NBA Free Agency 2011: Ray Allen and the 10 Best Sharpshooters on the Market
The NBA playoffs start Saturday. 16 teams will battle for what will likely be a five-horse race won by the experienced.
That leaves 25 remaining teams to look forward to the NBA Draft and the free agency period. Most general managers, whether in the playoffs or not, are already well-involved in the process and are anticipating any and all issues that need addressing.
Nobody is being duped by this free agency class. It will obviously pale to the summers its sandwiched between, especially with Carmelo Anthony receiving his payday a few months early.
But there are some shooters on the market.
Here's the best shooters of 2011's free agency class.
Marco Belinelli (Restrticted)
It's been a contract season for Marco Belinelli, a position he's taken supreme advantage of by putting up career numbers in scoring, rebounding and minutes.
He's also become a lethal threat from the field for a 24-year-old, shooting 41-percent from downtown and nearly 44 percent overall.
His 10 ppg aren't super impressive but he's doing it with less than 25 minutes of playing time and has shown tremendous potential to become yet another dead-eye European shooter.
The Mike Miller experiment in Miami is almost over and it's barely begun.
The Heat will know two things going into this summer: 1-their middle needs a serious upgrade; 2-Miller is expendable if they can acquire a big that isn't too old or athletic and inept.
Most likely the Heat will do some shopping this summer to dump the assigned parasitic presence of Miller to the Big Three and try to acquire a middle piece. That leaves a hole at the SG spot.
Enter Marco Belinelli.
Any shooter that can come off the bench will be hoping to join the Heat this summer, especially since Wade and James can handle the ball. Belinelli will be young, promising and--most importantly--cheaper than most.
One guy looking for a much bigger payday this summer is Shawne Williams. And he's going to get it…relatively speaking.
You see, Williams is one of the best story lines of the NBA all year. He's turned his life around and grown into bundles of potential.
Williams is a poor man's Trevor Ariza, and that's not an insult to Williams. Ariza is currently gulping down more than seven-times the amount of money from New Orleans than Williams is wringing from the Knicks finances.
The difference between their production is all in the minutes, Ariza getting more than 14 more per game. But Williams is the more efficient player and more versatile.
Williams can spread the floor, guard multiple position and he's got the youth to back it up. He's only 25-years-old.
Considering that Williams makes less than one million dollars for this year, anything is going to be serious upgrade. Add his outstanding length and talent, his agent's phone will explode this summer.
New York is going to have a hard time letting Williams go, especially since he would be a suitable backup for Carmelo Anthony. But the problem with New York is that they always want the bigger fish and will probably pursue something flashier. (Keep reading).
Then there is the distant (and getting closer) cousin of the Knicks, the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets or Whatevers. The desperation in New Jersey right now is palpable, not that they'd have to be desperate to pursue Williams.
But with all money lingering in New Jersey and no superstar showing willingness to go there, they may be forced to get some promising youth around the often-agitated Deron Williams whose contract and patience are ticking.
New Jersey could steal Williams (Shawne) with the power of the dollar this summer. We all know the Knicks could be pinching pennies for the next free agency class.
C.J. Miles (Team Option)
C.J. Miles is an enigma with upside.
He's one of the league's least consistent players. Either he's Deadeye Dick or he's Anthony Mason at the free throw line, chucking bricks and building houses.When he shoots, Jazz fans cover their eyes and watch through handmade scissored glasses.
But when Miles is hot, they don't blink. He's one of the smoothest shooting players in the league. Once he catches fire, pouring kerosene on him would be just as effective as water.
Unfortunately, he's mostly the former, chucking bricks and building houses.
The upside to Miles is that he just turned 24-years-young back in March and he's been in the league for six years. He knows Utah's system and is wrapping up a career season of nearly 13 ppg.
Utah's team-option on Miles is worth less than four million dollars, a cheap price to pay for a seventh-year veteran coming off a career season. Utah has also gone through some major changes this year and may want to minimize the personnel shifts with two lottery picks coming.
The price for Miles is right. Jazz fans are split. In the end, he will likely remain a Jazzman for at least one more year.
J.R. Smith's stock has dropped. The general consensus around the league is concern.
He was expected to be on the pathway to maturity this year but still appears in search of it. By the start of the 2011-2012 season he's already behind on most GMs' calendars by at least a full year.
He's still the shot-happy, me-first player that he has always been and he's failed to produce the way that George Karl would like. His inconsistency has been the most consistent part of his game despite shooting better from the field than he did last year.
But he's a kid, turning 26-years-old in September.
With all his problematic behavior and poor shot selection, nobody doubts that Smith has the potential to play, at times, some serious basketball where he elevates his game to unconscious mode and wows spectators with unending highlights.
Unfortunately for him and any coach asked to oversee him, Smith has two personalities. It is the absentminded and selfish Smith that dominates most games, while it is alter-ego--a superstar in the waiting--that emerges on occasion.
Let's go on a limb, a thin and lengthy limb.
The Boston Celtics have a soft spot for problematic egos who can play basketball and offer unique services.
Shaquille O'Neal is unfortunately more known for his off-the-court antics than his game anymore. Delonte West believes himself to be Antonio Banderas from Desperado. And Nate Robinson, recently traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder, was benched by Knicks coach and liberalist Mike D'Antoni for poor decisions but somehow found minutes with the C's in same season.
If Nate Robinson can be benched by D'Antoni during the regular year but find crucial minutes in the NBA Finals with Doc Rivers in a period of months, J.R. Smith will do just fine.
What makes the Celtics so unique is that Rivers only has to deal with the X's and O's of basketball. The personalities that dominate his locker room are basketball-oriented individuals that won't deal with whatever George Karl has had to deal with in Denver.
This could also be the wake-up call (or final snooze) for Smith to grow up and display the alter-ego more regularly.
Nick Young (Restricted)
Nick Young could very well be another Jamal Crawford or Jason Terry. He's a fiery shooting guard that can handle the ball and stroke it from just about anywhere.
He needs to learn to be a more efficient player and take better shots. But he's scoring almost 10-more points than last year. One thing at a time.
Young is having a career season in scoring and has showcased his potential in a way that should pay dividends this summer.
With the young core of John Wall, JaVale McGee and an incoming lottery pick, it'd be foolish to think that Washington will let the 25-year-old Young walk away from a 17.4 ppg year without a serious offer. And any other offer will probably be matched by the Wizards, too.
But the problem with Washington is that it gets in its own way.
The desire to win and play in brighter lights may supersede any offer the Wizards can conjure up.
The New Jersey Nets are full of promise right now for a Young-type player. He's guaranteed to be a primary option next to Brook Lopez and playing alongside one of the league's best point guards, Deron Williams.
What may be even more enticing is the move to Brooklyn where he could make a name for himself in an uncharted (sort of) city.
Season-ending surgery defined Caron Butler's year. And unfortunately for him, it will define his next contract, too.
Due to the nature of his injury, a torn right knee, the 31-year-old Butler wasn't able to showcase a full season under head coach Rick Carlisle and for owner Mark Cuban for the second straight year.
That doesn't bode well for a possible future in Dallas, a team who replaces talent around Dirk Nowitzki every summer.
First it was Michael Finley. Then Jerry Stackhouse. Then Josh Howard. Then Butler.
First was Steve Nash. Then Devin Harris. Now it's Jason Kidd and he has Rodrigue Beaubois closing the gap in his rear-view mirror.
You get the picture.
What team, besides Dallas, always pursues highly-athletic wing-players that can play multiple positions?
The Los Angeles Lakers.
Butler's age and smaller ego fit in better with the current Lakers than the 2004-2005 team he played with. It's an established group of guys, and he'd be asked to play a role smaller than his skill set suggests, leaving room for what makes the Lakers so dominant:
On any given night, Butler can go off and have a superstar-like evening. But with a potentially-bum knee, he'll have to accept a smaller paycheck and possibly a quieter role than he's accustomed.
L.A. would give him the opportunity to maximize his efficiency by relying on him less than any other team has in his career, and Butler could do it in a winning environment. Win-win.
The Atlanta Hawks have made their bed and there doesn't seem to be room for Jamal Crawford. The Hawks have over $57 million owed to only five players in 2011-12.
Laugh whenever you want if you think that Joe Johnson's $16 million payout for the year is worth 18.5 ppg. It's even more disgusting when you consider that he'll be making nearly $25 million in the 2015-16 season.
That's the same year he turns 35.
Whether the Hawks want to keep Crawford is irrelevant. Atlanta won't be able to pay for the laces on his Nike's, let alone the embroidered name on the back of the jersey to go alone with a weekly check. It's not in the cards--or in the cap, if you will.
But somebody is going to pay Crawford for his career services of 15 ppg.
The New York Knicks only have six guaranteed players for next season, and four of them combine to make less than $5 million next year. Of course Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony will balance that number nicely with their combined $37 million salaries.
The point is that New York has the coin to acquire Crawford. From the other end of it, Crawford thrives in high-octane offensive systems like Mike D'Antoni's loosey-goosey free-for-all.
And Crawford was a fan favorite from his four-plus seasons spent in the Big Apple. He could be the perfect complement to the one-two punch of Anthony and Stoudemire, especially off the bench.
Arron Afflalo (Restricted)
Believe it or not, Arron Afflalo may be the cream of the crop in this year's free agency when it comes to shooters and versatility.
With the ability to knock down shots, put the ball on the floor and defend multiple positions, Afflalo is an exceptional basketball player. He's not going to wow anybody but he makes minimal mistakes and is a do-it-all workhorse.
He's shooting nearly 50-percent from the field, 42-percent from downtown and 84-percent from the charity stripe.
Tom Thibodeau and the Chicago Bulls will be foaming at the mouth for Arron Afflalo this summer.
Not only is the UCLA guard a Thibodeau-type of player---able to defend, put the ball on the floor and knock down the freebies---but he may also be the long-term answer to defending the Miami Heat in this era of basketball.
The combination of Afflalo with Luol Deng will be any team's best option to slow down the LeBron James-Dwayne Wade duo.
Even though Chicago is at the tippie-top of the Eastern Conference and better than the Heat, don't think for one second that Bulls GM and deserved Executive of the Year Gar Forman isn't going to measure the weight of his team against Miami's in every summer for years to come.
Since being traded to the Orlando Magic, Jason Richardson's numbers have dropped off slightly but it's nothing too concerning.
Year in and year out Richardson consistently shoots nearly 45-percent from the field and 38-percent from beyond the arc. But that's hardly what makes J-Rich special.
He's one of the most versatile players on the wing in the NBA in terms of his role. He can be the catch-and-shoot type of player that goes long stretches without missing a shot. He can put the ball on the deck and finish at the rim with the best of them. And he's an all-hustle defender.
The soon-to-be 30-year-old will be a hot commodity this summer with a new CBA that will likely reduce his payout which is $14.5 million for this year.
The Orlando Magic would like to retain Jefferson, but with $74 million already on the payroll for 2011-12, it's going to be difficult to keep him.
Orlando has a plethora of outside shooters and a gaping hole in their middle to backup Dwight Howard. They may have to humbly bow out of the Richardson-bidding.
Plus, this will probably be Richardson's second-to-last contract before his career becomes a yearly evaluation. Without knowing the future of Dwight Howard's contract in 2012, it may be difficult for Richardson to choose Orlando.
Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks are going to look to replace Caron Butler this summer, and Richardson could more than fill his role. Even with their age Dallas is better built for an NBA championship than the Magic.
And Dirk Nowitzki is under contract until 2014. For right now, that's a better guarantee for Richardson's position than to return for possibly one more run with the Magic and years left on his deal.
Playing alongside a pass-first point guard like Jason Kidd, the all-around threat of Dirk Nowitzki, and a more structured Rick Carlisle offense would be a perfect fit for Jason Richardson.
Ray Allen (Player Option)
It's almost unbelievable that Ray Allen will be turning 36 in June, a number that usually leaves general managers hesitant to pull the trigger on any free agent.
But in Allen's case, he's only become more efficient with age. He's knocking down 44-percent from downtown and 49-percent from the floor overall this year--both career highs. And to top it off, he's still averaging over 36 minutes a night--good for twenty-fifth in the league.
Obviously not your typical over-the-hill player in a league getting younger and faster.
But with how well Allen takes care of himself and with his ability to play his catch-and-shoot game, Allen will see no shortage of possible suitors this summer.
Boston has home-court advantage here. Allen's player-option is worth $10 million, and with a new, more restrictive CBA looming, it's hard to believe that the market could guarantee him anything better. Plus, age never seems to be a factor with the Celtics, making Allen's decision much easier if he wishes to get paid and compete in the twilight of his career.
Expect Allen to be back playing for the Green Machine next year.