NBA Upcoming Free Agents: How Do They Compare To Last Year's Class?

Joe WillettSenior Writer IDecember 28, 2008

Although there were big names a plenty, last year's crop of NBA free agents fell into a pattern of underachieving, as most players have played worse than in previous seasons with previous teams.

So how does next season's crop of free agents fall in comparison to last season?

2009 still offers big names, but most of the players available are role players.

Among the big names, Mike Bibby (Atlanta Hawks), Jason Kidd (Dallas Mavericks), Allen Iverson (Detroit Pistons), Rasheed Wallace (Detroit Pistons), Ron Artest (Houston Rockets), Stephon Marbury (New York Knicks), and Carlos Boozer (Utah Jazz).

The bulk of players heading into free agency in 2009, are guys that will come in, fill roles, and play reliably for a smaller salary.

Ben Gordon (Chicago Bulls), Drew Gooden (Chicago Bulls), Ronald Murray (Atlanta Hawks), Brandon Bass (Dallas Mavericks), Antonio McDyess (Detroit Pistons), Rasho Nesterovic (Indiana Pacers), and Lamar Odom (Los Angeles Lakers) just to name a few.

2009 seems like a year that will offer movement, and teams will either reach greatness or fall from it depending on how they handle expiring contracts.

While teams like the Knicks seem ready to juggle contracts in hopes of landing the big prize in 2010, other teams will need to re-sign many players to stay competitive.

Both the Atlanta Hawks (Bibby, Murray and Zaza Pechulia have expiring contracts) and Detroit Pistons (risk losing Iverson, Wallace and McDyess this off-season) both need to work hard to remain competitive through next season.

Carlos Boozer has already said that he will be leaving the Jazz this offseason, and will likely be hounded by teams looking for a presence inside, teams like the Chicago Bulls should be interested.

Players like Mike Bibby and Jason Kidd are both above 30, but they still have a lot to offer.  They bring leadership and the ability to put the ball in the right place at the right time.

The Los Angeles Lakers should be in the market for a point guard like Bibby or Kidd, a player who won't necessarily score a lot but will get it to the person that will.  The extra veteran presence would also be good to help bring along a younger player like Jordan Farmar.

Allen Iverson is a guard who plays completely different from both Kidd and Bibby (to state the obvious) and he would be a better fit for a team that needs a consistent scorer to get into contention.

The Phoenix Suns would be the perfect fit with Shaq and Amare Stoudemire controlling the paint and with Steve Nash making every pass necessary, Iverson would be able to flourish in an environment that would give him open looks constantly.

He would also be a strong pick up for the Utah Jazz, who have a great point guard in Deron Williams as well as an inside presence in Mehmet Okur and Andre Kirilenko.  It seems like they will lose Boozer and adding a scorer to the mix would be a good idea to keep the Jazz in contention.

Stephon Marbury is a special player in the sense that he needs somebody who will put him in his place to make sure that he never acts out again.  Where he lands will highly depend on how his ego is affected by this season's rendezvous with the Knicks.

If he realizes that he needs to shut up and prove himself to get the big money again, he should be able to find a home with one of the teams mentioned above for Iverson, but if he still thinks he is top dog, it will be hard for him to find a place that would pay him the amount of money he would likely want.

The only team that would take that would overpay a player that much would be the Knicks, but he already blew that one.

Ron Artest is an interesting player because his contract is up, but he is still 29 years-old and if he is able to keep his act clean throughout this season and the Rockets play well, I have a hard time imagining that he would be anywhere but Houston next season.

The most interesting thing to watch this off-season, however, will be where the role players end up.

Lamar Odom is likely in the same boat as Artest, only he doesn't need to prove himself as somebody who isn't a cancer, but Kobe has liked having him there and he has been a big part of the Lakers.

Ben Gordon is very likely to be leaving the Chicago Bulls after this season, which is what he wanted to do last off-season before he realized that there was no market for him.

If he will drop his high contract demands this off-season, he could end up in a place like New Orleans where he would likely take most of the playing time instead of the average duo of Rasual Butler and Morris Peterson.  Having Chris Paul to pass to him might make him live up to his full potential, especially after seeing what a rookie can do to his game.  The 76ers are another possible destination.

Another player who could become a big role player would be Ronald Murray, who could take the place of Sam Cassell in Boston behind Ray Allen.

With all the role players available, teams like the Spurs, Suns, Hornets, and others on the verge, should all be looking to add depth players to help them through the playoffs.

But with the star driven resurgence of teams like Cleveland, Los Angeles and Boston, teams will also be looking to add somebody to drop 30 points a night.

Although it is too early to say what will happen this off-season, 2009 will likely be a year with stars moving, and teams making or breaking their future by finding the diamond in the rough.

I'm Joe W.

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