The Top 75 Free Agents: #1 - #20
The mad season is upon us and it's time for GM's to open up their checkbooks and force undeserved millions upon some lucky players. Meanwhile, other quality players will be forced to settle for scraps (or the MLE). It's the cruel world of NBA finances (if you can call making 1 - 5 million dollars a year to play hoops "cruel". Here's my list of the top free agents (figuring in talent as well as possible contract offers).
1. Josh Smith: An improving offensive player and elite defensive force, Josh Smith is going to be an impact player on both ends of the court for years to come.
2. Monta Ellis: A young scoring guard who also is showing a knack for being a team leader, Ellis will be the player who helps lead the Warriors (or whomever he signs with) into the playoffs.
3. Elton Brand: Brand is a better player right now than Smith or Ellis but his injuries and age have him down a couple of notches. Still, he's the type of player who could turn a playoff team into a title contender.
4. Andre Iguodala: Iggy is probably better served as a second star but I've thought the same thing about Paul Pierce for a while too. I think he'll improve yet again his season and prove himself to be a true franchise player.
5. Luol Deng: Deng needs to bounce back from last season but he's a great talent who can be an impact player on both ends of the floor. However, he doesn't seem like a team leader at all.
6. Gilbert Arenas: Gil is arguably the best player on this list but he's looking for a second max contract and I don't think many players are worth that. Gil isn't worth it and his injury issues the last couple seasons make him a risk, which moves him down to #6.
7. Ben Gordon: I know I'm one of the few people who watch the NBA who still believe Ben Gordon could be an All-Star talent but he's young and is a great scorer. He's probably shown less the 75% of his abilities in Chicago and should have a breakout season should he lands in the right situation.
The Key Role Players
8. Andris Biedrins & 9. Emeka Okafor
Biedrins and Okafor are two young, talented, defensive-minded bigs who could help a lot of teams improve immediately. Biedrins seems to be improving more than Okafor so he's ranked higher. On the other hand, I don't think he's worth a max contract which some people are saying he might get.
10. Corey Maggette: Corey is a brilliant offensive player but his defense is lacking, as is his decision making. He could take a team like Chicago or Toronto to the next level but he's not for everyone. I think there are a lot of coaches who would have struggled with him like Mike Dunleavy Sr. did. Granted, most wouldn't go as for as benching him in favor of Quinton Ross but still...
11. J.R. Smith: Smith has attitude issues, seems like he'd rather forego even running back on defense let alone actually playing it, and could stand to improve his playmaking skills but he's also beyond talented and could be an elite level player if he got his head on straight. He has the potential to be the best player on this list and odds are that the team signing him won't have to pay for that potential so it's a good gamble.
12. James Posey: The perfect role player, Posey defends and can hit the open shot.
13. Kelenna Azuibuike: My man. I've been driving the Azubuike bandwagon for a while now and would love to see him on the Celtics. He can defend, score, and (best of all) should come ridiculously cheap. There's no better bargain on the market.
14. Mickael Pietrus: He has the potential to be the James Posey for the next decade. He can defend, loves the spot up three, and would benefit from getting out of Don Nelson's wacky rotations.
15. Josh Childress: Another Posey-esque role player, Childress is just missing something for me. He's a good player but he just seems to disappear too often for my liking. He'll likely end up getting overpaid.
16. Carl Landry: Overlooked because of Luis Scola's play, Landry could give 'Buike a run for the Best Bargain crown. He's a strong PF with a better than expected offensive game. He's a legit 4th or 5th starter.
17. Nenad Krstic: Krstic has the potential but now he's been banged up and he's a finesse big man, which definitely aren't in vogue after Pau Gasol's Finals performance.
18. Dikembe Mutombo & 19. Alonzo Mourning & 20. Michael Finley: Three wily vets who keep helping out their teams, these guys would be prime additions for almost any contender who is looking to secure their bench. They aren't the best long term investments but they could be the difference between first and second place.