It may be hard to believe given all of the hype surrounding LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, and Amare Stoudemire, but there are actually more than just five free agents in the NBA this year. In fact, this is quite probably the best free agent class ever, and it would even be a pretty good class if those five were sticking with their teams. Beyond those names that are hogging all of the headlines and the attention, here’s a look at 10 very good players who will likely be looking for a new home this summer:
Carlos Boozer – Boozer wouldn’t have had much of a market last summer because of injury issues, but he’s coming off a very strong, healthy year and he has real value. He’s in a good position here – he’s not one of the big names, but teams have more money than they can spend on those big names, so Boozer is going to be well positioned to cash in as a consolation prize. He’d be a good fit in New York if they can’t land one of the big fish. He’s easily the third best power forward available behind Bosh and Stoudemire.
Paul Pierce – The fact that Pierce chose to opt out of his contract shows that things aren’t necessarily all rosy in Boston. It could also be a timing issue as well – he’s 32, so he knows that this is perhaps his last best time to cash in with a big, long contract. He’s theoretically on the open market, but I really can’t believe that the Celtics can afford to let him go.
Ray Allen – Allen’s free agency is every bit as telling as Pierce’s is. The story is the same here – he’s 34 years old, so the window on a last big deal is small. It might even be too late for him. He’s fit and durable, he knows how to win, and he can still shoot the lights out, so he could upgrade a lot of teams.
Rudy Gay – Gay scored 20 points and six rebounds a game last year and he’s only 23, so he has a world of upside, and a team that lands him could happily have him on board for years. Teams who really want a SF will obviously be dreaming of James, but Gay could be a great second option.
Luis Scola – Scola got a chance to shine last year when Yao Ming was injured and he stepped in to replace him. Scola is 30, and he doesn’t have a real depth of high performance, so teams could be a bit nervous about giving him a massive deal. He’ll still be attractive, though, and he’ll find a place to play.
David Lee – Lee is the best player the Knicks have by a long shot. Really, he’s the only really good player that the team has. He’s coming off a season in which he averaged 20.2 points and 11.7 rebounds. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and the demand for big power forwards is always strong. The biggest problem Lee has working against him is that he plays for Mike D’Antoni, so teams could discount some of what he has done because of the benefits of playing in a wild open style.
Shaquille O’Neal – O’Neal is way over the hill, but he still wants to play, and even as a shadow of his former self he still puts up numbers that top guys can’t match. More significantly, Shaq is a one man PR machine who sells a lot of tickets and jerseys. He’s not likely to be interested in joining a lousy team, but I could certainly see him accepting a bench role for a contender.
Brendan Haywood – Haywood isn’t a great player, but he’s a big center who can be a strong backup, or who can put up his share of double-doubles in a starting role. Haywood isn’t ever going to be a star – if he was he’d have done it before he turned 30 – but he’s a valuable piece in a position of need for many teams. There isn’t a team out there that wouldn’t add another center at the right price.
J.J. Redick – I have hated Redick since his college days, but I wouldn’t mind having him on my team. He’s a brilliant shooter who is particularly dangerous when he gets in his rhythm. What is most useful about Redick is that he hits the floor hot – he doesn’t need time to warm up and find his range before he is useful like a lot of shooters do. That makes him very valuable off the bench late in the game – he’s a great momentum changer.
Raymond Felton – The Bobcats are coming off a pretty good year, and a lot of the credit for that belongs to the man who was running the point. Felton isn’t an elite level point guard, but he’s a competent one who avoids a lot of big mistakes. He’s also only 26, so there is room for him to get better. He’s an upgrade for several teams out there, though I still think that Charlotte will try to find a way to keep him around.