The 2010 NBA free agent class looks to be an historical one. With the contracts of, potentially, 10 NBA Hall of Fame players expiring, no free agent class has matched the estimated impact on the league.
LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh are all set to become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2010, but one name is at the top of most teams' wish-lists. That name is Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, better known as D.J. Mbenga.
Looking at the scouting report on Mbenga, his ceiling is unbelievably high. With a 7'6" wingspan, the Zaire born player is considered incredibly long as well. Mbenga is a rare seven-foot-center who can run the floor.
Averaging 3.1 rebounds, 2.1 points and just under a block in nine minutes a game this season. Given full time minutes, Mbenga could be a double-double guy and a league leader in blocked shots.
One league source notes, "Simply put, this guy is a proven winner," referring to his role on the bench for the 2008-09 NBA Champion Los Angeles Lakers.
Mbenga showed intensity and unrivaled heart while riding the bench for the Dallas Mavericks. During the 2006 NBA Playoffs, Mbenga ran, with team owner Mark Cuban, into the stands to protect the wife of coach Avery Johnson from unruly fans. Mbenga was subsequently suspended for six games.
Teams across the league will find it hard to pass up a player with his international experience.
Raised in Zaire, D.J. was imprisoned along with his family after a new regime took power of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mbenga and his mother escaped the nation and were given asylum in Belgium. His father was not so lucky and died due to "unknown circumstances".
In Belgium, Mbenga learned basketball from Belgian basketball legend Willy Steveniers. D.J. is a current member of the Belgium national basketball team.
NBA team management must also be intrigued by the financial impact of a player like D.J. Mbenga. Franchises league-wide would be placing themselves in position to fill seats and sell more jerseys.
With the difficulty in filling the center position around the NBA, rare gems like Mbenga and Dwight Howard must be pursued if and when they come available. Nearly half of the league is likely to jump at the opportunity to land a potential "face of the franchise" type of player like D.J. Mbenga.
After the NBA season is over and teams have an idea of what they have got and what they will need going forward, expect the D.J. Mbenga sweepstakes to reach fever pitch.