The NBA lockout continues, though a meeting between the owners and the players is set for next week. In the highly unlikely event that a new deal is agreed upon, free agency will begin and so will the speculation that comes with it.
In fact, this speculation is the best part of free agency. Think about it. How many people were glued to their television sets last summer when LeBron James announced his "decision?"
This year's free agency pool features some big-name players. Some will stay with the teams they played on last season, while others are more than likely to depart for greener pastures.
Here are the probable destinations for the top 12 free agents available.
Now, he may not be an elite player who gets a big contract, but JJ Barea impressed enough last season that he'll surely receive multiple offers when the time comes. Playing for the Dallas Mavericks last season, he averaged 9.5 points per game.
While he has never played more than a little over 20 minutes a game and is primarily a bench player, the demand for Barea could be higher than one may think. He has a reputation for making clutch shots and exhibiting great toughness in driving hard to the basket.
Inserted into the starting lineup for the final three games of last year's NBA Finals, Barea scored 40 points over that stretch, some coming on a variety of clutch shots.
Yet, the Mavs have multiple free agents to worry about bringing back next season, and given the money they will demand, don't be shocked if Barea departs for one of the team's rivals.
Probable Destination: Miami
He may have come off the bench for most of his time with the Boston Celtics, but the physicality and toughness of Glen "Big Baby" Davis will be welcome on any team.
At 6'9" and 289 pounds, he brings a big, tough body to the table and has the potential to be a rebounding and inside-scoring machine. He had a career year last season, averaging 11.7 points and 5.4 rebounds off the bench.
Based on those numbers, it appears that Davis is just waiting to break out and put up even bigger numbers. Multiple teams have expressed interest in him and among the Celtics' impending free agents, Davis is the one the team could be most pressed to re-sign. Now that Kendrick Perkins is gone, the defense has a large void in terms of physical play.
Davis has shown signs of a bad attitude during his five years in Boston, but that doesn't take away from his skills on the court. When push comes to shove, it seems a pretty safe bet that he and the front office will work out a deal.
Probable Destination: Boston
Marcus Thornton is a restricted free agent, so if he does change teams, it will only be because the Sacramento Kings didn't match any offers made to him.
Given how much of an impact he had on the team in the latter half of last season after being traded from the New Orleans Hornets, the Kings would be silly to let him walk.
As bad as Sacramento was last season, Thornton was a bright spot after the All-Star break. In 27 games with the Kings, he averaged 38 minutes a contest and scored 21.3 points a game on 36 percent three-point shooting.
With Jimmer Fredette ushering in a new era of leadership and positivity, it is essential that the front office do everything in its power to retain Thornton.
On top of that, let's not forget that we are judging Thornton on less than half a season at this point. For all we know, he could come back down to Earth a little bit next year and be an average yet reliable shooter. That being said, it's hard to believe that teams will be shelling out the big bucks for him.
Probable Destination: Sacramento
After spending the entirety of his eight-year career with the New Orleans Hornets, 30-year-old David West opted to test the free agent market this summer.
He has decent size at 6'9" and 240 pounds, and he has proven that he can both score effectively and be a tough presence on defense. In doing so, he has become a fan favorite in New Orleans.
Yet, as any NBA fan will tell you, the New Orleans Hornets are a mess right now. The team is owned by the NBA and in search of a buyer. With no progress on that front, there is little incentive for West to stay with the team for whom he has played his entire career.
Thus, it's almost guaranteed that West will end up on a new team. Seeing as how multiple teams are in need of a power forward with skills like the former Xavier Musketeer, the offers will be flying in and the team West decides to join will be a lucky one.
Probable Destination: Denver
On paper, Jason Richardson looks like a pure shooter. That isn't far off, as he has averaged 18 points per game for his career and has a career three-point percentage of 37.
Yet, what many forget is that Richardson also has what it takes to drive to the basket and throw down some electrifying dunks. In fact, he won two consecutive Slam Dunk Contests in his first two years in the NBA.
Yet, let's not forget that age is slowly starting to catch up with Richardson. He turns 31 in January and after averaging just 13.9 points per game after being traded to the Orlando Magic last season, finding the right contract could prove to be tough.
He isn't 100 percent to blame for those numbers, seeing as how Orlando's offensive strategy always seems to be "get the ball to Howard," but it still won't win him any favors on the free-agent market.
However, there are still teams in need of electrifying shooters. Richardson may have not been at his best in Orlando, but there are still teams out there that could benefit from his services. In fact, I would not be surprised if a homecoming of some sort occurred.
Probable Destination: Charlotte
Last season was one to forget for Rodney Stuckey. He repeatedly clashed with head coach John Kuester, was benched multiple times for "disciplinary reasons," and much like most of his teammates, he just seemed unhappy.
Kuester has since been fired and replaced with Lawrence Frank, but last year's drama could have been enough to make Stuckey want to leave the Detroit Pistons.
He is a restricted free agent, so the only way he'll get his wish is if the front office declines to match any offers he may receive. Just how many he will get is debatable, seeing as how he has developed a reputation as a hothead in recent years.
Yet, even the most skeptical of scouts will agree that Stuckey has skills.
He is big for a point guard at 6'5" and has been more of a shooter than a passer for most of his career, but Stuckey averaged 7.4 assists during the final two months of last season. He also averaged 17.2 points over that stretch (15.5 for the regular season).
As much as he may not want this, I don't think Stuckey is going anywhere. The Pistons are in a rebuilding mode and have a new coach at the helm.
If immediate improvements are to be made, the volatile guard must be brought back for at least one more year, as Will Bynum is not ready to take over the starting duties just yet.
Probable Destination: Detroit
Considering how this past season was his contract year, Caron Butler might have just had the worst luck on the planet.
He averaged a respectable 15 points per game for the Dallas Mavericks and shot an astounding 43 percent from three-point land, but only appeared in 29 games before tearing his patella tendon and missing the rest of the season and postseason.
Still, he looked solid in the games in which he did play, and that will help his cause this offseason.
I'm sure that Butler's first choice is to remain with Dallas. It's a system in which he does well and he has a good relationship with everyone there.
Yet, the Mavs have multiple players becoming unrestricted free agents this offseason and some may hold higher priority than the 31-year-old Butler.
Also, it should be noted that the Mavericks made it all the way to the NBA Finals and emerged victorious without Butler. Thus, there is a legitimate argument that he is expendable.
For all we know, the Mavs could re-sign him. Yet, with the multitude of teams in need of a shooter, it will be interesting to see how this free-agency saga plays out.
Probable Destination: Phoenix
Last season was a good one for Kris Humphries. Besides getting engaged to Kim Kardashian, hereby known as the hottest WAG on the planet, he finally broke out by cracking the starting lineup of the New Jersey Nets.
In 74 games, he averaged 10 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, easily proving himself to be one of the most physical and athletic power forwards in the NBA.
That being said, if Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov wants to win, he would have to be insane not to retain Humphries. Still, there are a few things to consider regarding the 6'9" rebounding machine and his future with the team set to move to Brooklyn in the next couple of years.
First, Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are set to hit free agency next offseason and considering Prokhorov wants to add stars to his team, going after just one of those guys could mean letting Humphries walk.
Also let's not forget that Humphries is about to enter his eighth NBA season and last year was the first where he saw significant playing time. He was great when he played, but there is always the risk of him being a one-and-done player.
Finally, and this could prove to be more important than we all think, Humphries and Kardashian just got married. Considering how most of his new bride's family is based in Los Angeles, there is always the possibility that he could make a move out west so that she can be closer to them.
Regardless of what happens, the team that signs Humphries could quite possibly be getting the best defender on the free-agent market.
Probable Destination: Los Angeles Clippers
Though he doesn't have the sweet shooting touch of his older brother, Pau, Marc Gasol is a much better center than he is given credit for being. Last season, with the Memphis Grizzlies, he averaged a respectable 11.7 points and seven rebounds a game.
In the playoffs, he averaged 15 points, 11.3 boards and 2.2 blocks as the No. 8 Grizzlies upset the top-seeded San Antonio Spurs before losing to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Semifinals.
Gasol is a restricted free agent, but the chances of the Grizzlies matching any offers extended to him are slim to none. Keep in mind, Memphis is one of the smallest basketball markets, and team management recently signed power forward Zach Randolph to a four-year extension worth $71 million. That being said, unless he takes a hometown discount, Gasol could be playing elsewhere next season.
Besides his numbers, Gasol just has the body coaches want at the center position. He is 7'1" and an imposing 265 pounds. Many teams out there need that type of physicality at center, so don't be surprised if Gasol's free agency turns into a bidding war.
Probable Destination: New York
For nine seasons, Tayshaun Prince was the reliable small forward for the Detroit Pistons. Thus far in his career, he has averaged 12.9 points per game and has proven to play respectable defense.
Prince has also gained a reputation for being an effective three-point shooter, having shot 37 percent from downtown for his career.
Yet, the Pistons are looking to get younger and Prince is 31 years old. That being said, he will most likely find himself on a new team next season.
The former Kentucky Wildcat stands 6'9" and a lanky 215 pounds, but don't let his size fool you. He has great speed and a disciplined approach to his game. More importantly, he is a great locker-room presence and could be a leader on a team that features lots of young players.
I see Prince headed to a young team that isn't quite in contention yet, but could be down the stretch. This man has always been team-first and could prove to be the missing piece to the puzzle for a team looking to fight and claw its way into the playoffs.
Probable Destination: Golden State
Back in 2001, Tyson Chandler was a highly-touted high school player who opted to skip college and go directly to the pros.
The Los Angeles Clippers drafted him with the No. 2 pick in that year's draft and immediately traded him to the Chicago Bulls for Elton Brand. Needless to say, the 7'1", 235-pound center did not meet expectations.
Chandler averaged 6.1 points and 4.8 rebounds his rookie season and in 10 seasons has never become the dominating offensive powerhouse and shot blocker scouts thought he would be. Yet, with the Mavericks last season, Chandler proved to be a giant advantage for the team in the playoffs.
While he has not been the player many thought he would become, Chandler has still managed to put up respectable numbers throughout his career. His seasonal averages usually hover at or around 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. Last season, his first in Dallas, he averaged 10.1 points and 9.4 rebounds.
Given how clutch he was on the defensive side of the ball throughout both the regular season and the postseason, Chandler's free-agent stock is sky high right now.
Teams in need of a big man will be giving him a call, but I have a hunch that Chandler has made up his mind already. His decision? Well, let's just say he doesn't need to go house-hunting any time soon.
Probable Destination: Dallas
At 6'11" and 250 pounds, Nene is easily one of the best big men in the league. After nine seasons with the Denver Nuggets, he chose to opt out of his contract and test the free agent market.
Seeing as how he averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds last season, not to mention his having the ability to put up numbers way greater than those, the battle for Nene is a bidding war in the making.
Apart from being a great inside presence, Nene is just one of those guys who is good to have on your team. He has a positive attitude, and both his teammates and coaches love him. Yet, basketball is a business, and Nene must make the decision that makes the most sense for him financially.
Given how the Denver Nuggets experienced a big loss last trade deadline in sending All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks, GM Masai Ujiri must do everything in his power to keep his big center.
Knowing Nene, he'll probably make a decision that satisfies both himself and the fans.
Probable Destination: Denver
You may find it odd that the man holding the top spot on this list is one who primarily comes off the bench. As strange as it seems, Jamal Crawford is just that good. He is unique in that he is a bench player who plays like a starter. Allow me to explain.
Two seasons ago, Crawford averaged 18 points per game on 38 percent three-point shooting in 79 games for the Atlanta Hawks. Those numbers may seem average for a shooting guard like Crawford, but it should be noted that he did not start in any of those games and took home the Sixth Man of the Year award.
This past year, his numbers slightly dropped as he averaged just 14.2 points, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the former Michigan Wolverine is, quite possibly, the most electrifying bench player in the league.
His game is one-sided and his only real strength is his offense, but Crawford uses that strength in so many different ways be it driving hard to the basket to draw a foul or draining three-pointer after three-pointer.
Given how the Hawks have a lot of money tied up in their core group of Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Smith, it's a safe guess that Crawford will be moving on to a new squad next season.
He may have been a bench player the past two seasons, but he is more than capable of starting. Thus, teams in the market for electrifying shooting will send offers his way.
Probable Destination: Phoenix