NBA Free Agents 2011: The 5 Most Attractive Destinations for Yao Ming

Christopher HowlandCorrespondent IIIMay 13, 2011

NBA Free Agents 2011: The 5 Most Attractive Destinations for Yao Ming

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 26:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets looks on during their opening night game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on October 26, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agre
    Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Setting aside the possibility of an NBA lockout in 2011, one of the more interesting free agents on the market is former Houston Rockets center Yao Ming.

    Despite not playing a full season since his 2004-2005 campaign, according to Yao, he is still capable of being an All-Star center when healthy.

    Playing on achy ankles, the seven-footer is never one to be overcome by his body’s breakdown.

    “It’s never an end,” Yao told Jonathan Feigen. “Even when it’s an end, it’s a new start, a new beginning.”

    Interpret that quote as you must, but what I get from it is the fact that Yao still wants to play and he knows he is capable of playing at a high level.

    With the increasing possibility that there will be a Yao sighting in 2011, here are the five most attractive destinations for Yao Ming to land next season.

Los Angeles Clippers

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    LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 07:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets battles for position with Chris Kaman #35 of the Los Angeles Clippers on November 7, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Rockets won 92-83.  NOTE TO USER: User express
    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    Averaging over 20 points per game three times in his career and over 10 rebounds per game only twice, Yao Ming still believes he has something left in the tank, saying, “I’ll try continuing, [but] a lot will depend on this foot.”

    Yao’s foot injuries have been well documented, but analyzing the Los Angeles Clippers’ center situation, Yao may be the guy they need for the next couple of years.

    Third-year starter DeAndre Jordan is averaging seven points and seven rebounds per game while splitting time with injury-prone Chris Kaman in the Clippers frontcourt.

    Bringing in Yao’s 19-point and nine-rebound career average would be a considerable upgrade at the center position, so much so that the Clippers brass already considered dealing for the big man at the 2010 NBA trade deadline.

    In a deal that sent Baron Davis to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon, Clippers execs were at first considering trading Davis to the Rockets for Yao Ming.

    This time around, the Clippers can get their guy via free agency.

Cleveland Cavaliers

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    LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 13:  Lebron James #23 from the Cleveland Cavaliers of the Rookie Team tips off against Yao Ming #11 from the Houston Rockets of the Sophomore Team during the Got Milk? Rookie Challenge, part of the 53rd NBA All-Star weekend at the S
    Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

    The Cleveland Cavaliers have done it before, and I believe they’ll do it again.

    They brought in Shaq to bring some positive PR to the city of Cleveland and now it’s Yao and his extensive Chinese following to do the same.

    Despite the questions surrounding his versatility, durability or even capability, Yao has proven he can still compete at a high level and Cleveland may be the perfect place for him in 2011.

    The Cavs have been under the radar since their franchise player took his talents to South Beach, so now it’s time for them to get back on the map via Yao Ming.

    With a strong emergence of Yao in Cleveland, the Cavs could potentially strike gold and surprise a few people in 2011.

Golden State Warriors

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    OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 12:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets shoots over Anthony Randolph #4 and Rob Kurz #31 of the Golden State Warriors during an NBA game on December 12, 2008 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly ackn
    Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

    “When you’re looking at what you can do to get better, you have to consider the possibility of what an injured player today might be able to do when he returns.”

    This is Golden State Warriors GM Larry Riley take on the free-agent market and what a currently injured player could bring to his Warrior team.

    You’ve got to think Riley will try to right the ship via the 2010 NBA draft, but if that can’t get the job done, it’s no secret Riley will look elsewhere including free agency.

    “It’s not a secret. We have either got to get the players we have to play better in and around the basket, or we have to get somebody else,” Riley told the San Francisco Chronicle. “That’s really where we are, so I might as well say it.” 

    Unrestricted free agent Yao Ming may be just what the doctor ordered for the Golden State Warriors and while team executives can’t exactly state who they are targeting, a healthy Yao could be the remedy in Oakland.

Washington Wizards

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    WASHINGTON - JANUARY 13:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets shoots over Brendan Haywood #33 of the Washington Wizards during NBA action at the MCI Center on January 13, 2004 in Washington, DC.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that b
    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    The last time Yao Ming saw the Washington Wizards on the court, he left in the first quarter after straining a tendon in his leg and then rookie John Wall popped off for his first professional triple-double with 19 points, 13 assists and 10 rebounds.

    Yao and Wall could be on the same court again, but this time for the same team.

    Consistently at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, Yao to Washington would be a great asset to go along with the Wizards' young pieces in Wall, JaVale McGee and Nick Young.

    A veteran presence like Yao would help the Wizards’ young big men get better acclimated to the game while watching one of the better big men at work.

    Surrounded by promising young stars, Yao would be a great fit in Washington in 2011.

Toronto Raptors

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    OAKLAND, CA - NOVEMBER 29:  Yao Ming #11 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a call during the first half against the Golden State Warriors  November 29, 2007 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

    Despite the popular belief in Toronto that Andrea Bargnani is the answer to help the Raptors become a dominant team in the paint, his lack of effective rebounding and post skills make the Raptors become viable candidates for the services of Yao Ming.

    Averaging a little over five rebounds and less than one block per game in 2010, Bargnani could use a veteran presence off the bench to help shore up his big-man skills.

    Yao’s strengths include his sheer size, standing at 7’6”, and a wingspan that is beyond amazing.

    He possess a polished hook shot from the right box and uses a strong baseline move to attack the basket, all characteristics that Toronto is looking for in their next big man.

    Creating a fresh new outlook in a culturally diverse city, Yao’s signing would be a great medium-risk, high-reward deal for the city of Toronto.