Posted Aug 1 2010 1:22PM
Never mind those schedule highlights slated to drop Tuesday, the start of training camp this October or Opening Night. And while we're at it, fast forward beyond the playoffs and The Finals. Not our concern.
And those tricky collective bargaining negotiations that promise to dominate headlines and our time for the next year? Put 'em on the back burner.
Let's get into free agency ... again. Hey, in today's NBA it's never too early to start theorizing who might go where and at what price. We waited two years for the Summer of 2010 and, despite some made-for-TV foolishness, the bite proved worthy of the bark.
So this is as good a time as any to start the countdown to 2011 and 2012. Heck, Kevin Durant becomes a free agent in 2016. It's practically right around the corner.
Surveying the landscape of free agency in the near future, there's not another class with the panache of LeBron and the Super Friends. But there are plenty of alluring names worthy of cap space hitting the open market soon enough.
Let's assume for the sake of this story and our sanity that labor peace rules the day, allowing the NBA to continue on into 2011 and beyond uninterrupted. With that premise and using the build-up to this offseason as a guide, here's a look at those in line to be wined and dined in the next two years.
Carmelo Anthony (ETO): Provided he turns down Denver's three-year extension for $65 million and opts out after this season, Melo is the King of 2011. It's a risk, considering the probable salary changes ahead in the next CBA. New York won't be the only suitor for the All-Star small forward.
Tony Parker: The Frenchman will have 10 years in by next summer, which is a lot of miles on a point guard. Then again, he'll only be 29. San Antonio has an heir apparent in place, but even George Hill recently said that TP isn't expendable. Other teams hope differently.
Yao Ming: If his foot doesn't heal, he'd consider retirement. Isn't that the case for anyone coming off a significant injury? Yao wants to play and when he does, he's still one of the best centers in the game. He turns 30 next month, so expect another big contract coming his 7-foot-6 way.
Tim Duncan (ETO): Technically, he belongs on this list. Honestly, he's not leaving the Spurs.
Bring 'em on: unrestricted free agents
David West (ETO): Depending on what happens with Paul, this two-time All Star could beat his celebrated teammate out the door in New Orleans.
Shane Battier: Consummate team player and standout defender for Houston who would play an important part on any playoff contender.
Caron Butler: Looking to bounce back for another big payday after a somewhat disappointing campaign. If not, likely trade bait for Dallas come February.
Glen Davis: Is Big Baby ready for a bigger role somewhere other than Boston or willing to wait and eventually slip into the shoes worn by Kevin Garnett?
Carl Landry: Nice pickup for Sacramento last season has done nothing but improve every year he's been in the league. Rebounding numbers a bit low considering his size.
J.R. Smith: Worth the headaches? Denver's sixth man has all the physical tools and is one of the league's deadliest bombers when's he on.
Sasha Vujacic: Doesn't really have the numbers now to command much attention, but with Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown out of the Lakers' picture ...
Jason Richardson: Career 18-point scorer who's just turning 30 in January. That's young in Phoenix. May not be the athletic spectacle he once was, but J-Rich remains dangerous.
Zach Randolph: Can he repeat another season of 21 and 12 for Memphis? If so, there may be another profitable act in play that is Z-Bo.
Not Yet Free: restricted free agents
Marc Gasol: Not as polished as big brother Pau, but owns the same work ethic and there's plenty to love about Gasol Part II in Memphis.
Greg Oden: Money just falls -- or does it rain -- from trees in Portland, so finances won't be an issue. But how big a gamble is extending the injury-prone former No. 1 pick?
Al Horford: Not a centerpiece big man, but the next best thing. Atlanta didn't want to risk losing Joe Johnson this summer and can't afford to lose Horford next.
Joakim Noah: Should take another step up the NBA ladder with Carlos Boozer joining Chicago's frontline, leaving Noah to focus more on defense and rebounding.
Jeff Green: Considered one of Oklahoma City's big three along with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Green is definitely No. 3.
Marcus Thornton: Second-round steal last summer averaged 14.5 points as a Hornets rookie. Could be looking at a Wesley Matthews-type raise.
Aaron Brooks: Houston's mighty mouse of a playmaker is both an excellent asset to build around or to trade for wheelin'-and-dealin' GM Daryl Morey.
DeAndre Jordan: Hasn't done much in two years with the Clippers, but centers with this kind of athletic upside always generate interest.
Chris Paul (ETO): CP3 isn't a free agent now? Memos and warnings aside, courting clubs will spend the next two years lining up, a la LeBron. The question for the Hornets' new front office: Do they wait it out and risk losing the league's best point guard for nothing in return or, unlike Toronto and Cleveland, broker a deal to get value back?
Deron Williams (ETO): The league's other best point guard could hold Utah's competitive existence in the balance or build a legacy reminiscent of John Stockton. Money and where the Jazz stand in the Western Conference are sure to come into play.
Bring 'Em On
Gerald Wallace (ETO): First-time All Star last season will be 30 in two years. Has battled injuries and considering Charlotte's money-pinching ways, bet on a change of scenery.
Goran Dragic: Either he's ready to take over for Steve Nash in Phoenix or this crafty lefty will be sailing his own ship in different waters.
Kirk Hinrich: Goes from playing alongside/behind Derrick Rose in Chicago to doing the same with John Wall in Washington. Teams in need of a starting point will pursue Hinrich.
Andre Blatche: Blossomed last season, giving Washington an easy decision when it came to moving Brendan Haywood. Young centers equal serious cash.
Chauncey Billups: At 36, Denver's quarterback is in position for the contract that allows a graceful John Elway exit.
Ron Artest (ETO): No sense in predicting what's next. That's a task for the Lakers and Ron-Ron's psychiatrist.
Jason Terry: Dallas' former Sixth Man of the Year will be on the career backend at 35.
Ray Allen: Unclear if a market will exist for a Boston sharpshooter who will be 37.
Kevin Garnett: With his ring and legacy secure, will it be time to hang it up at 36? Boston hopes not.
Steve Nash: Captain Canada once said he could envision playing up to 40. He'll be 38 when the current two-year extension expires.
Jason Kidd: Dallas playmaker will be 39 and has to retire sometime, right?
Not Yet Free
Russell Westbrook: Locking up the multi-talented point guard is the new No. 1 order of business for GM Sam Presti in OKC.
O.J. Mayo: The Grizzlies did right by Rudy Gay. You have to expect a repeat performance for Mr. Mayo.
Brook Lopez: The prediction here is at least one All-Star berth for New Jersey's soft-spoken 7-footer in the next two years. Mikhail Prokhorov will pony up.
George Hill: Count on Hill assuming a much bigger role in San Antonio's scheme, if he hasn't done so already.
Danilo Gallinari: Plenty of room to shine with David Lee out of the picture and the attention given to Amar'e Stoudemire.
Robin Lopez: Doesn't have the ceiling of twin bother Brook, but hard-working Robin figures to be a more-than-serviceable big man for a long time.
Rudy Fernandez: Once seen as the next Manu Ginobili, this Spanish import has likely seen his last days in Portland.
JaVale McGee: One of the standouts of the recent Summer League is on everyone's radar now.
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