NBA Free Agents 2011: 1 Player Each Team Should Consider Signing
The 2011 NBA free agency period is approaching rapidly, as only a month remains until players are allowed to sign contracts with the teams they choose.
This year's free agent class isn't loaded with elite talent by any means, but some of the athletes without teams could be the type of second-tier stars to make a difference in the postseason.
The players that highlight the unrestricted list this season are Tyson Chandler, David West, Caron Butler and Jamal Crawford. Each of these players have proved their worth to their current teams and are at an age where a large, long-term contract wouldn't be a far-fetched idea.
Before the free agency gates open up, the 2011 NBA draft will take place on June 23. This will be the initial place that teams can use to fill the empty voids on their roster. Once the draft is over, teams can fully turn their attentions toward free agency.
Here's one player that each team could take a long look at, organized alphabetically by the team's city.
Atlanta Hawks: Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler is one of the few players still playing this year.
His Dallas Mavericks are currently taking part in the NBA Finals, showing how much interior strength Chandler has provided to the team. Chandler is a double-double guy that can block shots in the post.
If the Atlanta Hawks want to become a playoff contender, they need to add more strength inside. Signing Chandler will allow the Hawks to move Al Horford over to power forward, a position he's more comfortable at.
The Hawks have been an impressive regular season team, but they need to make the next step before their core players get too old.
Boston Celtics: Tyson Chandler
Every team isn't going to target Chandler, but it just so happens that the first two teams on my list should.
The Boston Celtics look extremely vulnerable in the paint since sending Kendrick Perkins to Oklahoma City. Shaquille O'Neal's lingering injuries gave the Celtics fits and they need a strong option inside.
Chandler may be hard to pry from the Mavericks—especially if they win a title—but he's the type of player to throw some money at.
Charlotte Bobcats: Tayshaun Prince
When the Detroit Pistons were regularly contending for titles a few years back, Tayshaun Prince may have been the most under-appreciated player in the NBA.
Now, the Pistons are struggling to string a pair of wins together, and Prince should be looking for a one-way ticket out of Detroit. Prince is a do-it-all player with amazing length and a good motor. Fans may not recognize him as a team's best player, because he doesn't necessarily fill up the stat sheet.
The Charlotte Bobcats might be looking for a replacement at small forward for Gerald Wallace. Prince could be a good fit. He may not have the incredible athleticism of Wallace, but his unselfish style of play wouldn't clash with Stephen Jackson.
Chicago Bulls: J.R. Smith
The Chicago Bulls learned something this offseason: you can't win a title without a shooting guard that can score.
A possible remedy for the Bulls is J.R. Smith, one of the most gifted scorers in the game today. He may be streaky, but when he's on his game, he's pretty close to unstoppable. Smith provides a good blend of athleticism to reach the rim and a shooting touch, although he can be a lazy defender.
The Bulls need someone paired up in the backcourt with Derrick Rose who can score when called upon. With the open shots that Rose can provide Smith, his streaky scoring may become more consistent.
If it's not Smith, the Bulls could target Jamal Crawford or Jason Richardson. The Bulls need a shooting guard, and the draft isn't looking like a good source.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Grant Hill
Welcome to the most important summer for the Cleveland Cavaliers since 2003.
With the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the upcoming draft, it's hard to determine what kind of moves the Cavs will make until they make their picks. However, it looks like the Cavs will be taking a point guard and either a power forward or center in the draft. With that in mind, why not look for a veteran small forward this offseason?
Two draft picks are going to give the Cavaliers two raw players on their roster. Grant Hill can be a leader on a team that desperately needs one.
Hill is an excellent defender at the position, with a multifaceted game. He can score the ball in various ways but prefers to distribute.
If the Cavs feel the need for a veteran leader—and they should—look no further than Hill.
Dallas Mavericks: Chuck Hayes
The Dallas Mavericks are back in the NBA Finals, but they've certainly taken more than just a peek at their upcoming decisions in the offseason.
The Mavericks have a load of valuable players that will become unrestricted free agents in 2011. The biggest names entering the market are Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler and Jose Juan Barea. The Mavericks' initial focus needs to be on these players, all of which are worth re-signing.
If they've got any funds left in the bank, the Mavs can take a look at Chuck Hayes. Hayes is a 6'6" forward who can play center if need be. His rebounding and defensive presence can be a huge help to the Mavs. He's not an NBA starter talent, so playing a reserve role to Chandler and Dirk Nowitzki likely wouldn't bother him.
When a team is in the NBA Finals, it's tough to find anything seriously wrong with their roster.
Denver Nuggets: Samuel Dalembert
Just like the Mavericks, the Denver Nuggets have more issue with who to keep than who to add.
The most notable names entering free agency in Denver are Nene, Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith. Each player has had a large role on the team for the past couple seasons, but the Nuggets' current direction is unknown.
After dealing Carmelo Anthony to Denver, the team's identity took a seismic shift. An isolation offense became more balanced, and the team's future could go in multiple directions.
A player who could easily be in the Nuggets' crosshairs is Samuel Dalembert. He'd likely be a cheaper option than Nene, and could provide many of the same things. Dalembert isn't as imposing as Nene, but has the essential tools to succeed in a Nuggets uniform.
Dropping Nene for Dalembert could be a smart financial move for the Nuggets.
Detroit Pistons: Caron Butler
I can't see the Detroit Pistons keeping Tayshaun Prince this summer.
With Prince possibly on the move, the search for Detroit's new small forward is on. The best small forward available this offseason is Caron Butler, and he's someone the Pistons could target.
Butler is an offensive threat who has continued to get better as he ages. The Pistons need offense, as they averaged less than 97 points per game this year, which is low by recent league standards.
The Pistons could have their eyes on a number of players, but Butler should be their No. 1 priority if Prince departs.
Golden State Warriors: Tyson Chandler
Any team that needs help at center should either be focusing on Tyson Chandler or Samuel Dalembert this summer.
In the Golden State Warriors' case, Chandler would be the better option. With Andris Biedrins and David Lee as their best options in the paint, the Warriors have a serious lack of power down low. Chandler is the best power player in the free-agent pool this season.
Maybe Chandler isn't all the help the Warriors need, but they need some more big guys to live up to their team's name.
Houston Rockets: Samuel Dalembert
Can the Houston Rockets trust Yao Ming to last a full season? No.
Is Hasheem Thabeet ready to be a starter? No.
The Rockets could use an insurance policy at center. If they could get Samuel Dalembert to be that guy, they'd be lucky. Dalembert will likely find a starting job this summer, but if the Rockets could lure him to Houston for a low price, they should do it in a heartbeat.
Dalembert has appeared in at least 80 games in six of his nine seasons in the league, with a streak of five straight.
If Yao isn't ready to go, yet again, Dalembert could be a good fit in Houston. He's not going to take shots away from Kevin Martin or Luis Scola, and he's a fantastic rebounder.
Indiana Pacers: Jamal Crawford
Many people, including myself, are probably surprised that 10 teams were covered without selecting Jamal Crawford.
Well, here he is.
The Indiana Pacers tried to make a move for O.J. Mayo before the February trade deadline, proving they wanted a more offensive shooting guard. Crawford could fill that void for the Pacers, as he's not afraid of any shot.
Like Mayo, Crawford can fall victim to poor shot selection, but he can also dazzle with his skill set. Crawford could go for 40 points on any given night but is not above a 3-for-11 shooting performance.
The Pacers were actually in the top half of the league in scoring, averaging a shade under 100 points a night. However, they could definitely use more production from their guards.
Los Angeles Clippers: Tyson Chandler
The Los Angeles Clippers should spend their summer looking for a more formidable frontcourt partner for Blake Griffin.
The only thing that can add to Griffin's value is partnering him with someone more menacing than Chris Kaman. Although Kaman is an underrated center in the league, he's not the guy you want alongside probably the most athletic big man in the game.
DeAndre Jordan could be that guy, but that's a few years down the road. For now, the Clippers should try and land Chandler.
Coming to the Staples Center would mean a matchup with one of the best frontcourts in the NBA, with the other being the Los Angeles Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers: T.J. Ford
The Los Angeles Lakers need a point guard. It's that simple.
This offseason, the best option may be T.J. Ford. He's out of the loop in Indiana, and Ford is surely looking to get back into the starting ranks of the NBA.
During the 2006-07 season, as a starter on the Toronto Raptors, Ford averaged 14 points and 7.9 assists in his best season as a pro. If he were to join the Lakers, his scoring wouldn't even need to be that high, as he could make a living as a 10-assist-a-night guy.
Ford may not be the ideal option for the Lakers, but they've made due with less in the past. Ford won't cost the Lakers too much, although money is usually not an issue in Los Angeles.
Memphis Grizzlies: Glen Davis
The Memphis Grizzlies should be happy with their starting lineup as it is. However, it's never a bad idea to bolster the bench.
A player who would happily come in and play a reserve role for the Grizzlies could be Glen Davis.
Both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol logged close to 40 minutes per game, because the Grizzlies lack depth in the frontcourt. Davis could be a 15-25 minute a night guy, giving relief to either player. A fresher version of Randolph or Gasol could be extremely helpful for Memphis.
No matter what, the Grizzlies will be on a lot of team's radars in the 2011-12 season.
Miami Heat: Tyson Chandler
A place Chandler would venture to, as long as he's willing to take a huge pay cut, could potentially be Miami.
Is there a more enticing location for a defensive-minded big man in the NBA?
Chandler could mop up on the boards and block shots, which would give the Heat a true presence at center. If Chandler made the move to Miami, the rest of the league would quiver at the newly formed quartet.
This is a fairly far-fetched scenario, as most people wouldn't like to be a fourth fiddle on their team, but the Heat would be ignorant to not even take a shot at Chandler.
Milwaukee Bucks: David West
A torn ACL put an early end to the 2010-11 season for David West. It also surrounded his new contract with a flurry of question marks.
The Milwaukee Bucks took a chance on Drew Gooden and it has yet to pay off. Will the Bucks be willing to take another shot at an expensive power forward?
They should trust that West is more likely to play up to his contract. West was having yet another solid year before his injury, and his game doesn't depend much on athleticism.
If the Bucks want to see improvement next year, adding West would be a step toward their goal.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Jason Richardson
The Minnesota Timberwolves completed the 2010-11 season without a true starting shooting guard. They spent most of the year trying to acclimate Wesley Johnson at the position, but it never fully clicked.
The Wolves have the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, but there's no way they're going to be stretching for a shooting guard with their pick. The only way they'll choose a shooting guard is if they trade down for a pair of picks.
Jason Richardson is a proven veteran shooting guard. He has topped 20 points per game in three seasons and never averaged less than 13 points per contest.
Richardson is a multi-talented offensive threat who can help pull Minnesota out of the cellar of the league.
New Jersey Nets: Jamal Crawford
The New Jersey Nets are squarely in the middle of rebuilding their franchise.
Bringing Deron Williams over was the first step in a positive direction, but that's like the foundation of a house. The Nets are still very young in many spots and are waiting for potential to become skill.
However, a rebuilding team is capable of sneaking into the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference. Acquiring Jamal Crawford gives the Nets an established offensive weapon to turn to in times of concern.
The Nets can't just sandbag the season before they look to add Dwight Howard. They should make an honest effort to show they can play playoff-quality basketball without him.
New Orleans Hornets: Jason Richardson
Jason Richardson may not be the scintillating high-flier that he used to be earlier this century, but he can still play meaningful minutes for quality teams.
Chris Paul pushed the New Orleans Hornets to a six-game series with the Lakers without the help of his co-pilot, David West. Two things were solidified during that series:
1. Chris Paul can score as well as he can pass.
2. The Hornets are one of the top defensive teams in the league.
Their offense kept them from giving the Lakers an even bigger scare. If anyone other than Paul was consistent in the series on offense, the Hornets could have upset the defending champs.
Jason Richardson would be a solid scoring option on a roster that needs one.
New York Knicks: Tyson Chandler
The New York Knicks need a center—badly.
Tyson Chandler is the best available choice this summer, and I'd be surprised if the Knicks didn't take a shot at him. Rebounding was an issue for the Knicks all year, as they allowed the third most rebounds in the NBA.
Chandler would be the best helper in that category, while also giving Amar'e Stoudemire someone to help him in the paint. The Knicks have a handful of big men who will be free agents this season, and they'd be smart to let many—if not all—of them go.
The Knicks need to keep making strides toward becoming a elite contender in the East.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Samuel Dalembert
It's hard to criticize anything the Oklahoma City Thunder did this season. They made the Western Conference Finals with a pair of 22-year-old stars.
The only thing that could be said against them is that they couldn't play in crunch time. However, another post defender could have been put to use also. The Thunder should pick up Samuel Dalembert this summer. Dalembert is a lengthy, athletic big man who would mesh well in Oklahoma City.
The Thunder are on the precipice of greatness. They don't need to make any huge moves this offseason.
Orlando Magic: J.R. Smith
The Orlando Magic likely won't retain Jason Richardson. He will want a bigger contract than the Magic will be able to offer, because of Dwight Howard's free agency coming up next summer.
The Magic should set their sights on J.R. Smith, who has the skills of a younger Jason Richardson, but without quite the consistency Richardson has shown. Smith has never fully been trusted in Denver, so a change of location could do wonders for his confidence.
The Magic could remain unchanged this offseason, or they can give Howard some real reasons to stay.
Philadelphia 76ers: Tyson Chandler
Another team, and yet another fit for Tyson Chandler.
The Philadelphia 76ers showed the world that they wouldn't go down without a fight, stealing a game from the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. The most impressive part of this is that they did it without a true advantage at any spot other than, possibly, point guard.
The Sixers would have been better off if they had a true presence in the paint.
Chandler would be a noticeable improvement from Spencer Hawes. The 2011-12 Sixers would be more of a threat than the 2010-11 Sixers.
Phoenix Suns: Tayshaun Prince
The Phoenix Suns always seem to need more help on defense.
Grant Hill is a shutdown defender, and they still allowed over 105 points each outing. The team's run-and-gun style gives their opposition more looks at the basket, resulting in more points each game.
It seems as if the Suns could make some serious changes this offseason, starting with the way they run their offense. If Steve Nash is sent out of Phoenix, I'm sure the Suns won't be running as much as they do now.
Tayshaun Prince could help the transition, as he's used to a slower half-court offense. Prince can also defend the ball with great confidence because of his length.
The addition of Prince greatly depends on what the Suns are looking to do next season.
Portland Trail Blazers: Samuel Dalembert
Like the Houston Rockets, the Portland Trail Blazers never quite know what they're going to get out of their centers. It seems as if the Blazers are always scrambling to find a replacement for an injured player.
Dalembert could end up in a Blazers uniform, if they aren't comfortable with Greg Oden's injury problems. As mentioned in the Rockets slide, Dalembert has been very healthy since he entered the league.
The Blazers don't need to make any big moves before next season. They pushed Dallas to six games, and their roster is one of the most solid in the league.
Sacramento Kings: David West
The Sacramento Kings have little depth to speak of in the frontcourt.
With Samuel Dalembert potentially on the move this summer, the Kings need to be looking for some players to fill his slot. The Kings could use the services of David West, if they trust that he'll recover well from his injury.
He'll likely be bought for less due to the torn ACL, but West can still be a star in the league. West never received recognition in New Orleans, as he was caught in the gigantic shadow of Chris Paul.
In Sacramento, West has the chance to shine. He could pair up with DeMarcus Cousins to do some damage beneath the basket.
San Antonio Spurs: Tyson Chandler
If you're sick of seeing pictures of Tyson Chandler, this is his last appearance on this list.
The San Antonio Spurs need to face the facts, DeJuan Blair is not a center. Blair is more suited to be a power forward in the NBA, and Tim Duncan needs a bigger helper in the paint.
Chandler can make a difference in San Antonio, giving the Spurs a lift inside as Duncan continues to show signs of aging. The Spurs were a huge disappointment in the playoffs this year, losing to the Memphis Grizzlies after being at the top of the league almost all year.
Chandler isn't the end-all solution for the Spurs' problems, but he can help in one of those areas.
Toronto Raptors: Caron Butler
Like the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors are still reeling from the loss of a big star last offseason.
The Raptors possess the No. 5 selection in the 2011 NBA draft, so the best thing they got out of the loss is a high draft pick. The Raptors are presumably looking for a small forward in the draft, but their selection greatly depends on the top four picks.
If they don't land a small forward, Caron Butler would be the next option for the Raptors. Butler has quietly put together an impressive NBA resume. He's shown versatility, filling different scoring roles for a variety of teams.
Butler may want to stay in Dallas, but it's tough to tell which small forward Dallas will decide to stick with.
Utah Jazz: Jamal Crawford
The Utah Jazz's biggest need on their current roster is at shooting guard.
The Jazz have yet to get a true feel for their team needs, because most of the players they have are fairly new to the team. The Deron Williams trade completely changed the Jazz, giving them a new look in the 2011-12 season.
Adding Jamal Crawford would provide immediate results for the Jazz, who may need someone to score while some of the players on the team develop. The Jazz also have two lottery picks in the upcoming draft.
Crawford isn't going to be part of the Jazz's future, but he can be a steady player for right now.
Washington Wizards: Grant Hill
I've been suggesting this move for a long time now.
The Washington Wizards couldn't win a road game this year. Grant Hill is as good as anyone at playing away from home, which he proved back in his days at Duke.
The Wizards are a horrendous defensive team. Hill is one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league and is usually trusted to guard the LeBrons and Kobes of the game.
The Wizards are also one of the youngest teams in the league and had seven rookies on their roster this season. Hill has plenty of experience in the league, making his debut in 1994.
The Wizards need to add a veteran, and Hill is one of the league's finest.