NBA Free Agents 2011: 5 Players to Keep an Eye on as Free Agency Approaches
This 2011 free agency class isn't as storied as the 2010 class in terms of the amount of superstars that could be on the move, but it does carry a great deal of importance as a number of these players that change their locations could change the outlook on their franchise for many years to come.
Each organization will have to take the 2012 free agency class into account as well with so many superstars, All-Stars and veterans set to play the field which makes the 2011 free agency period so much more important when considering that a number of key role players could be signed in order to keep a specific player at home.
There are a few organizations out there who could be making or breaking their franchise in the coming weeks as they'll be hit with key decisions that could effect the outcome of their team in the future. The five players that are mentioned in this piece will need to be observed over the course of the looming free agency period as their potential signings could bring about benefits to one team and mediocrity and obscurity to another.
Make sure to take a look at these five free agents over the next few weeks as their decisions will be greatly affecting the franchise that they're with now and the franchise they could be with at the beginning of the season.
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Aside from being photogenic, Caron Butler also has a great deal of attributes that has made him into the perfect role player that he is today.
For one, the guy can score from anywhere and can defend any guard or small forward with ease. As far as his offense goes, Butler is extremely multidimensional as he's proven he can drive at will while also having the ability to hit the three-ball as shown by his 43 percent three-point percentage in the 29 games he played with the Dallas Mavericks last season.
Butler was well on his way to leading Dallas to the title by averaging 15 points and four rebounds per before suffering an injury in early January that would keep him out the duration of the regular and postseason. It turns out that the Mavericks didn't need him too much as they did end up winning an NBA title as you all know.
With so much money set to be thrown around by Mavericks owner Mark Cuban at the unrestricted free agents, it'll be interesting to see just how much money is thrown at 31-year-old Butler's way. He may be an important player that can fill in at the small forward, but the Mavericks need to take note that he's coming off of a serious injury and that he'll be 32 in March.
With other important players in J.J. Barea and Tyson Chandler to re-sign, the Mavs better be careful as to not invest all their money in a 31-year-old that just missed the last five months of the 2010-11 regular season.
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Vastly underrated by nearly everyone outside the Washington, D.C. area, shooting guard Nick Young is set to become a restricted free agent for the first time in his career after spending the first four seasons of his career with the Wizards.
Young hasn't received much attention since being taken with the 17th pick in 2007 and just recently had his breakout year after a stellar season where he averaged career highs across the board with 17 points, three rebounds and an assist per game while playing in 31 minutes of game time per night.
As you can clearly see, Young isn't much of an all-around player but he can score from anywhere on the court and that's what's going to bring the 26-year-old some attention. He has the length, speed and creativity to drive at will, but is a dual threat as he can also consistently hit the jumper as told by his 39 percent three-point percentage last season.
Watching what the Wizards will do with Young will turn out to be an interesting development as there's the strong possibility that the team would be more willing to start second-year guard Jordan Crawford in his place. With the Wizards being an up and coming team, it's important for those faithful to the Eastern Conference to take a look at what direction this team is going to go and just where Young could possibly end if not with Washington.
DeAndre Jordan knew that last year would be his chance to prove himself and he managed to do so after averaging eight points, five boards and two blocks per as the fill-in center upon Chris Kaman getting injured and missing more than half the season for the second time in three years.
Kaman has been the Los Angeles Clippers starting center since getting drafted by the team in 2003 and was on his way to having a breakout career before getting hurt early on this past season and playing in only 32 games. This came a year after he averaged a career high 18 points per to go along with nine boards.
His offensive skill set was among tops in the league when it came to centers, but it's proving to not be worth the headache as we will soon see which direction the team will be taking.
Jordan will be a restricted free agent in less than two weeks and he'll be one of the most desired centers outside of Nene Hilario and Tyson Chandler. His offensive skill set is limited to close range, high percentage shots, but his athleticism and leaping ability is out of this world and he complements this athletic Clipper team very well.
It'll be interesting to see what the Clippers do with Jordan as re-signing him will possibly mean the end of Kaman's tenure with the team and a possible trade on the horizon as to avoid from having him just walk when he becomes a free agent next year.
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It may seem far fetched, but the New Orleans Hornets franchise could hang in the balance based on David West's decision to stay or go.
West opted out of his deal in late June of this year and is to become an unrestricted free agent ready for the taking at the start of the period where teams are allowed to begin signing. He has spent his first eight seasons with the Hornets since being taken 18th overall in the 2003 draft and has exceeded expectations as one of the league's top mid-range threats.
West and Chris Paul have combined to form quite the combination in New Orleans as Paul's drives and his kick outs to West will usually result in an automatic two points when based on just how consistent of a mid-range threat he is. The 15 to 20 foot area from the basket has become a haven for West and it has resulted in him averaging as much as 21 points per game.
The Hornets will have a decision to make on whether to sign him or fellow power forward Carl Landry. There's no doubt that Paul would rather play alongside his teammate since 2005 in West and seeing him depart may only give more reason as to why he should jet for New York or a destination that will give him a max-deal and the potential to win a title.
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Sure to command a lot of attention from elite teams like the Chicago Bulls looking for a shooting guard, Jamal Crawford is going to be a made man from some team that is willing to give up a lucrative deal in return for obtaining the 31-year-old sharp shooter.
Crawford has spent his past two years with the Atlanta Hawks where he has been coming off the bench and giving the team a huge spark with his high octane perimeter shooting. Before averaging 14 points per and connecting on only 34 percent of his three-pointers this past season, Crawford was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year after averaging 18 points per while converting on two three-pointers per at a 38 percent clip.
The Hawks love Crawford off the bench and they're going to be willing to spend to keep him in town. If the team can utilize the amnesty clause on Marvin Williams and save up a needed $8 million, then Crawford could remain in Atlanta. The Hawks' current salary is at $65 million, $57 mil. if they drop Williams, and Jamal could be offered up to $10 million by his current team or a potential suitor.
It'll be interesting to see where Crawford will end up going because it could affect the outcome of the Eastern Conference. With the Bulls sure to be in heavy pursuit after coming to the sudden realization that they need a perimeter threat, we can expect the organization to offer him a huge deal that would make Crawford willing to make his return to Chicago after getting traded in 2004.
Take note that Crawford has always been a notorious Heat-killer and scored 52 points in a game against Miami while with the New York Knicks.