The Top 10 NBA Free Agents of 2011
With so much attention being paid to the free-agent class of 2010, some teams are bound to miss out on landing their guy.
Teams like the New York Knicks, New Jersey Nets, and Chicago Bulls have depleted their rosters to clear cap space for marquee players like LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.
The problem is that there are simply not enough of those big names to go around, leaving the remaining teams to focus on the 2011 class.
A potential lockout may distort free agency in 2011, but as it stands, the crop of talent in next year's free-agent class is deep with stars sure to make an impact on their respective teams.
Much of the future rides on the performances next season—be it the performance of the players or their teams. Here are the top 10 free agents who stand to be available in the summer of 2011.
1. Carmelo Anthony (Early Termination Option)
Why he stays: Not only will Denver be able to give Anthony the biggest deal possible, but the Nuggets may also give him the best shot to win. The Nuggets are a perennial playoff threat, making a deep run last season.
The Nuggets have proven that they are willing and capable of surrounding Carmelo with talent through savvy trades (Chauncey Billups), free agent acquisitions (Chris Andersen), and draft picks (Ty Lawson).
Why he goes: Denver is not exactly the most desirable city for an NBA star. 'Melo may want to hit a bigger market to increase his visibility.
Billups is showing signs of aging, as is the frontcourt. Coach George Karl may not stick around due to his various health issues. Anthony might be ready to get off before the ship starts to sink.
What will happen: When the smoke clears in the battle for LeBron, there will be teams in need of a franchise player. Carmelo would fill that void quite well.
2. Yao Ming
Why he stays: Houston has shown great patience with Yao and he may want to return the favor. The Rockets' management has built a sneaky good team without him, competing while awaiting his return.
By getting rid of Tracy McGrady, Houston has committed to Yao as the face of its franchise. By sticking with 6'6" Chuck Hayes as their center, the Rockets have shown that they are keeping a spot open for Yao.
Why he goes: Houston has done so well without Yao, the Rockets may feel they don't need him. If his return doesn't spark a significant improvement, they may view Yao as expendable.
Knowing that Yao becomes unrestricted in 2011, Houston will be quick to make a decision on him. If things look positive, expect an extension. If things are shaky, expect the trade rumors to fly.
What will happen: I believe Houston has every intention of making things work with Yao as the centerpiece. If Yao can return to form, he will be in H-Town for the long haul.
3. Tim Duncan (ETO)
Why he stays: Duncan has played his entire career in San Antonio with great success (four NBA titles, three NBA MVPs). In his twilight years, Duncan probably isn't ready to start over somewhere else.
Why he goes: Duncan may actually want to try something new for the first time in his professional career. With nothing more to accomplish with the Spurs, the challenge of succeeding with a new team could peak his interest.
What will happen: Duncan has always gone with the best decision over the flashy one. Playing out his final years in San Antonio might be what's best for all parties.
4. Tony Parker (ETO)
Why he stays: Parker is one of the most beloved players in San Antonio and seems to work quite well with the Spurs. If Duncan opts to stick around, Parker might be inclined to follow suit.
Why he goes: At 28, Parker will still have some gas left in the tank, and San Antonio may be running on fumes. He may want to try his hand at running the point for a team with a more stable situation.
What will happen: If the point guard situation still isn't figured out in LA, Parker may find himself in Lakers gold.
5. Zach Randolph
Why he stays: Randolph has seen his most success with Memphis, a team that looks to be on the rise. With a nice crop of young talent (O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol), the Grizzlies might be willing to keep Zach around and continue to build.
Why he goes: Randolph already has played with four teams and appears to have no defined roots. He might be looking to settle down with a real contender or try to chase the biggest paycheck.
What will happen: Look for Zach to test his value on the open market. He may be the missing piece for a desperate title contender.
6. David West (ETO)
Why he stays: New Orleans has one thing that no other team has: Chris Paul. West may feel that his best opportunity for success lies in the precision passes of the Hornets point guard.
Why he goes: West might be growing impatient with the dysfunctional Hornets, feeling that he could fit into a better situation somewhere else. West relies on technique rather than athleticism, keeping him in the picture for years to come.
What will happen: West is probably ready to get out of New Orleans as soon as possible. If he does, Paul may be asking for a trade soon after.
7. Caron Butler
Why he stays: After tooling around in Washington for too long, Butler found a vital role on a contending team in Dallas. Butler is likely tired of moving around and ready to take root with the Mavericks.
Why he goes: Like Randolph, Butler has been with four teams already and may not object to leaving Dallas and finding another place to call home. His ability to score has translated everywhere he has landed.
What will happen: Dallas looks like an ideal situation for Butler. Butler looks like an ideal player for Dallas. I don't see why it can't work.
8. Jamal Crawford
Why he stays: Jamal Crawford has not seen a role as important as the one he's got playing sixth man for Atlanta.
After years of struggling to fit with New York and Chicago, Crawford is making a huge impact with a team ready to roll in the playoffs.
Why he goes: Though the sixth-man role has worked out nicely for Crawford, he may want to move back into someone's starting rotation. His ability to put up points could really help a struggling team.
What will happen: As tempting as a starting spot might be elsewhere, the Hawks might have an open spot if Joe Johnson leaves. Either way, Atlanta looks like the best place for Crawford.
9. Jason Richardson
Why he stays: Richardson isn't getting any younger and may be ready to settle down in Phoenix. As long as Steve Nash is running the show, J-Rich is guaranteed a level of success.
Why he goes: Richardson is looking at a Suns team on the decline. Nash is aging, Amare Stoudemire may be leaving, and coach Mike D'Antoni is long gone. It may be time to get out while he can.
What will happen: Seeing that he hasn't set the world on fire in Phoenix, Richardson will likely try to fit in as a role player with a team that is primed to make a title run.
10. Glen Davis
Why he stays: Davis has won a ring with the Celtics and is a bit of a fan favorite. Big Baby may want to weather the storm with Rajon Rondo and hope things get better before they get too much worse.
Why he goes: Boston is fading quickly as age starts to set in for the Big Three (Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen). Davis probably doesn't see himself fitting into the rebuilding process.
What will happen: GMs around the league value Davis more than you might think. Big Baby could leave the Celtics as the ones crying.
Restricted Free Agents
1. Kevin Durant: If another team is able to lure Durant away from Oklahoma City, the future could be extremely bright for that team. Fans would never forgive the Thunder for letting KD go, so expect him to benefit from a monster deal.
2. Al Horford: After years of trying to land a decent power forward in the draft, Atlanta finally got its man and Big Al has worked out wonderfully. Don't count on the Hawks letting him get away.
3. Greg Oden: Portland may be having regrets over drafting Oden over Durant. That doesn't mean the Blazers are ready to give up on the potential of their talented center.
4. Marc Gasol: Memphis caught a lot of grief for getting rid of Marc's brother Pau. Now that Marc has worked out better than planned, it would be a shame to let history repeat itself.
5. Joakim Noah: The Bulls will likely be a major player in the 2010 free agency period. One of the elements they will be using to lure the big names is the opportunity of playing with the fireplug Noah.