NBA Free Agents 2011: Where the 10 Best Available Players May Sign
The NBA season is almost here, folks. After preseason finally got underway last night, the 66-game season will begin in eight days with some excellent matchups.
Still, some teams, including the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic, don't have their entire roster figured out yet. In addition, some players unemployed right now could be the missing piece on a championship squad.
Unfortunately, there's not too much money to go around under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, so the remaining players will find it difficult to sign for more than the veteran's minimum.
Recent injuries and amnesty waives, however, have freed up roster spots, and there's a good chance that these free agents could receive much larger contracts next summer with a solid season.
Here are my top 10 free agents still available and some ideal situations for them...
10. Ike Diogu
He hasn't played in many meaningful minutes throughout his career, but Ike Diogu has been a force when given the opportunity to perform.
It's a shame that he's had to move around so much throughout his career. Two seasons ago when he was with the Sacramento Kings, he ended the season with a bang, including two 30-point games.
At 6'9'', max, he's slightly undersized as a power forward, but he can score the ball and has a strong upper body.
The 2005 lottery pick of the Indiana Pacers can play a role similar to that of Paul Millsap with the Utah Jazz. He can get signed for the veteran's minimum, and if he gets the chance, Diogu will turn some heads.
Orlando and New York are good options for Diogu, but it doesn't look like he's been getting many offers.
9. Al Thornton
After his first two seasons in the league, it looked like Al Thornton had a bright career ahead of him with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Unfortunately, his minutes dropped, and the emergence of sophomore guard Eric Gordon left few shots to go around for Thornton. He was subsequently traded to the Washington Wizards, where he struggled more and was eventually bought out.
The former first-round pick can still play, however, and any team with a need at small forward should look toward him. Defensively he still struggles, but he's a slasher that can be a streaky scorer.
He'll need the right situation and a good coach, though, to get the best out of him.
8. Reggie Evans
Originally I had Reggie Evans higher on this list, but then I noticed that he was only 6'8", though, making his accomplishments even more impressive.
Evans knows his role. He is a rebounding machine, and does little more. Despite being plagued by injuries in his last two seasons with Toronto, he averaged 11.5 rebounds in fewer than 27 minutes a game.
Offensively, he's a liability, but Evans is the type of role player and veteran presence that every championship team needs. He'll do whatever you ask him to, which isn't much, and he'll do a great job at it. Injuries have been an issue lately, but it looks like he'll be good to go this season.
The Orlando Magic need another big man, so that would be an ideal place for Evans to go.
7. Nick Young
Last season's acquisition of Jordan Crawford has made Nick Young expendable for the Washington Wizards, but that doesn't mean he's not a wanted man elsewhere.
After his first three lackluster seasons, Young really came on last year and showed what he could do when given minutes and a bunch of shots.
With 17.4 points per game on 44 percent shooting last season, the 6'7" guard from USC showed he has what it takes to be an efficient scorer in the league. Unfortunately, few teams are in need of a dynamic scorer, and even less that are willing to pay the type of money Young will probably ask for.
The best situation for him, I believe, is in Charlotte, where the Bobcats are severely lacking scorers.
6. Andrei Kirilenko
Andrei Kirilenko is currently having a great time playing basketball with CSKA Moscow in his home country, but he can opt out of his contract after 30 days and will listen to NBA offers.
He's been very consistent throughout his career, and at 30, he definitely has a few years left of effectiveness.
Injuries have always been a concern when it comes to Kirilenko, but at least you know what you're going to get from him. Underrated is a term often used to describe him, as he's always been a great defender and an effective shooter with a career average of 47 percent from the field.
The Sacramento Kings are said to be the most interested, and it wouldn't be surprising if Kirilenko decides to head west. He'll have an immediate opportunity to start for a young team in a big need of his defensive skills.
5. Kris Humphries
It's hard to do a Google search of Kris Humphries and find something related to basketball.
Yes, he'll be plagued with Kim Kardashian jokes for the rest of his life, but Humphries isn't that bad on the court. What looked like another first-round bust career turned around quickly for him last season when he surprisingly averaged a double-double.
If a team can get anywhere close to the production he had last year, then they'll be content.
That is, if a team ever calls.
To make personal life matters even worse, it doesn't look like the big man from Minnesota has gotten many looks, and that's too bad because he really deserved it after last year.
Maybe he'll actually accept that offer to play in the American Hockey League with the Syracuse Crunch...
4. Samuel Dalembert
Now the best free-agent center on the market, Samuel Dalembert is looking for a lot of money.
The Miami Heat were interested but could offer no more than the mid-level exception of $5 million, which Dalembert isn't looking for. Of course, he's also looking to start and play some major minutes.
With career averages of eight points and eight rebounds per game, the former first-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers is a defensive force. Some say he's a poor man's Tyson Chandler, but he has all the tools to be just as good.
The Houston Rockets look to be front-runners, as they are in no hurry to give major minutes to the second overall pick of the 2009 draft, Hasheem Thabeet. The Rockets severely lack height, so Dalembert could start right away and make a lot of money as well.
3. Baron Davis
It's too bad that Baron Davis has been injured so much throughout his career. After a tremendous few years with the Golden State Warriors, it looked as if Davis had solidified a long-term spot with the Los Angeles Clippers.
At 32, it looks as if he can still play and be a productive point guard as a starter.
Having cleared waivers, Davis is said to have several options including the Los Angels Lakers and New York Knicks. His best years were when he was part of a fast-paced offense, so it looks like the Knicks, who need a point guard, would be the best option.
If motivated and in the right situation, Davis could be a huge steal for whichever team grabs him. Injuries aside, he's been very effective when healthy.
2. Keith Bogans
If the Chicago Bulls were to sign Richard Hamilton, which they did yesterday, someone had to go.
You might think No. 2 on this list is a little high for a man who averaged 4.4 points per game last year, but he is an above-average defender and shooter, a very valuable asset for any team that wants to compete.
The NBA journeyman is said to be very unhappy with the move, which is valid for someone who was looking to stay in Chicago long term. Keith Bogans did everything that was ever asked for him, playing all 82 games while chasing around players like Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Ray Allen every night.
With Jeff Green out of the picture for the next year in Boston, the Celtics could look to replace him for cheap with the acquisition of Bogans. It would be a great chance for the player from Kentucky to get back at the Bulls and play the type of role James Posey did for the 2008 championship team.
1. Arron Afflalo
Boy must the Detroit Pistons feel very dumb for giving up their former first-round pick for a second-rounder that turned out to be Vernon Macklin.
At this point, Arron Afflalo looks like he's going back to the Denver Nuggets, but anything can happen. Last season was a breakout year for the former UCLA standout. Finally given minutes and a chance to start, Afflalo took advantage of the opportunity and will be making a lot of money over the next couple of years.
With a reputation as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league now, Afflalo can also shoot the ball from the three very well and resembles a little bit of Shane Battier.
If Denver doesn't work out, I'd like to see the Atlanta Hawks make a run at him to replace Jamal Crawford.
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