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Top five unrestricted free agents… where will they go?

Jul 20, 2011, 3:15 PM EDT

Boston Celtics v Denver Nuggets Getty Images

Free agency is not going to be as much fun this time around. Whenever the owners and players get around to settling the lockout the free agency period will be condensed and hectic.

Not that I really miss the drama of Lebron dragging out his decision, but it’s fun to watch things break over a course of weeks, to hear the rumors and the “what ifs” in a normal free agency period.

That said, there will be a free agency period, and there will be some name players available. Guys who can change teams.

What follows are my top five unrestricted free agents, followed by some guessing on a landing spot. Sure, it’s a bit of a moot exercise and it’s impossible to say how the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will impact what players can be paid and therefore where they land, still, on a nice July day this is a fun game to play.

Nene (last of the Denver Nuggets)

Teams saw the Mavericks win it all after years of flailing in the playoffs, and it drove home the point of what a big center who can defend the paint and rebound can do for a team. Plus, Nene has a nice offensive game (he shoots the midrange well enough you have to respect it, hitting 47 percent beyond 16 feet last season.

Denver still has the home team advantage, even if he opted out and expressed frustration that the team did not come through with an extension. Whatever the new CBA looks like, you can bet there will be some kind of advantage for players who sign with their current team. He’s going to be a max guy. Don’t be shocked if a team like Indiana makes a big move for him.

Tyson Chandler (last of the Dallas Mavericks)

For teams that need a defensive presence in the paint, why get someone else to try and be like Tyson Chandler when you can get the actual Tyson Chandler?

I’d be surprised if he lands anywhere but Dallas, Mark Cuban knows what he did for the Mavs last season and he has been reported to be the teams No. 1 offseason priority. As for other suitors, again the Pacers could use a big man like him, and if Denver loses Nene they might make a run. Also, hard to see how the Knicks afford him but he would be a great fit.

Jamal Crawford (last of the Atlanta Hawks)

He was the sixth man of the year one year ago, and we know he can come in off the bench and provide a scoring punch. His shooting numbers took a dip last year and teams need to seriously ask themselves if that was just the Larry Drew offense in Atlanta or is Crawford showing some age at 32? A long-term deal might be a mistake.

After the Hawks paid big money for Al Horford (worth it) and Joe Johnson (going to regret that deal in a couple years) they likely are not going to have the cash to keep him around. If Crawford wants a ring badly enough teams like the Lakers, Mavericks and Celtics would have interest, but he’d have to take a serious cut in salary. If he wants a good payday, there are a number of teams that may well step forward with a bigger deal (New Jersey, Washington and others may think about it).

David West (last of the New Orleans Hornets)

If you are looking for a quality power forward who is a great pick-and-pop option next to a quality point guard, West would be the choice. He took five shots a game between 16 and 23 feet last season and hit 47 percent of them, plus he can score inside and is a solid rebounder.

If New Orleans is going to keep Chris Paul after next season, they have to find a way to keep West. (That or replace him with someone better, which would be hard to pull off.) Look for the Nets to make a run at him — he’d pair nicely with Deron Williams and the Nets have their own problems trying to keep D-Will from walking away.

Shane Battier (last with the Memphis Grizzlies)

Maybe the best of the glue guys out there. He can defend, has a solid offensive game both inside and out. Teams saw what he did with Memphis to help them knock off the Spurs and push the Oklahoma City Thunder, and coaches will find a way to use this guy.

Memphis has made bringing him back a priority and that would be the logical landing spot. But don’t be shocked if veteran teams try to get him to take a little less to be a key part of a title run for them — the Miami Heat would love him, even if they have a pretty good small forward. The Clippers have cap room and also need a three and what he can bring defensively.

  1. acharlot5 - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:57 PM

    HA Kurt dodged mentioning Lebron James in this post “the Miami Heat would love him, even if they have a pretty good small forward. ” The readers are getting to him

    • acharlot5 - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:58 PM

      jk didnt read the rubbish at the top i guess he cant get over his lebron man crush

  2. Colin Zvosec - Jul 20, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    So if the Pacers are this desperate to land a center, what’s going to happen to Roy Hibbert? Or should I say, what already happened to him?

  3. randommofo - Jul 20, 2011 at 5:04 PM

    I love the drop off in talent… from Nene and Tyson Chandler to- Jamal Crawford?

  4. tashkalucy - Jul 20, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    Hey, it’s 5pm !!!!!!

    Where is ProBasketballTalk’s article that has Lebron in it along with a picture of him?

    Didn’t someone see him biting his nails somewhere? hasn’t he given a quote to someone on his feelings about Ben Bernake printing money?

    Come ‘on ProBasketballTalk! You guys can’t have a whole day without something about Lebron James – a legend in his own mind, You never went a day before with out something about him. You can do it! We know you have it in you.

    • david8726 - Jul 20, 2011 at 5:11 PM

      If you don’t want content about LeBron, then stop clicking on content about LeBron.

    • edweird0 - Jul 21, 2011 at 9:58 PM

      Do you just copy and paste this little rant in every article? Dude get over it, its been over a year now…

  5. 00maltliquor - Jul 20, 2011 at 7:44 PM

    Wow, next years free agent class is just as bad as the draft class last month! (As good as he is in his own right) we’re talking Shane Battier as a top 5 prize in the market?? Uuuughh, no thank you! And Nene as a MAX PLAYER!?!? Listen, he’s a good player that would help improve any team and make them better, but a max deal? Isn’t that why we’re having a lockout in the 1st place? Cause of bad contracts and crummy deals like that!? He’s good. Not great. And stop with this he’s a rebounder crap! Starting and with all the minutes he plays, exactly how many double digit rebounds (forget double doubles) did he have all year at 6″11 with the frame he has?? He’s kinda average. What he average, like 7 boards this season? GTFOH

  6. 00maltliquor - Jul 20, 2011 at 7:52 PM

    Same goes for David West. Especially to the Nets. They shouldn’t spend mad cap room on HIM as a 2nd star to keep D Willy around. I’d rather keep Humphries as a starter at a fraction of the cost and spend big money on a real #2/#1 option. Signing him for more than 6 mill on the next cba cap would be disasterous for them. Dudes 30 with injury problems, and has seen his best days.

  7. trickybastard - Jul 21, 2011 at 2:05 AM

    Kurt Helin, you unimaginative idiot. You regurgitate all of the large market teams. Sacramento will get one of those players

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