Click here to Skip to main content
LATEST HEADLINES - NBA NEWS

Fran Blinebury

0615-free-agents-608.jpg
Deron Williams and Steve Nash (and even Brook Lopez) are some of the top free agents of 2012.
David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Free agent class of 2012 stocked with noteworthy names


Posted Jun 15 2012 10:59AM

Maybe it could have generated as much of a frenzy as the wild summer of 2010. Maybe Dwight Howard could have had his own TV special to make his announcement. But the biggest name came off the marquee when Howard decided not to exercise his option and will return to Orlando, at least for now.

That leaves Deron Williams at the top of the list of the free agent class of 2012 and the tug 'o war will begin at midnight on July 1 when the Mavs try to lure him out of making a new home with the Nets in Brooklyn.

Will Steve Nash want to finish things up in Phoenix? Will Eric Gordon want to be part of starting something in New Orleans?

What follows is a rundown of the top 10 free agents who'll fuel the speculation and the bidding. You'll note the absence of Tim Duncan. That's because he said publicly a few weeks ago that he would be "a Spur for life."

A couple of other notes:

A restricted free agent is one whose current team has the right of first refusal on any offer made. A player option means the player can end his contract one year early.

All player ages are listed as of July 1, when the free agency period begins.

Deron Williams

Pos: PG
Height: 6-3
Age: 28
Status: Player option; unrestricted free agent

With Dwight Howard taking himself off the free agent market for another year, Williams is clearly the prize of this year's crop. He has the size and speed to get to the basket whenever he wants, can shoot it deep, an excellent set-up man for his teammates, and can get on the kind of roll to thoroughly dominate a game. The Nets are hoping that the shift to Brooklyn and the splash of playing in a new arena will keep him around and they'll be the favorites if they can find a way to make a deal with Orlando for Howard. But the smart money says he'll go home to Dallas to pair up with Dirk Nowitzki and make the Mavericks instant championship contenders again.

Steve Nash

Pos: PG
Height: 6-3
Age: 38
Status: Unrestricted free agent

Yes, he's closing in on four decades. Yes, he's got a chronic back problem. But the former two-time MVP does as much conditioning to stay in game shape as anybody in the game and can still run an offense and get the most out of teammates as well as any point guard in the league. Nash finished second in the league in assists (10.7). What's more, he's still an offensive threat in his own right, a career 50 percent shooter from the field, 40 percent on 3-pointers and 90 percent from the free-throw line. He would be the answer to the end-of-game question in Miami, the first pick and roll quarterback to team with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. He could return to chase a ring with his old buddy Dirk Nowitzki, if the Mavs fail to land Deron Williams. Or he could probably get the biggest payday simply riding out his career in the desert with the Suns, where he is very much at home.

Eric Gordon

Pos: SG
Height: 6-3
Age: 23
Status: Restricted free agent

There's plenty to like about the way he can fill up the basket and ignite an offense, making him a potentially perfect pairing with No. 1 draft pick Anthony Davis. The only drawback is all the time he's spent on the shelf over the past three seasons, missing 20, 26 and 57 games due to injury. Gordon wasn't thrilled at being shipped to New Orleans as part of the Chris Paul deal last season, but has recently said that he wants to make a long-term commitment to a team with his next contract and said nothing that would rule out staying in the Big Easy. Hornets management has said they will match any offer that the restricted free agent gets from another team. Still, there will likely be some -- perhaps his hometown Pacers? -- who might see if they can shake him loose.

Kevin Garnett

Pos: PF
Height: 6-11
Age: 36
Status: Unrestricted free agent

It was worth the $25,000 fine from the league office to KG not to share his immediate thoughts in the aftermath of the Celtics' loss to Miami in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals. All along he'd been making noises that this was the end of the line. But can Garnett really walk away after a sterling playoff run like that? And can the Celtics really even think about letting him get out the door? He showed during the playoffs that he is still a lock-down defender and can rise up in the clutch to carry his team in a big game. Sure, he'd give a boost to any new team -- longshot: Spurs? -- and could make a middle of the pack playoff team a contender. But that's exactly what he's already got in Boston. If Garnett's going to wear a uniform next season, shamrock green still seems the most logical color.

Roy Hibbert

Pos: C
Height: 7-2
Age: 25
Status: Restricted free agent

Nobody was more symbolic of the Pacers' rise as serious threat in the Eastern Conference than the big man in the middle. Hibbert became an All-Star, putting up career highs in scoring (12.8) and rebounding (8.8) as the franchise won its first playoff series in seven seasons, took a 2-1 lead on Miami and lit a long dormant fire under NBA fans in Indiana. The Pacers expected to be more than $20 million under the salary cap, so they would have the money to keep him around. It's a question of how much of that payroll they want to commit to a big man who still has problems with consistency and is a notch below the level of Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum. Hibbert says he loves Indiana, but hasn't yet offered a hometown discount. Word is that Dallas could make a play for the big guy if the Mavs come up short in their bid for Williams and maybe even if they don't.

Brook Lopez

Pos: C
Height: 7-0
Age: 24
Status: Restricted free agent

If you're the Orlando Magic, do you eventually bow to the inevitable that Howard wants out and make the deal with Brooklyn to take this 7-footer as the way to build a new future? Is there any team out there willing to throw big bucks at a 7-footer who has shown the potential to be a 20-10 producer? OK, do you answer yes to either of those questions if your short-term memory hasn't already faded with images of Yao Ming's abbreviated career? Here's another big man trying to come back from surgery to repair a broken foot and history is littered with others who have failed. Lopez played in just five games this season and would seem a risky bet for anyone.

Nicolas Batum

Pos: SF
Height: 6-8
Age: 23
Status: Restricted free agent

He's long, athletic, has range out to the 3-point line and can be a terrific defender at the other end of the floor. Batum's also quite young for someone with already four seasons of NBA experience, which is another reason there will be plenty of teams lining up to ring his doorbell at the start of the free agency period. The Blazers would like to use their $15-20 million of salary cap space to sign maybe a pair of free agents before using Batum's Bird Rights to keep him in the fold. But the player and his agent have said they're going to sign the first big offer they get from any team. Toronto, Phoenix, Boston, Brooklyn and Cleveland will all come calling. That could put Portland on the spot immediately to make a decision.

Ersan Ilyasova

Pos: SF
Height: 6-10
Age: 26
Status: Unrestricted free agent

He's due for a raise. A big raise. There were times last season when the tall bundle of energy from Turkey looked like a breakout star. For example, there was the night of Feb. 19 when he rang up 29 points and 25 rebounds against the Nets. That was only the third game of at least 25-25 in Bucks history (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Swen Nater) and he joined Andrew Bynum as the only players in the league to pull down 25 rebounds in a single game during the season. Put him together with the backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis and the Bucks could have a dynamic core. Trouble is, Ilyasova's going to have plenty of suitors. Pencil in the Nets, who have no draft picks this year, near the top of that list.

Ryan Anderson

Pos: PF
Height: 6-10
Age: 24
Status: Restricted free agent

Never mind that he flamed out in the first round playoff loss to Indiana. That happens and it was a short sample. But over the course of the season, Anderson was given the minutes and produced in Orlando. He's one of the finest long-range threats in the league and also hits the glass to get his share of rebounds. Put what he did together on a full-time basis and it was enough to earn him the Most Improved Player award. In this era when having a big man who can step outside and stretch defenses is a valuable asset, Anderson will have plenty of places to choose from if he doesn't want to return for another season of the Dwight Howard soap opera in Orlando.

Goran Dragic

Pos: PG
Height: 6-3
Age: 26
Status: Unrestricted free agent

What were the Suns thinking when they shipped this guy out of Phoenix? Here was the successor to Steve Nash at the point sitting on their roster and showing occasional flashes of brilliance and they couldn't see it? The Rockets and everyone else in the league certainly got an eyeful when Dragic became the starter and ran the offense for the second half of the season. He was so impressive that Houston said they are committed to re-signing him even though they already have Kyle Lowry locked up. He was so impressive that Lowry saw the handwriting on the wall and has said he'd prefer to be traded. Dragic can score, dish, run and electrify a crowd. Dragic insists he wants to be a starter next season. The Trail Blazers and others are drooling over him already, but the Rockets maintain they won't make the same mistake as the Suns.

Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

SEARCH NEWS
LATEST VIDEOS
photoJohn Wall's Spin Moves
John Wall completes two amazing spinning layups in the same week.
photoPistons Set Franchise Record in Threes
The Detroit Pistons set a franchise record for made 3-pointers going 17 for 31 from long range against the Cavaliers.
photoGreatest Plays and Memorable Moments of 2014
Take a look at the greatest plays and memorable moments of 2014 to the tune of Grammy nominated artist, Aloe Blacc's new single, "Can You Do This".
photoDecember 28: Top 10
Check out the top 10 plays from Sunday.
photoDecember 28: Daily Zap
The Daily Zap recaps all of Sunday's action in one highlight.

Copyright © NBA Media Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved. No portion of NBA.com may be duplicated, redistributed or manipulated in any form. By accessing any information beyond this page, you agree to abide by the Privacy Policy / Your California Privacy Rights and Terms of Use. | Ad Choices Ad Choices

NBA.com is part of Turner Sports Digital, part of the Turner Sports & Entertainment Digital Network.