The 2011 NBA free-agent class lacks the larger-than-life names that hijacked the summer of 2010, but there are still plenty of quality players up for grabs.
With intelligent signings, each team has an opportunity to improve by adding bona fide role players. And while no move will have the magnitude of last year's various signings, each team has the ability to slide up a place or two on the totem pole.
Of course, nobody (not even the parties involved) has any idea what the new collective bargaining agreement will look like. It's possible that the new CBA will have seismic effects on how the free agency process is conducted, including how much money each team is allowed to spend.
But for the purposes of this article, we will assume that the new CBA is at least somewhat similar to the current one.
With that said, here are possible signings that each team would be wise to pursue.
Needs: Center, backup shooting guard
Options: Unfortunately for Atlanta, they already have over $58 million being dispersed to seven players. That's right around the salary cap for the 2010-11 season, but next year's cap will likely be closer to $50 million.
It's doubtful that they will be able to pay Jamal Crawford next year, leaving a gap on the bench at the 2-guard spot. The Hawks may want to trade Josh Smith and the $25 million he's owed over the next two years in order to give themselves some flexibility.
At center, Atlanta could conceivably add Nazr Mohammed or Joel Przybilla. For Joe Johnson's backup, DeShawn Stevenson or Shannon Brown would both fit well.
Needs: Center, retain Ray Allen
Options: The Celtics have a ton of money tied up in other players, so they won't be making any groundbreaking moves. Allen has a $10 million player option, but I expect him to return to Boston due to his good relations with Doc Rivers and the rest of the Celtics' core.
Jermaine O'Neal is signed for next year, assuming he doesn't retire. But even with him back, they'll need to add a cheap center capable of starting.
Aaron Gray—and I can't believe I'm actually writing this—was fairly effective in the playoffs against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol. He also made just under $1 million last year, meaning he's one of the few big men Boston could afford.
Options: Looking at Charlotte's depth chart, Bobcats fans (all 12 of them) must get pretty depressed. And this isn't going to help one bit.
The Bobcats literally need upgrades at every position, except maybe small forward depending on how you feel about Stephen Jackson right now.
After their everyone-must-go salary dumping moves at the trade deadline, the Bobcats clearly decided to rebuild through the draft over the next few years.
Good luck Charlotte. I have no idea how to fix this team, which means I have at least one thing in common with Michael Jordan.
Needs: Shooting guard
Options: The Bulls' best option may be to hope that Richard Hamilton is traded and then bought out, which is looking highly possible at this point. Hamilton would be a perfect fit in Chicago.
But if Hamilton isn't traded/bought out, there are still other options. O.J. Mayo might be available via trade, and I'm sure Chicago will be talking with Memphis at some point this summer.
Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson and J.R. Smith will all likely be too expensive for Chicago, but they reportedly love Klay Thompson of Washington State, and may move up to draft him.
Needs: Shooting guard, small forward
Options: With the No. 1 and No. 4 picks in the draft, the Cavs will likely draft point guard Kyrie Irving first and big man Enes Kanter fourth. That means Cleveland would have a promising young core of Irving, Kanter and J.J. Hickson.
Not bad considering what their future looked like at the beginning of this season.
At shooting guard, they could re-sign Anthony Parker or chase after DeShawn Stevenson or Shannon Brown. However, Stevenson and Brown will likely sign with a contender.
At small forward, Reggie Williams or Al Thornton would be great young additions to the building blocks already in place.
Needs: Re-sign Tyson Chandler, J.J. Barea
Options: Dallas is currently competing for the title, in large part because of Chandler's defensive presence and Barea's penetration ability.
The Mavericks' best move would be to re-sign both guys and take another crack at the title next year.
Needs: Re-sign Nene, match offers for Arron Afflalo
Options: Denver is an incredibly deep team, even if they let Kenyon Martin and J.R. Smith walk. But Nene is one of the best centers in the league and a huge key to Denver's recent success. They would be wise to bring him back.
Afflalo is a superb defender, efficient scorer, and excellent teammate. He would benefit greatly from more minutes, and he will have them in Smith's absence. If the Nuggets retain both, they will be one of the top five teams in the West next year.
Needs: Everything except for center
Options: Big man Greg Monroe had an excellent rookie season, providing the lone bright spot in an otherwise horrid year for Detroit.
Tayshaun Prince comes off the books this summer, leaving the Pistons with some financial flexibility and a vacant role at the starting small forward position.
Backup Austin Daye could see more minutes, but look for Detroit to pursue another guy to fill the 3 spot. They could afford Caron Butler or Shane Battier, but both will most likely sign with a contender. More likely options include Reggie Williams, Al Thornton or Josh Howard.
Options: The Warriors will likely continue to give Epke Udoh reps at starting center, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them make an offer to Tyson Chandler.
The Warriors are absolutely dreadful defensively and Chandler would be a perfect fit. However, Chandler seems quite happy in Dallas (playoff success can do that) and I would bet on him re-signing with the Mavs.
They could also attempt to pry restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan away from the Clippers. Jordan certainly has Chandler-esque potential.
Options: Chuck Hayes has done an admirable job in Houston, but you can only get so far with a 6'6" center in today's NBA.
Houston should make an offer to every big-time center they can, because the rest of their team is solid. If the Rockets could add Marc Gasol or Nene, they would instantly rise to the top five or six in the West.
They could also use a little luck, which they've been severely deprived of lately.
Needs: Depth, experience
Options: The Pacers have a young, talented starting lineup that has a promising future. They are clearly a feisty group, as we saw in their first-round battle with top-seeded Chicago.
Now they just need some reliable, experienced guys coming off the bench, particularly at the small forward position.
Ideal pickups would be Grant Hill or Shane Battier, but both will probably pursue a job with an immediate title contender, and Indiana is still a couple years away.
James Jones and Jason Kapono are decent options, as both would provide some much-needed outside shooting.
Needs: Small forward, retain DeAndre Jordan
Options: For the first time in quite a while, the Clippers are set at four positions. Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Mo Williams and DeAndre Jordan form a very promising core.
They just need to fill out the starting lineup with a quality small forward. I think Tayshaun Prince would be an excellent pickup, as would Shane Battier.
Another possibility is to ship Chris Kaman, a bench player, and a couple to draft picks to Philadelphia for Andre Iguodala. The Sixers need a center and want more playing time for Evan Turner, so this trade is very possible.
A Griffin, Gordon, Iguodala, Williams and Jordan starting lineup would ensure the Clippers a trip to the playoffs, as well as the undisputed title of most exciting team in the league.
Needs: Point guard
Options: The Lakers desperately need a point guard, as Derek Fisher's corpse got lit up repeatedly in L.A.'s disappointing playoff run. I've always loved Fish, but Chris Paul ran a clinic against him, and J.J. Barea followed suit.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, the point guard crop in this year's free-agent class doesn't feature a lot of desirable candidates. The best options would be Aaron Brooks or Rodney Stuckey, but both are restricted free agents and could be retained by their teams.
If the Lakers want an ideal fix for their poor point guard play, they may have to get creative and sacrifice a piece or two via trade.
Needs: Re-sign Marc Gasol/Shane Battier, frontcourt depth
Options: Locking up Gasol is priority number one, but all indications are that he is happy in Memphis and wants to stay. I would also expect Battier to stay since he surely wants to play for a contender at this point in his career.
That means that the Grizzlies are pretty much set for a while, and just need to add a few complementary pieces.
Josh McRoberts of Indiana would be a solid backup power forward, as would veteran Troy Murphy.
Options: I would say that the Heat need a point guard and center, but I think Spoelstra's crew have proven this postseason that they don't need anything else.
Joel Anthony is a perfect center for this team, a defensive aficionado who doesn't need to take shots. And they could throw one of LeBron's kids in there at point guard and still compete for the title.
As much as people hated it, the Heat's plan as worked to perfection. With two of the top five players in the league, and three of the top 15, it doesn't really matter who else is on the court.
Needs: Shooters, shooters, shooters
Options: After last year's horrid offensive exhibition, the Bucks need all the outside shooting they can get. Brandon Jennings is a quality young point guard with enormous potential, he just needs someone who can hit shots when he gives them the ball.
Fortunately for Milwaukee, there are plenty of quality three-point shooters in this year's free-agent class. Jason Kapono, James Jones, Peja Stojakovic and Anthony Parker would all be welcome additions for the Bucks.
Options: With Ricky Rubio reportedly coming to the NBA next season, the Timberwolves point guard position is somewhat solidified. And obviously Kevin Love is holding down the post at the power forward spot.
Minnesota desperately needs proven commodities at shooting guard, small forward and center. Unfortunately, I don't think Minnesota is going to attract any top-tier free agents.
Their best move would be to use their abundance of assets (Michael Beasley, Wes Johnson, Anthony Randolph, the No. 2 overall pick) to bring in some quality players via trade.
Needs: Shooting guard, small foward, re-sign Kris Humphries
Options: With Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, the Nets have a solid guard/center combo going foward. However, the rest of the starting lineup could use some upgrades.
I doubt New Jersey will be overly active this offseason, given that they are gunning for Dwight Howard in the summer of 2012.
I think J.R. Smith would be a great option at shooting guard, as long as Avery Johnson can get through to him. But if they spend the money needed to bring in Smith, they likely won't have any cash available for a small forward.
Needs: Re-sign David West, shooting guard
Options: Re-signing West should be the Hornets' top priority, as it would go a long way towards ensuring Chris Paul sticks around.
But they also need an upgrade at the shooting guard position. I have nothing against Marco Belinelli, but Chris Paul isn't signing a long-term deal so he can throw the ball to Belinelli.
The Hornets need to make a big splash at 2-guard, and I'd expect them to pursue Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and J.R. Smith.
Needs: Center, backup point guard
Options: I doubt New York will make any serious moves, because they are hoping to land either Dwight Howard, Chris Paul or both in 2012.
However, if they decided Howard wouldn't be an option, they could go after Tyson Chandler, who is essentially a slightly lesser version of Howard.
They also need a point guard to relieve Chauncey Billups. J.J. Barea would be a beautiful fit in Mike D'Antoni's system, and the Knicks could play him at the same time as Billups, similar to what Dallas is currently doing with Barea and Jason Kidd.
Needs: Interior scoring
Options: The Thunder's kryptonite in the Western Conference Finals was their lack of an offensive post presence.
Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison are excellent players, but they are all defensive oriented. At some point you have to be able to score inside.
Unfortunately, there isn't a premium of offensive big men in this year's crop. The best option for the Thunder may be to try to develop the 22-year-old Ibaka into a reliable scorer, which is certainly possible.
Needs: Backup center
Options: Orlando desperately needs a reliable backup for Dwight Howard. Joel Przybilla or Samuel Dalembert would a solid addition to help lift some pressure off D12's enormous shoulders.
If the Magic are feeling lucky, they could probably land Greg Oden for a fairly cheap price as well, which would be incredibly interesting if nothing else.
Needs: Retain Thaddeus Young, center
Options: The Sixers have a very promising young core built around Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. Now they just need a center to fill out the lineup.
However, none of the free-agent centers would be a great fit. Philly's best option is to shop Andre Iguodala around and see if they can get a quality big in return.
Needs: Power forward
Options: After Amar'e Stoudemire bolted for New York, Phoenix tried to fill the void with Hakim Warrick, Channing Frye and Hedo Turkoglu.
This failed miserably, and the Suns once again find themselves in the market for a power forward. But they already have so much money invested in other positions that getting a real impact player isn't too likely.
Carl Landry and Kris Humphries are both possibilities.
Needs: Bring everyone back
Options: The Blazers have team options on Rudy Fernandez, Andre Miller and Nicolas Batum. Everyone else is locked up through at least next year.
Portland was eliminated in the first round, but they were undoubtedly a scary team come playoff time. I don't think Portland needs to make any changes.
Needs: Point guard, center
Options: I think it's about time that Sacramento give up on the Tyreke-Evans-as-a-point-guard project and accept the fact that the man is clearly a shooting guard.
They'll probably look to the draft for a point guard (Kemba Walker, most likely).
They currently have a ridiculously low salary, which would usually mean they could just throw a boatload of money at Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol or Nene. However, the Maloof brothers are completely broke, and will likely settle for the cheapest guy they can find.
Options: In the Spurs' first-round series against Memphis, Tim Duncan, DeJaun Blair and Antonio McDyess got absolutely eaten alive inside.
It would be a stretch financially, but if the Spurs can sign Nene they will instantly be back in the mix in the West.
Options: Toronto is in the same boat as Charlotte, in that they only have one or two good players. DeMar DeRozan has a lot of potential, and Andrea Bargnani is serviceable, but after that they have nothing.
It's going to be a long, painful rebuilding process for Toronto. I don't even know where to start, and I doubt their management does either.
Needs: Shooting guard, small forward
Options: One of these issues will likely be addressed through the draft, but the Jazz would be wise to bring in a proven commodity on the wing.
Wilson Chandler or Arron Afflalo would be great additions if they could steal either restricted free agent from the Nuggets.
Needs: Small forward
Options: The Wizards have built a solid young core with John Wall, Jordan Crawford, JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche (when he's interested).
Now, they just need a small forward. Andrei Kirilenko would be a good fit, as would Tayshaun Prince. However, both guys probably won't want to be on such a young team.
A more realistic option would be Reggie Williams.