The NBA playoffs are well underway, but it’s never too early to start the discussion about every team’s needs and how they can fill those needs via free agency.
While some team necessities are greater and require more time to figure out than the offseason is willing to offer, most NBA teams are one quick fix away from raising the bar and eclipsing the season they had in 2010.
While the 2011 free agent class doesn’t offer the same excitement as previous years, it will nonetheless provide enough catalyst players to help spark their new team’s hope for the new season.
Here is a list of the top targets for each NBA team as they head into the summer looking for that ideal player to create a better team than the year before.
The Atlanta Hawks actually have a few options this summer in terms of free agent signings, but all of those options have one thing in common: Size.
I chose Dallas Maverick big man Tyson Chandler as the best option available to Atlanta this summer, but guys like Kenyon Martin, Nene and even Marc Gasol fit the bill for the Hawks too.
While Chandler is not a game-changing center, he will give the Hawks an immediate impact while also upping the play of role-players like Al Horford and Josh Smith.
The Hawks’ number one priority this offseason will be to retain Jamal Crawford, but if they find time in there to work on their frontcourt, then Chandler should be their man.
This was a tough decision seeing as the Boston Celtics head into the offseason with 10 free agents, nine unrestricted and only one restricted.
Out if the names like Carlos Arroyo, Glen Davis, Nenad Kristic, Shaquille O’Neal, Sasha Pavlovic, Von Wafer, Troy Murphy, Delonte West and Jeff Green (restricted), the only name that should be given a 100 percent chance of returning is that of Ray Allen.
It just wouldn’t look right if Allen weren’t wearing a green and white C’s jersey and besides that, with Boston’s cast of aging stars, they may want to give this crew one last shot at winning another title with the Big 3 still intact.
The Charlotte Bobcats are pretty much a team without an identity.
They lost Raymond Felton to free agency, traded away Gerald Wallace and Tyson Chandler while also signing draft-bust Kwame Brown.
The Bobcats don’t have a solid personality in the NBA, but the addition of Shane Battier could instantly change that.
Battier is an unrestricted free agent from Memphis and would provide a defensive boost to a team that already relies mostly on defense to push the ball down the court.
His court presence and intelligence, coupled with his dedication to the game and experience, would bode well in Charlotte as they look to become a permanent fixture in the NBA playoff picture.
With Michael Jordan long gone, the Chicago Bulls have been looking for an effective starting guard ever since.
Currently they’ve been trotting out Keith Bogans in the two-spot, but according to fans, the Bulls need an upgrade at guard that can deliver on a consistent basis.
Guys like J.R. Smith and Jamal Crawford could be good fits, but I see the best fit being Denver Nuggets’ guard Arron Afflalo.
Afflalo is a young, relatively cheap free agent who has shown that he can excel both on the defensive side of the ball and offensively.
The Bulls need a guard who can keep up with Derrick Rose—Afflalo shoots 50 percent from the field—and can also be a lock down defender, which Afflalo is.
Overall, Afflalo would be an interesting pick up for the surging Bulls.
Regardless of versatility, durability or even capability, the Cleveland Cavaliers need to make a splash in the free agent market in order to right the relationship with their fans.
Yao Ming and his extensive following in both Asia and the United States would be a perfect fit in Cleveland.
Despite averaging only 48 games per season the past five seasons, Yao could be the dominating court presence the Cavs' have needed ever since a certain someone took his talents to South Beach.
Yao has proven that he still possesses the high level of talent needed to perform in the NBA and who knows, maybe the Cavs will strike gold in 2011 with Yao’s reemergence as one of the better centers in the league.
Like Boston, the Dallas Mavericks and owner Mark Cuban need to worry about their own team and that begins by resigning Caron Butler.
The Mavs are looking like a pretty well built team with Dirk leading the way, and the resigning of Butler would continue their dominance of the Southwest.
Butler is an unrestricted free agent, so we will have many suitors after him, but the Mavs stand the best chance at signing the eight-year veteran out of UConn.
Butler’s length on the wing and 15-point average is something Dallas shouldn’t take for granted, and while there is already widespread interest in Butler, expect the Mavs to keep their team intact this summer.
There are a few options the Denver Nuggets can choose this summer.
They could resign J.R. Smith, but then also lose Nene and Kenyon Martin due to cap space limitations, or they could resign Nene and Martin while letting Smith walk to a different team.
I believe the latter will eventually pan out and if it does, the Nuggets will be on the lookout for a pure scorer to compensate for the loss of Smith’s scoring abilities.
Jason Richardson seems to make the most sense here, as his sole responsibility will be to create the open shot and hit it.
Scoring in bunches and providing a whole bunch of guaranteed points will be Richardson's new job under George Karl’s new, defensively-minded game plan in Denver.
Kenyon Martin is a physical, hard-working big man that would mesh well with the traditionally hard-nosed, tough style of play in Detroit.
Currently residing in Denver, Martin would be a defensive-minded center that could also produce enough points to make his presence felt on the offensive side of the ball as well.
Putting up decent enough numbers to be a consistent double-double threat, Martin’s makes his living on the boards and his physical mentality would be a great fit in the Motor City.
The Golden State Warriors are a fun team to watch as they play fast-tempo basketball with Monta Ellis leading the way, but they lack any real defensive prowess that could make them elite in the years to come.
Filling this void via free agency, the Warriors should look to sign Nene and his career-best 15 points and seven rebounds per game in 2010.
Nene is a force on the defensive end, but also possesses the capability to make a living offensively, making him a potential perfect fit in Oakland.
With Yao Ming more than likely out in Houston, the Rockets will need to find a replacement big man in the free agency pool this summer.
While guys like Nene, Tyson Chandler and even Kenyon Martin seem to headline the class of big men in 2011, the name Nazr Mohammed might be the better fit in Houston.
Mohammed has been blessed with great size and athleticism coming out of Kentucky in 1998 and his defense is something that has improved over the latter half of his career.
If Mohammed can put up somewhat decent numbers while in Houston, Rocket fans would be more than happy about their center situation once again.
Believe it or not, but the Indiana Pacers may actually be a playoff contender in the near future with the plan they've executed thus far.
With young pieces to build their team around in Danny Granger, Tyler Hansbrough, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison, the Pacers seem to be just one position away from creating an elite crew.
That one position is shooting guard, and it has been shifting between bench players but could be solidified by means of the 2011 free agency market.
Atlanta Hawks’ guard Jamal Crawford to Indiana would make great sense, as he is a proven scorer that can score in bunches and command a game if need be.
Team him up with Granger in 2011 and we’ll see some remarkable basketball played in Indianapolis once again.
With Blake Griffin leading the show in LA, the Clippers need one more piece to go with the chemistry Griffin, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Mo Williams have created—that guy is Tayshaun Prince.
While the Clippers don’t have much money coming off the books in 2011, they will need to make a splash in the free agent market that makes sense both economically and performance-wise.
Prince is a premier shooter that averaged over 14 points and 4 rebounds per game in 2010 and would be a good mesh to help mentor the new youth movement in LA.
While the Los Angeles Lakers magnificent depth provides them with many options off the bench and less of a need to sign a big-name free agent, their need to retain that depth should be a priority.
A major player coming off the bench was Shannon Brown, and his huge hops will surely be missed if LA decides not to resign him.
If Brown were to walk, he wouldn't be greatly missed at the shooting guard position, but Brown is a valuable asset to the bench that the Lakers must consider when sitting down to contract negotiations.
Seemingly a no-brainer for the Memphis Grizzlies is the proposal that they resign center Marc Gasol to a long-term deal.
As a restricted free agent this summer, Gasol figures to be a major player in the Grizzlies future endeavors, while slowly but surely making a name for himself other than Pau’s little brother.
The 7’1” center from Spain will need to continue putting up solid numbers like the figures he put up in 2010 if the Grizzlies want to be playoff contenders.
Despite literally just saying Marc Gasol should resign with the Grizzlies, I also believe that the Miami Heat should take a good run at acquiring his services this summer.
Gasol is the big man that the Heat lack among so many bright stars. Even if he can put up mediocre offensive numbers while playing a passable defense, he can still be a benefit to the Miami Heat.
We all know about Miami’s star power, now its just up to the front office to bring in vital role players to help create an all-around stellar squad, and it begins with signing Marc Gasol.
The Milwaukee Bucks play lock-down defense, but it’s their offense that needs a surge of power from time to time.
With the addition of Jason Richardson, the Bucks will get an efficient shooter that has the experience necessary to know when to take a game over offensively.
Teaming up with the Bucks’ leading scorer Brandon Jennings, Richardson’s presence would create a nice scoring duo that would dramatically up Milwaukee’s league-worst 91 points per game average.
With many of their positions set for the future in Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and Ricky Rubio—if he ever even makes it to Minnesota—the Timberwolves should be in the market for an all-around player ready to do what’s necessary for the team.
That guy is long-time Utah Jazz guard C.J. Miles and his all-around love for the game of basketball.
Miles is known for his hard-nosed demeanor and his heart, all making him a perfect candidate in the T-Wolves scheme for 2011.
From the way I see it, the New Jersey Nets have a need at the center position and the best center in the NBA is Dwight Howard.
He’s not a free agent yet, but I still think they should try trading for him.
But sticking to this articles topic, the Nets ideal free agent acquisition should be a big man.
There are plenty to choose from. Take your pick New Jersey.
In order for the New Orleans Hornets’ fans to be happy, the organization needs to keep their franchise player Chris Paul happy.
Doing so will take a lot of time and help, but it could be remedied if the Hornets sign Denver Nuggets guard J.R. Smith to team up with Paul in NOLA.
Smith is more than likely on his way out of Denver, so his next resting spot could be potentially New Orleans, teamed up with arguably the best point guard in the game.
The Hornets first order of business should be to keep the team in New Orleans at all costs. After that’s complete, go after a high-profile, all-around shooter like Smith.
Saying this, the New York Knicks would be wise to spend little this year, while setting their sights on next year.
While spending little in the offseason doesn’t sit well with fans of New York sports (just ask any Mets' fan), the Knicks should look to spend some cash on pivotal bench players in order to save money for 2012.
A high-energy guy like Matt Barnes would fit nicely in the dynamic in NY.
He would be a guy off the bench to give the starters a break, while also producing enough of a spark to legitimize his signing.
Can’t wait for 2012!
The Thunder really have something good going on in OKC.
They’ve created a team around two budding superstars in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant, while also bringing in key pieces to usher in more success.
I don’t think the Thunder should go out in this 2011 free agent class and spend just for the sake of spending.
They could go out and grab a big man, but Kendrick Perkins should be just fine and the fact that they won't be losing anyone to free agency until Westbrook is a restricted free agent in 2012 is another plus.
Overall, OKC has something good going on down there. Watch out, NBA world.
While there isn’t a whole lot to choose from, the Orlando Magic are in desperate need of a backup center to come in when the big fella needs a rest, is in foul trouble, or with the possibility that he won't return next year.
Tyson Chandler seems to fit the bill here, as he has been a decent surprise on the Mavericks and could jump right in for the Magic.
He’s got the starting experience to take over if Dwight leaves in 2012, while also providing enough as a backup in 2011 to become a practical signing for Orlando.
There is really not much to say about the Philadelphia 76ers because, from my point of view, they’ve fallen off the map since Iverson departed.
But I do know one thing, and that is that Doug Collins is a good enough coach to get this team back on track.
With some restricted free agents worth resigning in 2011, the 76ers should look to go after a big man this summer.
Though the pool is shallow, guys like Nene or Tyson Chandler would fit the bill to play in Philly.
As aging star Steve Nash continues to, well, age, the Phoenix Suns need to usher in a new era of basketball beginning with a concentration on defense.
Rendered as ‘defenseless’ during some points of the 2011 season, bringing in a big man like Nene to lock down the paint would prove beneficial to Phoenix.
Nene has an early termination clause in his contract with Denver, so if he chooses not to return to the Mile High City, after reading this article, you’ll see he has plenty of options for 2012, the Suns being one of them.
Greg Oden definitely seems like a draft bust, especially with the emergence of Kevin Durant, but it would be wise for the Portland Trailblazers to give the guy one more shot if only for the sake that his knees might be NBA-ready.
Oden has played through a dismal career in Portland, mainly serving the team on the injured reserves list, but being restricted free agent in 2011, Oden should be given one more shot to show the talent we all witnessed during his Ohio State days.
Many teams will be in on the Oden sweepstakes as well, so Portland will have to match any of those offers, but the chances of him teaming with stars Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge is a gamble Portland should take.
As you’ve seen by just looking at this slideshow, the market for a big man isn’t as deep in 2011 as we’ve seen in years past.
This being the case, the only free agent Sacramento should set their eyes on first, is retaining their center Samuel Dalembert.
Dalembert has come as a nice surprise to Kings’ fan, being a force both offensively, but more importantly defensively.
Being one of the more consistent starters at center in the league, the Kings best move this summer would be to resign Dalembert.
This may be the most obvious selection of the entire summer.
Tim Duncan is set to be a free agent in 2011 and from the looks of how their postseason is going so far, he’ll definitely be back next year with a chip on his shoulder.
Despite getting up there in years, Mr. Fundamental is still ferocious on the boards and can lockdown any opposing center like he’s still in his 20’s.
If the Spurs were wise, they’d quickly sign Duncan and then set their sights on some depth at the forward position to help back up Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner.
To be honest, the Raptors never really even crossed my mind when I first started thinking of teams and their ideal free agent signings.
Maybe it’s because I live as far opposite as you can get from Canada (Florida) or maybe because the Raptors are horrible (no offense), but it seems like they need a lot of rebuilding in order to get back on top.
They’ve got some decent names on their roster, Reggie Evans and Leandro Barbosa come to mind, but they need to work on their depth.
I don’t know, maybe you guys have some suggestion on who Toronto should bring in this summer.
Entering rebuilding mode after the departure of Deron Williams, the Utah Jazz will go into the 2011 summer looking to resign Andrei Kirilenko.
Kirilenko has played his entire career in a Jazz uniform and he should be considered the biggest priority for Utah this offseason.
Kirilenko averaged over 11 points, five rebounds and one block per game in 2010, useful stats the Jazz won't be able to get outside the organization if they let AK47 walk.
Consistently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards have some nice young pieces that could flourish very soon.
Guys like John Wall, JaVale McGee and Nick Young all look very promising, but they need some help at the big man position.
Despite playing with four big men on their depth chart, none offer the veteran experience to help mentor any of their young players.
Someone like Nene, Chandler or even Kurt Thomas from Chicago would fit nicely in DC in 2011.