We’ve had little to no talk on the free agent class on 2010 here on the blog, and obviously this class is the biggest and best we’ve probably ever seen. July 1, 2010 has been etched into owner’s/GM’s minds for the past few seasons, and multiple teams could land a couple of big time players to make them an instant contender. This upcoming July could shape the NBA’s power balance for the next decade to come. I’m a big fan of making lists, so here’s my top twenty free agents. I’ve included some guys on the list that I think may opt out of their contract making the list a little more exciting. I decided to leave off the restricted free agents such as Dirk and Pierce, because it would be strange to see some of these teams actually cut these guys…
#1 Lebron James – 7th season – 25 years old – Player option to be an unrestricted free agent
He’s the first player I can ever think of that had teams scrapping multiple seasons just to make the cap space for him, and another star. He’s the best player in the league, and WILL one day join Oscar on the list of players to average a triple-double. I won’t go into what he’s good at since he can pretty much do everything. If any player in the league can make personnel decisions within his own team, Lebron is that guy.
#2 Dwayne Wade – 7th season – 28 years old – Player option to be an unrestricted free agent
Probably the best guard in the league. He scores wherever he wants, and gets to the line nearly everytime he drives to the hoop. He probably had two of the best five dunks of the season dunking over Varejao, and half the Pacers team. He’s made a crappy Heat team relevant. Hopefully someone else on this list ends up on the same team as him, because if anyone deserves some help it’s this guy. If Miami loses him, they will be counting ping pong balls for years to come.
#3 Amar’e Stoudemire – 8th season – 27 years old – Player option to be an unrestricted free agent
Amar’e looks to have fully recovered from his injury, and looks like he’s back at his 2007-08 form. The knock on him has always been defense, but it looks like he’s made some strides since sitting down with Bill Russell, which Amare said was an eye opening experience. I’m not certain that I see him opting out of Phoenix since he seems to like it there, but why stick with a one year contract when you can get one for six? Especially with his laundry list of injuries. Then again, I could also see him staying in Phoenix to help Nash ride off into the sunset. After all the constant trade talks swirling around him, and him never going anywhere, I’m skeptical that he will leave the valley of the sun.
#4 Chris Bosh – 7th season – 25 years old – Player option to be an unrestricted free agent
Most teams that are in the Lebron sweepstakes are also hoping to team him with Bosh. The predator should make a big impact wherever he lands whether it’s in Chicago with Rose and Noah, or with Lebron or Wade somewhere else. I don’t view him as a alpha dog, but he’s as good a great sidekick that demands a lot of attention from opposing teams. I see him as a Gasol type fit on a championship team. A big part of why they win, but in the end not the sole reason they win.
#5 Carlos Boozer – 8th season – 28 years old – unrestricted free agent
The Jazz forward was all but out of Utah, and decided at the last minute to exercise his option and avoid free agency last year. This year is a different story with no option to fall back on. He’s kind of like Amar’e in that he doesn’t play a lot of D, but his offensive skill set more than makes up for it. I was actually surprised to see he was only 28, it feels like he’s been in this league forever. Utah has a lot of payroll tied up, and would more likely go after Millsap to replace him, but then again he is playing with the self proclaimed best point guard in the league.
#6 Joe Johnson – 9th season – 29 years old – unrestricted free agent
Joe is the only player guaranteed to be on the market, but I see all these other players opting out of their “option”. JJ denied the Hawks of a four year $60M extension last year, so we know he wants to test the market. I think he could get that much or possibly more on the open market. He’d be a good fit in Chicago or even NY if they don’t land Lebron. I’m sure Atlanta will try hard to keep him as he seems to be their main cog, and a big reason that they are playing so well this year, and could easily be in the top 5.
#7 Yao Ming – 8th season – 29 years old – Player option to be an unrestricted free agent
Yao is pushing 30 with a list of foot injuries, so is he worth a max contract? Maybe or maybe not. Is the injury plagued past going to be a big factor in teams deciding whether they want to pay the Chinaman. In the end, I’d say it’s worth it from a financial situation. Just look at his Rockets teammates contracts with Li-Ning Shoes. Is it a risk to pay a guy that only plays about half his games? Yes, but Yao is still a big impact player whether you want to admit it or not…
#8 David Lee – 5th season – 26 years old – unrestricted free agent
I’m not sure how this guy isn’t talked about more in the free agency free for all. He’s one of the youngest players in my top ten, and has shown that he will be a solid player for years to come. If the Knicks can’t get one of the top free agents, we could see Lee inking a six year contract in NY. Someone could make him their #1 target and steal Lee away while the Knicks are trying to figure out which superstar is actually interested in playing in the Big Apple.
Grizz fans laughed at Gay over the summer. It wasn’t because of his name, but more because he was asking for a contract extension that paid him in the neighborhood of $10M per year. Now it’s Rudy’s turn to laugh as the overachieving Grizzlies saw Gay improve his game substantially over the season, and should command what he was asking last summer. Memphis can pretty much match any offer that’s put out there, so it will be interesting to see who puts in an offer for his services. I wouldn’t rule out a sign and trade either.
#10 Louis Scola – 3rd season – 29 years old – restricted free agent ($4.1M qualifying offer)
I really like the way Scola plays, and he’s been key to the Rockets staying afloat without the 7 foot Chinaman. The Chinaman is NOT the issue though, and at the age of 30, his rookie contract has just expired. He’s not quite young enough to get that huge six year deal, but he’s not old enough to where he’s not valuable. If they didn’t trade away Carl Landry, then I’d feel more confident that Scola would be on the move this offseason, but I think the Rockets will match any offer that comes his way…
Unfortunately for Shuttlesworth the past two seasons he’s declined, making him much less attractive, but since he was a superstar, and willing to do what it takes to help out the team in a back up role, he should fit in nicely somewhere. Maybe a move to a youthful team will rejuvenate him or even a contender that needs some outside shooting, like say Cleveland or the Supersonics. It’ll be interesting to see if a team gets a good deal or overpays for him. My guess if it’s a crappy team it will be an overpayment.
#12 Tyrus Thomas – 4th season – 23 years old – restricted free agent ($6.2M qualifying offer)
I along with many others are having a hard time figuring out TT. He tends to disappear on offense for large chunks of time, but he’s still very young. I’m not sure he’ll ever live up to his abilities, but he’s been pretty solid since getting away from all the coaches he didn’t like in Chicago. I’m not sure Charlotte will let him get away, and could lock him up before many offers are made. TT could be the next Josh Smith, but he could easily be the next Darko Milicic in the bust column.
#13 Marcus Camby – 14th season – 35 years old – unrestricted free agent
I’m guessing Portland won’t keep him since they have plenty of big men that were on the shelf. Camby is getting to to the later stages in his career, and will probably get no more than a one or two year deal. For awhile I was much more afraid of this guy putting up 20 and 10. Now he just gets the boards and scores here and there. He’s still a superb defender, and an underrated passer out of the post. He would’ve been a much better pickup than Sheed was for the Celtics.
I’m not sure what to make of Salmons. He was good in Sac, and in the movement to get more youthful he was dumped. He was good in Chicago’s playoff run last year, but disappeared on the bench for some strange reason until he was traded this year to the Bucks. He’s been nothing short of indispensible for the Bucks since that trade. I think he could make more than $5.8M on the market if he opts out, and for long term and short term financial gain, he should test the waters.
#15 Shaquille O’neal – 18th season – 38 years old – unrestricted free agent
Shaq got bumped up this list a little since he’s probably one of the most entertaining and dominant players we’ve ever had in the league. He has said that he wants to play for a couple more years. Not sure that the odometer will agree with him, but from what I saw during the year he’s still better than half the centers in the league even if it’s for only 20 minutes a game. We’ll see if Shaq stays in somewhat good shape over the offseason, because now he needs to more than ever.
#16 Brendan Haywood – 9th season – 30 years old – unrestricted free agent
I really like the way Haywood gets after it. I feel like he’s not intimidated with anyone he runs into down low. I really feel like he’s going to stay in Dallas since they will have money to spend with Dampier’s contract expiring at the end of the year. I love how he doesn’t get out of his game, and sticks to what he does best. I doubt he’ll get huge $, but he should have plenty of interest from numerous teams. If he’d had a better playoff run, I might have put him above Shaq…
Udonis doesn’t put up eye-popping numbers by any stretch of the imagination, but he does the little things that help teams out in the win column. He’s kinda like Battier, in that he’s invaluable to the team he plays for. He plays under control and is unselfish on the offensive end. He’s a good defender that can rebound and is one of those glue guys every team needs. I think him and Matt Barnes are sailing in the same type of boat this summer.
#18 Travis Outlaw – 7th season – 25 years old – unrestricted free agent
I feel like Outlaw is pretty good player when he gets the minutes, but the problem with him is, he only plays big minutes when someone gets hurt. Does that mean he’s not good, no, I think it just means he’s a solid sixth man. He’s still pretty young, so maybe he’ll be a late bloomer. Aside from Gay and Lebron he’s the only true SF on my list, so that has to count for something.
Felton is ultra productive when he’s in the game. Problem is he didn’t get a ton of minutes while in Charlotte. I guessing that most players don’t want to be Derrick Fischer, but he’s good at sucking it up and doing what the team needs instead of trying to do too much. Sadly, I think he’d be a perfect fit on the Lakers, and if they get him they will be the favorites next year as they won’t have to have Fischer out there as their starter.
#20 Matt Barnes - 7th season – 30 years old – player option $1.54M.
Matty has proven himself everywhere he’s gone. He never takes a play off, and has been successful in three different situations over the last four years. I’m not sure why teams seem to shy away from him or don’t resign him. He’s the scrappy get in your face guy that everyone needs to get the rest of the guys fired up. I feel like he’s a bargain at $1.54M for the Magic, and would be well worthy man in almost any teams rotation.