NBA Free Agency 2012: 7 Current Backups Who Will Be Starters Next Season

Haddon AndersonAnalyst IApril 16, 2012

NBA Free Agency 2012: 7 Current Backups Who Will Be Starters Next Season

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    The NBA is full of talented backups, many of whom would be starters if they landed in a new location.

    That's exactly what will happen with a bevy of soon-to-be free agents this summer. Numerous backups will look for increased roles on different squads, where they will not only make more money but also relish a starting role.

    Here are seven current backups who will most likely be starters with new squads come next season.

Omer Asik, Center

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    Omer Asik has become one of the best defensive big men in the league. His abilities often prompt Chicago Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau to leave the Turkish center in at crucial stages of ballgames.

    The Bulls would surely love to bring back Asik, but the reality is that he's going to receive some lucrative offers from other teams, and he'll be offered a starting role from most of them.

    Plus, the Bulls are already paying big men Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer large amounts of money, so it's hard to see them dishing out another pricey deal to a big man.

    Expect Asik to land somewhere new and average over 10 boards a game. He still has much work to do offensively, but his defensive abilities make him beyond ready to receive a starting gig.

    Potential Destinations: Houston, Portland, Sacramento, Cleveland, Boston

Goran Dragic, Point Guard

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    Houston's Kyle Lowry was sidelined recently, which enabled lefty Goran Dragic to experience being a starter.

    He's embraced it so much that he's still starting even though Lowry has now returned (so maybe he shouldn't be on this list).

    At any rate, Dragic is going to be a free agent and will likely look for a role where he's the undisputed starting floor general.

    He's tallied some eye-popping games lately (including 26 points and 11 assists against the Lakers) and will surely have a handful of interested teams this summer.

    Potential Destinations: Utah, Portland, Phoenix (if Steve Nash leaves)

Michael Beasley, Small/Power Forward

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    Michael Beasley has struggled to find a niche in Minnesota, but his potential remains alarmingly high.

    He's a restricted free agent this summer, but don't be surprised if Minnesota declines to match any offers for him. It already has a handful of quality young players, and Beasley is expendable.

    The Lakers would be an ideal fit for Beasley, and perhaps rubbing shoulders with Kobe Bryant could spark his career to life.

    He may also latch on with a subpar team where he has a chance to be a focal player.

    Potential Destinations: L.A. Lakers, Charlotte, Cleveland, Brooklyn

J.J. Hickson, Power Forward

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    J.J. Hickson has had an up-and-down year with the Sacramento Kings and now the Portland Trail Blazers. The upside of this 23-year-old is vividly clear, but he just needs to find a place to exclaim his talents.

    When he arrived in Portland, he was slated as the backup to LaMarcus Aldridge, but Aldridge is now out for the year with an injury.

    This has now left Hickson with the opportunity to audition for the offseason, and he's actually already raised some eyebrows. He's notched four straight double-doubles, including a 23-point, 13-rebound effort last week against Golden State.

    Expect a team to pay considerable money to make Hickson its starting power forward for the future.

    Potential Destinations: Toronto, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Washington

Courtney Lee, Shooting Guard

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    Similar to teammate Goran Dragic, Courtney Lee has also received the opportunity to start recently with Rocket starter Kevin Martin sidelined.

    Lee has contributed greatly in these games as a starter and is valuable on both ends of the floor. He's capable of knocking down the three and attacking the basket and is emerging as a lockdown defender.

    He has all the tools to become a consistent starter, and you can expect him to find that role come next season.

    Potential Destinations: Utah, L.A. Clippers, Washington, Chicago, Brooklyn, Houston (he's restricted)

Chauncey Billups, Point Guard

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    Chauncey Billups tore his Achilles earlier in the season but has vowed to return next year. 

    It's unlikely that he'll return to the Clippers, as he's going to be a free agent and the Clippers already have Chris Paul and Mo Williams in their backcourt.

    Billups could be a bit of a gamble, with his age and the fact that he'll be coming back from a serious injury, but the payoff could be high. He's a proven competitor and could be a difference-maker for a team seeking to break into championship contention.

    Potential Destinations: Atlanta, Miami, Utah

O.J. Mayo, Shooting Guard

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    O.J. Mayo is the top backup who will almost surely find a starting role next year. He remains young and has the ability to score in numerous ways.

    Expect a handful of teams to show interest in the 24-year-old shooting guard. If he finds the right situation, he could potentially develop into an All-Star or at least become a crucial missing piece for a team seeking to become elite.

    Potential Destinations: Indiana, Chicago, Cleveland, Brooklyn