NBA Power Rankings: Zach Randolph and 20 Players in Line for Free Agent Payday

Thomas CopainCorrespondent IMarch 21, 2011

NBA Power Rankings: Zach Randolph and 20 Players in Line for Free Agent Payday

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    Compared to the free agent classes of 2010 and 2012, the potential free agents in 2011 are not overwhelming in terms of star power.

    But as we've said before, that doesn't mean there aren't good players to be had this year in free agency. And despite the uncertainty surrounding the labor agreement, that doesn't mean that some players who have over-performed this season won't be getting big paydays coming in July, whether it's with their current team or in another jersey.

    These are the guys who have parlayed this season into a bigger paycheck, either once again or in the case of some of these guys, for the first time in their careers. Some of them are journeymen on their way to staying journeymen with one good year in between. Some are rising stars looking for that first big contract. Others are older veteran stars perhaps looking for that last contract in their prime.

    Whatever the case may be, these are the 20 NBA players who are going to cash in this offseason.

20. Tayshaun Prince, SF, Detroit

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    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Dallas, New Orleans, Utah

    Why Break the Bank: Despite the troubling season and the constant clashes with his head coach (but then again, try finding a Piston who hasn't this season), Prince still does bring some valuable assets to a team. He's a strong outside shooter, he can be a viable second or third scoring option and when he's healthy, he's still one of the best defenders around.

    The fact that Dallas wanted to acquire him at the deadline shows he still has some value. But it's pretty safe to say wherever he is, he won't be in Detroit.

19. Shannon Brown, SG, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Status after 2011: Player Option for 2012

    Where He Would Fit: L.A. Lakers, Phoenix

    Why Break the Bank: After posting a career year last year, Brown opted out and received a two-year deal worth $4.6 million with an option for the second year. And after posting yet another career year, it's within the realm of possibility that he could very well opt out for the second straight year. That being said, he knows he has a home with the Lakers and the Lakers want to keep him around. But don't be surprised to see Brown opt out for a better deal again.

18. Kris Humphries, PF, New Jersey Nets

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    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: New Jersey, New York

    Why Break the Bank: Like Brown, Humphries was fortunate enough to have the best season of his career at the best possible time for himself, as he's become a very good rebounder and low post defender for the Nets. He probably only has worth for the Nets, who can be a very good fit for him. We'll have to see if there's any other interest in him, but he's in line to get a nice raise from the Nets.

17. Sasha Vujacic, SG, New Jersey Nets

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    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Chicago, New Jersey, Oklahoma City

    Why Break the Bank: Vujacic was a key sub for the Lakers team that went to the NBA Finals in 2007-2008, but started to see his playing time diminish as Shannon Brown emerged in the rotation. But since he was traded to the Nets, he's been a valuable bench player who's even stepped in to be a starter a few times this season.

    A team like Chicago who could use an outside shooter might look at Vujacic, but he's a better fit back in New Jersey.

16. Carl Landry, PF, New Orleans

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    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: New Orleans, Detroit

    Why Break the Bank: Landry's not a star, but being a pretty solid power forward has garnered him some attention throughout the league. But as I've written previously, Landry's fate will really be intertwined with that of David West's. If West decides to opt out of his contract, all of a sudden Landry looks a lot better and a lot more attractive, especially to the Hornets, who will need a power forward. 

    Landry might not be a superstar, but he's about to break the bank this offseason.

15. Marcus Thornton, SG, Sacramento

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    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Sacramento, Charlotte, Dallas

    Why Break the Bank: Thornton showed some flashes last year with the Hornets, but he was basically buried on the bench this season. But after the trade to Sacramento, Thornton has been nothing short of fantastic. He's averaging more than 21 points a night in his last 10 games and better than 23 a night in his last five. He still has to improve as a shooter, but he's definitely showing his scoring instincts.

    The Kings have the ability to keep him as a restricted free agent, but they would be foolish to let him walk. Either way, Thornton's going to earn himself a nice raise next season.

14. Marco Belinelli, SG, New Orleans

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    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: New Orleans

    Why Break the Bank: Belinelli hasn't put up phenomenal numbers, as he's only averaging 10.3 points per game. But he's also shooting better than 40 percent from the perimeter and he's been a nice player in the backcourt along with Chris Paul.

    In the grand scheme of things, Belinelli hasn't been a phenomenal player. He has shown strides of improving and becoming a nice player, and considering the Hornets' situation and budget, Belinelli might be the best option they have. If he can continue to improve, it could be a very nice find for them. But he's earned a raise this season.

13. DeAndre Jordan, C, Los Angeles Clippers

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    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: L.A. Clippers

    Why Break the Bank: Jordan is still raw as a prospect, but he's improving rapidly and he's come into his own this season as a rebounder and a shot-blocker. He's not averaging 10 points a night, but the truth is, he really doesn't have to with Blake Griffin in the frontcourt. The Clippers would love to have Jordan, Griffin and Eric Gordon be the cornerstones of the franchise for years to come, and locking up Jordan now will help.

    Signing Jordan also allows the Clippers to start setting feelers out there for Chris Kaman, should they want to go in that direction.

12. Jamal Crawford, SG, Atlanta

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago

    Why Break the Bank: Crawford is one of the better free agents on the market this offseason, and the Hawks have already said they want to bring him back next season. But considering the lack of premier backcourt players on the market this summer, Crawford will be able to cash in on that and get a pretty nice deal.

    He's had a bit of a down year, but for a team that's looking for a shooting guard who can either start or come off the bench, he'll get compensated for his services.

11. Caron Butler, SF, Dallas

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    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Detroit, Dallas

    Why Break the Bank: Butler's point per game average was a little lower than his career average before he suffered what has appeared to be a season-ending injury. But he was also shooting better than 45 percent from three, which is by far one of his best three-point shooting percentages for his career. 

    He was also a great fit in Dallas with the system the Mavericks play, which makes it no surprise that he'll be among the top priorities for the Mavericks this offseason.

10. Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas

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    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Dallas, New York, Denver

    Why Break the Bank: Chad Ford of ESPN did a breakdown of some of the higher-profile and top free agents around, and he had some interesting things to say about Chandler, who's having one of the better seasons of his career.

    "Chandler has struggled with injuries for much of his career and continues to be a so-so offensive player," Ford wrote. "But he's been key for Dallas this season and has proven that when healthy he can be a beast on the boards and a game-changing presence on the defensive end."

    The Mavericks have been looking for a center for a while, and it looks like they have finally found one in Chandler. He's not going to come cheap after this season, though.

9. Jeff Green, PF, Boston

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    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Miami, Phoenix

    Why Break the Bank: Green has somewhat disappointed during his career, not that he's been a bust, but he hasn't been the star some thought he would be when he was part of the Ray Allen trade at the 2007 NBA Draft. 

    Still, Green can still be of good use and considering both his youth and his shooting ability for a power forward, one would have to think Green will get some very good offers. Whether or not that results in a starting job is still unknown.

8. Nick Young, SG, Washington

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Washington

    Why Break the Bank: Nick Young has had a breakout year by all accounts. He's the Wizards' leading scorer and he's also become a shooter that has been a nice compliment to John Wall in the backcourt. In his list of free agents, Chad Ford was somewhat critical of Young's game, but his analysis was spot-on.

    "Young is one dimensional—he scores and that's about it—but the league is always looking for guys who can put the ball in the basket," Ford wrote. "The Wizards are likely to pay him, but if they don't another team will be happy to give him some cash."

7. Rodney Stuckey, PG, Detroit

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    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Detroit

    Why Break the Bank: Stuckey is still growing as a player, and he's probably more of a combo guard better suited for the two than a pure point guard. But he's also the best player the Pistons have right now and the team will be built around him as they move forward. He still has a lot of room for improvement, especially with his perimeter game, but the Pistons are becoming Stuckey's team faster than one might think.

6. Nene, PF, Denver

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    Status after 2011: Early Termination Option

    Where He Would Fit: Denver

    Why Break the Bank: With Carmelo Anthony now in New York and Kenyon Martin's massive contract coming off the books, the Nuggets will have some money freed up. But they also have a host of restricted and unrestricted free agents to top players, with perhaps the most pressing scenario being Nene and his possible early termination option.

    Fanhouse.com reported back in February that the Nuggets wanted to keep Nene and that Nene wanted to be back in Denver, but one also has to think that he wants to maximize the money and years that he can get. So it will be interesting to see how this plays out. But if he was to hit the market, he'd get a pretty sizable offer from somewhere.

5. Wilson Chandler, SF, Denver

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Denver, Washington, Houston, Detroit, Utah

    Why Break the Bank: Chandler has had a breakout season this year, turning into a young star in New York and eventually becoming one of the main pieces of the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony trade. He's been very good in Denver and he's taken off, as have the Nuggets since the trade.

    He still has some work to do in his game, but I wouldn't be surprised to see teams looking for a small forward perhaps take a look at Chandler. Either way, he's looking at a big payday in the offseason.

4. Arron Afflalo, SG, Denver

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Denver

    Why Break the Bank: Afflalo is having a career year in Denver, becoming a reliable starter on the offensive side. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he's developed a reputation this season for becoming a clutch shooter who knocks down game-winning daggers. But he's expected to earn himself a pay raise in the offseason.

    The bigger question might be, though, between Chandler, Afflalo and Nene, will there be anything left for J.R. Smith?

3. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis

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    Marc Serota/Getty Images

    Status after 2011: Restricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Memphis, New York, Miami, Dallas, Houston

    Why Break the Bank: Gasol is developing into a solid center like his brother, a low post finesse center who can score on the offensive end and hold his own on the defensive side. He's having a bit of a down year this year after breaking out last year, but he's an important young piece for the Grizzlies moving forward.

    With him and Zach Randolph both on the market, the Grizzlies might have to choose between one or the other. If that's the case, then expect the choice to be Gasol resoundingly. 

2. David West, PF, New Orleans

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Status after 2011: Early Termination Option

    Where He Would Fit: New Orleans, Houston, Oklahoma City

    Why Break the Bank: As Chad Ford of ESPN pointed out, if he decided to stay, he would probably be taking less than what he could get. But if he were to be on the open market, he would easily be one of the top five players on the market and could fetch a very attractive deal from a team looking for a power forward of his caliber. 

1. Zach Randolph, PF, Memphis

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    Status after 2011: Unrestricted Free Agent

    Where He Would Fit: Memphis, Houston, New Jersey

    Why Break the Bank: Randolph has character issues and he hasn't been able to stay in one place that long. But he's also extremely talented and averages 20 points and 10 boards a season like it's nothing. Frankly, I can't remember a player putting up those numbers who did it so under the radar like Randolph has, at least on the court anyway.

    His status will come down to whether or not the Grizzlies choose Marc Gasol as a priority rather than Randolph to re-sign. If he goes on the open market, he probably becomes the best free agent available. And considering the need for low post players, some team will take a chance on his skills and give him a big contract.