NBA Free Agents 2011: One Player Each Team Must Sign
Finally, after months of negotiating, disorganization, threats, and more negotiating, the NBA Lockout seems to be over.
And, now that it’s all over, the most exciting part of the offseason is about to begin: free agency.
While this year’s free agent class contains quite a few productive players, the big names include David West, Jamal Crawford, and Caron Butler.
Certainly, each team has room for improvement, and this year’s free agents can fill each team’s void.
So, here is a list of the one, perfect free agent each team must sign.
As you will see, many teams have very similar needs, and one team’s perfect signing could be the same as another team’s.
Atlanta Hawks: Samuel Dalembert
The Atlanta Hawks have a solid core group of players in Jeff Teague, Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford.
The only spot where the Hawks lack serious depth is at the center position.
Zaza Pachulia spent a lot of time as the starting center last season, and while he did provide some energy at the position, he certainly isn’t the type of player the Hawks would want long-term.
The Hawks addressed their need for a center in the 2011 NBA Draft by drafting Keith Benson, but he also doesn’t seem like a legible solution because of his lack of experience.
There are plenty of centers in this year’s free agent class, and the Hawks need to sign one.
A perfect fit for the team would be Samuel Dalembert.
Because the Hawks already have a variety of offensive threats, he doesn’t need to score. Instead, he only has to do the things that he’s good at doing: rebounding and blocking shots. Over his career, Dalembert has averaged eight rebounds and two blocks per game, and it doesn’t seem like he’ll slow down any time soon.
With Dalembert, it’s possible that the Hawks may finally get over the hump and contend for a title in the near future.
Boston Celtics: DeAndre Jordan
Undoubtedly, the Boston Celtics are one of the oldest teams in the NBA. However, despite their age, the team is still formidable with Rajon Rondo, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett.
Without Shaquille O’Neal and with an aging Jermaine O’Neal, it’s clear that the Celtics need a young, legitimate starting center to win a title before the ‘Big Three’ retire.
The Celtics can find this type of player in DeAndre Jordan.
Jordan had a breakout year with the Los Angeles Clippers last season.
He showed that he is highly capable of rebounding (he averaged seven per game) and defending (he averaged two blocks per game), two things that the Celtics need from the center position.
While Jordan isn’t an offensive threat at all, he’s extremely athletic. As a Celtic, he’ll get his fair share of alley-oop dunk opportunities with Rajon Rondo at point guard.
Furthermore, Jordan is a great long-term solution for the Celtics—he’s only 23 years old.
Certainly, the Celtics will remain an intimidating contender with Jordan at the starting center position.
Charlotte Bobcats: David West
The Charlotte Bobcats disappointed many last season after making the playoffs for the first time the season prior.
Although the team has numerous offensive options like D.J. Augustin, Gerald Henderson, Kemba Walker and Corey Maggette, the team lacks a reliable option at the power forward position.
Indeed, the Bobcats have Boris Diaw, but he’s often out of shape. That’s why the Bobcats should try their best to sign David West.
David West is a very productive scoring power forward who can help transform the Bobcats into a playoff team.
Chicago Bulls: Arron Afflalo
Last season, the Chicago Bulls surprised many—no one would’ve thought that Derrick Rose would win MVP and lead the team to a 62-20 record.
Although they were extremely close to becoming Eastern Conference champions, Rose and the Bulls fell just short. Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng didn’t provide enough offensively, and it was clear that the team needed a reliable second scoring option, specifically at the shooting guard position.
The Bulls don’t need a shot-happy shooting guard who will ruin team chemistry—that’s why they shouldn’t sign J.R. Smith or Jamal Crawford.
Instead, the Bulls need someone who can score but is willing to allow Derrick Rose take over the game.
Arron Afflalo fits this mold.
Over his career, especially last season, Afflalo showed that he is a productive offensive threat—he shot close to 50 percent from the field last season and 42 percent from the three point arc.
In addition, Afflalo is a persistent defensive player—Heat shooting guard Dwyane Wade stated that Afflalo is a player who has given him a lot of trouble defensively.
With the Bulls, Afflalo will not only produce offensively, but he’ll fit very well in Tom Thibodeau’s defensive system.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Nick Young
The Cleveland Cavaliers were the league’s worst team last season, but they have a promising future.
The team drafted point guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Tristan Thompson in the 2011 NBA Draft, and both will be solid NBA players.
However, when you look at the rest of the Cavaliers’ roster, there isn’t much else to be excited about. Antawn Jamison seems to be the only reliable scoring threat, and that isn’t a good thing. Omri Casspi is an okay scorer, but the Cavaliers need more.
Originially, I would've suggested a player like J.R. Smith, an athletic shooting guard who can excite his teammates and the crowd.
That's why I believe Nick Young would be a good fit for the team.
Young played very well for the Washington Wizards last season, averaging 17.4 PPG on close to 40 percent shooting from behind the three point line.
In addition, like J.R. Smith, he's atheltic and can make exciting plays, and that's the kind of guy that Cleveland needs.
Young is still young at 26, and he can be a part of the Cavs' future.
Dallas Mavericks: J.J. Barea
The Dallas Mavericks won the NBA title in 2011, but the team has the potential to completely fall apart; six players are free agents this year, including J.J. Barea, Caron Butler, Brian Cardinal, Tyson Chandler, DeShawn Stevenson, and Peja Stojakovic.
Because so many of the Mavericks’ players are free agents, the team has many priorities. Their top priority, however, should be to re-sign J.J. Barea.
The Mavericks won the title without Butler. In addition, there are many players similar to Chandler on the market, but there is no player like J.J. Barea.
Although he's very small, Barea is extremely productive and throws the opposing defense off their feet when he’s on the floor. He can ignite his team on a run, and he can certainly ignite the crowd.
Without Barea, the Mavericks will lose that wild-card factor, and they will become a more predictable team.
Denver Nuggets: Nene Hilario
Surprisingly, the Denver Nuggets played very well without Carmelo Anthony and his smooth shooting stroke.
However, like the Mavericks, many of the Nuggets’ players are free agents this year, including J.R. Smith, Arron Afflalo, Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, and Nene Hilario.
In a league in which good centers are sparse, the Nuggets should try to keep one of the only inside threats left: Nene Hilario.
Nene played very well for the Nuggets last season, averaging 15 PPG and eight RPG, and he was the only reliable center on the Nuggets roster.
With Nene back as a Nugget, the team will have a good chance at making the playoffs.
Detroit Pistons: Thaddeus Young
After years of success, the Detroit Pistons are now among the worst teams in the NBA.
Although Richard Hamilton and Ben Gordon are good scorers and Brandon Knight and Greg Monroe are young players that will thrive, the Pistons don’t have much else.
Power forward Charlie Villanueva is unproductive, and it’s likely that small forward Tayshaun Prince will leave soon. Thus, it’s clear that what the Pistons really need is a young tweener who can produce offensively and defensively.
Thaddeus Young fits this description perfectly.
Young played very well off the bench for the 76ers last season, averaging 12.7 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 1.1 SPG, but it’s time for him to become a regular starter.
As a Piston, Young will be the perfect complement to Greg Monroe down low—Young is a power guy, while Monroe has more finesse.
In addition, Young can run the floor, which will excite the team and the crowd.
Young is only 23 years old, which makes him the perfect player for the future.
Golden State Warriors: Tayshaun Prince
The Golden State Warriors have a variety of offensive options with Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright, Klay Thompson, and David Lee.
What the team really lacks is a veteran who can provide solid defensive presence.
Tayshaun Prince can fill this role for the Warriors.
Prince is a champion who knows what it takes to win. Surely he’ll be able to instill winning values in a young Warriors team.
Also, Prince has been a great defensive player for years, and he’ll bring defensive intensity to a team that lacks it. Hopefully his defensive determination will inspire his teammates to follow suit.
In addition, Prince has a high motor—it’s very easy to picture him running the floor in the high-powered Warriors offense.
Furthermore, it seems that Prince’s tenure with Pistons should end this year, as he needs a change of scenery—this just adds on to why he is the perfect candidate to play in the Bay Area.
Houston Rockets: Nene Hilario
The Houston Rockets are a solid team that barely missed the playoffs last season.
The Rockets are set at the point guard, shooting guard, and power forward positions with Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin, and Luis Scola, but they are mightily lacking at the center position, especially because Yao Ming retired and Chuck Hayes is a free agent.
The best center that the Rockets can add to their roster is Nene Hilario.
Nene will not only be a solid complement to Luis Scola, but he’ll also take some of the offensive burden off of Kevin Martin.
With Nene, the Rockets will make the playoffs, and they’ll be a team that no one would want to face.
Indiana Pacers: David West
The Indiana Pacers gave the Chicago Bulls a scare in the playoffs last season, which shows that they could be a threat in the future.
The team is very young and talented, but they need a scoring threat at the power forward position, like David West, to improve.
West can score inside and he has a reliable jump shot. In addition, he is a solid rebounder.
Certainly, a talented player like West would make the Pacers an intimidating playoff team.
Los Angeles Clippers: DeAndre Jordan
With players like Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon, the Los Angeles Clippers are a young team with a lot of promise.
However, the franchise is facing a serious dilemma that needs to be resolved; they need to choose between DeAndre Jordan and Chris Kaman. They can’t have both.
Kaman has had a couple of good seasons with the Clippers, but he had an unproductive, injury plagued season last year. While Kaman was injured, DeAndre Jordan did a surprisingly good job in his place.
Unfortunately, though, Jordan is a free agent this year, and the Clippers need to re-sign him.
The Clippers thrived more with Jordan at the starting spot than with Kaman, and they had great team chemistry with Jordan, too.
Jordan is also young at 23 years old, and he will be a great part of the Clippers’ future.
In addition, with Jordan locked in as the team’s starting center, the Clippers can trade Kaman for a number of valuable players.
With Kaman as the starter, on the other hand, Jordan will likely be gone, and the Clippers will be stuck with an aging center.
Thus, it’s clear that the Clippers will benefit heavily from re-signing Jordan.
Los Angeles Lakers: Rodney Stuckey
The Los Angeles Lakers were brutally swept by the Dallas Mavericks in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
They lacked motivation, offensive and defensive intensity, and youth. On top of all that, they have a new head coach: Mike Brown.
Motivation and intensity are things that can be cured, but youth isn’t. The Lakers already have a solid core group of players in Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom, and Metta World Peace, but they lack productivity and youth at the point guard position.
Mike Brown has stated that the team will abandon the triangle offense, a system that Derek Fisher thrived in. This, in addition to his age, is a reason why Fisher isn’t a viable option for the Lakers at point guard.
The Lakers drafted Darius Morris in the 2011 NBA Draft, but he needs time to develop before he becomes a reliable starter.
As a result, the Lakers truly need a young, starting point guard, and Rodney Stuckey seems to be a good fit.
The Detroit Pistons drafted Brandon Knight, a player similar to Stuckey, so it seems that Stuckey’s days in Detroit may be over.
As a Laker, Stuckey will provide youth, athleticism, solid passing ability, and some scoring, all of which the Lakers lacked last season.
Some may argue that T.J. Ford or J.J. Barea are better options.
However, Ford has had injury problems and Barea is more of a bench player than a starter.
Stuckey is clearly the best option.
Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol
The Memphis Grizzlies surprised the NBA world after defeating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of the playoffs.
The team’s front court, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, dominated, and it seemed that the duo had made the team championship contenders.
Unfortunately, however, Gasol is a free agent this year. Gasol is capable of averaging a double-double and becoming a feared defensive presence, which is why the Grizzlies need to re-sign him to a long term deal.
With Gasol as the team’s starting center and Randolph as the starting power forward, the Grizzlies will undoubtedly be a huge threat in the Western Conference.
Miami Heat: Tyson Chandler
Unfortunately, though, they lost at the hands of Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. One of the main reasons why they lost, in addition to Nowitzki’s dominance and James’ disappearance, was their lack of depth at the center position.
Mavericks center, Tyson Chandler, completely dominated in the Finals, blocking shots and rebounding with ease.
The Miami Heat need a similar player, and why not sign the villain himself: Tyson Chandler.
As a member of the Heat, Chandler will not have to provide that much offensively. All he has to do is rebound and defend, and he’s good at both.
Personally, I don’t believe it’s likely that Chandler will sign with the team that he helped beat, but if he does, the Heat will be title favorites.
Milwaukee Bucks: David West
The Milwaukee Bucks disappointed many last season after making the playoffs a season earlier.
The team has a solid point guard in Brandon Jennings and a good center in Andrew Bogut. However, they don’t have enough offensive production.
Indeed, the Bucks traded for shooting guard, Stephen Jackson, but he isn’t enough.
In addition, because starting power forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute is a free agent and Drew Gooden is unreliable, it's evident that the Bucks need a power forward that can score.
That’s why, like many other teams, the Bucks need to sign David West.
West will rebound and produce offensively, as he has been doing throughout his entire career.
With West, the Bucks will be an intimidating team that will make the playoffs.
Minnesota Timberwolves: No One
The Minnesota Timberwolves were awful last season, even though Kevin Love had a breakout year.
The team certainly improved in the NBA draft, as they drafted tweener Derrick Williams, which solidified the team’s starting lineup.
This season, it seems that Love will play center, Williams and Michael Beasley will play the forward positions, and Ricky Rubio and Wesley Johnson will play the guard positions.
Because the Timberwolves only have one free agent, Sebastian Telfair, and a lineup that is pretty set in stone, there is no ideal free agent the Timberwolves need to sign.
The scenario will be completely different in 2012, as both Beasley and Love will be restricted free agents.
New Jersey Nets: Jamal Crawford
The New Jersey Nets surprised everyone when they traded for Deron Williams in February.
Nonetheless, Williams’ tenure with the Nets may be cut short because he will be a free agent in 2012.
Brook Lopez is a solid interior player, but the Nets need a perimeter scorer in order for Williams to stay with Nets long-term.
A solid shooting guard that can take this role is Jamal Crawford.
Crawford is a solid guard who can score from anywhere on the court—he can penetrate to the basket or shoot and make a long jumper.
In addition, Crawford is a passionate and edgy player, which is why he’s a better fit for Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov’s Nets than a shooting guard like Jason Richardson.
New Orleans Hornets: David West
The New Orleans Hornets played very well last season with Chris Paul leading the team.
Unfortunately, however, Paul’s days with the Hornets may be limited—he will be an unrestricted free agent in 2012.
Thus, it’s vital that the Hornets sign a player that will influence Paul to remain with the team.
The best player that will do that is David West.
David West has played with the Hornets for eight seasons, and he is very productive—last season, he averaged 19 points and eight rebounds per game.
West will certainly help Paul and the Hornets reach the playoffs, and he is one of the only hopes the franchise has to persuade Paul to remain a Hornet.
New York Knicks: Samuel Dalembert
The New York Knicks made the playoffs last year with Chauncey Billups, Carmelo Anthony, and Amar’e Stoudemire leading the way.
However, it was very evident that, while the team was excellent offensively, they lacked defensive intensity.
The Knicks addressed this issue by drafting Iman Shumpert, but they still lack a defensive presence in the post.
Samuel Dalembert could be that presence.
As a Knick, all Dalembert would have to do is rebound and defend the opposing team’s best post player, which he is capable of doing.
He would fulfill a similar role as he would if he were on the Atlanta Hawks.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Shane Battier
With a core group of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, and Serge Ibaka, the Oklahoma City Thunder are a very young title-contending team.
What they really need to get over the hump is a productive veteran player who wants to win a title—they need a player like Shane Battier.
Battier will knock down shots and play great defense, as he has throughout his entire career.
Orlando Magic: Arron Afflalo
The Orlando Magic looked as if they were in complete disarray after they lost to the Atlanta Hawks in the 2011 NBA Playoffs.
Dwight Howard was a monster down low, but he didn’t have a lot of production around him.
In order to stay in the hunt for the title, the Magic need another scoring threat, and Arron Afflalo can be just that.
Although he’s not quite as athletic, Afflalo can be who the Magic thought Jason Richardson would be, but younger: a solid shooter who can consistently produce offensively.
With Afflalo, however, I don’t see how the Magic can be significantly better.
It seems that they’ll just have to wait until the summer of 2012 and hopefully sign Dwight Howard, as well as another superstar like Chris Paul.
Philadelphia 76ers: Thaddeus Young
There is hope for the Philadelphia 76ers—they played particularly well last season and made the playoffs.
The team is very young with players such as Jrue Holiday, Jodie Meeks, Lou Williams, Evan Turner, and Thaddeus Young.
It’s very likely that Andre Iguodala will eventually be traded, which is why it’s vital that the 76ers maintain their youth and build for the future.
Thus, they should re-sign a young, familiar face: Thaddeus Young.
Elton Brand is getting older, and only time will tell how much longer he will last. Young can be Brand’s replacement at starting power forward—he has the athletic ability and strength to make an impact at the position.
With Young and the rest of the young cast intact, the 76ers can be major threat very soon.
Phoenix Suns: Marcus Thornton
The Phoenix Suns didn’t make the playoffs last year, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to anytime soon.
Clearly, the Suns need help at almost all positions. Steve Nash and Vince Carter are getting older, and Jared Dudley and Channing Frye aren't the types of players one would want to build their franchise around.
One exciting player that can be the franchise's new star is Marcus Thornton.
Last season, Thornton had a breakout season with the Sacramento Kings, and he should be able to continue his impressive play if he were to sign with the Suns.
For now, he can serve as a good replacement for Vince Carter, eventually becoming the shooting guard of the future.
Portland Trailblazers: Jason Richardson
Once again, the Portland Trailblazers made it to the playoffs but failed to get past the first round.
With a solid front court of LaMarcus Aldridge and Gerald Wallace and productive point guard in Raymond Felton, the Blazers are almost there.
In order to get deeper in the playoffs and possibly contend for a title, the Blazers need another scoring threat who wants to win, such as Jason Richardson.
Although Richardson had a down year last season, he’s still capable of scoring a decent amount of points.
In fact, Richardson doesn’t have to score that much anyway with Wesley Matthews starting and an injury-prone Brandon Roy on the bench.
With Richardson, the Blazers will succeed and will have yet another offensive threat for the opposing defense to worry about.
Sacramento Kings: Andrei Kirilenko
The Sacramento Kings were, once again, one of the worst teams in the league last season.
They have plenty of young players, such as DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and Jimmer Fredette. Each of these players is very good offensively.
However, they aren’t quite that great defensively. Andrei Kirilenko, a player who has averaged 2.0 BPG and 1.4 SPG in his career, can provide much needed defensive intensity at the small forward position.
In addition, Kirilenko will provide veteran leadership, which is what this young Kings team desperately needs.
San Antonio Spurs: Greg Oden
The San Antonio Spurs looked great in the regular season last season, but they floundered in the playoffs as they lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round.
It is a well-known fact that the Spurs are getting very old and need younger players.
The Spurs especially need a new center because their 2010-11 starting center, Antonio McDyess, retired.
Greg Oden is a free agent who can become the Spurs center of the future.
Although he has been out with injury the majority of his career, he has showed promise in the games that he has played—he averaged 11 PPG and eight RPG in only 24 MPG in 2009-10.
In addition, Oden is only 23 years old. He still has time to improve, if he can stay healthy.
Who knows, if the Spurs sign him in the end, Oden may become the next David Robinson.
It’s worth the risk.
Toronto Raptors: Jeff Green
The Toronto Raptors failed to make the playoffs last season, which wasn’t a surprise. However, the team has some solid players in Ed Davis, Andrea Bargnani, Demar DeRozan, and Jose Calderon. They drafted another good player, Jonas Valanciunas, who they hope to be the starting center.
What the Raptors are really missing is a starting small forward.
James Johnson was the starter last season, and he averaged 7.1 PPG—the Raptors could really use an upgrade.
Jeff Green could be that upgrade.
Green is a good shooter who can create shots for himself. Although he didn’t play very well when he was with the Celtics, he was effective with the Thunder.
If Green can play like he did in Oklahoma City and average around 15 PPG, the Raptors will be a much improved team.
Utah Jazz: Marcus Thornton
The Utah Jazz failed to make the playoffs last season, but they have a lot of talent.
They have effective front-court players in Paul Millsap, Enes Kanter, Mehmet Okur, Derrick Favors, and Al Jefferson.
However, they lack a productive perimeter scorer.
While there are many good shooting guards in this year’s free agent class, Marcus Thornton should be the best fit for the Utah Jazz.
Thornton didn’t play well for the New Orleans Hornets, but he displayed his impressive offensive talent with the Sacramento Kings, averaging 21.3 PPG.
As a part of the Jazz, Thornton will be one of the team’s go-to scorers, which he has proven he can be.
A major reason why Thornton would fit so well with the Jazz is because he is young—at 24 years old, Thornton has the potential of being a long-term player for the Jazz.
Washington Wizards: Caron Butler
The Washington Wizards didn’t play well last season, but they have several good players in John Wall, Andray Blatche, Jordan Crawford, and Javale McGee.
What the Wizards really need is a veteran who can lead and score.
Caron Butler fits this description.
Butler was injured last season, but he has showed throughout his career that he can shoot and drive to the basket using his powerful physique.
If Butler reunites with his old team, the Wizards will have the potential of being a playoff team.