NBA Free Agency 2011: 10 Surprising Free Agents Who Could Hit the Market

Jim MancariCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2011

NBA Free Agency 2011: 10 Surprising Free Agents Who Could Hit the Market

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    With the NBA season nearing its close, 16 teams are gearing up for a playoff run.

    However, the other teams—as well as those in the playoffs—are searching for ways to improve their team during the offseason.

    One way to do that is through free agency, and this year’s crop includes some talented players.

    Though teams will work hard to keep these players, here are 10 surprising free agents who may call somewhere else home for the 2011-2012 season.

10. Nene Hilario, C, Denver Nuggets

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    Nene Hilario has emerged as one of the leaders of the Denver Nuggets since the Carmelo Anthony trade.

    The Nuggets have been one of the hottest teams in the NBA over the last month as they gear up for a playoff run.

    Nene has averaged a career-high 14.9 points per game this season.

    He has an early termination option on his contract, but based on his play, it would be puzzling for the Nuggets to exercise it.

    Nene would be snatched up instantaneously if he became a free agent.

    Depending on the direction the Nuggets plan on heading, Nene may or may not be part of Denver’s future.

9. Mike Dunleavy, G, Indiana Pacers

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    Mike Dunleavy has settled in nicely with the Indiana Pacers since being acquired during the 2006-2007 season.

    He is one of few veteran presences on a young team that is fighting to keep their hold on the eighth-seed in the Eastern Conference.

    Dunleavy has had injury troubles throughout his career and is now 30 years old.

    He has never won a championship in his eight-year career, so he may opt to play for a team that can get him a ring as his career winds down.

    Though they have improved significantly, the Pacers aren’t that team.

8. Michael Redd, G, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Michael Redd was once considered the most underrated player in the NBA after six consecutive seasons of averaging over 21.0 points per game.

    However, Redd has only played in 51 games the last three seasons, including not appearing in a single game this year.

    Redd is now 31, and the Bucks appear to be going through a youth movement.

    When healthy, he is still the face of the franchise, so it will be interesting to see how Milwaukee handles the situation.

    If the Bucks’ patience runs out, Redd will likely hit the open market.

7. Tayshaun Prince, F, Detroit Pistons

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    Tayshaun Prince was once the fifth option on a Detroit Pistons’ team that included Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace, Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups.

    However, the Pistons are now Prince’s team.

    He’s averaged 14.3 points per game for a team that has struggled to score all season.

    He makes this list because it would be surprising if the Pistons let Prince go. He is a strong veteran presence that has playoff experience.

    However, Prince could benefit a contender looking to fill a void at the small forward position.

6. Yao Ming, C, Houston Rockets

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    Yao Ming was finally poised to return from his injury troubles prior to this season.

    He scored in double figures in three of his first five games. However, those wound up being his only five games as he was sidelined for the season with a stress fracture in his left ankle.

    The injury may last deep into the offseason, which would put the Houston Rockets in a tough bind.

    If there are any prospects of a healthy return, the Rockets would likely keep their prized possession.

    If the Rockets cut ties with Yao, would there be a team willing to take a gamble on the oft-injured center?

5. Kris Humphries, F, New Jersey Nets

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    If it wasn’t for Kevin Love, Kris Humphries would be a shoe-in for Comeback Player of the Year.

    Humphries has averaged a double-double for the New Jersey Nets this season and has played with passion and energy unmatched by most players.

    Under new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets have their eyes set on some big-time free agents as they prepare for their move to Brooklyn.

    Though Humphries has earned his spot, will the Nets sacrifice Humphries for a Dwight Howard-type player?

    If so, Humphries becomes arguably the best two-way player available via free agency.

4. Tyson Chandler, C, Dallas Mavericks

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    Tyson Chandler has teamed up well with Dirk Nowitzki this season for the Dallas Mavericks.

    He’s averaged 10.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game as the Mavericks attempt to make a deep postseason run.

    After bouncing around to three different teams during his first nine years, Chandler seems to have found a home in Dallas.

    However, the Mavericks have several key free agents that they would like to hold onto this offseason.

    While Chandler appears to headline that list, Dallas can opt to pass on Chandler, making him a hot commodity among teams in need of a dominant force in the paint.

3. David West, F, New Orleans Hornets

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    Like Nene, David West has an early termination option.

    He declined the Hornets’ offer of a contract extension, and the recent acquisition of Carl Landry means New Orleans is ready to move on without their co-captain.

    West will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL, which puts his free agent status in question.

    Will the Hornets give a pass to their co-captain and bring him back for less, assuming no other team wants to take the gamble?

    He should have accepted the contract extension when he had the chance.

2. Tim Duncan, F, San Antonio Spurs

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    It’s very difficult to imagine the San Antonio Spurs without Tim Duncan.

    He has been the rock for the franchise for the past decade and has led the Spurs to four NBA championships.

    However, this year it seems apparent that Duncan’s age is catching up with him a bit.

    He’s averaged a career-low 13.3 points per game. Gregg Popovich has had the luxury of resting Duncan late in games which could be a contributing factor to the decline in points.

    Duncan seemed primed for another deep playoff run, but a sprained ankle has sidelined him this past week. There is no timetable yet for his return.

    DeJuan Blair has emerged as a threat down low, but there would be no replacing Duncan.

    The playoffs may decide if the Spurs re-sign their superstar or move on without him.

1. Ray Allen, G, Boston Celtics

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    Ray Allen has been a fixture in the Boston Celtics’ “Big Three” for the past few seasons.

    With the emergence of point guard Rajon Rondo, the “Big Four” have become even more prevalent.

    This season, Allen passed Reggie Miller with the most three-point field goals in history. The Celtics will rely on Allen’s outside shooting if they plan on making a run to the NBA Finals.

    He may be 35, but he has shown flashes of brilliance in big spots this season.

    Depending on what direction the Celtics are heading, Allen may become available.

    The Celtics have the explosive Jeff Green—a restricted free agent—who is worthy of a starter’s role. Green could slide into the small forward spot with Paul Pierce filling in at shooting guard.

    I’m not saying the Celtics should do this, but if they do, Allen would a top free-agent target.

    He’s proven he can still light up the basket from downtown, and would therefore draw much attention.