Top free agents not the greatest, but they are free agents |

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Top free agents not the greatest, but they are free agents

Posted Dec 2 2011 2:01PM

This is definitely -- and thankfully -- no Summer of LeBron. It may not be a Summer of 2013, with the possibility of Dwight Howard and Chris Paul hitting the market together. It's not a summer of anything anymore, sources confirm after looking at a calendar, as the NBA opens 2011 free agency happy just to be holding it in 2011.

In a sign of the times and the talent level, the strangeness stands out. Conversations between teams and players and agents were permissible as of Wednesday, camps open Dec. 9, free agents can sign that same day and the season begins Dec. 25.

Enjoy a view of the whirlwind.

This will be a different kind of free-agent shopping. It won't be glamorous, not with one former All-Star, David West, among the four bigs that comprise the clear-cut top tier and Nene as the top target after averaging all of 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds last season. It won't even be the entire potential class, with indications that a lot of clubs may wait before playing the amnesty card, creating more free agents in the future but not right away, as some originally expected.

The significance is that there is a free-agent period at all, the first official step toward a 2011-12 season that once seemed in peril. The class may be underwhelming, but at least we have one.

1. Nene, C, Nuggets (unrestricted)
The counter to posting decent numbers while asking for star dollars is that he is 29, has a lot of playoff experience and by all indications is willing to leave his current team without much hesitation. (Of course, it could be, in the post-Carmelo Anthony, post-Chauncey Billups world.)

2. David West, PF, Hornets (u)
West can claim to have benefitted from the lockout, with the extra months to recover from knee surgery, before suitors will want to take a magnifying glass to medical reports and watch him work out. The view in December will undoubtedly be much different and better for West than it would have been in July.

3. Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies (restricted)
Gasol is arguably No. 1 on the board and has the largest window because of his age, except that someone would have to dramatically overpay to scare Memphis away from matching. The chances of him leaving are slim -- if the Grizz invested $82 million in Rudy Gay last summer, they're certainly going to protect a 26-year-old starting center after reaching Game 7 of the conference semifinals.

4. Tyson Chandler, C, Mavericks (u)
This is where the title implications really kick in. Not only would landing a top defensive center boost the hopes of the team that signs Chandler, but it would be the double blow in Dallas of losing an integral part from the roster that won a championship. Conversely, re-signing him would be an obvious key for the Mavericks' hopes to repeat.

5. Arron Afflalo, SG, Nuggets (r)
Afflalo doesn't have nearly the name recognition of most others in the top 10, but front offices around the league certainly know of his defense and versatility. Denver is expressing confidence it will re-sign him.

6. DeAndre Jordan, C, Clippers (r)
Teams would be coming much harder if Jordan was unrestricted. While the Clippers are expected to match almost any offer, they are also deciding to make a long-term commitment to a player with about a half-season of dependable play over Chris Kaman, a former All-Star.

7. Thaddeus Young, F, 76ers (r)
His move into the sixth-man role last season was part of Philadelphia's second-half rise last season, and now it becomes part of Young's climb to prominence in the free-agent market. Teams are intrigued, just as they were when he came out of Georgia Tech as a 2007 lottery pick. But it's hard to imagine the 76ers letting him walk.

8. Marcus Thornton, SG, Kings (r)
Thornton's 21.3 points a game in 27 appearances after being traded from New Orleans to Sacramento will not be repeated. Tyreke Evans was hobbled as Thornton turned into a breakout scorer, and Jimmer Fredette has joined the backcourt. But Thornton did raise his stock to where the Kings made keeping him a priority.

9. Rodney Stuckey, G, Pistons (r)
Though difficult to hear over the giant sucking sound in Detroit, Stuckey has drawn some positive reviews while averaging 16.6 points in 2009-10 and 15.5 points (in three fewer minutes a game) last season. He is still just 25, can pass and get to the rim.

10. Kris Humphries, F, Nets (u)
Let's assume any interested GM won't open negotiations by asking how the wife's doing. Those comments will be left to fans on the road. Executives and coaches are much more interested in Humphries for his work on the board, in particular on the offensive end. Humphries did average 10.4 rebounds last season, after all, and is 26.

The best of the rest: Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson, Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Samuel Dalembert, Carl Landry, Greg Oden, Jeff Green, Glen Davis, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea, Andrei Kirilenko, Chuck Hayes.

The names: Mike Bibby, Kwame Brown, Mike Dunleavy, T.J. Ford, Spencer Hawes, Josh Howard, Tracy McGrady, Tayshaun Prince, Peja Stojakovic.

The under-the-radar but interesting: Josh McRoberts, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, James Jones, Daequen Cook.

The asterisks: Wilson Chandler, Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith, Aaron Brooks. All in China without opt-out clause to return as soon as the labor dispute was settled. Unless teams there decide to release them, they players are locked in.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter.

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