The 2011 NBA has come and gone, the draft grades are out and the discussion for next season has begun. Now, it is time to talk about free agency, aligning the final pieces to the puzzles for various teams.
There may not be a "Decision" this summer, but I feel that this free agency class will completely alter some teams that are on the fence of being average teams, to teams that can make some noise down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Today we will take a look at some of the free agents that may be on their way to some championship contending teams next season.
Andre Kirilenko has probably worn his last Utah Jazz jersey when the season ended a couple months ago. AK-47, as he is called by some, has expressed his desire to test the free agent market and possibly even a trip to Motherland Russia if the NBA cannot get a labor agreement worked out in time for next season.
Kirilenko has battled injury the last couple seasons and with a youth movement coming through Salt Lake, the Russian small forward may be heading for greener pastures. Kirilenko, 30, has no trouble starting in this league, but he is getting up there in age and may be put on the bench as a sixth man, pending on where he ends up.
I sense a New Jersey connection with Russian owner, Mikhail Prokhorov. That is pure speculation, but not a bad guess, huh?
Tayshaun Prince knows what an NBA Championship tastes like, he knows the grind of a playoff run and he knows how to win—just not lately.
The Detroit Pistons have been less than stellar and with Prince and head coach John Kuester not seeing eye to eye (to say the least), it seems Prince's time in Detroit is over. Prince averaged 14.1 points per game this year, his second best average in a season of his career.
Prince can still be a major role player for a contending team, but it does not seem as if he will be a starting small forward on his next team, if in fact it is with an upper echelon team.
Maybe Miami, Boston?
Nene is coming off of a very good year and is expected to get a major paycheck by the time he signs with another team (if it is another team). Nene is coming off his best shooting percentage for a season of his career, shooting 61 percent an averaging 14 points and seven boards.
Nene, has been a major cornerstone and pillar of consistency for the Denver Nuggets and they will definitely look to sign him to another deal, but I have a feeling he will test the waters.
Teams of interest might be teams like Boston or possibly the Knicks.
Carl Landry is an interesting player to watch this summer. Landry had a nice last half of the season with New Orleans, but had an even more impressive playoff series with the Lakers.
Landry was able to average almost 16 points in six games against the then defending champs. Landry is a strong power forward and target with a weak power forward free agency class.
San Antonio? Indiana? Boston? Teams to think about.
Shane Battier had his second stint with the Memphis Grizzlies for the last 23 games of the regular season, but was it enough to get a contract out of it? Granted he was part of an impressive Griz playoff run, but he was not what you would call impressive averaging five points a game and four rebounds.
Battier may not be back in Memphis, but for top notch teams looking for some solid role positions and experienced minutes, Battier is a nice fit.
He may be heading go back to Texas, but this time San Antonio. How bout a stay with the Lakers? More things to think about.
Now will Yao Ming even play again in the NBA? I do not know. However, I do know that he is an unrestricted free agent and if he is cleared to play then he will get signed by someone.
It may not be a big check like we would have thought a few years back, but their will always be a team that will roll the dice on the often injured big man.
I could not even speculate on this one where he might go. Places I think he might fit, granted he is healthy, New Jersey, Chicago or Oklahoma City (though they may be a little too high tempo)?
I would imagine the Atlanta Hawks would like to retain Jamal Crawford, but it seems likely he will be able to test the free agent market. Crawford is coming off a nice season where he averaged 14 points per game this season and is only a year off of his sixth man award.
Craward is a nice shooting guard who can bring the ball up and set up the offense like a point guard. he had a nice superstar in Joe Johnson, but it is possible he could be heading to a major city.
Teams that come to mind. Boston, New York.
Samuel Dalembert is another free agent who will likely stay with his team, but could receive a monster paycheck from another contender. In his first year with Sacramento, Dalambert had a nice season averaging about eight points a game, but it is his defense that makes this Hatian-born center something special to watch.
He averaged around two blocks per game, not an easy feat in the NBA, and helped lead a very youthful Kings team to a positive season where they were able to learn, grow, and gain experience.
Dalembert is a big defensive center who would do well in New York, Boston, Miami, Oklahoma City and basically anywhere.
Grant Hill. The 38-year-old was able to play 80 games last year with the high tempo Phoenix Suns. Though he is probably not very high on teams radar in terms of free agents, but this savvy veteran can still ball.
He averaged 13 points this past season per game and still showed he had the ability to get to the hoop and play some stout defense. He may not have the same explosiveness or leaping ability he once did, but Hill is a gamer who has a couple years left in him.
He keeps his body in shape and is an all around great basketball player.
Still looking for a ring, Hill could have some options with some East Coast teams.
Months ago, non-NBA fans did not even have an inkling of who Kris Humphries was, not until Kim Kardashian came along and made him her new squeeze anyway. Now we all know about Khloe and Lamar, but now we have Kris and Kim, engaged, and on the scene.
Could it be possible that Humphries may be recruited to the Lakers this summer. Based on his social life, I would say all signs point to yes. However, Humphries is going to be a hot ticket and I would find it hard to believe that the Nets will not do all they can to retain him.
Humphries had a his best NBA year for New Jersey this past season averaging a ten and ten, shooting north of 50 percent from the field.
Do not be surprised if you see tabloids read, "Kris and Lamar Kardashian Teammates!"