This year's free agency class is incredible. Never in the history of professional sports as their been more attention and excitement for an off-season. The top 11 free agents in my rankings have a combined 55 all-star game appearances. Three of them have won a title while two have led their team to a finals appearance. All but David Lee and Rudy Gay have led their team to the playoffs. King James is the biggest prize and Dwyane Wade is a close second. Both players would love to be playing with Chris Bosh next season who is number 3. This free agent crop is so good that Carlos Boozer is number 7. Here's my list:
The Top 10-Nine all-stars and a Gay. All of these stars will get near max money.
1. LeBron James-SF-CLV
King James is the key to this years class. He is the reigning back to back MVP. He is the most dominant player in the NBA today. However the King is still searching for a ring. It all comes down to what James is looking for. If he's looking to win, then Chicago and Miami are the best options. However in Miami he would be playing in Wade's shadow and in Chicago would be playing in Jordan's shadow. If he's about loyalty and proving he can win by himself, he'll stay in Cleveland. If he's about marketing the LeBron brand he could end up in the New York Metro area. His decision will have a substantial bearing on the rest of the free agent class.
Possible destinations: Re-sign, CHI, MIA, NY, NJ
2. Dwyane Wade-SG-MIA
DWade is easily one of the top 5 if not top 3 players on planet Earth. He's a dynamic scorer and shooter who can take over a game at any time. He has proven he can win a title but needs more players around him in Miami if he's going to win more. I would be shocked if he left Miami. He's made it clear to the Heat management they need to add some pieces around him.
Possible Destinations: Re-sign unless they are unable to sign anyone, if that happens, Pat Riley should be fired.
3. Chris Bosh-PF-TOR
Bosh's ability as a shooter make him the perfect compliment to LeBron or DWade. He's also a better rebounder and defender than Amar'e. He's younger and more athletic than Boozer, Dirk and David Lee. Bosh could end up playing in Chicago or New York if LeBron were to sign there. However, he's from Texas,played college ball in Hotlanta but has spent his past seven years in Canada. Something tells me he wants to get out of the cold. Hello South Beach.
Possible Destinations: MIA, CHI, NY
4. Amar'e Stoudemire-PF-PHO
I think the best idea would be to stay in Phoenix with Steve Nash and a great supporting cast on a team that pushed the Lakers to the edge in the playoffs. If he were to end up in New York with Joe Johnson it would be like the 2005 Phoenix Suns team without Nash. Miami and Chicago could also be possibilities, yet both of those teams are coached by defensive coaches that will demand too much out of him defensively. While his defense has improved, Amar'e is far from joining Dwight Howard on the All-NBA defensive team.
Possible Destinations: Re-sign,
5. Dirk Nowitzki-PF-DAL
Dirk is only opting out to secure more money before the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires next off-season. He's played his entire 12 year career in Dallas and Mavs owner Mark Cuban has treated him like a king. I'd be shocked to see Dirk playing in a different uniform next season
Possible Destinations: Re-sign, NY
6. Joe Johnson-G/F-ATL
Johnson is the best wing not named LeBron or Dwyane in this class. He's averaged over 20 points per game every year in Atlanta but I still think he would be better as a number two guy to a superstar. He appears to be New York's backup plan but might like playing for a contender like Chicago or Miami better.
Possible Destinations: NY, CHI, MIA, Re-sign, LAC
7. Carlos Boozer-PF-Utah
Boozer is a great rebounder and a terrific hustle player. He may look like he's 35, but he's only a year older than Amar'e. He's a 20 and 10 guy when healthy. Miami and Chicago are tops on his list, but he's the #3 power forward on there's. If Amar'e were to re-sign in Phoenix or sign with New York, Boozer would be the happiest man on earth as he would pretty much be guaranteed a deal with Miami or Chicago. If he doesn't land in one of those two spots, expect a sing and trade to another contender. Boozer doesn't fit New York's system and the Nets are a few years from contending. The best thing about Boozer is that he won't demand a max contract like Amar'e.
Possible Destinations: CHI, MIA, S&T, Re-sign
8. Rudy Gay-SF-MEM (Restricted)
Skill + versatility+ length + youth= a lot of money this summer for Mr. Gay. He's restricted to the Grizz can match any offer. But will they match it if another team gives him near max money. I doubt it. I expect to see Rudy playing in a mega market next year.
Possible Destinations: NJ, LAC, NY, Re-sign, MIA
9. Paul Pierce-SF-BOS
Doc Rivers is returning and so is Pierce. Just like Dirk, he's played for one team his entire career and is looking to end his career there and get paid handsomely before the CBA runs out.
Possible Destinations: Re-sign,
10. David Lee-C/F/NY
Lee is a great example of how hustle and some skill can make you an all-star and get you a nice payday. I love what Lee brigs to floor as far as energy and basketball IQ. However the only place where he could have similar success to New York would be in a system like Golden State or Dallas. A sign and trade to the Warriors for Monta Ellis would benefit both teams. I think Lee wants to stay with the Knicks but it might be in New York's best interest to trade him or renounce his rights to sign another big name free agent.
Possible Destinations: Re-sign, S&T, NJ
JUST OUTSIDE- These 5 guys may not get max deals, but they'll get a nice payday this summer.
11. Ray Allen-SG-BOS
Even though he'll turn 35 in July, Allen will still get a ton of attention this off-season because he's still the best sharpshooter in the NBA. He would be perfect fit alongside LeBron or Joe Johnson. Boston will do everything they can to keep Ray Ray in Beantwon another 2-3 years.
Possible Destinations: Re-sign, CHI, NY
12. John Salmons-G/F-MIL
The ultimate #3 guy on a good team. The past two years he's been traded during the season and then helped the team he was traded to make the playoffs. Both performances and the fact that he won't need a huge deal make him a nice catch.
Possible Destinations: LAC, MIA, Re-sign, NY, NJ
13. Luis Scola-PF-HOU (Restricted)
Tough guys who can rebound and get you 15 points a night as a #3/4 option are always good to have on your team. Scola is a hard worker and a winner. If he leaves Houston it will be to join a contender.
Possible Destinations: Re-sign, CHI, S&T to a contender
14. Brendan Haywood-C-DAL
You can't teach size. The man can get you close to 10 points and 10 boards a night. More importantly he can eat up space in the middle and can play solid defense. At 30 he's still young enough to give you 4 good years but is too old to demand an overpriced deal based on his potential, sorry Andris Beidrins. Teams looking for a center will be blowing up Mr. Haywood's phone this summer.
Possible Destinations: Re-sign, S&T to a contender, MIA
15. Richard Jefferson-SF-SA
Jefferson obviously wants out of San Antonio. Why else would he throw away a guaranteed 15 million for next season. It was obvious that he never really fit in the Spurs system last year. He seems like a good fit in Miami if they were to miss out on landing a third star and decided to split the rest of their free agent money on two good players above the mid-level exception. Riley loves guys who can play defense. The Clippers need a starting small forward as well. New York is a possibility too. Could he end up back in New Jersey or Milwaukee.
Possible Destinations: LAC, MIA,NY, NJ, MIL
The Rest of my rankings will be done by groups not numbers:
Garbage Men-These guys do the dirty work. These guys can give you 8 points, 8 boards and solid D. They won't get major deals but every team needs role players like them. Some are proven winners like Udonis Haslem while others haven't met expectations like Tyrus Thomas. Veteran journeymen Matt Barnes and Drew Gooden round out the list.
Tyrus Thomas-PF-CHR (Restricted)
Good wings that could be starters or great 6th men-Some of these players are guys that are ready to become full time starters (J.J. Redick, Ronnie Brewer, Travis Outlaw, and Anthony Morrow). All 3 have their specialty, JJ and Morrow are incredible shooters, Ronnie and Wes Matthews are lockdown defenders and Outlaw is a slasher. Josh Childress may or may not come back from Europe this summer. Both Mike Miller and Josh Howard were less than stellar in Washington yet both could be decent role players on good teams.
Josh Childress-F/G-ATL (Restricted), played past two seasons in Greece
J.J. Redick-SG-ORL (Restricted)
Ronnie Brewer-G/F-MEM (Restricted)
Anthony Morrow-SG-GS (Restricted)
Wes Matthews-G/F-Utah (Restricted)
Power forwards that play like guards.- The name says it all. These two players can shoot but they aren't your traditional post playing big men
The insanely weak point guard class-If you thought the point guard class was weak in the draft, at least they had John Wall. Ray Felton is the only free agent point guard who started consistently last season. Most of these guys will get deals based on potential that they could develop into a starting point guard.
Former stars/starters turned vet minimum players-If someone gives Shaq more than the vet minimum they should be arrested.
10 Other Role Players:
6-9/219/ Age 27
There you have it, the top 50 free agents this summer