Secret Agent Men
This year’s free agent class is easily the best crop in the league’s history – headlined, of course, by the two-time reigning MVP: LeBron James. By now, you know the rest of the high-rent superstars. In no particular order, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Dirk Nowitzki and Yao Ming could be changing addresses this summer.
But the shopping doesn’t end there for teams looking to bolster their roster through free agency.
Aside from the unrestricted superstars at the top, there’s a bumper crop of Restricted Free Agents this summer, including Rudy Gay, Mario Chalmers, Jordan Farmar, Kyle Lowry, Wes Matthews, Anthony Morrow, J.J. Reddick, Luis Scola and Tyrus Thomas.
There’s a group this summer that would be cashing in big-time – if it was 2001. That group includes Michael Redd, Tracy McGrady, Ben Wallace, Peja Stojakovic, Paul Pierce, Bobby Simmons, Jermaine O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Kenyon Martin and Michael Finley.
And, just for the fun of it, if the Cavaliers were interested in a class reunion, they could re-assemble the starting lineup from the 2007 Finals, featuring free agents Drew Gooden, Larry Hughes, Sasha Pavlovic, LeBron James and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
Instead, the Wine and Gold will be looking to remain in the NBA’s upper echelon. Re-signing LeBron is obviously priority No. 1. But there are some other names out there that might pique their interest as well.
David Lee – Often accused of being a “system player” – putting up big numbers (20.2 ppg, 11.7 rpg) with Mike D’Antoni’s run-and-gun Knicks – Lee would love the chance to prove himself as more than that.
Josh Howard** – Proven scorer who hasn’t averaged less than double-digits since his rookie year, Howard – who was dealt to D.C. mid-season – could be the missing piece for a contending team looking for instant offense.
John Salmons*** – Averaged nearly 20 ppg down the stretch for Milwaukee after getting dealt at the deadline. Salmons led the Bucks to a 22-8 record after his arrival and should draw interested among second-tier FAs.
Steve Blake – Cavaliers made a small run at the former Terrapin the last time he was on the market. The durable 30-year old is coming off a solid season as a backup with the Clippers.
Raymond Felton – The four-year point guard from North Carolina who seems to be perpetually on the trading block is coming off a down year, despite Charlotte’s first foray into the postseason.
Derek Fisher – One of the most clutch players of his generation, the 14-year veteran will probably re-sign with L.A. following the Lake Show’s repeat and the possibility of Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown’s potential departure.
Luke Ridnour – Sixth-year guard from Oregon played in all 82 games for the Bucks last season and provided much-needed stability behind rookie, Brandon Jennings.
Brad Miller – Rugged big man still has value a dozen years after entering the league undrafted out of Purdue. In two stints, Miller has been solid for Chicago.
Craig Smith – As rugged as it gets, Smith came off the bench to beat up the Cavaliers twice this past season. The bruising 6-7, 250-pounder is still just 26 years old.
Tony Allen – Improved his stock tremendously during the 2010 postseason, unfortunately beginning with his performance against Cleveland. Allen did a solid job on Kobe in the Finals and could garner much attention.
Shannon Brown* – Neither a true point guard nor a true shooting guard, the former Cavalier first-rounder – and two-time NBA Champ – is a pure athlete who got a second life in Tinseltown.
Hakim Warrick – Never quite lived up to the promise he showed at Syracuse, Warrick is still a long perimeter defender who’s averaged double-figure scoring in his four years in the league.
Tyson Chandler*** – Though an eight-year veteran, Chandler is still just 27 years old. His numbers have dropped and his durability is a question mark, but skilled seven-footers are still tough to come by.
Joel Przybilla*** – A rock-solid defender when healthy, Przybilla ruptured his patella tendon in December and injured his knee in the shower in March. Both required surgery, severely limiting his FA potential.
Ray Allen – At 34, the sharp-shooter from UConn still averaged over 16 ppg in this year’s postseason, despite running out of gas after a record-setting Game 2 in the Finals. Allen will still draw attention from teams needing a shooter.
Mike Miller – Ten-year veteran toiled in D.C., but still put up good numbers for a bad team after returning from an early-season shoulder injury. The efficient swingman will be coveted by teams come July 1.
Kyle Korver – All Korver did last year was set the NBA’s single-season three-point shooting percentage at 53.6 percent, a stat that will see the seven-year vet from Creighton cash in, big time.
Channing Frye* – The best long-range shooting center since Sam Perkins emerged into the spotlight with Phoenix last season. At 6-11, Frye shot 44 percent from long-distance and may have parlayed one season in Phoenix into a big payday.
Louis Admundson – A crowd favorite in Phoenix, Admundson is the Western Conference’s version of Anderson Varejao and, for that reason, will draw attention after the FA smoke has cleared.
Matt Bonner – The “Red Rocket” is both versatile and durable – two things clubs covet in a role player. At 6-11, Bonner can bang and step out and can the three-pointer.
Darius Songailia*** – Won’t win the scoring title, or even crack the starting lineup, but the sixth-year forward from Wake Forest is a more-than-serviceable big off the bench.
Marquis Daniels – Daniels minutes and production took a dip after signing with Boston to spell Paul Pierce. But he’s still considered a tough defender who’s anything but an offensive liability.
Al Harrington – A 12-year veteran who’s still just 30 years old, Harrington averaged 17.7 ppg with New York last year and has averaged double-digit scoring for nine straight seasons.
Darko Milicic – The only real “bust” from the top part of the 2003 Draft, Darko has bounced around after his failed tenure in Detroit. But he’s a seven-footer who’s only 25 years old.
Roger Mason – Former journeyman had a down year with San Antonio in 2009-10, but is still a tough defender with a nice touch off the bench.
* - Player Option - grants the player the power to decide whether to stay for another year or become a completely unrestricted free agent.
** - Team Option - grants the original team the right to keep a player for another year.
*** - Early Termination Option - gives the player the right to end a signed contract. The option cannot be exercised before the end of the fourth year of an existing contract. If the player declines to exercise the option, he remains with the original team. If the option is exercised, he is free to sign with any team.