NBA Free Agency 2011: Jamal Crawford & the Top 10 Free Agents Who Will Move on
The NBA never really stops. It doesn't matter that we're currently in the playoffs; teams are already starting to fret about the top free agents, like Jamal Crawford, who could be leaving or arriving within a couple of months.
While there's certainly a lot of questions surrounding this offseason, due to a looming NFL-style work stoppage, that's a job for the owners and NBA players union reps to worry about.
NBA general managers just have to proceed as if it's business as usual.
The 2011 offseason will be much different than last year, as many of the biggest names already moved in 2010.
What GMs will find this season are the complementary pieces that can help round out a starting five or solidify their bench depth for the final push.
The names might not be flashy, but these 10 players will end up playing big roles in 2011. Chances are, it will be for a different team than in 2010.
NOTE: This list will be limited only to those players who are unrestricted free agents this summer. While restricted free agents can certainly field offers from other teams, it's more likely that their current franchises match the tender. We'll save predicting those scenarios for a different time...
Players Who WON'T Be Moving On...
Treat this as a "disclaimer" slide: While these players are technically unrestricted free agents this year, it's highly unlikely that they will be changing teams. The ties to their current squads are just too great to foresee them moving on...
Tim Duncan (PF), San Antonio Spurs
If you think that Tim Duncan will be leaving San Antonio, then I have plenty of Arizona ocean-front property that you might be interested in. Expect a short, reasonable contract that allows Duncan to end his career in San Antonio as a key frontcourt role player.
Caron Butler (SF) and Tyson Chandler (C), Dallas Mavericks
It might be hard to re-sign them both, but I think all parties are going to feel that there's unfinished business here. They'll figure out the numbers to make it work.
Nene Hilario (C), Denver Nuggets
With Carmelo Anthony gone, Nene is now the cornerstone of this franchise. With an intriguing core already assembled around him, the Nuggets will pay Nene accordingly.
Jeff Green (F), Boston Celtics
The Celtics have already drafted, traded away and now traded for this guy. He's seen as the heir apparent to either Paul Pierce or Kevin Garnett, depending on where they finally decide to play him.
Yao's apparently willing to become a role player and sign for a small fraction of his former price. That's good, because the Rockets love Chuck Hayes and will pay him to be the long-term starter.
Tayshaun Prince (SF)
Long a cornerstone of this franchise, Tayshaun Prince has started 94 percent of his 661 career games with the Detroit Pistons (and all but two of them since 2003).
His career averages are ridiculously stable: You know you're going to get 14 points on 46 percent FG and 37 percent three-point shooting, along with five boards, three assists and less than two turnovers per game. He's been doing all that, along with playing extremely solid defense (even if he doesn't generate a ton of steals and blocks), for nearly a decade.
Yet, he's only 31 years old and has shown no signs of slowing, even if his numbers were all slightly down for a bad Pistons team this year.
He won't be a star signing, but this is a guy who's been through the playoff wars through the first half of his career and has a championship ring to show for it.
The lanky forward has clearly tired of the Pistons' long-running decline and will look to sign with a legitimate playoff contender.
He may not be willing to accept a bench role and will probably feel he's worth near his current $11 million per year contract. That may be hard to justify, but Prince could be the third or fourth scoring option, while also the lead defender, for just about anybody in the league.
Potential Fit: Los Angeles Clippers
Andrei Kirilenko (F)
One of the most terrifying shot blockers and finishers in the league when he first entered the NBA during 2001, Andrei Kirilenko was subsequently overpaid by Utah and has been considered "overrated" ever since.
"AK-47" isn't going to make anywhere near the $17 million per year that he recently enjoyed. Still, he's a credible starting forward (at either spot) or sixth man, with career averages of around 12 points, five-and-a-half rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one-and-a-half steals per game.
He can still fill up the stat sheet on any given night and has become a respectable three-point shooter as well.
At the same time, he's got to be viewed as a key role player or rotation starter who will make a handful of mistakes to go along with all the "wow" plays he creates.
It's too bad that Utah can't keep him, but Kirilenko represents a bygone Jazz era now, and their frontcourt is already crowded with Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Al Jefferson. Utah needs shooting, and they've been waiting for this contract to expire for a while.
Still, once he's paid more reasonably, Kirilenko is going to become "underrated" pretty quickly again.
Potential Fit: New Jersey Nets
Kenyon Martin (PF)
Long robbed of his Shawn Kemp-like leaping ability, Kenyon Martin has been a shadow of his former self since 2006.
While the otherworldly athleticism is no longer there, Martin has remained a credible starter by improving his timing and touch around the basket, while also adding an awkward looking, yet reasonably reliable jump shot to his repertoire.
What's more, while Kenyon Martin's block and steal numbers dipped under one apiece per game for the first time in his career this season, he continues to be one of the better post defenders in the league. Somehow though, Martin has only averaged 10 rebounds per game once during his entire career.
Like Andrei Kirilenko, Martin's double-digit salary days are over. In fact, Denver has been waiting for K-Mart's $16-million-plus per year contract to expire for a while now.
Despite the much-anticipated and appreciated cap flexibility that this will bring, the Nuggets may still be interested in keeping Martin around as a quality frontcourt vet.
Should Kenyon prefer to test the market, he'll surely expand his options proportionate to the pay cut that he's willing to take. Either way, Denver's not going to pony up big dollars for Martin if someone else is silly enough to do so. Yet, they also might not be able to offer him championship guarantees, if that's what he's after.
As an 11-year player who's already made a ton of money, but is on the precipice of his career descent, Martin may just accept a small contract in return for playing with an upper-tier contender. As such, Kenyon Martin's a 50-50 shot to be wearing a different jersey next year.
Potential Fit: Boston Celtics
David West (PF) or Carl Landry (PF)
Prior to his recently-torn ACL tear, David West was seen as the franchise cornerstone opposite of point guard Chris Paul. While his career averages of under eight rebounds and one block per game along with his propensity for jump shots have always been a bit troubling, West's sweet-shooting 18-plus points per game over the past five seasons made him a coveted free agent heading into this summer.
Now, many wonder whether the league-owned Hornets will choose 75 percent of West's production at 50 percent of his price by retaining Carl Landry instead. Like Paul Millsap for the Utah Jazz, Landry is an undersized, high-energy forward who endears fans with his gutsy play and explosive dunks.
However, like Millsap, the jury is still out as to whether Carl Landry is an actual everyday starter in this league. He didn't inspire confidence when given the chance with Sacramento for the past season-and-a-half, he's even smaller than David West and he sometimes also fails to rebound or block shots at the optimal rate for a starting power forward.
Yet, because of Landry's ability to bolster the Hornets frontcourt, New Orleans swapping Marcus Thornton to Sacramento was one of 2010's smartest trades. However, Landry and West can't be on the floor together at the same time, both guys are looking to be starters and New Orleans might be forced to make a choice.
David West might be willing to stay with the Hornets for less, but I think other teams will be willing to overpay him more than they would Carl Landry. Thus, New Orleans will likely cut their costs and go with plan B. West goes and Landry stays.
Potential Fit: Orlando Magic
C.J. Miles (G/F)
One of this generation's last "preps to pros" selections, C.J. Miles has a been a polarizing figure ever since he set foot in Salt Lake City.
His athletic potential was evident from day one, but basketball immaturity kept C.J. Miles firmly in Jerry Sloan's doghouse during his first two seasons. After working his way into the starting lineup for 2008, Miles has since been asked to do too much for a team with few other wing options.
While bouncing to and from a bench role, Miles has proven to be a respectable shooter and exciting finisher, whose recent offensive numbers actually aren't that far off from somebody like Tayshaun Prince. He may not have the same defensive pedigree, but the fact that upside still exists here will make C.J. Miles a valid market alternative or reasonable consolation prize for those also interested in the Detroit forward.
While he can play either wing spot, Miles has difficulty guarding quick 2s. Still, he may eventually become a legitimate secondary scorer. Make no mistake about it though, while Miles is only 24 years old, interested teams should expect a credible bench contributor or supporting offensive option in the starting lineup.
They should not be signing Miles as a future superstar in the making.
I'm surprised that Utah hasn't shown more interest in Miles, as they need all the wing scoring they can get. Yet, Miles is another Jerry Sloan-era holdover who may get swept out by the house-cleaning that's looming in Salt Lake City.
Whether Utah tenders an offer or not, you can bet that C.J. Miles will have enough potential deals to choose from.
Potential Fit: Cleveland Cavaliers
Glen Davis (PF)
The problem is, as Glen Davis has grown up before our very eyes during the past four years with the Boston Celtics, he sometimes has failed to do just that.
The jovial post player has put together a nice résumé as a super-sub and spot-starter for Kevin Garnett, averaging 7.6 points and four rebounds for his career, along with career highs of 12 and six this past season. At the same time, while his shot selection and motor have improved, Davis is still prone to routine mental gaffes and disappointingly meek stretches of play.
Glen Davis initially had trouble getting shots off in the lane, finding out that his lack of height and lift couldn't be hidden as at LSU. Now however, Davis effectively plays the leverage and position game, along with loading up an improved mid-range jumper.
The Celtics face a timing problem in that they clearly have envisioned Glen Davis as Kevin Garnett's replacement. However, Davis is ready to get paid now, and it's unclear whether Boston will have the money or minutes to transition Davis into a starting role as soon as next season.
Glen Davis needs to play alongside a lanky, shot-blocking center, as he's incapable of protecting the rim. At the same time, Davis is sure to provide steady scoring and improved rebounding numbers, as long as he's not called on to do too much.
Boston seems to be one more year away from turning to Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green and Glen Davis as their core. Yet, as Davis is sure to command a pretty decent amount of interest out there, the Celtics might have to choose between their past and their future today.
Potential Fit: Indiana Pacers
Jason Richardson (G/F)
Jason Richardson was an inspired choice to replace Vince Carter in Orlando this year. At 80 percent of Carter's salary, Richardson was able to provide nearly identical shooting and finishing ability with only a fraction of the expectations and baggage.
Case in point: When Jason Richardson put up about 15 points and four rebounds per game, along with 38 percent 3-point shooting, it was seen as par for the course. When Carter put up similar numbers, it was seen as extremely disappointing.
J-Rich seemed a pretty good prospect to take a pay cut and remain in Orlando next year. That is, until he noticeably struggled during the Magic's current first round slugfest with the Atlanta Hawks.
Richardson's not going to make double-digit millions again, but the 30-year-old swingman will garner enough attention to make Orlando bid. With a shallow frontline probably warranting more attention, the Magic will have some difficult decisions to make.
The Magic don't need J-Rich for his shooting; they can replace that via increased minutes to J.J. Redick and Quentin Richardson. At the same time, even with Gilbert Arenas on board, Orlando doesn't have another slasher who can create his own shot and attack the rim in the same way that Jason Richardson does.
Orlando will search for a reasonably athletic (and younger) replacement, and since swingmen scorers are the easiest NBA commodity to come by, it's likely that Jason Richardson will be moving on.
Potential Fit: New Orleans Hornets
Grant Hill (G/F)
Grant Hill's career odyssey has taken him from being Air Jordan's heir apparent, to an expensive, injury-wracked cautionary fable, to an afterthought, to a cerebral role-player extraordinaire.
Many feel that Hill's injury-induced Orlando interlude offered respite from the high mileage he had been racking up with Detroit. Yet, one can't forget that, despite the fact his overall game odometer might be lower than the typical 16-year vet, Hill's maladies didn't just nearly end his career.
They almost ended his life.
That Grant Hill has become one of the league's most savvy defenders, while also morphing into one of it's most efficient tertiary offensive options (seriously, check out his shooting percentages), is truly a testament to both the physical gifts that made Hill a superstar more than a decade ago, as well as to the dedication that allowed him to earn a major role with the Phoenix Suns during the past four years.
Now, this elder statesman will turn 39 by the time next season starts, but his demand may be as high as it's ever been.
Many believe that Grant Hill's loyalty to both the Phoenix Suns and Steve Nash will keep him in the desert, but the offers are going to be fast and furious for Hill's veteran know-how and leadership abilities. That he could be just as effective as a fourth-wheel starter or key bench sub will only pique interest all the more.
Grant Hill doesn't have a ring yet. It will be interesting to see whether he ends his career with a rebuilding also-ran in Phoenix or seeks to add one final, championship chapter to his extraordinary tale.
Potential Fit: Oklahoma City Thunder
J.R. Smith (SG)
With Carmelo Anthony gone, it's been up to Nene Hilario and J.R. Smith to assume the mantle of "franchise faces." With both up for contracts this year, Denver has a lot of difficult choices ahead, even if getting Kenyon Martin's huge deal off the books helps a lot.
J.R. Smith's M.O. is pretty well known by now. The guy is a streak shooter, a quantity scorer, a ferocious finisher, a rangeless bomber, a ball dominator and an occasional headcase. He wore out his welcome with New Orleans during the early part of his career and has certainly given George Karl enough gray hairs while in Denver.
Yet, for all J.R. Smith's head-scratching foibles, he's the sort of wild card that few teams have up their sleeves. With 12 points, four rebounds, two assists and one steal per game on 39 percent three-point shooting off the bench this year, J.R.'s been all aces.
I certainly hope that J.R. Smith will stay with the Nuggets. He's a great fit for a franchise that needs him; his length pairs especially well with both of Denver's vertically challenged point guards.
At the same time, there's going to be a lot of money and a starting position thrown his way by more than one team this offseason. With Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton, Arron Afflalo and Wilson Chandler already in the backcourt mix, that might not be something the Nuggets can match.
Potential Fit: Charlotte Bobcats
Jamal Crawford (G)
Jamal Crawford has started a lot of games and put up a ton of points for a bunch of really bad teams during his career. Up until last season, he had never been to the playoffs and was starting to develop a reputation as an allegedly selfish player and career loser.
That all changed when Crawford arrived in Atlanta.
By coming off the bench, Jamal Crawford played nearly as many minutes, took almost as many shots, (and made noticeably more of them), while turning the ball over less. With credible threats like Joe Johnson and Josh Smith around him, Crawford remained a key for the offense without being the focal point for opposing defenses.
This resulted in a Sixth Man of the Year performance for the ages.
Yes, last year's 18 PPG average dipped to 14, while Crawford's shooting percentages declined a bit this season as well. However, his 24 PPG and 57 percent three-point shooting during the first four games of the 2011 playoffs have put this assassin back in the spotlight again.
Crawford's evisceration of the Orlando Magic couldn't have come at a better time. With his contract set to expire, Jamal Crawford again legitimized why he's been paid $10 million per year.
Yet, with each made three-pointer, Jamal Crawford might be pricing himself out of Atlanta, even as he helps them potentially realize their playoff hopes.
Jamal Crawford is 31 years old; he probably shouldn't be signed to a long-term deal. Yet, he's played long enough to prove that he can score and man both guard spots effectively during the same game.
Due to his defensive limitations, the jury is still out as to whether he should be an everyday starter or a lights-out closer. Unlike J.R. Smith, Crawford will struggle if playing alongside an especially diminutive point guard, (even though he is generously listed at 6'5").
However, teams that have a lot of shots available will get plenty of points and swagger from Jamal Crawford. Atlanta better have their wallets ready.
Potential Fit: Minnesota Timberwolves