NBA Free Agents 2011: The Complete Free Agency Best Destination Guide
The 2011 NBA free agent class doesn't have the same gusto that the 2010 crop possessed, but that doesn't mean teams can't improve their rosters.
There are a number of very promising talents available, and with several teams enduring disappointing ends to the season, it wouldn't be surprising to see some familiar names wind up in surprising places next year.
This isn't a predictive list as to where the top 25 will land, but rather where each should sign in order to maximize their value and strengthen the overall performance of their new team.
You'll be shocked to see where some of your favorite players could have their impact felt most.
25. Glen Davis: L.A. Lakers
Both Doc Rivers and Danny Ainge have already stated they're not going to overspend in an attempt to retain Big Baby, and it's almost certain he'll generate plenty of interest on the open market.
Even though he's coming from the team's nemesis, Davis would be a natural fit in the Lakers' second unit and would provide both youth and depth along a front line that leaned heavily on Bynum, Gasol and Odom for the duration of the year.
He might have to prove his allegiance, but his gritty style of play underneath the basket and willingness to get knocked down are two elements this Lakers team sorely needs.
24. Shane Battier: Memphis Grizzlies
If Shane Battier wanted to run for mayor in Memphis, I have almost no doubt he'd win in a landslide—that's how popular he is there.
After being traded back to the Grizzlies from Houston at the deadline, Battier provided veteran leadership, stability and very sound defense to a team that needed exactly that.
A key contributor to the team's magical postseason run, Battier should be welcomed back with open arms as an integral cog off of the bench and should serve as very sound insurance for Rudy Gay.
23. Tracy McGrady: Minnesota Timberwolves
T-Mac showed flashes of his old self during the 2010-11 regular season, and now that he's healthier than he's been over the last few years, it wouldn't be surprising to see interest in the veteran pick up.
While he's probably going to have to prove his health is for real with another one-year deal, McGrady would be an ideal fit in Minnesota, where he could play shooting guard (and help to man the point) in a lineup that is without a true 2-guard.
If the team brought in McGrady and paired him with Kevin Love, Michael Beasley and potentially Ricky Rubio, suddenly the team's lineup wouldn't be something to sneeze at.
22. J.R. Smith: Chicago Bulls
It's become abundantly clear J.R. Smith has worn out his welcome with the Nuggets, and it'd be in the best interest of both parties if he were to take his talents elsewhere.
After Chicago was bounced from the postseason at the hands of the Miami Heat, the team will look to upgrade its major area of weakness of shooting guard depth during the offseason.
They almost acquired some help at the deadline, but now the team will be able to use free agency to lure Smith, who can blow by his defender to the rack or drain the three-point shot right on top of his head.
And as far as his coachability is concerned, Tom Thibodeau would have him under control without a problem.
21. Grant Hill: Phoenix Suns
Grant Hill has revitalized his career in Phoenix, and despite his solid play, coupled with his impending free agency, it doesn't sound like he's too interested in testing the market.
Both the Suns and the veteran swingman have stated their mutual interest in staying together beyond this season, so it shouldn't take long to get a deal done once the free agency period begins.
Although he's already 38 years old, Hill's age hasn't slowed him down a bit, and he should continue to be an integral piece of a new-look Suns team for the next couple seasons.
20. Marcus Thornton: Sacramento Kings
Marcus Thornton spent much of the first part of the season last year on the bench in New Orleans until he was dealt to the Kings at the deadline.
It appears as if he has found his home in Sacramento, as Thornton was nothing short of dynamic during his brief tenure with the club. Scoring 20-plus points almost nightly, the shooting guard was draining threes and providing the team with exciting, prolific production every minute he spent on the hardwood.
Although the backcourt could be a little crowded next season, I'd expect Thornton to re-up with the Kings and continue to be one of the game's most underrated volume scorers.
19. Andrei Kirilenko: Atlanta Hawks
Andrei Kirilenko has seemingly worn out his welcome with a Jazz club that has been overpaying him for far too long, but his unique skill set is certainly going to be valued highly by others.
Although the Hawks have Marvin Williams in the fold, AK-47 is a definitive upgrade in the startling lineup over the incumbent, and on a front line that already includes Josh Smith, the team could really wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor.
Kirilenko could play his game to perfection down South, and the team could move Williams into a sixth man role, assuming they don't re-sign Jamal Crawford.
18. Aaron Brooks: Golden State Warriors
Perhaps no player in the entire league has seen his stock drop as fast or as far as Aaron Brooks.
After beginning last season on a sour note before getting injured, Brooks returned to a Rockets team that didn't need him anymore with the breakout play of Kyle Lowry. He found himself in Phoenix after the trade deadline, only to be buried on the bench behind Steve Nash.
If the Warriors decide to break up the tandem of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, Brooks would be a natural fit in an up-tempo style of offense that would play to the strengths of his game perfectly.
17. Samuel Dalembert: New York Knicks
This has been a hot rumor since the Knicks' season ended, and unlike some others, this is one that could gain some legitimate traction.
It's not a secret New York is desperate for a true center, and while many seem to be plugging Marc Gasol into the team's starting five next season, they have no cap space to meet the lucrative demands he'll surely be seeking.
Dalembert needs to rebuild his stock around the league after sporadic playing time in Sacramento, and he'd have a great chance to really shine with the Knicks and prove he's got plenty left in the tank.
16. Thaddeus Young: Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder might have traded Jeff Green at the deadline this season, but it's clear they really missed his presence as the playoffs progressed.
Although the team has Durant to man the 3, Young's superior athleticism and dynamic playmaking ability for someone of his size allow him to play a variety of positions on the floor. He'd be a great choice to anchor the second unit, assuming that James Harden slides into the starting five.
There's going to be a boatload of interest in the soon-to-be 23-year-old player, and he hasn't even begun to scrape the ceiling of his sky-high potential.
15. Wilson Chandler: Houston Rockets
After the Nuggets acquired Chandler as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade last season, many automatically assumed he'd re-sign with the team at season's end as a key part of the future.
But as the season progressed, Chandler's star began to fade quite a bit. He looked like he was on the verge of a full-fledged breakout at the beginning of the campaign, but his numbers actually regressed fairly significantly by the end of the year.
The Nuggets won't be looking to overpay him considering the plethora of depth on the roster, and the Rockets desperately need a versatile small forward capable of either starting or coming off of the bench with the jury still out on Chase Budinger's abilities.
14. Kris Humphries: Phoenix Suns
The New Jersey Nets have already called re-signing Humphries a priority, but there are going to be a laundry list of teams entering the offseason with the same attitude about the big man.
After a surprising campaign that saw him break out as a legitimate starter—and Kim Kardashian's husband-to-be—Humps is about to get paid in a big way, and if the Nets are serious about keeping Deron Williams in town, they can't afford to lavishly spend on the power forward.
Phoenix is in desperate need of a long-term power forward to play the athletic game alongside Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat, and Humphries would fit the billing ideally.
13. DeAndre Jordan: Portland Trail Blazers
Jordan finally showed flashes of his potential in 2010-11, looking like a beast of a man in the middle during portions of the season with Chris Kaman sidelined.
Although DeAndre will battle inconsistency from time to time in his young career, his extraordinary athleticism, combined with his impressive size and shot-blocking skills, are sure to intrigue any team looking for a center of the future.
For the Blazers, Jordan would solve the big man woes in the middle and provide a very solid reason as to why the franchise should cut ties and move on from the Greg Oden era.
12. Caron Butler: Los Angeles Clippers
Butler will almost certainly have to take a short-term deal and prove his worth after coming off major reconstructive knee surgery, and the Clippers can provide him with exactly that.
The team isn't ready to hand the full-time starting reigns to Al-Farouq Aminu quite yet, and Butler would be a perfect stop-gap solution. His abilities to score and defend align perfectly with the Clippers' needs, and Butler should be ecstatic at the opportunity to play alongside a rapidly improving core of talent led by Blake Griffin.
Although it may take a slight overpay to lure him to Los Angeles, the Clippers would be wise to put a team on the floor that can compete both now and long-term. Plus, they could always flip him at the deadline to a contender if they're not making waves of their own.
11. Rodney Stuckey: Toronto Raptors
I have absolutely no idea why the Pistons have been so hesitant to commit to Rodney Stuckey as their future, but players aren't so quick to forget that kind of thing.
With the Raptors looking to turn the page from Jose Calderon, Stuckey would provide a new style of play for a team that really needs to blow it up and rebuild from the ground up.
Stuckey, along with DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, would help to serve as the infrastructure for a very different Toronto team. His ability to penetrate and get to the rim would be greatly appreciated by the fans who have endured Calderon's tenderness for far too long.
10. Nick Young: Boston Celtics
The Wizards have two selections in the top 20 picks of the upcoming NBA draft, and with the breakout play that the team received from SG Jordan Crawford last season, it's unlikely they're going to shell out the big bucks to retain Nick Young.
Although someone might come along with a very generous offer, the Celtics could offer Young the mid-level exception and a chance to play for a ring, something he's never even come close to during his professional tenure thus far.
Young would be a dynamic scorer to anchor the second unit, and it's clear the Celtics need a scoring threat off the bench after they looked like a bunch of scrubs by season's end.
9. Jeff Green: Charlotte Bobcats
Danny Ainge is going to do his best to retain Jeff Green in the fold, but the Celtics would be foolish to get into a bidding war over his services.
The Bobcats have been in need of a scorer for far too long, and Green could go to Charlotte to serve as the secondary option in the offense behind captain Stephen Jackson.
With Gerald Henderson coming off hip surgery, Green would be a perfect piece to the puzzle at the 3 spot, which would allow Jackson to continue playing the 2 where he appeared very comfortable last season.
8. Tayshaun Prince: Washington Wizards
Tayshaun Prince is one of the league's most versatile players, but his incredibly unique skills were lost in the madness that was the Detroit Pistons last season.
It's almost a guarantee Prince will be playing elsewhere when next season begins, and with the Wiz already having four of their starting five in place, Prince would fill the void the team needs at small forward beautifully.
He's not someone who will look to pad his individual stats, but rather he'll play for the betterment of the team, and that's exactly the type of veteran Washington needs amidst a young group of untested talent.
7. Tyson Chandler: Dallas Mavericks
When Chandler was acquired by the Mavericks before the start of the season, many simply brushed it off as a non-impact move the team made in an effort to fend off the Lakers.
But now it's looking like a whole lot more than just that. Chandler's health finally held up, and he superseded all expectations anyone held for him. There's no doubt his presence in the key has been a driving force behind the Mavs' unexpected success.
Although he will have the chance to play for any number of teams next year, Chandler would be insane to even consider leaving Dallas when they're coming off an appearance in the Finals and have already expressed the desire to bring him back.
6. Jamal Crawford: Indiana Pacers
Crawford played out of his mind this season for the Hawks, and although he's expressed an interest in returning, he may have very well priced himself out of the team's market.
For the Pacers, Crawford would be the scoring punch the team needs in its second unit to continue building on the success they found last season.
Indiana could also offer Crawford a chance to start if they feel Paul George is a better fit coming off the bench, but regardless of his role with the team, Crawford would be an excellent veteran leader on a youthful Indiana squad.
5. Jason Richardson: Denver Nuggets
J-Rich is unlikely to be retained by the Orlando Magic after being dealt to them last season, but there certainly won't be a shortage of interest in the veteran around the league.
If Denver does decide to let Wilson Chandler depart, Richardson would be an excellent candidate to start at the 2-guard alongside Ty Lawson and would offer more than Chandler did at any point during his time with the team.
An incredibly prolific scorer throughout his career, Richardson is the type of veteran George Karl would love to have on his side and would serve to facilitate the building of a brand new team identity.
4. David West: Detroit Pistons
After David West tore his ACL near the conclusion of the regular season, his chances of securing a lucrative long-term deal were reduced dramatically as a result.
But fortunately for the power forward, last year wasn't his first rodeo. West's impressive body of work speaks for itself, and although he's one of the more underappreciated players in the game, he has been among the top-tier producers for the Hornets on a consistent basis.
Detroit is another team that desperately needs to experience an overhaul on the roster, and pairing West down low alongside promising youngster Greg Monroe would already be leaps and bounds better than anybody the team threw out there last year.
3. Tim Duncan: San Antonio Spurs
Could you really imagine this guy playing for any other team?
Duncan has served as the face of the San Antonio franchise since his days at Wake Forest, and that's unlikely to change this offseason despite a down year. But at age 35 and with balky knees underneath him, the team needs to find an eventual heir to the throne sooner rather than later.
While Duncan might receive more lucrative offers and a chance to take his Hall of Fame career to another team, it's awfully hard to imagine him leaving the place where he helped build a dynasty.
2. Nene Hilario: Houston Rockets
Although there were some reports during the season that Nene and the Nuggets were closing in on an extension, it appears those negotiations have cooled quite a bit.
Now the Brazilian is gearing up to enter free agency in the prime of his career, and there will be a number of teams interested in one of the best available players on the market. An excellent defender and high-percentage shooter, Nene's skills are often gone unheralded for reasons beyond my comprehension.
In Houston, he'd mark the definitive turning point from the Yao Ming era, and if the team could net both him and Denver teammate Wilson Chandler, they'd be in very good shape entering next season in a stacked Western Conference.
1. Marc Gasol: Philadelphia 76ers
The Grizzlies gave Rudy Gay a max contract before the beginning of last season, locked up Mike Conley for $45 million during the campaign and then agreed on a $71 million extension for Zach Randolph during their playoff run.
Will there be any money left to pay Gasol?
The team has largely exhausted its funds this season, and for good measure, considering it was their best squad in the history of the franchise. However, after every other team in the league watched the blossoming of Marc's game in the postseason, there is going to be heavy interest in the premiere free agent talent available.
Philadelphia head coach Doug Collins has already identified the front line as an area the team needs to improve upon, but their signing of Gasol is contingent upon the team moving one of its heavier contracts.
If the Sixers can find a trade to their liking for SF Andre Iguodala, they could have enough money freed up to retain Thaddeus Young and sign Gasol to man the middle.
I wonder if they serve Philly cheesesteaks in Barcelona.