The NBA free agent class of 2011 has a lot of potential, but it has nowhere near the star power of the 2012 class of free agents.
That pretty much blows this year's guys out of the water, right? Well, yes, it does, but that doesn't mean there is little value to be had in this year's crop. In fact, there are quite a few game changers currently without a deal.
Whenever the lockout does end, the NBA title could be swayed just through free agency, mostly because the Mavericks could end up losing players who were very responsible for getting them to those heights in 2011.
So I'm just going to give you a nice, concise five-slide wrap up of the top guy at each position right? Pssh, there's no way I would skimp out on you all like that.
What I have done for you all here is picked out the best player at each position,but on top of that I have picked out the best players to fill each important bench role that you could ask for, basically putting together a team out of this year's free agents.
Now, I have some kind of a brain (some, but not much), so obviously I'm not going to go out and say that Tyson Chandler is the best option as a backup center because he is going to go to a team and be a starting center. Your backup options would be guys like Jeff Foster or Spencer Hawes.
It's hard for me to go a day without mentioning the brilliance of Brian Scalabrine, let alone fail to mention him in an article, especially when it makes sense to do so.
Scalabrine does so many things for a basketball team that he never really gets credit for, so I must crusade for him as much as possible.
Alka Seltzer, as I have named him (I like White Mamba, but I think my name makes more sense) really cools off a clubhouse. He works hard in practice and knows his role, so he is usually happy and easy to get along with.
Some say Scalabrine is lucky to have been on some of the great teams he has been on (he's been to the NBA Finals four times and has one ring), but I say those good teams are lucky to have Scal.
Joe Smith is another terrific clubhouse guy to have who exhibits toughness whenever he is called upon.
He may not have lived up to the hype that a number one overall pick should have lived up to, but he is a very smart basketball player who in a pinch can be a good defender for stretches at a time.
You can't get much better when you're looking for a guy who is comfortable coming in every other game or so. Plus, you can feel safe if one of your big guys go down because he knows how to play the game.
Mixing two roles together as the veteran clubhouse guy (paired with Joe Smith) and the three-point specialist, I've taken Michael Redd.
As a three-point shooter you have to expect that Redd will be fine, as it's much harder to lose a shooting stroke than it is to lose your athleticism, as Redd has.
Even better, Redd has been injured so often in the past few years that you have to imagine that he would be fine taking a reduced role, especially if it was with a contender.
As for his health, I would not depend on Redd to play more than 20 or so minutes a game. In fact, it would make me downright nervous, but bringing him in to unleash that beautiful J from time to time would make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
If you're looking for a player to come off the bench, play 25 minutes a game and bang bodies down low with the potential to get something better, look no further than Thaddeus Young.
Young really fell into his niche this past season coming off the bench for the 76ers, putting up 12 points and five rebounds a game in just over 25 minutes.
Bringing in Young every game can exhaust some opposing big men with his explosive strength and relentlessness, which at times can be intimidating.
Last season, while everyone was salivating over JJ Barea, the word that continually came up was "spark."
People realized that bringing Barea off the bench, either when the starters on the opposing team were starting to get tired or when the second team was coming in, brought gallons of energy and unexpected transcendent play.
He shook things up enough and made them go in such a different direction that it was nearly impossible to prepare for him.
I think that Aaron Brooks could easily be that guy.
This was a two-man race between Shane Battier and Grant Hill, but in the end it was a bit of a no-brainer.
With no disrespect to Grant Hill, who is an extremely hard worker and still a great defender, Shane Battier is just a head above him.
Battier is just near the end of his peak as an offensive player (which was never that high in the first place), but defensive peaks can last so much longer that he easily has three to five years left as an elite defender, even though he is going on 33 years old.
There's no reason to shake things up with Jamal Crawford. He would be a decent option as a starting shooting guard, but he is naturally a sixth man.
Crawford has the ability to come in and obliterate the sluggish first team or the second team coming in. I would feel comfortable starting Crawford, but I don't know how confident I would feel.
He's good enough to be a mediocre starter or an amazing bench player, and it seems he is more valuable as that bench player than he is as a starter.
I don't want to start JJ Barea at point guard, but this year's class of free agent point guards is so weak that I'm pretty much forced to.
I could either take JJ, the corpse of Carlos Arroyo or Mike Bibby, or take a shot with Delonte West, who is completely unpredictable.
In all, I don't dislike Barea, but I feel much more comfortable using him as the spark off the bench, and when he starts, you take away the unpredictability and change of flow that he offers.
He could do a good job, but as a starting point guard he would be in the bottom half of the league.
I feel like I'm taking a reach here on Nick Young, but it is a safe reach considering the other guys at his position that are free agents.
The top three options besides Young were Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and Marcus Thornton. Crawford, I think, could be had as a sixth man, and Thornton really only took off when he was given the keys to the offense in Scaramento after Tyreke Evans got hurt, so that leaves Richardson.
Looking at the two side-by-side, they were similar shooters, making 44 percent of their shots, and both shooting 39 percent from the three-point line, but Young was noticeably better from the charity stripe.
On defense, both are worthless, and while Richardson rips down more rebounds, he grabbed just more than one extra board a game compared to Young.
Meanwhile, Young is, well, young, and at just 26 years old he has much more room to grow, while Richardson is on the down-slope of his career, especially as he is losing his athleticism.
If you feel confident about Caron Butler coming back from his injury (which I do), then you are left with Butler and then a bunch of other guys at least a head lower at the small forward position.
Other than Butler, you have Grant Hill, Shane Battier, Vince Carter, and Tayshaun Prince as free agent small forwards.
This is no competition. Butler wins by 28 furlongs, and even if his knee is still tweaked a bit, he wins by a dozen.
There are two main questions about David West. First, how healthy is his knee, and second, is he good enough to justify getting paid around $10 million or so a year?
As he has gotten older, David West has gotten better on defense, which was the biggest knock on him. That, accompanied by the fact that he is capable of scoring 20 points a game, makes me believe that he is indeed worth the price tag.
The question about his knee is legitimate because he is 30 years old and is at the age and mileage where big guys start to break down in the NBA, so I would be a bit concerned about that.
But with the light competition at power forward, I would feel comfortable saying that West is the best option here.
This is the one I had the hardest time deciding. Between Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Nene, DeAndre Jordan, Greg Oden and Samuel Dalembert, it was obviously a hard one to nail down.
I think it's obvious that Jordan, Oden and Dalembert can be knocked off because of either injury problems (Oden), questions about how good they are going to be (Jordan) and lack of offensive ability (Dalembert).
That leaves Nene, Chandler and Gasol.
To me, Chandler and Nene have shown the league what they are capable of, but Nene is nearing his peak and Chandler is nearing the end of it (offensively, he is still a monster on defense).
Gasol already showed last year he can be an elite defender, and while he is still getting to be a good rebounder, he has shown promise as both a low-post offensive and defensive player.
I can confidently say that giving Marc Gasol a big contract now would be reasonable, especially considering the fact that he could be a top-five center in the next two years.
I'll take Gasol to round out my team, and you have to admit that they look like they could come together and make a good playoff team, maybe even be a contender.
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