NBA Free Agents 2011: Grading the Top 12 Available Restricted Free Agents
The NBA has a ways to go before we get there, but when we arrive, let the free-for-all begin.
Players like Marc Gasol, Jeff Green, DeAndre Jordan and Rodney Stuckey are going to be hot commodities in what is sure to be a frantic free-agency period. With the way NFL free agency is going—namely, warp-speed and super fun for fans—the thought of a similar situation for the NBA will keep diehards salivating until that fateful day when the lockout ends.
As an NFL fan, was there any other offseason in the history of football as fun as these last two weeks? As an NBA fan, was there anything even remotely intriguing about the lockout except for the fact that this same exact scenario (that is playing out with the NFL) could present itself in the near future?
Obviously, the answer to both is a definitive NO.
NBA fans can take some comfort in knowing that when this godforsaken lockout is over and Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant stop talking about playing overseas, there could be a few seriously exhilarating weeks of a shortened NBA free agency.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the 12 best restricted free agents available, their latest news and what their strengths, weaknesses and overall grades are.
NBA fans, be patient. In the end, it will be all worth it. (Famous last words...)
*All latest news taken from Rotoworld
12. Mario Chalmers, PG, Miami Heat, Age: 25
Latest News: Mario Chalmers, Miami Heat's point guard during their run to the NBA Finals in 2011, should get a lot of interest in the free agency market. Even though restricted free agents are normally retained by their team, that does not seem to be the case with Chalmers. He was excellent in the Finals, and many teams now view him as a legitimate starter. The Heat intend to keep him only if his price doesn't rise too high.
Strengths: Chalmers really lifted his game when it mattered most last season. Not surprising considering he is most well-known for this shot. In the Finals, Chalmers hit 14 threes in only six games. Out of the three point guards that had a chance to start for that team (Chalmers, Mike Bibby, Carlos Arroyo), Chalmers is the one that stepped up and claimed the job after being denied all year. He obviously is very resilient, and is an underrated passer. Was a very good free-throw shooter last season (87 percent).
Weaknesses: Like many other role players for Miami last season, his problem was his inconsistency. Should be a better three-point shooter than he is. Lacks confidence in his shot. Should probably be a better defender given his athletic ability. Lacks strength when attacking the hoop. Needs to become a better leader if he wants to be a starting point guard.
Overall Grade: C+. I think he could be a great fit in the right system, but I just hope he doesn't get overpaid for what was really only one or two weeks of high-level basketball. Best case scenario for his career is that he remains in Miami. He can thrive there if given the chance.
11. Marcus Thornton, SG, Sacramento Kings, Age: 24
Latest News: Marcus Thornton was traded to the Sacramento Kings with only 27 games left in the 2010 NBA Season. He made it count. Thornton averaged 21.3 PPG to go along with 4.7 RPG, 3.4 APG and 1.7 SPG as a part of the dynamic 1-2 punch in the Kings backcourt with Tyreke Evans. Jimmer Fredette is now in the loop after being drafted 10th overall in the NBA Draft, but the Kings are expected to give Thornton a long extension.
Strengths: Thornton is a spectacular offensive player. He shoots well, is very good at getting to the rim, and has an OK three-point shot. He can get hot very, very quickly. What he lacks in size he makes up for in athleticism, witnessed by his nearly five rebounds per game (in Sacramento). Is a solid free-throw shooter, and passer. Is a menace on defense by playing the passing lanes with precision.
Weaknesses: He sometimes shoots himself out of games. Could work on ball security. Although he's pretty good at causing turnovers, his defense could sure use a boost. Needs to develop more consistency on his three-point shot to become a truly great NBA scorer.
Overall Grade: B. He obviously played well in Sac-town last season, but I worry about consistency problems if he gets a big contract. Him, Jimmer and Tyreke form one of the strangest backcourts in the NBA. Would love to see him on a contender as a Jamal Crawford-type player, but that won't happen.
10. Aaron Brooks, PG, Phoenix Suns, Age: 26
Latest News: Aaron Brooks should remain on the Phoenix Suns as Steve Nash's backup. The Suns have said that they plan to keep him, and Brooks has said he would like to remain in Phoenix. There were rumors that the Sacramento Kings would try and make a move for him, but that doesn't make much sense considering they already have a logjam in the backcourt.
Strengths: Brooks proved that he could be an NBA starter in 2009 with the Houston Rockets when he averaged 19.6 PPG, 5.3 APG, and shot almost 40 percent from three-point range. He has since been relegated to backup duty in Phoenix. He excelled after a trade brought him to Phoenix as Nash's backup, and he has come to accept the role. Brooks is most likely being groomed as the future starting point guard. He's super quick, can score at the rim, and is a tough leader despite his miniature frame.
Weaknesses: Like many other backup point guards, Brooks really needs to become more consistent. His three-point shot has fallen off a cliff, and he can't rebound to save his life. With more playing time he should improve.
Overall Grade: B-. I love Brooks in Phoenix, and I hope he stays there. He's a nice change-of-pace guard from Steve Nash, and he improved dramatically once he left the Houston Rockets.
9. Nick Young, G/F, Washington Wizards, Age: 26
Latest News: Nick Young could be back with the Washington Wizards next season, but I would not be surprised if another team made a big offer to the explosive scorer. Young is very similar to fellow free agent, Jamal Crawford, in that they are both one-man wrecking crews on offense, but are both just a plain wreck on defense. Young would be a great addition for any contender as an off-the-bench spark plug, but any team that thinks he can be a No. 2 or No. 3 option is mistaken.
Strengths: Young is a scoring machine. As long as you only expect points from the 6'7" guard/forward, you will be satisfied. He can launch from deep (39 percent 3FG), create his own offense, and get to the rim with the best of them. He's also a good free-throw shooter. For a guy who shoots as much as he does, he actually doesn't turn the ball over that much. Can single-handedly win you a game.
Weaknesses: Basically anything besides for scoring. For a guy his size, he should be embarrassed that he can only pull down 2.7 RPG. He's a pitiful rebounder and a selfish offensive player (a measly 1.2 APG). Needs to learn how to play better defense. Should pick his spots on offense instead of shooting every time (even though it works sometimes).
Overall Grade: B+. I don't really like him in Washington. They have plenty of pop on offense, and he doesn't play disciplined basketball on such an inexperienced team. He would do better on a contender.
8. Wilson Chandler, G/F, Denver Nuggets, Age: 24
Latest News: The Denver Nuggets acquired Wilson Chandler in the blockbuster Carmelo Anthony deal, and things were looking good. Until the playoffs. Then things went about as far south as they could go. He averaged 4.8 PPG on only 28 percent shooting, while his playing time continued to fluctuate throughout the postseason. The New York Knicks are rumored to be interested in bringing back the sweet-shooting G/F, but at only 24-years-old, I would imagine that Denver would do everything they can to retain him.
Strengths: Chandler has a high field goal percentage for a guy many think of as a "high-volume" shooter. Has improved his three-point efficiency, but still has room to grow. A solid free-throw shooter. Can get hot and become a really tough guard due to his unique size and length.
Weaknesses: Needs to get better at defense (although I'm not really sure it's his fault growing up under D'Antoni). With his talent he should be able to attack the basket with more success. Settles for jump-shots too often. Could definitely improve his passing.
Overall Grade: A-. I really like Chandler in Denver, where his shooting touch creates matchup problems. In New York, I don't see the point, as Melo' and Amar'e Stoudemire should provide enough offense. Chandler could be very, very good in a few years with some coaching.
7. Greg Oden, C, Portland Trail Blazers, Age: 23
Latest News: Greg Oden's career has been a tale of tragedy and disappointment. After being drafted No. 1 by the Portland Trail Blazers in the fantastic 2007 NBA Draft (Kevin Durant No. 2), Oden has since missed two full seasons and most of his other two seasons. Portland has made a qualifying offer to the big-man, but there are sure to be some teams willing to take a chance on the talented center from Ohio State. It is not known when he will be back at full strength following last season's knee surgery.
Strengths: I don't think anyone doubts Oden's immense skills, but he just hasn't been on the court enough to display them. He has a very good back-to-the-basket game, and he is a remarkable offensive rebounder. What sets him apart, though, is his outstanding defensive ability. His shot-blocking can alter the way opponents attack the hoop, and his mere presence changes offensive game-plans.
Weaknesses: Injuries are obviously his biggest weakness, and it's not even close. If Oden can just get onto the court, he could turn his whole career around. One big problem he had when he was healthy was foul trouble. It would be nice if he could develop a short-range jumper.
Overall Grade: A-. The grade would be A if it wasn't for the large chunk of money teams are going to have to give him in order to obtain his services. Clearly, there are risks, but it's not often that you have a chance to pick up a franchise center. He is still only 23-years-old.
6. Rodney Stuckey, G, Detroit Pistons, Age: 25
Latest News: Rodney Stuckey burst onto the scene in April of 2007 with the Detroit Pistons. He was described as a "Dwyane Wade Clone," and had folks very excited in the Motor City. Unfortunately, he has not really improved since then, one of the main reasons Detroit has had such an ugly fall from grace (after being so successful in the early part of the decade). He should remain in Detroit, where together with first-round pick Brandon Knight, he can be a part of of one of the more exciting backcourts in the Eastern Conference.
Strengths: The comparisons with Wade were for a reason. Stuckey is unbelievable at getting to the rim and drawing contact. However, he has not been able to elevate his game to a superstar level. As a result, he remains, at best, a No. 3 option on a playoff contender. His free-throw shooting has improved, and he is a solid passer. Solid defender, but sometimes gets stuck trying to guard the other team's best player (not good).
Weaknesses: Has an awful three-point shot that he continues to shoot (the D-Wade similarities are endless). Doesn't control the pace of the game like he is capable of. Doesn't really have a position, which is going to be a problem because Brandon Knight doesn't really have a position either. Hasn't shown the leadership qualities that Detroit expected of him when they handed him the reins back in 2008.
Overall Grade: A. I really like Stuckey and think he could be a real game-changer, and at 25-years-old, he's still got time. He will probably end up in Detroit, but he would be an amazing addition for any contender. He's a top-notch player, but he needs some guidance.
5. Thaddeus Young, F, Philadelphia 76ers, Age: 23
Latest News: The Philadelphia 76ers surprised the basketball world when they played the Miami Heat extremely tough in the first round of the 2011 NBA Playoffs. Thaddeus Young was one of their X-Factors in that series, and is expected to remain with Philadelphia this season. One of the more underrated players in the league, Young has been very consistent since he was drafted in 2007. He shined as a 6th man for the Sixers last year.
Strengths: Brings terrific energy off the bench, and complements that with tremendous athleticism. Young is a good scorer, and can create matchup problems against slower forwards. One of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA, Young can be counted on to disrupt the opponent's best scorer. After cutting down on his atrocious three-point shot last season, Young became a remarkably efficient offensive player, shooting higher than 54 percent from the field. Underrated offensive rebounder.
Weaknesses: His biggest weakness was his three-point shot, but he basically stopped shooting those last season. He remains a poor free-throw shooter. Not much else to complain about here.
Overall Grade: A. One of the most under-appreciated players in the NBA, Young is a rising star. He's one of the best 6th men in basketball, and should continue to improve with the rest of Philadelphia's young core. Only 23, Young should continue developing his already impressive game.
4. Arron Afflalo, SG, Denver Nuggets, Age: 25
Latest News: One of my favorite players in the NBA, Arron Afflalo should remain on the Denver Nuggets in 2011. He really broke out last season, which shouldn't have come as a surprise considering his statistical increases from year to year. In Denver, he and Ty Lawson form a very solid, young backcourt. He should be a fixture in Denver for years to come.
Strengths: An efficiency machine, there are not many players in the NBA who maximize their abilities as well as Afflalo. He shoots well in every phase of the game (FG, 3FG, FT), rarely turns the ball over, and is a solid rebounder and passer. He is one of the best three-point shooters in basketball. The definition of a team-first player, Afflalo is a great team leader.
Weaknesses: Not many weaknesses here. It should be noted that Afflalo is not a go-to scorer. He can score, but he should be relied upon only as a No. 3 or No. 4 scorer.
Overall Grade: A. Bet you didn't see that one coming. Afflalo is one of the few players in free agency who would succeed no matter the situation.
3. DeAndre Jordan, F/C, Los Angeles Clippers, Age: 23
Latest News: DeAndre Jordan will remain with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011. The Clippers have made it abundantly clear that he is their No. 1 priority this offseason, and that they will match all offers for the budding center. Together with Blake Griffin, Jordan gives the Clips one of the most athletically gifted frontcourts in the NBA.
Strengths: The unofficial league leader in field goal percentage (he didn't qualify based on minutes played), Jordan barely ever takes a shot that he can't make. Usually, that shot is a dunk. He has great size and athleticism that allow him to get easy put-backs and transition points. Jordan is a very good shot-blocker. Also, he creates tons of second-chance opportunities with offensive rebounds and hustle plays.
Weaknesses: For a guy his age, Jordan should be able to stay on the court for more than 25 MPG. I expect that number to rise this season. Jordan is one of the worst free-throw shooters the NBA has ever seen (career 41 percent—hide the children!). Must eventually develop some sort of offensive arsenal.
Overall Grade: A. In a league so desperate for big-men, Jordan is a big winner here. Not only is he a big man, but at 23, he should continue to grow into one of the best centers in the game.
2. Jeff Green, F, Boston Celtics, Age: 24 (25 at Start of Season)
Latest News: Jeff Green was a part of one of the most important trades in the NBA last season. When the Oklahoma City Thunder shipped him off to the Boston Celtics for center Kendrick Perkins, basketball fans and experts across the country were shocked. His arrival in Boston signaled the end of an era, but also provided hope in the form of a superb offensive game. Unfortunately, his play never really took off in Boston, and the Celtics offense deteriorated in the second round of the playoffs versus the Miami Heat. Despite this, the Celtics are expected to match all offers for the young forward.
Strengths: A supremely talented offensive player, guys like Green don't come around often. He has a silky smooth jumper, and is most effective when he uses his length and athleticism to drive to the basket. He is very fast, which helps him in transition. Can carry a team for quarters at a time if he gets hot.
Weaknesses: Very inconsistent, Green's on-again, off-again game is the one thing keeping him from becoming an NBA superstar. He shies away from the spotlight too much. Lacks a killer instinct (so far). Hasn't shown any signs of being a team leader. Is one of the most atrocious rebounders for a guy with his size and talent. Needs to become a more aggressive player.
Overall Grade: B+. He definitely has the most talent out of this whole group, but whether he harnesses that talent or let's it go to waste, is up to him. In Boston, he could be a core part of the future with Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce.
1. Marc Gasol, C, Memphis Grizzlies, Age:26
Latest News: The Spaniard was excellent in the Memphis Grizzlies' surprising extended playoff run last season. Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol's younger brother, really stepped up for Memphis against the San Antonio Spurs and proved his worth throughout the playoffs. Memphis has made a qualifying offer, but considering the dearth of talented big-men in the NBA, I would be surprised if some team doesn't swoop in with a monster offer that the Grizzlies can't match.
Strengths: Like his brother, he is a talented offensive player with both hands. Unlike his brother, he is a very gritty, determined player under the basket. His size creates tons of matchup problems, especially with Zach Randolph along side him. His back to the basket game is very good for a guy without much athletic prowess. Has improved tremendously on the defensive end. He showed promising signs of team leadership during the playoffs. Ridiculously durable.
Weaknesses: Slow-footed, Gasol has trouble handling quicker players (see: Oklahoma City Thunder series). He sometimes disappears in games. His rebounding numbers regressed significantly last season, a problem that requires close monitoring. Hard to tell whether he has reached his ceiling as a scorer, but there doesn't seem to be room for a lot more growth.
Overall Grade: A. Again, Gasol benefits from the scarcity of true centers in the NBA today. He is certainly a good player, but he should not be considered a star just yet. He's a little older than a lot of the guys on this list, but he should continue to develop for the next year or two.
Thanks for reading!
Let me know what you think in the comments section below. Where do YOU think these players will land?