We all remember the NBA free agent market last season, when teams were feverishly spending and trying to recruit some of the biggest names in the game. LeBron James, Amar'e Stoudemire, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh. It wasn't as much a free-agency period as it was a recruiting period.
This summer probably won't have the same feel.
There was one possible big-ticket free agent entering the summer of 2011 in Carmelo Anthony. But with Anthony going to New York and signing an extension and Chris Paul headlining the 2012 class, the free-agent cupboard is relatively bare in terms of big names.
That doesn't mean there aren't good players available come July 1 when the free agency period begins. So with that in mind, here are the top 25 players available this summer.
Diaw has a $9 million player option that allows him to opt out of his contract after this season, according to ProBasketballTalk of NBCSports.com.
He's an interesting player because he does have value as a defender and as a role player, but he's small for the hybrid position he plays. He fits best in the situation he was in Phoenix—an uptempo offense that's more guard-oriented and not as tall.
Howard still has those tools that made him a pretty good swingman, especially with his ability to drive to the hole.
But that seems like a while ago. Now he's mired in Washington, where he's struggled and averaging less than 10 points per game for the first time in his career. He can still be an effective player, but he's not looking at the payday he might've been.
Landry is not a great low-post player offensively, although he's shown he can be an offensive force when he gets a chance to be. Landry's worth is more as a rebounder and a low-post defender in the Tyson Chandler, Erick Dampier-type of role as a hard-nosed player.
The trade to New Orleans opens up a possibility for the Hornets where they can choose between Landry and another impending free agent in David West. If Landry can continue to develop offensively, the Hornets will have an interesting decision to make on whether Landry or West stays, if they can afford to keep either.
During the 2009-2010 season, Oden was starting to show flashes of being a great player worthy of being the No. 1 overall pick.
When he was healthy, that is.
Oden hasn't played since then and he lost all of this season due to microfracture surgery on his knee. Now he's a impending free agent, and he'll have a decision to make, as will the Trail Blazers. He might not become a star, but he can become a dependable center who can average a double-double and be a serviceable center. Plus he can probably be a cheap option for a team looking to take a flyer on him.
It's easy to forget that until Deron Williams came on the scene in Utah, the young stud in Utah at the end of the Karl Malone and John Stockton days was AK47.
Kirilenko isn't a phenomenal player, and if it was a better class he might not make this list. But he's a nice complimentary piece who can do a lot of things right and he's a 12 points per game scorer. He's better for a team looking for a role player who can provide some offense and some defense as well.
It wasn't that long ago that Martin was considered a rising star in the league. Of course, playing with Jason Kidd will do that for a player. But Martin struggled to develop as a half-court player and also had his career de-railed by injuries.
Martin still shows flashes of being a solid low-post player. He's a nice option, and for the right price he could fit in somewhere for a team looking for some quick offense from the frontcourt. But he's still an injury risk and he may not be the type of player who can thrive in a running offense anymore.
For how he's developed as a player, Smith still has character issues and his decision making on the court is still questionable.
But he's also a sharpshooter who has the ability to catch fire when he's hitting his shot, and he provides a burst of offense off the bench when he's on his game. For a team looking for an outside shooter off the bench, Smith is a nice option.
At what point does Shaq enter journeyman stage?
This is already his fifth team in the last four years and he's clearly at the end of his career. Anyone at this point signing Shaq knows they're getting a forward who can bang around, get a few points and grab a few boards playing about 20 minutes a night.
But he's also been embraced everywhere he goes, and he still can be a contributing player for someone if he decides to come back next season, albeit in a limited role.
Stuckey is a nice young guard who's developed nicely as a distributor who's also a scorer. He's had a down season this year, and he's not a great outside shooter. When it comes to his offensive capabilities, he's more of a slasher and penetrator than an outside shooter.
But he's still a nice player to have as a point guard. He is a restricted free agent, so the offer sheet might have to be substantial to lure him from Detroit. At that point, I'm not sure he's worth a huge offer sheet. But he's a good point guard.
It wasn't that long ago that we were talking about what happened to Grant Hill's career, and all the promise that disappeared with every injury he suffered in Orlando.
But Hill has risen like a Phoenix with the Suns (bad pun, unfortunately intended) and re-generated his career with the Suns as an all-around player who can still be an effective scorer and a veteran leader. How much Hill has left in the tank remains to be seen, but he can be a great fit on the right club for the right price.
Tyson Chandler has become a rebounding mercenary for hire in the NBA world, with the Mavericks being his third team in the last three seasons.
But he continues to contribute as a rebounder and a low-post defender, filling that role for the Mavericks this season and excelling at it. He's not a great offensive player, although he's good for a couple of baskets a game, but he continues to get jobs as a solid rebounder and low-post defender.
In other words, he's a younger Kurt Thomas.
Aaron Brooks is now auditioning for a job with the Suns next season (which some have speculated might lead to a trade of Steve Nash in the offseason), but what happens with him will depend on what happens during the last couple of weeks to the season.
He's a restricted free agent, so the Suns have some control about what they will do. But if he plays like the scoring machine he was with the Rockets, then he will be a very attractive player who still has a lot of time ahead of him.
Pietrus has made a nice career for himself as a strong defender and a three-point shooter who is an effective secondary scoring option.
He's not the type of defender that Bruce Bowen was for the Spurs back in the day, but he can combine defense and outside shooting in a package that makes him very attractive. He won't break any banks with the deals he gets, but he'll be a solid find for the team that picks him up.
Anyone trying to take a gamble on Michael Redd is in an unenviable position, considering this is a guy who hasn't played all season and missed the remainder of last season with an ACL injury. So like Oden, anyone signing him would be doing so for a discount and hoping for the best.
That being said, he still has the potential to be a sharpshooter from the outside. While he might not be the scorer he once was, if the numerous injuries haven't limited his shooting ability, he can still be a very useful part.
Whether anyone's willing to take a chance on him is the bigger question.
Like Oden and Redd (especially Redd), Yao was a force to be reckoned with when he was healthy, at least offensively.
It took him time to figure it out, but he showed flashes of being the low-post scorer everyone thought he could be. He never gained that aggressiveness and some would argue that he was too soft for a center, but he was able to match a low-post game and an outside game when need be, making him effective.
But at 30, and considering the injury history, will anyone take a chance on him?
Tayshaun Prince, when he's on his game, might be one of the most frustrating players to play against. He hits big shots, he's a solid outside shooter, he's a hustle player and he's a plus defender who draws the big assignments.
He's also extremely frustrated in Detroit.
To put it mildly, I'd be extremely shocked if he's back. And for someone with his skillset, he could be very valuable if and when he gets a change of scenery.
Crawford has the offensive ability and the scoring prowess to be a starter in the NBA, but he's better coming off the bench as a sixth man, where he still gets big minutes and makes big contributions for the Hawks.
It's not that he can't start in the NBA (his best season in terms of scoring average was when he was a starter with the Knicks in 2007-08), but he can be one of those players who can be effective as a starter and as a sixth man.
Gasol is a restricted free agent after the season, and one would think re-signing him would be a major priority for Memphis. Despite slipping a bit in terms of stats this season, Gasol has averaged double digits in points each of his three seasons in the league and is only getting better.
We'll have to wait and see how aggressive other teams are with going after Gasol. But if he's anything like his brother, teams might be piling up trying to sign him to an offer sheet.
Another Denver Nugget makes the list, which is purely coincidental.
Nene has an early termination option on his contract after this season, and according to Rotoworld, already has a list of teams he'd like to join in the offseason. If that's the case, expect the feeling to be mutual for other teams in Nene, who has always had the ability as a rebounder and shot-blocker.
His improving offensive game and improving health will have teams looking hard at Nene. However, reports already have both sides working towards a new deal, so he might not even make it to the offseason.
Tim Duncan is not the dominant power forward from a few years ago who very quietly always put up big numbers.
He's getting older now and he's no longer the focus of the Spurs' offense. But he still puts up decent numbers, he still does all the little things right and he's still a good rebounder. That and his leadership abilities make him very attractive to some teams.
That being said, can you see a way that he doesn't end his career as a Spur?
Allen conceivably could've gotten more in the free agent market last season when he signed the two-year extension with the Celtics, but the key was having the player option for 2011-2012 that he can opt out of and become a free agent.
There's two ways to look at this for Allen. One, considering the lack of outstanding free agents out there this summer, Allen could opt out and become very marketable as a free agent. At the same time, he can also not waive his option and see how the labor situation plays out.
Either way, he still has a good amount left in him.
At this stage of his career, we know what Butler is. He's an average shooter who can be a good scorer when he's able to drive and penetrate, and he's not a No. 1 option on a team. He's better when he can be a secondary scoring option and he has talent around him.
He'll also be coming off an injury that might scare some teams away, but considering the lack of big name talent available this offseason, he'll be a high priority for teams looking for a scorer at the swingman position.
David West might be one of the more underrated power forwards out there, possibly because he plays more like a small forward/power forward hybrid than a power forward. West does have a post-up game, but he can also step out and knock down a jump shot, which makes him more dangerous.
As I mentioned before, the Hornets will have a decision to make with both West and Carl Landry. West is the better player, but the Hornets might not have a choice if the demand for West is too high, as is his asking price.
According to MLive.com (citing a Hoopsworld report) last week, the Magic and Richardson were working on an extension, though the report cited nothing was close.
If Richardson does enter the free agency market, he'd be the best shooting guard out there. He's a slasher and a strong scorer who's also underrated as a shooter. Of course, with all the issues surrounding the labor deal, Richardson might be limiting his options by becoming a free agent. But he'll garner a lot of attention if he makes it on the market.
For all the character issues he's had over his career, one thing Zach Randolph has rarely been is non-productive.
He hasn't averaged less than 17 points per game for all but two years in his career and he's having another season of 20-plus points per night. I don't know if I would call him a dominant player, but he's certainly been reliable, and for any team looking for a low-post presence who will consistently score, that's him.