NBA Free Agency 2012: Ranking the 10 Best Big Men on the Market

Ben Shapiro@benshapironyc1 Analyst IIIJune 13, 2012

NBA Free Agency 2012: Ranking the 10 Best Big Men on the Market

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    For as long as the NBA has existed, "size" has been in demand. 

    If you're six feet tall and aren't great at basketball, then it's best to plan for a more standard career. 

    If you're seven feet tall and not that good at basketball you could get drafted, you might even stick on some rosters for a while. 

    This coming summer, the NBA will have a selection of free agents who aren't just seven feet tall, but are also very good at basketball. 

    While the league's very best big men, like Andrew Bynum, Dwight Howard and Kevin Love, won't be available to the highest bidder, quite a few of the league's most talented players who happen to be either centers or power forwards are free agents. 

    With so many big men available, who is the best? This slideshow will rank the 10 best power forwards and centers available this summer based on the projected performance of the player next season. Tim Duncan has had by far the best career of any free-agent big man, but at his age he's no longer the most dominant one available.

    Who is number one, and where does Tim Duncan stand now? 

No. 10: Carl Landry

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    Carl Landry, New Orleans Hornets 

    Age: 28

    Position: Power Forward

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Carl Landry is a tough guy to read. According to Synergy Sports, he's the most efficient low-post scorer in the entire league. Then again, according to basic stats, he's a very mediocre rebounder, who over his first five seasons in the league has averaged only 5.1 rebounds per game. 

    Landry is only 6'9", so his defense is not outstanding. He isn't a great shot-blocker. Landry will be a good free-agent signing for a team that needs low-post scoring but already has players who can defend and rebound.  

No. 9: Chris Kaman

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    Chris Kaman, New Orleans Hornets

    Age: 30

    Position: Center

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    If not for a series of injuries, then Chris Kaman might be a more attractive free-agent candidate. Instead, he's been unable to stay healthy enough to perform and produce good numbers. 

    Kaman has only played in 79 out of a possible 148 games the past two seasons. When healthy, he's still a productive big man. 

    Last season, he averaged 13.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Two seasons ago, when he was healthy, Kaman averaged 18.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game. 

    A healthy Kaman could probably produce those numbers again. The only problem is, at age 30, how long will that last? 

No. 8: Spencer Hawes

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    Spencer Hawes, Philadelphia 76ers

    Age: 24

    Position: Center 

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted 

    Spencer Hawes has spent his time in the NBA either being stuck behind veterans or injured. When he's healthy, he's shown an ability to be a bruising big man.

    Yes, he only averaged 9.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last season. He did that while playing only 24.9 minutes per game. Hawes also did that on a Philadelphia team that had trouble scoring at every position. 

    Hawes' size (7'0", 245 lbs) and age make him an attractive free agent, especially for teams looking for more of a true center.  

No. 7: Brook Lopez

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    Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets

    Age: 24

    Position: Center

    Free Agent Type: Restricted 

    If the past season ended up enhancing the allure of Boris Diaw, then it had the opposite impact on Brook Lopez. 

    Put simply, if you're seven feet tall and average only 3.6 rebounds per game, something is wrong. Rebounding is, of course, largely effort-based. That's especially true when your size works as an advantage on the glass. 

    At seven feet tall, Lopez's rebounding numbers are a concern for any team thinking about dishing out big money for his services. However, Lopez is a very legitimate offensive threat. He averages 18.4 points per game for his career.

    He's also still young, so a degree of patience might not be the worst idea for a team interested in signing Lopez. 

No. 6: Michael Beasley

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    Michael Beasley, Minnesota Timberwolves 

    Age: 23

    Position: Power Forward

    Free Agent Type: Restricted 

    With the exception of the devastating ACL injury that Derrick Rose suffered in the first game of the 2012 NBA playoffs, his career as the number one overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft has gone as planned.

    It's been a little different for No. 2 pick Michael Beasley.

    Beasley had an up-and-down couple of seasons in Miami before being shipped out of town to clear space for the current "Big Three" of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

    He was shipped off to Minnesota, where he's had more "down" than "up."

    Last season, he averaged career lows in almost every major statistical category. Most importantly, he played fewer minutes (23.1) per game than at any other time in his career.

    Will Beasley stay in Minnesota? Do they even want him?

    Beasley is a very intriguing free agent. He's still only 23 years old. If he were to mature and figure things out, he could be a 25-point-per-game scorer in a few seasons. If a team is willing to be patient, then Beasley could be a great buy-low opportunity.  

No. 5: Tim Duncan

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    Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs

    Age: 36

    Position: Power Forward/Center 

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted 

    Before someone starts to string me up for placing Tim Duncan at number five, keep in mind that this is about how the player will perform next year, not in years past. 

    Duncan is one of the greatest big men of all time. 

    His prime performance days are over, though. He's not the dominant big man he was for over a decade. He's still very good and still worth playing, worth admiring and worthy of a decent contract. 

    He's going to get one, too. It won't be as lucrative as the one that just expired, which paid him over $20 million a year, but it does appear that he's likely to stay in San Antonio.

    Even in his advanced age and with 15 seasons of NBA wear and tear on his body, Duncan averaged 15.4 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game this past season—all while playing a career-low 28.2 minutes per game. 

    Duncan isn't dominant anymore, but even a less effective Duncan is a lot better than many other NBA players. 

No. 4: Kevin Garnett

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    Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics

    Age: 36

    Position: Power Forward

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted

    Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan are both sure-fire future Hall of Famers winding down their fantastic careers. 

    While Duncan looked outmatched and overwhelmed during the playoffs, Garnett was dominant for the Celtics. 

    Garnett averaged 19.2 points and 10.3 rebounds per game while leading the Boston Celtics all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals.

    His ability to step up when his team most needed will not only give him a big boost this summer when he eventually signs a contract, but it also sets up a slightly higher set of expectations for Garnett through next year.

    Garnett doesn't have the same lift in his legs that he did when he was younger, but he's a tireless worker, is always around on the defensive glass and has really become a deadly outside shooter.

    For the better part of the last 10 years, both Garnett and Duncan would be listed right near the top of a slideshow such as this one. The more things change, the more they stay the same...

No. 3: Kris Humphries

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    Kris Humphries, Brooklyn Nets

    Age: 27

    Position: Power Forward

    Free Agent Type: Unrestricted 

    There's probably a large segment of the population that only knows who Kris Humphries is because of his brief marriage to a reality television star and generally useless part of pop culture, Kim Kardashian.

    That's a shame, because he's a very good basketball player. 

    Humphries has spent the past two seasons averaging a double-double. He's a ferocious rebounder who gets his points off offensive rebounds, fast breaks and other defensive breakdowns. 

    Humphries won't ever be a polished offensive force, but his rebounding and defense are good enough to make up for his offensive shortcomings. There aren't that many guys in the league who you can pencil in for a double-double every night. Humphries is one of them, though. 

No. 2: JaVale McGee

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    JaVale McGee, Denver Nuggets 

    Age: 24

    Position: Center

    Free Agent Type: Restricted

    It's possible that one day people will look back on the career of JaVale McGee and remember the type of player he was before his 2012 first-round playoff series against the Lakers and, conversely, the type of player he was during that series. 

    McGee didn't just show improvement against the Lakers, he showed flat-out dominance. He ran the floor, rebounded, blocked shots and dunked and did it all against two of the league's best low-post players, Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. 

    Can McGee get to a point where he can perform like that on a nightly basis? That's the big question facing the Nuggets and any other team that is genuinely interested in McGee. He may have the highest upside of any big man in the league. 

    He's also been maddeningly inconsistent. After the flashes of dominance he showed against the Lakers, there are probably more teams out there willing to take a chance on this talented big man. 

No. 1: Roy Hibbert

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    Roy Hibbert, Indiana Pacers

    Age: 25

    Position: Center

    Free Agent Type: Restricted 

    There's a slim chance that JaVale McGee could end up as a better player than Roy Hibbert. It's very slim, though. 

    At 7'2", Hibbert is one of the league's tallest players. He's a lanky, talented center whose numbers have gotten better in every one of his four professional seasons. He doesn't score a ton of points, but he is one of the league's better shot-blockers. His 2.0 blocks per game were fifth in the league this past season.

    Hibbert is the best big man on the market this summer. It's a league that doesn't have nearly as many great big men as the NBA once had. The days of Ewing, Olajuwon, Robinson, Mourning and Shaq are long gone.

    It's the overall weakness at the center position that makes a guy like Roy Hibbert so valuable on the free-agent market.

    He's the best big man available this summer. As a restricted free agent, there's a decent chance that he'll end up staying in Indiana, but the lack of other options could also mean that a team would be willing to make Hibbert an offer the Pacers wouldn't be able to match.