been able to turn things around and are heading to the playoffs.
Hill is mainly a score first type of point guard who plays best when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands. In San Antonio, Hill thrived because players like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili would draw attention from defenses and they would leave Hill for open shots.
It’s been a bit of a different story in Indiana, where Hill is a leader of the second team and relied on more heavily to make plays. Hill has done that pretty well throughout the season, but he’s been fairly inconsistent.
The major area Hill needs to improve is his passing. He averages only two and a half assists per game this season. If he could play with the ball in his hands a bit more, and use his quickness to create shots for others, it would make him a much more dynamic scorer.
Still, for a team looking for a point guard, the 25-year-old Hill would provide a talented player who can add scoring, while still learning how to play a better distributing point guard role.
17. Kevin Garnett
It appears that the “Big-Three” era for the Celtics is coming to an end and their aging power forward Kevin Garnett is set to hit the free agent market.
Garnett, once the premier power forward in the game, has most certainly lost a step or two over the past couple seasons. Having said that, he remains one of the best defensive big men in the game and an intense competitor who brings out the best in his teammates.
He’s no slouch on offense yet either.
Sure, he doesn’t score like he did five years ago, but Garnett still has a silky-smooth mid-range game that allows the Celtics to spread the floor and get to the lane because Garnett’s man always has to shadow him around the floor. His length still makes him very difficult to defend as he is shooting over 51 percent from the floor.
Having said all that, Garnett is certainly in the Twilight of his career, and he will surely want to play for a team that will allow him to win another ring. He could be a very dangerous addition to a team that needs to add that elusive missing piece to get to the championship level.
16. JaVale McGee
JaVale McGee has to be the most infuriating, exciting and mind-blowing player in the league. One minute he’ll make a ridiculous block that will seem to cause a momentum shift for his team. The next minute, as his team is trying to play offense, he will forget to pay attention and go sprinting back on defense. It really is quite an experience to watch him play.
Obviously, the biggest problem with McGee has nothing to do with his ability. He makes at least one boneheaded play every single game, and he seems to think it’s funny. He has had conflicts with teammates and coaches because of his flippant attitude, and he hasn’t really done anything to fix it.
Still, setting aside all of those issues, McGee is freakishly skilled for a seven-footer. He can jump as high as anyone in the league, and he has a knack for making big defensive plays.
Offensively, he’s no slouch either. McGee shoots the ball at a 53 percent clip and he averages more than three offensive rebounds per game. If he could ever get his head on straight and put all of his focus into being a strong teammate and quit being such a goofball, he could become a premier center in the league.
15. Raymond Felton
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Raymond Felton is a strong and agile point guard in his seventh year in the league. He entered this year coming off of a career year during which he split time between the New York Knicks and the Denver Nuggets. The Portland Trail Blazers thought they would be getting a terrific playmaker who could run the kind of offense they envision for their team.
Unfortunately, Felton’s numbers are down across the board this year. He is still a solid player, but he has certainly fallen off after having such an outstanding season last year.
His scoring is down from about 14 points per game last year to 11 this year. His shooting percentage is down three percent and he’s averaging more than a full rebound less per game. It really has been a bit of a struggle for the talented point guard.
Despite the tough year, Felton has displayed his solid ability over the course of his career, and that should make him an attractive player for anyone in the market for a new lead guard.
14. Chris Kaman
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After talking about several extremely athletic people on the list, we get to the Hornets’ big man, Chris Kaman. Athletic and Kaman don’t really belong in the same sentence. He has made a living in the NBA by knowing exactly how to use his size, and having tremendous footwork to put him in the best position to succeed.
At 7'0" and 265 pounds, Kaman has several tricks that he uses to make up for his lack of speed and athleticism. He is certainly one of the best players in the NBA at understanding how to use his size and positioning to make sure he snags rebounds or gets open looks.
He is also fantastic at finishing around the rim with both hands. Away from the rim, Kaman is a dangerous mid-range shooter. Defensively, Kaman is a bulldog who somehow manages a solid amount of blocked shots even though he’s doesn’t jump very high.
The drawback with Kaman is his lack of athleticism. He’s not a very good passer out of the post and he tends to have some turnover problems because he can’t avoid defenders quick enough. However, at just 29 years old, Kaman still has plenty to offer to a team that needs a very skilled big man.
13. Jason Terry
Jason Terry, at 33 years old, had a coming-out party in the playoffs during the Dallas Mavericks’ championship run last season. Terry’s always been known as a solid player throughout his career, but it wasn’t until last year’s playoffs that Terry was viewed as a player who can carry a team offensively.
When Terry catches fire, he can make shot, after shot, after shot from anywhere on the court. He is truly a masterful scorer.
One of the best parts about Terry is that he’s as good at shooting on the move as he is at shooting while spotted up. This makes him especially difficult to guard, as he is seemingly always on the move.
Defensively, Terry is a little shaky. Since he’s not a true point guard, he often gets matched up with a bigger, stronger shooting guard. Those are battles he often loses. Terry can also become frustrated when getting beat on defense in a game and he can be confrontational with both the other team, and his own. He doesn’t have full control of his temper.
Regardless of some defensive drawbacks, Terry is still one of the most skilled guards in the game. Should he decide to leave Dallas, he will have no problem finding a home that will take full advantage of all of his skills.
12. Ray Allen
Ray Allen, at 36 years old, is still one of the best shooters in the NBA. As a matter of fact, this season he is shooting over 45 percent from beyond the three-point line, which would beat the best mark he’s ever hit in his illustrious career.
While his age may be limiting some of the things he used to be able to do from a ball-handling perspective, it certainly isn’t slowing him down as an offensive threat who can put the ball in the hoop from anywhere in any given arena.
One of the most surprising things about Allen is that he is not really breaking down at all with age. Since 2004-05, he has played in at least 70 games in every year but one! Obviously, that streak will end this year, but that’s only because of the shortened season. A career 45 percent shooter from the floor, and 40 percent shooter from three point range, Allen still displays his shooting ability night in and night out. He’s also one of the great free throw shooters in the history of the game, shooting over 89 percent for his career.
Obviously, Allen has been slowed a bit by his age. He’s not a very good defensive player, not that he ever was, and he doesn’t do much offensively but shoot outside shots. However, when you shoot outside shots at the rate Ray Allen does, that’s plenty good enough.
It seems like Allen has a few good years left in the tank, and he should be one of the most desired free agents to hit the market this summer.
11. D.J. Augustin
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D.J. Augustin is one of the most underrated players in the NBA, and he is saddled with the unfortunate task of leading the miserable Charlotte Bobcats organization.
Augustin plays a solid all around game, and controls the ball very well for his offense. He is small, but he is very quick and able to get inside amongst much taller players and score. He’s not a dead-eye shooter by any means, but he’s dangerous if he’s left open.
The most impressive thing about Augustin is his ball-handling ability and his ability to seemingly create something out of nothing.
The problem with Augustin is that his small stature makes him an easy target for opposing point guards when he’s trying to play defense.
Augustin will continue to display his abilities as a smart point guard who uses his speed to his advantage and who takes care of the ball well for the rest of the season. There are several teams who could use an upgrade at point guard, and he will garner a ton of attention.
10. Steve Nash
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One of the real wonders of the NBA is how Steve Nash continues to play at an incredibly high level as he gets older and as there are several interchanges of players around him. Though his scoring is down a bit this year, he’s having the best shooting year of his career, shooting almost 54 percent from the field.
He’s also on par with some of his best years assist-wise, averaging over 11 assists per game. As players around him have come and gone, Nash continues to take the roll as team leader and make the new players around him better.
At 38 years old, everyone seems to keep waiting for the former MVP to slow down, but it never seems to happen. Before every season, we hear about the aging Steve Nash and how Phoenix needs to start looking for a replacement, and then Nash comes out and averages a double-double in points and assists for the year.
He’s truly one of the most fantastic and fun players to watch in the NBA, even at his age.
Obviously, Nash is one of the greatest passers of all time. He doesn’t just set his teammates up though, as he is a fantastic shooter and a prolific free throw shooter. Nash still has his full arsenal of offensive weapons, and that makes him a valuable veteran addition for any team.
9. Kris Humphries
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Let’s put aside the whole Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian thing. There can’t be any more jokes to be made about it that haven’t been made before. I think what Humphries has been able to do this season, in the wake of being the laughing stock of the entire NBA, has been absolutely fantastic.
Humphries has increased his scoring more than three points per game, to a solid 13.7 points per game, the highest mark in his career. He’s also grabbing a career high in both rebounds, at 11 per game, as well as his offensive boards, with nearly four per game. In his first full season as a starter, Humphries has made the most of his opportunity.
There are still some holes in Humphries’ game. He can be prone to turnovers, and can get into foul trouble. However, he has been one of the few bright spots for the miserable Nets team this year who has been more involved in trade speculation than they have been in many games. Humphries brings toughness, rebounding and even scoring to whatever team he winds up with next year.
8. Tim Duncan
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One of the multiple sure-fire future Hall of Famers on the list, Tim Duncan has spent his entire illustrious career with the San Antonio Spurs. While it’s hard to imagine the face of the Spurs going anywhere else, he still technically may be hitting the free agent market this year.
While he won’t bring his same old ridiculous skill levels to his team next season, he will bring his solid leadership and championship pedigree. That’s not to say he’s a slouch in any way now.
Though his skill level has decreased in recent years, and his numbers have diminished, he’s still a player capable of scoring 15 points per game while grabbing nine rebounds. He’s definitely a player that opponents still have to game plan for, even at his age.
The best part about Duncan is that he is still a very solid defender. While he isn’t very quick anymore, he still knows exactly how to use his size and length to disrupt players he’s guarding. Regardless of his age, Duncan still has some very solid skills that will allow him to continue to contribute to whatever team he plays for in the NBA.
7. Jameer Nelson
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Jameer Nelson has been a rock solid point guard since entering the NBA in 2004. He’s not the flashiest of players, but he’s a guy that constantly makes winning plays, whether offensively or defensively.
When looking at stats, there isn’t a whole lot that really jumps off the page with Nelson. However, watching him play and looking at his stats show a tale of two stories. Nelson has scored just over 12 points per game, had about five assists per game and grabbed three rebounds per game over his career. None of that seems spectacular. However, he’s an absolute handful for opposing defenders and he is a guy that seems like he always hits big shots for his team.
Defensively, Nelson makes up for his lack of height by using his quickness and brute strength to bother opposing point guards. He’s not the type of player a team should look to build around, but he could be a key part of a team that has other solid pieces and is ready to contend.
6. Gerald Wallace
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Gerald Wallace is another player, like Jameer Nelson, who makes a bigger impact on games than what the stat sheet always shows. Wallace is an incredible athlete who is a threat on both sides of the ball. He’s not the best shooter in the world, but he is very good at getting himself open and creating good looks for himself. He’s also still very strong at taking the ball to the hoop and finishing with authority.
The thing to watch out for with Wallace is that it looks like he’s starting to decline. At 29 years old, Wallace has always played with extreme hustle and disregard for his own well being. In doing so, he could have made himself age faster in the sense that he can’t quite to some of the explosive things he became so well known for.
Even with some declining numbers, Wallace is still a guy who can score 15 points per game and grab about seven rebounds per game, and he’s still as solid of a defender as there is at the forward positions.
Like Nelson, a team shouldn’t try to build around Wallace, but he can be a great contributing player wherever he lands.
5. O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo is a very talented, very athletic young wing player who can bring explosive scoring and offense to any team he winds up with. And it sure seems like he’s ready to make his home somewhere other than Memphis.
Mayo is currently having the worst season of his career in just about every category. The big red flag with Mayo is that his rough spell is clearly due to his unhappiness in Memphis. He seems to be a bit of a mental midget and he clearly has maturity issues.
Having said all that, Mayo is still very talented and brings size, speed and athleticism to the court. He’s a guy who can score 30 points on any given night and who has been known to carry his team when his head’s in the game. Mayo needs to go to a place with a coach that can put him in line and get him focused on being the player he can be.
If he can find that situation, Mayo could be one of the best pick ups of this free agent class.
4. Eric Gordon
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Of all the players on this list, Eric Gordon might have the best long term impact for whatever team he ends up playing for. At just 23 years old, Gordon has made a major impact on the NBA.
In three seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, Gordon averaged about 18 points per game and more than three assists per game. His assist totals increased every year as a result of his focus on making his teammates better.
Gordon is a handful for anyone in the NBA to guard because of his extreme quickness and strength. He manages to go to the free throw line more than six times per game, which is amazing for a point guard. He's also more than adequate on the defensive side of the ball, where he uses that strength to intimidate opponents.
One knock on Gordon would be his health issues. He's missed games in each of his four seasons because of injury, including the vast majority of this season. However, through his first five games with the New Orleans Hornets, Gordon averaged nearly 20 points per game, and it looks like he'd be picking up right where he left off.
3. Roy Hibbert
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After nearly four seasons in the NBA, it seems like the long and lanky Roy Hibbert is finally starting to fill out his frame, and that has meant bad things for the rest of the NBA.
Hibbert came into the NBA with great height and length, but seriously lacking in the strength department. That's no longer a problem, and his numbers this year are better than they have ever been.
Hibbert has always been criticized as a player who wouldn't take advantage of his height to crash the boards and get rebounds. Through his first two seasons in the NBA, he averaged only about four rebounds per game. Now, in his fourth year, Hibbert is averaging nearly nine rebounds per game. He's still a guy that scores just about 13 points per game, so that increase in rebounding numbers has made Hibbert much more valuable.
Defensively, Hibbert is a stud. He averages two blocks per game and makes every shot in the paint a tricky one. Hibbert is definitely the kind of big man that a team can look to add and build around in hopes of contending.
2. Brook Lopez
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Through nearly four full NBA seasons, Brook Lopez has been a force in the middle of the New Jersey Nets' offense. While he's not the quickest or strongest guy out there, Lopez understands the game and constantly puts himself in a solid position to score the basketball.
And score he does.
Lopes is averaging about 19 points per game this season on just under 50 percent shooting. He's a big man who can step away from the basket and hit shots or use his size to get inside and make easy short shots.
Scoring is not an issue for Lopez.
But that doesn't mean he doesn't have issues.During his first two seasons, Lopez was a serviceable rebounder, bringing in about eight boards per game. Last year, he managed to get less than six rebounds per game. This year, in just a short period of time (due to injury), Lopez only averages a little under four rebounds per game. That will not cut it for a center with the skills of Lopez.
Defensively, Lopez rarely makes big plays or really shows up at all. He needs to have more of an aggressive attitude on that side of the ball to make himself more of a threat for opposing players coming into the paint.
Yet, even with these weaknesses, Brook Lopez should be a hot item on the free agent market. It's not often that you find a seven-footer with the skill set he possesses. If he can work on a couple of his weaknesses, he can turn himself into a truly special player.
1. Deron Williams
In his first full season with the Nets, Deron Williams is proving that he belongs in the discussion with the elite point guards in the league. At more than 21 points per game, Williams has really been the only driving force behind any signs of life with the lackluster Nets this season.
One of the best parts about watching Williams play is that he has an unmistakable killer instinct. He constantly wants to prove that he is the best point guard on the court. It was Deron Williams that started the end of Linsanity by outplaying Jeremy Lin in every sense when they first met. That's the attitude he takes into all of his games.
Williams is a gifted scorer from anywhere. If he is left open from long range, he will hit the jump shot. Give him a lane and he will take it and throw down a dunk on anyone in his way.
Williams isn't just a scorer though, as he is averaging nearly nine assists per game this season, and that's one of the lower assist totals of his career. Williams is truly a player who can make the others around him better.
With all that he has to offer, Deron Williams will certainly be the most sought after free agent of 2012.