NBA Free Agency 2012: 5 Players Who Deserve to Be Paid This Offseason
Free agency is meant to give players a fresh start if they so choose, while giving teams with cap room a chance to improve.
While rookie contracts are helpful for the cap situation of all teams across the league, a player's second contract isn't as kind.
When a player's rookie contract expires, front offices across the league must decide how much those young veterans are worth. In some cases, like with New Orleans Hornets star Eric Gordon, the player is almost guaranteed a maximum offer.
The upcoming free-agency period will see a fair amount of general managers make decisions that will wind up hurting their organization in the future, but that won't include the following five players. They are all justified in their search for a pay raise.
Lou Williams led the Philadelphia 76ers in scoring last season while coming off the bench. He averaged 14.9 points and 3.5 assists and shot 40.7 percent from the field.
While Williams is far from a star, he is a great scoring option off the bench. The team that signs him will be getting a spark plug that is guaranteed to provide a lot of energy and scoring while its starters sit.
The performances of bench players often define the success of many teams, meaning there will be a market for Williams and his peers.
How much money Williams will be offered on the open market remains to be seen, but it is safe to say that he won't be returning to the 76ers.
Teams like the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets could make a lot of sense for Williams, who will be looking to prove that Philadelphia made a mistake by choosing not to re-sign him.
Roy Hibbert had an excellent 2011-12 season and was named to his first All-Star Game. He averaged 12.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and two blocks per contest.
Those numbers are only the beginning for this 7'2" big man, as he is just 25 years old and has plenty of time to continue developing his game on both ends of the court.
Hibbert's size is an advantage against virtually everyone that has to guard him, and it also makes him a productive shot-blocker on the defensive end of the floor. Due to that and his potential alone, Hibbert is worthy of a max contract.
In today's NBA, there is a lack of quality big men, so the teams that have one quickly gain an advantage. The Indiana Pacers would be foolish to allow Hibbert to relocate, as they had a great season and have a very bright future if they can keep their core intact.
Earlier in the offseason, the Portland Trail Blazers offered Hibbert a four-year, $58 million max contract. There are reports that the Pacers plan to match that offer to ensure that the Georgetown alumni will call Indiana home for the next few years.
Last season, Ersan Ilyasova broke out and was in the conversation for the NBA's Most Improved Player award. Although that award ultimately went to Ryan Anderson of the Orlando Magic, that shouldn't take away from what Ilyasova did last season.
He averaged 13 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent from the field. Ilyasova is a talented pick-and-pop shooter who helps his team space the floor. He also had an excellent season from behind the arc, where he shot 45.5 percent.
There are reports that the Milwaukee Bucks and Ilyasova are close to agreeing on a deal that would keep him with the team for the next five seasons.
With a backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, Ilyasova will have plenty of open looks next season and should put together another career year.
Assuming that Ilyasova returns to the Bucks, which looks extremely likely, there is a great possibility he'll be a double-double guy next season.
Eric Gordon is perhaps the best young shooting guard in the league, and he was the key piece in the trade that sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles.
Gordon's combination of explosion to the hoop and sharpshooting ability would help to improve any team. Unfortunately for both Gordon and the New Orleans Hornets, the young guard struggled with knee injuries for the majority of last season and only started nine games.
Although the injuries are concerning, Gordon appears to be fine now. He worked out with Team USA in Las Vegas and will be ready to play next season.
Last season, Gordon made just over $3.8 million; he is in position to get a major raise. The Phoenix Suns have reportedly offered Gordon $58 million over four years. If he stays healthy, he will be worth every penny of that contract.
However, all the Suns offer ensured was that the New Orleans Hornets would have to match that offer.
Gordon has said that he would prefer to move on to the Suns, but that just isn't going to happen. As stated earlier, Gordon was the most important member of the package that the Hornets received in the Chris Paul trade. The team cannot afford to let him walk away.
It might not make him happy at the moment, but Gordon will be playing in New Orleans next season. Lucky for him, he'll be making a lot of money in the process.
The Houston Rockets were fortunate that Goran Dragic played at such a high level last season when Kyle Lowry went out with an injury.
In the games Dragic started, he averaged 18 points, 8.4 assists on 49 percent shooting. Even if those numbers go down a little next season, he will still be a highly productive point guard. He is an excellent finisher at the rim and is explosive enough to get there.
According to reports, Dragic will sign a four-year, $34 million contract to return to the Phoenix Suns after they traded him to the Rockets last year.
A second-round pick by the San Antonio Spurs in 2008, Dragic will start the season at point guard for the Suns. Unfortunately for Dragic, he will be replacing arguably the greatest Sun in history, Steve Nash.
Dragic is getting a chance to finally be the starting point guard on an NBA team, as it will be his job to lead a very different Suns team into battle next season.