The NBA lockout is finally over! Ah, that felt good. I literally screamed it, and it felt amazing. But what’s even more amazing as that we get to actually get down and dirty with actual NBA talk, even before the season starts.
Much like the NFL Lockout did, the NBA’s version has everything crammed into one month of work. But we’re up to the task. Here we wrap-up our preliminary look at the top NBA free agents at each position with the top free agent centers heading into the 2011-12 NBA season:
1. Nene Hilario (Denver Nuggets)
Nene isn’t a huge name by any means, but he’s been a serviceable NBA center throughout his nine-year career. He had his best statistical season to date in 2010-11, when he averaged 14.5 points and 7.9 boards a game for the Nuggets, who spent much of the season mired with the Carmelo Anthony distraction.
He’s not the tallest (6’9″) or most defensive-minded center out there, but he’ll be amongst the hottest commodities out there once the free agency period does begin.
The big Brazilian has been vocal about his desire to remain in Denver beyond last season, and I imagine that’s where he’ll ultimately wind up.
2. Tyson Chandler (Dallas Mavericks)
Many believe the addition of Chandler prior to the season was what put the Mavericks over the top. They might be right. He’s likely the most athletic center on the market, and, while he doesn’t have much going for him offensively, his presence in the paint cannot be overstated.
Chandler has battled injuries in the past, so there’s always that risk. However, he is still just 28 years old, and looked like a rejuvenated player last season. He’s already said that he doesn’t plan on giving the Mavericks a “home town discount”, so expect him to be amongst the most sought-after players available.
3. Marc Gasol (RFA) (Memphis Grizzlies)
Gasol is a restricted free agent, but with all the money Memphis has tied up in Rudy Gay and now Zach Randolph, there’s no telling if they’ll be willing to shell out the big bucks to keep him.
Like Nene, the younger Gasol brother does most of his damage on the offensive end, where he’s one of the league’s most efficient big men. He may never have the go-to quality of Pau, but the potential is certainly there. For the right price, this is a guy that has the ability to turn a franchise around.
4. DeAndre Jordan (RFA) (Los Angeles Clippers)
The young Clipper big man made big strides in his first season with substantial playing time, and, while he too lacks an offensive repertoire, he’s still just 22 years old and is only going to improve.
5. Samuel Dalembert (Sacramento Kings)
Dalembert is a defensive beast, rebounds well, and has a constantly evolving offensive game (although slowly). The Kings reportedly wouldn’t mind bringing him back, but with J.J. Hickson and DeMarcus Cousins in town, that seems unlikely. Look for contending teams that need size like the Heat, Celtics, Knicks, and Bulls to come calling.
6. Greg Oden (Portland Trail Blazers) (RFA)
Oden has been a big ball of non-stop injuries and disappointment, but he still can’t fall too far on this list due to his amazing size, athletic ability, and obvious limitless potential. If he could ever stay healthy, he could turn into a dangerous inside presence. Expect him to head back to Portland, as they made him an offer worth over $8 million, and he’s unlikely to have that matched by another team due to his injury history.
7. Jeff Foster (Indiana Pacers)
Foster has little offensive ability, but he’s a beast on the boards, plays tough defense, and blocks shots well. He gets after the offensive boards at a high rate, too, giving him extra value on offense. He could wait out for a deal with a contender where his talent will go to better use, but a return to a limited role in Indiana makes more sense than anything else.
8. Kwame Brown (Charlotte Bobcats)
Brown is a big body who can bang inside and offer up decent numbers as a rotation guy. In his “prime”, Brown isn’t anything more than a stop-gap or backup center. In other words, he’s a bust that is borderline serviceable. A contending team will pick him up and kick the tires. The Heat, Knicks, and Mavericks all make sense.
9. Kyrylo Fesenko (Utah Jazz)
Fesenko is a young, raw inside presence who has the potential to turn into a reliable defensive-stopper and a solid starter. His offensive rawness makes him a liability at times, but he’s still a force in the paint and can be a difference-maker on any given night. In addition to his raw skill-set, he had surgery on an injured knee, and is playing for a Ukraine team.
10. Yao Ming (Houston Rockets) (Retired)
Ming has had nothing but injury issues the past few years and is retired, but no one knows if his retirement will stick. He’s still in his prime, and if he can overcome his foot woes, there could still be a future for him. It just isn’t likely to be in 2011, or in Houston.