NBA Free Agents 2011: Top Young Talents Available on the Market
With so much talent on the market and so little time, it's completely possible for some of these organizations to possibly miss out on a hidden gem if they're too focused on one player.
What organizations are going to attempt this offseason is to spend as little money as possible in preparation for the 2012 free-agency class which features names like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Chris Kaman. This 2011 class features only the likes of Nene Hilario, Jamal Crawford and David West which is still quality, but not as impressive as 2012's or last year's.
Instead, this offseason needs to be used as a preparation so teams will be able to stock up on role players that will either help convince their desired players to join or to help fill in some holes that were exposed last season. While a number of veterans will be desired, organizations will also have to take a step back and take a look at some of the young talent that this offseason has to offer.
There are numerous young and talented players that are out there that failed to make this list and it's only because they pale in comparison to the five mentioned here. These five players have the advantage of youth with them, but also contain the advantage of being extremely mature for their age and playing with fundamentals rather than flash, which is what most of these young players attempt to do too much of these days.
These five players will be heavily coveted, so it would be best for teams to begin making their pitches as soon as they possibly can.
Spending 26 awkward games with the Boston Celtics, power forward Jeff Green may be on the move after a disappointing showing with the team that he joined near the latter part of the 2010-11 season.
Green had previously spent the previous three-and-a-half seasons with the Oklahoma City Thunder and played a large role on their own version of the big three that included himself, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant. Green had averaged as much as 16 points per thanks to his ability to work in the post and hit from the mid-range and perimeter, but was a dismal rebounder with a high of only seven per.
With Green not contributing too many traits outside of stretching the floor on offense, the team decided to go in a different route by trading him to the Celtics in exchange for a much-needed post presence in Kendrick Perkins. The Thunder would go on to replace Green with Serge Ibaka, who would provide the defense and shot-blocking prowess that Jeff had lacked during the time that he spent with the team.
Green would play 26 games for the Celtics and they'd be uneventful, as he'd come off the bench to average 10 points and a dismal three rebounds per. On a team where defense is the No. 1 priority, losing Perkins and obtaining Green was one of the most asinine things the Celtics organization could have possibly done.
A restricted free agent this offseason, Green will be looked at by a number of teams including the Celtics, who will most likely use him to replace Kevin Garnett upon his eventual retirement. He may be lacking in the rebounding and defensive departments, but he's a gifted player on the offensive end and would be perfect for any team that runs a fast-paced offense or one that requires a big man to stretch the floor.
The second restricted free agent on this list, Denver Nuggets shooting guard Arron Afflalo is set to receive a lucrative deal from a team wanting his services.
Afflalo spent the first two years of his career coming off the bench and barely receiving any playing time with the Detroit Pistons. It wouldn't be until the Denver Nuggets traded a second-round pick to the Pistons that Afflalo would begin receiving playing time as well as taking significant advantage of his new opportunity.
In response to getting the start upon his arrival, Afflalo would average nine points and three boards per while playing fantastic defense for a player that had only been in the league for three years. This most recent season was Afflalo's breakout year as he exploded on the scene with 13 points, four boards and three assists per while playing even greater perimeter defense.
As well as being a terrific defender, Afflalo has also begun to emerge as one of the league's top perimeter threats and has hit over 40 percent for the past three seasons with over 100 three-pointers to show for it in the past two seasons.
At only 26 years old and in a free-agency market that is on the lookout for youthful, defensive talent, Afflalo is going to be highly coveted by a number of teams including his Denver Nuggets. With contenders like the Chicago Bulls set to inquire about Afflalo, it would be surprising to see him leave the Nuggets considering that they gave him a chance after the Pistons had already given up on him after two seasons.
With the Detroit Pistons expected to immediately start their recent first-round draft pick in Brandon Knight, it's pretty much an indication by the team the services of current point guard Rodney Stuckey will no longer be needed.
Once again, the Pistons are quick to give up on a promising young star with Stuckey being the victim this time. The fourth-year guard spent time in the starting lineup and coming off of the bench last season, as they swapped him out with Will Bynum a number of times throughout the season. The Pistons organization was in shambles last season and with the debacle involving their coach, Stuckey was caught in a crossfire and was forced to deal with a boycott of his own teammates against their coach.
Stuckey has been relatively solid in his first four years with the Pistons. He isn't what the team has in mind at this point as they'd rather go for a pure point guard rather than a combo-guard like Stuckey which means that departing for a new team could be a real option. He's sure to receive plenty of offers as well considering that he averaged 16 points, five assists and three boards per last season.
Being a combo-guard could scare off some teams looking for a pure point guard or shooting guard, but it shouldn't matter too much when considering how talented of a player Stuckey is. He can play both positions well on both sides of the ball, has stupendous athleticism and can explode at any given moment and can hit from the mid-range while making it to the rim at a consistent rate as well.
Playing the role of sixth man last year for the Philadelphia 76ers, power forward Thaddeus Young is sure to earn himself a lucrative deal with the Sixers or any team that requires the services of a multidimensional power forward that can defend very well and is willing to shell out the money for the restricted free agent.
After spending only one year at Georgia Tech, Young entered the NBA as a 19-year-old and would show a great prowess on both sides of the ball as he'd average eight points and four boards per. The Sixers would then make him their starting power forward the next season and would impress on offense by averaging 15 points on a little less than 50 percent shooting, but would raise some concerns for the organization due to his lack of rebounds at only five per.
In fact, Young's rebounding has continued to be an issue as he has averaged five rebounds per for the past two years and has yet to show that he's willing to be physical in the paint in order to grab caroms. Despite the rebounding concerns, Young is still a highly coveted player because of his scoring ability as he can hit from the mid-range while using his speed and athleticism to beat opposing power forwards off the dribble.
He's also a multidimensional defender that can play effective defense at 3 and 4 thanks a to a 6'8", 220-pound frame that allows him to outmuscle small forwards while using his speed and quickness to keep up with power forwards.
One of the more underrated free agents of this 2011 class is current Sacramento Kings guard Marcus Thornton who is coming off of a short tenure with the team that he played stellar basketball with to the tune of 21 points, five boards and four assists per.
With Tyreke Evans out of the lineup due to an injury, Thornton would take advantage of the situation by starting and exhibiting a tremendous offensive skill set that allows him to hit from beyond the arc and the mid-range while also having the quick first step and strength to beat his defenders off the dribble to drive. He's an extremely athletic player that can attack the rim at any time and it translated to Thornton scoring a career-high 21 points per on 45 percent shooting in the 27 games he played.
Thornton also managed to have a 42-point game in the team's season finale against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Now that the Kings have Evans returning and possibly taking over at shooting guard with rookie Jimmer Fredette taking over at point guard, it'll be interesting to see how the team handles this situation. Thornton is much too undersized to play the small forward, which means that the only place he'd fit is as the team's sixth man which may not be an option for a player who can start on the majority of the teams in the league.
Thornton is an asset that the Kings don't want to lose. They got him for a steal from New Orleans after trading Carl Landry and can now possibly develop him as one of the NBA's top perimeter threats as well as one of its most explosive players.