NBA Free Agents 2011: 5 Best Playmakers on the Market This Summer

Andy BrownAnalyst IIJuly 7, 2011

NBA Free Agents 2011: 5 Best Playmakers on the Market This Summer

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    For the NBA, each summer is usually filled with teams courting potential stud free agents, some blockbuster trades, and a fair number of questionable "Decision"s.

    This summer, however, is not a typical one in the world of professional basketball. The NBA lockout is around a week old, and most fans, including myself, are already resigned to the fact that there probably won't be a season come November.

    Seeing as how attempting to explain the lockout will only make me want to cry myself to sleep tonight, let's assume that somehow the owners and players reach an agreement, and we indeed have a season later this year, and enough time to sort out the free agent crop.

    I think the best way to describe this crop of free agents would be "Darkonian".

    The reason is that the class before it was virtually unheralded with the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and Amar'e Stoudemire becoming unrestricted free agents.

    Next year's class of 2012 has another batch of stars in Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Deron Williams.

    This year's group? Pretty ordinary, kinda like Darko Milicic compared to LeBron James (drafted before him) and Carmelo Anthony (drafted after him).

    That being said, let's look at the top playmakers of this year's free agents. Now, when defining "playmaker", I regard it as a player who can create shots for himself as well as others, is typically on the floor during crunch time, and is a guard.

Honorable Mention

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    The following guys just missed this list, either because they're too one-dimensional or they didn't perform well enough to warrant further mention:

    Nick Young, Washington

    Marcus Thornton, Sacramento

    T.J. Ford, Indiana

    Mike Bibby, Miami

    Mario Chalmers, Miami

5. Shannon Brown

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    For the past couple of seasons, Shannon Brown has been the spark off the bench for the LA backcourt. His explosive athleticism has allowed him to make plenty of highlight reel plays.

    However, he's yet to get an opportunity to start and show what he can do when given starter's minutes. I think now is the time for him to given it.

    Brown is a scoring guard and can play either position. While he's yet to receive the opportunity to run a team, I think he has the skills to be pretty effective as a point guard.

    His passing hasn't been put on display, but considering he can get to the lane on a regular basis, it should create holes for him to dump the ball of to the big men.

4. Aaron Brooks

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    Aaron Brooks showed in 2009-10 that he can lead a team and can be an effective shoot-first point guard for a decent team. In this past season, though, he primarily came off the bench for both Houston and Phoenix.

    Still, he averaged nearly 20 points and over five assists per game in 2009-10. Some team that needs guard help should definitely give him a look.

    As a restricted free agent, Phoenix has a good chance at hanging on to the 26 year-old, and they should considering Steve Nash is getting up there in age and should be dealt to a contender in hopes of winning a championship.

3. JJ Barea

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    JJ Barea became one of the more intriguing players throughout the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Listed at 6'0", but probably closer to 5'6", Barea was the lightning-in-a-bottle player that came off the bench for the champion Dallas Mavericks.

    He was also the rag doll that got chucked when Andrew Bynum had had enough of Dallas completely destroying them in the second round.

    It's unknown if Barea is better served as a bench player or if he could make it as a starter, but his ability to get into the lane and create for others was a key to the Mavericks championship run.

    I'll be interested to see what teams go after him, and if he elects to stay with Dallas.

2. Rodney Stuckey

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    Rodney Stuckey has spent the past few seasons attempting to play point guard for the Detroit Pistons. While statistically his numbers are pretty good, averaging around 15 points and five assists over the past three seasons, it's been speculated that Stuckey may actually be better as a shooting guard instead because of his shoot-first mentality and solid size (6'5").

    With the Pistons' decision to draft pure point guard Brandon Knight in the NBA Draft, it appears as though one of two things will happen.

    Either the Pistons have decided to move Stuckey to shooting guard and hope to play the two together or they're going to let Stuckey go if a team shows interest and signs him to an offer sheet as he is a restricted free agent.

    Personally, I think seeing Stuckey and Knight play together would be intriguing and the Pistons should definitely keep him to see if the pairing works, but if a team throws the bank at Stuckey, the Pistons may elect to let him depart.

1. Jamal Crawford

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    Winner of the 2010 Sixth Man award, Jamal Crawford is clearly the top perimeter player in this free agent class...yikes.

    Despite coming off the bench for the past two seasons for the Atlanta Hawks, Crawford has played starter's minutes, averaging over 30 per game.

    Crawford has been one of the best scorers off the bench in the league and has been the crunch time point guard as well.

    His distributing abilities aren't that well known, but he is able to get others involved as he's averaged four assists per game throughout his career. In Atlanta, he's been asked to focus more on scoring.

    It's uncertain as to the price range Crawford will fetch, and whether Atlanta will make an effort to re-sign him, but expect there to be a pretty nice bidding war for his services next season.

    When next season actually starts, no one knows, and we probably won't for awhile.