NBA Free Agency 2012: Predicting This Summer's Top 25 Free Agent Contracts

Michael KeefeContributor IIIApril 27, 2012

NBA Free Agency 2012: Predicting This Summer's Top 25 Free Agent Contracts

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    It was pegged as the "summer of Dwight Howard."

    And then Howard decided to stay with the Magic and the "summer of Dwight" became the summer of solid free agents. Even with Howard off the board, there are still many very good players who will hit the open market this offseason. 

    But what are they worth?

    Teams that go after free agents always have to be smart about the money they will spend on those players. The following list describes what the top 25 free agent contracts might look like this offseason. 

Landry Fields

1 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $0.8 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $5 million

    One of the several players on the list who could use a change of scenery, Landry Fields is going through quite the sophomore slump with the Knicks this season.  

    Having said that, Fields has shown flashes of serious talent over his two years in the NBA, and should attract quite a bit of attention on the free agent market. At six-foot-seven, Fields has the size and length to create matchup problems for just about every shooting guard in the league.

    Fields has a lot of room to grow, but it doesn't seem like New York is the place for him to do that. Just based on his potential, Fields should get a nice payday this offseason.

Jeremy Lin

2 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $0.8 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $5 million

    Due to the current CBA in the NBA, the maximum amount that rookie sensation Jeremy Lin will be able to make next year will be $5 million, the full Mid-Level Exception. 

    There is no doubt that Lin will make every bit of that.

    Aside from being an absolute media phenomenon, Lin's play will earn him a much larger contract. He has averaged 14.6 points and just over six assists per game since joining the Knicks. He helped to carry the team when their stars were hurt, and is a big reason they will be playing in the postseason.

    Jeremy Lin will be paid handsomely for his efforts this year, and he deserves it.

George Hill

3 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $2.1 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $4.5 million

    George Hill has been a tremendous spark for the resurgent Indiana Pacers this season. Off the bench Hill has managed to score almost 10 points per game in just 25 minutes per game. 

    Hill is a strong athletic point guard who totally changes the pace of the game when he comes off the bench. Hill is great at running with the ball, and finishing with some highlight layups and dunks. He shoots the ball fairly well and always seems to help make winning plays. 

    For a point guard, Hill doesn't get a lot of assists, and that's a problem. He has some issues that he needs to clear up, but his hustle and athletic ability should get him a nice new deal this offseason.

Nicolas Batum

4 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $2.2 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $8 million

    Nicolas Batum is one of the most quietly solid performers in the NBA. His tall, wiry frame creates serious matchup problems for most perimeter players and Batum is very good at putting the ball in the hoop.

    In 30 minutes per game this season for Portland, Batum is averaging 13.9 points and nearly five rebounds. As a perimeter player, he shoots an outstanding 45 percent from the floor and just over 39 percent from beyond the three point line. 

    Obviously, Batum has some issues. He is very skinny, and is liable to get pushed around by his opponents on both ends of the floor. But his potential on offense, and the fact that he's only 23 years old, should net him a nice new contract this year.

Ersan Ilyasova

5 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $2.5 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $9 million

    Ersan Ilyasova looks to be one of the players who sees the biggest jumps in salary this offseason. Ilyasova has been outstanding for a Milwaukee team this year that fought to the end for a playoff berth.

    Ilyasova is another quiet performer on this list, but his numbers this year have been absolutely fantastic. His 13 points per game don't seem too impressive, but the fact that the six-foot-ten Ilyasova shoots better than 49 percent from the floor and 45 percent from beyond the three point arc is amazing. 

    Ilyasova is the type of player who could join a decent team and make them much better. Look for him to get a big raise this summer.

Roy Hibbert

6 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary: $2.6 million

    2012-2013 Predicted Salary: $13 million

    Hibbert is a rising star in the NBA. With his size and athletic ability, Hibbert has been able to drastically improve offensively, while remaining a standout defender.

    This season, Hibbert made his first All-Star appearance and finished the season averaging 13 points, just under nine rebounds and two blocks per game. The Pacers will surely want to retain Hibbert, but it is going to take a massive pay increase to do so. 

Brook Lopez

7 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary: $3.1 million

    2012-2013 Predicted Salary: $14 million

    Lopez is an excellent scorer in the post for a Nets team who could use all the scoring they can get. Lopez averaged 19.2 points per game this season, though he did battle some injuries.

    Lopez is my candidate for the player who gets paid the most and who will make whatever team that pays him very, very sorry.

    Lopez is a scorer, that's it. He is a very poor rebounder and defender for a player his size.

    Having said that, I think teams will get into major bidding wars over Lopez because of his size and his skill on offense. This attention, whether warranted or not, will drive up the price for Lopez's services. 

D.J. Augustin

8 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $3.2 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $8.5 million

    Augustin is a little bit of a tricky player to try to predict. He has been by far the most steady and reliable player on the shaky Bobcats teams of the past few years. 

    This season, his numbers are down a bit from his breakout year two seasons ago. However, he still averages 11.1 points and more than six assists per game on a team with a very limited supporting cast. 

    With so much emphasis being put on having a solid point guard, I think the market for Augustin will drive his price up and he should sign for a nice new salary.

Shannon Brown

9 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $3.5 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $6 million

    Well, it's taken a little while, but Shannon Brown is wrapping up the best year of his career, and he should be able to take advantage of his solid season with a new contract this summer.

    Brown, a career backup in both Cleveland and Los Angeles, finally got a chance in Phoenix, and he's taking advantage. Averaging 11 points per game on 42 percent shooting, Brown isn't spectacular at any one thing, but he is solid and manages to provide some spectacular plays for his team.

    The several highlights Brown has been able to create this year should help him on his quest to finding that first big contract.

Eric Gordon

10 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $3.8 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $9 million

    If it weren't for the injury bug, Gordon would more than likely be making much more than this in his new deal this offseason. 

    Gordon is a pure scorer, who has the athletic ability and quickness to get to any spot on the floor and hit his shots. He's not an outstanding shooter by any stretch, but he is adept at putting up good numbers every night he plays.

    Averaging 18.2 points per game for his career, he will be a tremendous backcourt addition for some team this offseason.

Brandon Bass

11 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $4.3 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $4.3 million

    Boston Celtics' big man Brandon Bass holds a player option for the 2012-2013 season, and it would be hard to imagine him not using it. 

    The 2011-2012 season has been the best of Bass' career. He's averaging a career-best 12.6 points and just over six rebonds per game for the Celtics as a part-time starter. Bass isn't the most talented or athletic player, but he's a guy that always seems to be in the right place at the right time, especially on the glass.

    Bass is an average defender, and does most of his scoring on put-backs and great passes, but Bass' success this year can't be denied. He will likely end up staying with Boston for the same salary next year. 

Jamal Crawford

12 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $5 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $5.2 million

    Jamal Crawford is in the midst of his worst season in nearly a decade. His scoring is down, his shooting is down and his minutes are down. 

    The good news for Crawford is that he holds a player option with the Blazers for $5.2 million next year. If Crawford is smart, he will take advantage of that option.

    Crawford is still a very good player, even with his numbers down. He's still averaging 13.9 points per game, but he's only shooting 38 percent from the floor. He might want to ask the Blazers to make him more a part of the game plan for the road trip.

    Even with the subpar numbers, Crawford will be able to sign on for at least another year in Portland at a good price. You have to love those player options! 

O.J. Mayo

13 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $5.6 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $8.5 million

    If there's a player on this list that needs a change of scenery, it's O.J. Mayo.

    The 24-year old Mayo is in his fourth year in the NBA, and he is having his second subpar season in a row. Mayo certainly has some attitude issues, having spent most of the last two seasons pouting about his role with the team.

    However, once you get past those issues, Mayo has the potential to be a seriously good player in the NBA. In his first two seasons in the NBA, Mayo averaged 18.5 and 17.5 points per game. He still has that potential to be a great scorer, and a solid defender.

    He just needs to go somewhere he can focus and play. 

Michael Beasley

14 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $6.3 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $11 million

    There is simply no denying the talent of Michael Beasley. A versatile big man who can score the ball from anywhere on the court and who can handle it like a guard, Beasley has an extremely unique skill set in the NBA.

    If he could ever focus on basketball and really put everything into it, Beasley could become an All-Star caliber talent.

    At 23 years old, Beasley has not managed to do that yet. However, his play will warrant quite a look this offseason from teams that would like to get a little younger and more skilled in the front court. 

Raymond Felton

15 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $7.6 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $9 million

    There's no questioning the fact that Raymond Felton is having a bit of a tough go this year.

    His scoring numbers are down, and he's not having the kind of impact on his team that the Trail Blazers had hoped he would. 

    Having said that, Felton is still very talented and will certainly get a lot of attention from teams looking for a new option at point guard. Averaging 13.4 points and just under seven assists per game for his career, Felton would surely be a solid addition for many teams. 

Andre Miller

16 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $7.8 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $3.5 million

    At age 36, it finally seems like the steady Andre Miller is slipping up. 

    Miller, in his first real season as a backup, has struggled to become accustomed to coming off the bench full time. His scoring is down under 10 points per game for the first time in his entire career and his assists are down under seven per game. 

    Clearly, Andre Miller will not be making the kind of money next year as he did in the past. Having said that, I'm sure he will still be able to figure out a deal that will allow him to contribute as a part time player for the next few seasons. 

    Miller still has a little bit of game inside of him, he just needs to figure out how to benefit from being a part time player from now on in his career. 

Kris Humphries

17 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $8 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $11 million

    If there was any player in the NBA who was poised to have an absolute bust of a year, it was Kris Humphries. Humphries received all kinds of attention for his Kardashian exploits and basically started this year as the laughing stock of the NBA.

    And then he started playing. 

    Humphries has turned himself into one of the most solid and reliable big men in the game. He plays the game with hustle and intensity, and his numbers show it. Humphries is averaging 13.8 points and 11 rebounds per game in this, his breakout season.

    Expect him to get a lot of attention this offseason.

Gerald Wallace

18 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $9.5 million

    2012-2013 Predicted Salary - $9.5 million

    Gerald Wallace seems like he's been around so long that he should be 40 years old. The truth about Wallace is that he's 29 years old and having another rock solid year. 

    Wallace is averaging more than 13 points and six rebounds for the New Jersey Nets. Furthermore, he owns a player option which would pay him $9.5 million again next season. It would be hard to imagine him pass that up unless he really doesn't like Brooklyn.

    Wallace still has several years left of being a solid, multi-threat player who can help whatever team he is on become that much better. I would imagine that team will be in Brooklyn next year.

Jason Terry

19 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $10.7 million

    2012-2013 Salary - $8 million

    Jason Terry is a guy who is having a very solid year, but is flying a little under the radar. Probably because the Mavericks are being viewed as aged and slow. 

    Terry probably shouldn't get lumped into that category. His scoring is down a point from last year, averaging 15.1 points per game this year. However, his shooting percentages are right on par with his career numbers.

    Obviously Terry is a pure scorer who will be able to provide a spark to any team he signs on with. He should still be thought of as a sixth man, as he is the best in the business at that pivotal role. 

    His age will not allow him to sign a huge contract, but he will surely still be well paid.

Steve Nash

20 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $11.7 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $9 million

    This was a tough one to predict. At Nash's age, it would seem like his demand might dwindle more and more. But he's having a ridiculous year! 

    Sure, his scoring average is down two points from his career average, but he's shooting lights out from the floor! He also continues to be the best assist man in the game, averaging 10.7 dimes per game.

    Nash can still move well for his age, and doesn't slow the team down one bit. The biggest concern is that defensively, he can't handle the continuous pounding he gets from bigger point guards. Nash still has plenty left in the tank, and should get a nice paycheck this offseason!

Chris Kaman

21 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $12.7 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $14 million

    Chris Kaman is a player that needs to find the right team this summer. Kaman spent most of his career with the Clippers during their worst years before going to the Hornets during their years of struggle. 

    Kaman is averaging 13.1 points, just under eight rebounds and almost two blocks per game this year for the Hornets. He is a solid defensive player who is also crafty on offense.

    In a better situation, Kaman could really flourish next season.

Andrew Bynum

22 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary: $14.9 million

    2012-2013 Predicted Salary: $16.1 million

    Andrew Bynum is technically a free agent, though his team holds an option for him. There is just no way that the Lakers are going to let him go anywhere. 

    Bynum has been spectacular in Los Angeles this season, finally turning into the player that the organization has dreamed he could be. Averaging 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and almost two blocks per game, Bynum has established himself as a premier big man in the NBA.

    The Lakers will definitely pick up his option and keep him around for this year and many more to come.

Deron Williams

23 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary: $16.4 million

    2012-2013 Predicted Salary: $18.3 million

    Deron Williams has been outstanding for the New Jersey Nets this year, and he will likely pull in the biggest contract of any player on the list this year. As a matter of fact, he's probably the only player on the list that will earn a maximum deal for a player with his experience. 

    Williams averaged 21 points and almost nine assists per game this year. At just 27-years old, Williams should be a premier point guard in the NBA for years. This year will bring on the big payday for WIlliams, wherever he winds up.

Tim Duncan

24 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $21.2 million

    2012 Projected Salary - $16 million

    Tim Duncan is surely coming to the end of the line for his career, but he is showing that he can definitely still play. He averages 15.4 points and nine rebounds per game, and remains the cornerstone of the Spurs franchise. 

    I think Duncan will still get a solid salary, though it will likely decrease a bit. Duncan will likely play out the rest of his time on short term contracts until he is ready to hang up his sneakers. 

    I would not look for him to be leaving San Antonio.

Kevin Garnett

25 of 25

    2011-2012 Salary - $21.2 million

    2012-2013 Projected Salary - $16 million

    Kevin Garnett is very much in the same boat as Tim Duncan. Both players are certainly on the decline of their stellar careers, but they are still capable of putting up very solid numbers.

    Comparing to Garnett to Duncan, it's surprising how similar they are. Duncan is averaging 15.4 points and nine rebounds per game. Garnett is at 16 points and a little over eight rebounds per game. Both players, while slowing down from their hall of fame numbers, are still much more than serviceable contributors for their respective teams. 

    Garnett will also likely get short term deals for the rest of his career, as he rides it out for as long as he can before retiring and becoming a definite Hall-of-Famer.