Jeremy Lin and the 15 Best Free Agent Gambles This Summer

Greg SwartzCleveland Cavaliers Lead WriterJune 1, 2012

Jeremy Lin and the 15 Best Free Agent Gambles This Summer

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    While the free-agent class of 2012 doesn't appear to carry a lot of star power, it does appear to be fairly deep in all five positions.

    With the NBA salary cap expected to rise to $60-$61 million in 2012-2013, teams will have a little bit of extra money to play with when courting free agents.

    So who are the best players out there for teams with cap space looking to make a splash?  What players are worth the gamble of a large paycheck?

    Here are the best free agents in the summer of 2012.

16. Andre Miller

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    Current Team: Denver Nuggets

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Point Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 9.7points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 14.84 PER

     

    Miller has been one of the game's most underrated players for the past 10 years. 

    Nothing about his game is flashy or fancy, but he remains an above-average point guard and could still start for a number of NBA teams. 

15. Goran Dragic

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    Current Team: Houston Rockets

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Point Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 11.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 18.03 PER

     

    Dragic had a breakout year taking over for an injured Kyle Lowry in the Rocket backcourt.

    Houston actually played better with Dragic than Lowry, and would be wise to re-sign Dragic and trade Lowry due to his beef with coach Kevin McHale.

    Only 26-years-old, Dragic has a bright future ahead of him.

14. Michael Beasley

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    Current Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    Position: Small Forward/Power Forward

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 11.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 1.0 assists

     

    Beasley is the definition of a free-agent gamble. 

    While his talent remains undeniable, he has become a notable head case with off-the-court issues including speeding and possession of marijuana.

    Put him in a veteran locker room and give him a clear-cut position to play and you could have a real value on your hands.

    On a young team with inconsistent playing time, however, Beasly will continue to under-perform.

13. JaVale McGee

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    Current Team: Denver Nuggets

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    Position: Center

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 11.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, 19.90 PER

     

    Speaking of head cases, hello JaVale McGee.

    To his credit, McGee played big for Denver down the stretch and in their first-round playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers.

    As long as a team expects McGee to be tall, rebound, block shots and not create his own offense, they should find the lanky center to be a nice signing.

12. Chris Kaman

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    Current Team: New Orleans Hornets

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Center

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 13.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 15.42 PER

     

    Kaman has quietly been one of the better centers in the league for the past couple years.

    He plays a good all-around game on both offense and defense, and can score with his back to the basket or knock down a jump shot.

    Now 30-years-old, this will likely be Kaman's last big pay day, but some team will offer him a good amount of money because of his size and skill set.

11. Gerald Wallace

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    Current Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted ($9.5 million player option)

    Position: Small Forward

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 13.8 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 15.98 PER

     

    Why the Nets gave up a lottery pick in a loaded draft class for the 29-year-old Wallace is beyond me, especially since he has the option of becoming a free agent.

    The best player in Charlotte Bobcat history, Wallace plays a nice all-around game and is an especially good wing defender.

    He won't be the first or even second option on a championship team, but Wallace brings enough to the table to warrant a multi-year deal on a contending team.

10. Nic Batum

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    Current Team: Portland Trail Blazers

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    Position: Small Forward

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 13.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 17.32 PER

     

    Batum and the Blazers failed to reach an agreement on a long-term contract earlier in the year, so the 23-year-old swingman from France will now become a restricted free agent.

    Batum is a smooth offensive player who can use his athleticism to slash to the basket or knock down a three-pointer (39 percent).

    A great young talent, Portland will likely have to pay a good amount to keep him in a Blazer uniform.

9. O.J. Mayo

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    Current Team: Memphis Grizzlies

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    Position: Shooting Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 12.6 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 14.76 PER

     

    Mayo can play a number of roles for your team.

    He's spent time as a starter, averaging over 18 points per game the two years he was in the Grizzlies opening lineup. He can also provide instant offense off the bench as a sixth man, as he's been doing recently in Memphis.

    With all the money tied up in Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, it's very doubtful they match a big offer for Mayo, and should be prepared to watch him leave.

8. Jeremy Lin

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    Current Team: New York Knicks

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    Position: Point Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 14.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.2 assists, 19.97 PER

     

    Lin lit the NBA on fire earlier this year, proving to be the perfect fit on a Knicks squad loaded with stars who struggled to play together.

    Lin's upcoming contract is a little complicated, but according to Newsday, if Lin and Steve Novak are granted their early Bird rights, the Knicks can give them up to 104.5 percent of the average salary, or about $5.5 million, and they'll still be able to use their mid-level exception and lower-level exception for other free agents.

    Regardless of what happens, it appears Lin will most definitely remain in New York next season.

7. Ray Allen

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    Current Team: Boston Celtics

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Shooting Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 14.2 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 14.83 PER

     

    Age and injuries are beginning to catch up with Allen, as the NBA's all-time three-point leader will turn 37 in July.

    Allen still brings a lot to the table, however. He remains in great physical condition for his age and shot an astonishing 45 percent from the three-point line in 2011-2012.

    Watch for Allen to latch onto a contender who needs a shooting guard (L.A. Clippers?) and pursue his second championship ring.

6. Tim Duncan

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    Current Team: San Antonio Spurs

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Power Forward

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 15.4 points, 9.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, 22.60 PER

     

    Duncan remains one of the most durable and efficient power forwards in the game today despite being 36 years old.

    Technically an unrestricted free agent, there's no way San Antonio lets him leave the only franchise he's ever known since being the first overall pick back in 1997.

5. Kevin Garnett

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    Current Team: Boston Celtics

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Power Forward/Center

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 15.8 points, 8.2 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 20.47 PER

     

    Garnett, like Duncan, remains extremely productive despite being 36.

    Unlike Duncan, Garnett's future with his current team remains very much in doubt.  It's unclear what Boston's plans are for him and Ray Allen, who both see their contracts expire this month.

    Any team that gets Garnett at this stage in his career is going to get a tough, trash-talking defender who can still step out and hit jump shots from 20 feet and in.

    Look for him to catch on with a contender needing a defensive post presence.

4. Steve Nash

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    Current Team: Phoenix Suns

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Point Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 12.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 10.7 assists, 20.29 PER

     

    The oldest player on this list at 38, Nash plays like a man half his age with his quickness and athleticism.

    A two-time NBA MVP, Nash could still get a three-year deal with his level of play, despite nearing 40. While teams like New York and Miami will certainly come calling, it will be interesting to see if Nash opts for a larger contract or a better chance at a championship, something he's never won in his career.

    There remains an outside chance he stays in Phoenix, but I'd say it's very, very doubtful at this point.

3. Eric Gordon

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    Current Team: New Orleans Hornets

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    Position: Shooting Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 20.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 19.23 PER

     

    Gordon only played nine games due to injury for the Hornets last season, but he remains an elite talent and scorer and should receive close to a maximum contract offer.

    New Orleans, fresh off of winning the Anthony Davis sweepstakes, will likely match any offer for Gordon as they will now have a great young combo to build on going forward as Gordon is only 23-years-old.

2. Roy Hibbert

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    Current Team: Indiana Pacers

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    Position: Center

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 19.35 PER

     

    Hibbert is arguably the third-best center in the entire NBA and has gotten significantly better each year he's been in the league.

    A legit 7'2", opposing teams have to gameplan around his defensive presence inside, highlighted by his advanced shot-blocking skills.

    Indiana does have the right to match any contract offer he receives, and it's widely believed they will do anything to keep him.

1. Deron Williams

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    Current Team: Brooklyn Nets

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Position: Point Guard

    2011-2012 Statistics Per Game: 21 points, 3.3 rebounds, 8.7 assists, 20.34 PER

     

    Williams remains the gem of the 2012 free-agent class.

    He is a top-three point guard in the NBA and has the size and skill set to carry a franchise.

    Where he goes is very much up in the air at this point. Brooklyn can offer him more money and a longer contract, but not much in the way of surrounding talent.

    Dallas remains an attractive option, as do the Lakers if they could work out a sign-and-trade deal.

    The dark horse? Look out for Portland, as the Trail Blazers have the cap room, surrounding talent and two lottery picks in this year's NBA draft that they could all use to persuade Williams to come to the Pacific Northwest.