This is my first NBA post in regards to the upcoming season and man, does it feel great. Many thanks to David Stern and the owners for agreeing to end the NBA lockout this weekend. There is no “system” being used here other than my knowledge and bias, so you know it’s good. I’m listing them in the order they should be valued and paid, although we all know that will in no way resemble this after free agency wraps up in a couple weeks.
The Mike Miller “We’re Likely Going To Get Vastly Overpaid For A Singular Talent, Despite An NBA Lockout That Was Meant To Prevent My New Owner From Doing So” Division
26. Kris Humphries –
Mr. Kardashian just pulled off the classic “I overachieved in a contract year to get some dumb front office to sign me for $30 million too much” season. Fearless prediction you can bank your mortgage on: Humphries’ numbers will drop across the board next year, and he’s going down with a knee injury by February.
25. Glen Davis – Capable big man, nothing more, nothing less. That won’t prevent some NBA owner out there for following the time-honored NBA tradition of overpaying for size. His departure from Boston will also make the Celtics bench more shallow than it already is going into what is likely the big three’s last shot at a title.
24. Carl Landry – Ditto. Would be an excellent fit to stay in his current situation in New Orleans but there’s no way his team will be able to match the outlandish offer he’s bound to receive from someone like Mark Cuban.
23. Nick Young – Some NBA GM is sitting out there drooling over Young right now thinking he’s getting a steal in the young Wizards guard. He averaged over 17 ppg last year, after all. What that delusional front office guy is really getting is one of the least efficient players in the league (think: Iverson needing 30 shots to get 30 points, only Young needs 35 shots to get 25 points).
22. Jason Richardson – Again, some NBA GM is sitting out there right now thinking he’s getting the 2005 version of Richardson. His actual thoughts: “ZOMG look it’s Jason Richardson! Here’s a long-term midlevel exception, sign it quick!” It’s unfortunate that he’s going to end up somewhere as the number two scorer, when he’d be best-utilized spending his last days in the association as a sixth man/three point specialist for a fringe NBA title contender. This is why we can’t have nice things!
21. J.J. Barea – If you want to see the best unintentional comedy of the NBA season, wait and see the ridiculous offer Barea is going to sign with a random team when free agency starts. Mark my words, a useless GM is going to pay Barea like a number one point guard based on the previous season’s playoffs. Everyone knows he’s a third guard, at best, and yet he will likely walk out with one of the five biggest contracts after it’s all said and done.
The “Daryl Morey Definitely Knows That We Are Undervalued Assets” Division
20. Grant Hill – Still an extremely useful piece, if only from a leadership/knowledge of the game standpoint. I’m hoping OKC lands him or the next guy…
19. Shane Battier – The most intelligent player in the league. He completely understands the advanced stats movement and would be a great chip for a Celtics, Bulls, or Thunder team looking to make a run at a title. The good thing about Battier and Hill is that they’ll likely receive what they’re worth in the market because only the smart teams understand their true value.
The “Our Agents Need To Be Fired For Getting Us Stuck In China, Like Yesterday, Also: We All Just So Happen To Be Soon-To-Be Former Denver Nuggets” Division
18. Kenyon Martin – I feel bad for K-Mart, the Nuggets front office really screwed him over this past year. There was allegedly a promise that if he played in the 2009-2010 playoffs against the Jazz, despite huge knee problems, that he would get a contract extension. Martin played, and played well, but the Nuggets offer never came. Now he’s likely lost a year off his career and will spend his last days on non-playoff teams.
17. Wilson Chandler – My least favorite Nugget from last year. Clearly hated the idea of playing on Denver’s “we have no number one scoring option, which is exactly why we can win” squad in the post-Melo era. The way he mailed in the last two games of the Thunder series is reason enough to let him walk and also to point a finger and laugh that he’s stuck in China till March.
16. J.R. Smith –
My biggest regret will be seeing J.R. sign with some unsuspecting team in March and the inevitable series of “did anybody have any idea J.R. Smith was this good?” columns that come as a result (this is me raising my hand). Take me seriously when I say he has the talent to be a top twenty player in this league. I don’t know if a coach will ever give him a chance to prove it, but watch out if he gets his shot.
The “We Hope We’re Not Getting Ourselves Into A Gilbert Arenas Situation With A Bad Long-Term Contract” Division
15. Mario Chalmers –
Call me crazy, but I saw something in Chalmers last year that I’d be willing to take a risk on in the upcoming season or three. He’s definitely a starter on the “irrational confidence guy” squad, proving multiple times during last year’s playoffs that you could count on him for a big bucket. I doubt he stays in Miami because they can’t afford him and might be worth the risk for a team looking for a solid point guard on the (relative) cheap.
14. Jeff Green – One thing I love about the NBA is that guys like Green make excellent pieces on championship squads, if they’re signed to their rookie contracts or contracts in which they agree to take far less money so they can be on a good team. That’s the dilemma facing Green and the Celtics here. He’s going to get paid, the only question is what team is willing to take the risk on him? Or, can he be convinced by the veterans to take far less than his market value? Boston would be banking that he’s the guy who can help the big three win one last title and would have no room to add any other player, should they sign him. What if he fails though? Also: can they afford not to sign him from a PR standpoint after trading Perkins for him? Big decisions to make in Boston!
13. Thaddeus Young – Classic candidate for this class of player. He’s got the physical tools to be a serviceable small forward in this league, but has been stuck behind Iguodala and Philly’s decision to draft Evan Turner. Would you be willing to take a risk on Young? He proved he can play in last year’s postseason. Still a risk to spend middle class money on though.
12. Andrei Kirilenko – He would be higher on this list, except that he just signed a three-year deal to play for CSK Moscow back in Russia. I am going to say there is no way he plays in the NBA again, unless Mutant Russian Mark Cuban in New Jersey pays him a max contract (which is totally possible).
11. Tayshaun Prince – Another really intriguing free agent. The reviews are mixed on whether Prince is just washed up or whether he only plays hard for teams that are good. No NBA fan can forget the remarkable one-on-one defense he provided during the Pistons mini (emphasis on mini) dynasty during the mid 2000s. No NBA fan can forget the seasons since that dynasty ended either though.
10. Jamal Crawford – To me, Crawford is the biggest risk in the entire free agent crop. What this tells me is that teams should stay as far away as possible. That won’t happen though. It’s hard to resist a two guard capable of getting any shot he wants on the floor at any time, because there’s very few of them in the league (Kobe, Wade, Manu, and Tyreke are the only other shooting guards that come to mind). But that team also takes on all the baggage Crawford brings. I’m hoping Chicago doesn’t overpay for him, but that’s my guess at where he ends up right now.
The “Oh My God, You Never Know What In The Hell Can Happen With These Players’ Injury History” Division
9. Greg Oden – Portland is in a tough spot with this one. They really never got a taste at what their number one overall pick could do. It just doesn’t seem fair that he would be allowed to play somewhere else. But then again, can you actually pay money to a guy that has only 82 games total under his belt? Someone will take a risk on him. I’m praying it’s not my team.
8. Caron Butler –
Coming off major knee surgery. Before that though he was a more-than-proven number two scorer. I have a feeling Cuban will re-sign him, wondering how much better the Mavs could have been last year with him on the team, despite the title. It’s going to kill all the Dallas fans though when they commit major dollars over the next four years.
7. Tyson Chandler – Totally the reason Dallas was finally able to get over the hump last year and win the title. He was the best defensive presence we’d seen since Kevin Garnett in the 2008 playoffs. Unfortunately, it’s also hard to forget that this could have happened in New Orleans only a couple years prior, had he been able to stay healthy. This is why it sucks to be an owner or a GM in the NBA. Chandler deserves the big money, but I’d be willing to bet my entire salary in 2012 that he gets hurt before the playoffs this year. Good luck, future NBA team that signs Tyson Chandler.
6. Yao Ming –
This is out of respect, I do realize he’s retired. RIP to the second greatest career that never was allowed to happen (Walton is #1). Here’s hoping he tries to come back like Walton did with the ’86 Celtics.
The “You Need Not Worry, Your Money Is Well Spent” Division
5. Arron Afflalo – He’s secretly become the reincarnation of Shane Battier. He’s an excellent one-on-one defender and quietly became one of the most efficient scorers in the league playing behind Melo all these years. Luckily for the Nuggets, he’s a restricted free agent and I see no way in hell they let him walk. It’s quite possible George Karl will rely on him as the number one scoring option next season, and given every interview/conversation I’ve read, he’s more than ready to rise to the occasion.
4. DeAndre Jordan – I don’t see how he’ll leave the Clippers. It’s too much fun playing in the LA market and he’d be incredibly stupid to give up the opportunity to play with Blake Griffin the next couple years. It doesn’t hurt the Clips that he’s also best friends with Blake off the court. Jordan is secretly becoming one of the better defenders in the league and if he continues to develop his post game, it’s not inconceivable that he’s a top five center before the year is over.
3. David West – Only fell this low because of the injury this past season. It also likely means that he’ll end up staying in New Orleans. Watch out though, there are definitely teams out there that have money to spend, and one of them might unnecessarily splurge on him in the hopes of satisfying the fan base. West will always be a fringe All-Star at power forward, and a guy you can rely on in the playoffs. The injury risk is a necessary topic of conversation though now.
2. Marc Gasol – As far as true centers go, there’s only three or four better players in the league right now. He’s going to get a max contract. It’s one of those “it might not be worth it, but it really is” kind of deals where he’s going to be good for a 20-10 the next four years. I don’t think Gasol is a guy you can rely on to win you a playoff game, but he’s just about as close as it gets.
1. Nene – The object of every GM’s affections right now. Denver, Golden State, and Houston are going to woo him with everything they’ve got, knowing that he’s the greatest advanced stats player in the league that no one knows about. To give you an example, Nene receives an And1 call on 9.9% of his attempted field goals, an absolutely impossible stat for a guy with his work load. When you throw in the fact that a free throw is the most efficient shot on the floor, well, you can see why all the smart teams want him so badly. I say a prayer every night that Denver is able to keep him. Things we’ve got going for us right now: we can pay him more money over a longer term than any team, his wife is from Colorado, and he can be the number one scoring option. Things we don’t have going for us: players to put around him in the long-term, not a desirable free agent location, and he didn’t seem pleased with the Nuggets front office last season.
Whoever gets Nene is going to have a very, very happy fan base.