With such a strong free agent class, if a few key players decide to change locales this summer, it could shift the balance of power around the NBA.
One of those key players, Chris Paul, is at the top of the list, and while it would seem unlikely that he would leave Los Angeles, stranger things have certainly happened.
Over the next few days we will begin looking ahead toward free agency by examining the top available players at each position.
We kick things off by looking at the best available point guards.
The position is probably as deep as it has ever been around the league so a few of the following players will definitely get paid but some could end up having to take a reduced role (and a pay cut) when the musical chairs of free agency gets underway in July.
1. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers
Paul is the biggest prize of this year’s strong class of free agents. While there have been hints that Paul would be interested in leaving the Clippers, it seems highly unlikely he would. Paul was upset when he took the blame for the Vinny Del Negro firing and there have been rumours linking him with Dwight Howard (in Los Angeles or elsewhere) but he would be passing up a lot to move.
The Bucks have bucketloads to spend and can afford to match any offer for Jennings. They do have some decisions to make as Jennings, Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick are all free agents this summer. The Bucks point guard has appeared immature off the court at times but what 23-year-old isn’t? Jennings’ scoring went down last season but at the same time his assists went up.
Potential Suitors: Milwaukee, Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit
3. Jarrett Jack, Golden State Warriors
With the season Jarrett Jack had, odds are, he will no longer be a Warrior next season. The team is stuck in luxury tax land and can’t afford to make a decent offer to one of the NBA’s top sixth men last season. There are quite a few teams with plenty of cap space that could use the leadership Jack provides.
Potential Suitors: Golden State, Phoenix, Dallas, Utah
4. Jeff Teague (Restricted), Atlanta Hawks
It will be interesting to see how much stock Hawks general manager Danny Ferry puts into point guard Jeff Teague. While he finally started to live up to his potential this season, he still put up average scoring (14.7) and assist (7.2) averages and his assist-to-turnover ratio (2.52) was even less impressive. If someone were to come in with a massive offer, I have a hard time believing the Hawks would match.
Potential Suitors: Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit
5. Mo Williams – Utah Jazz
Williams, who was once an all-star in Cleveland, only appeared in 46 games with Utah this season — which may cool potential suitor’s interest. The fact that he is also now in his 30s may also keep his price tag low but he is a steady point guard who knows how to direct an offence.
Potential Suitors: Utah, Dallas, Phoenix, Detroit
6. Mario Chalmers – Miami Heat (Team option)
The Heat are likely to pick up Chalmers’ option for next season but considering they are going to be paying the luxury tax, and Norris Cole is waiting around in the wings, all bets are off. It remains to be seen how good Chalmers actually is as he has some pretty heavyweight talent around him in Miami although he has been known to have a strong game on occasion in support.
Potential Suitors: Miami
7. Eric Bledsoe, Los Angeles Clippers (Restricted)
If, as expected, Chris Paul re-signs with the Clippers, Bledsoe’s price tag may rise too high for the Clippers to keep him around. If I were running the Clippers, I would match any offers for his services and keep him on board for trade bait later. That said, I am also not the one signing the paychecks and the Clippers have plenty of other holes on their roster to worry about.
Potential Suitors: Los Angeles Clippers, Boston, Utah
8. Jose Calderon – Detroit Pistons
Many fans of the Raptors felt that Jose Calderon was overpaid but considering the value he brought to the team he seemed to be paid just about right. While he is a heady player, he is also slow as molasses and that isn’t likely to change as he gets older. He will likely have to take a decrease in salary this summer but his leadership and poise will definitely be an asset to some franchise.
Potential Suitors: Detroit, Toronto, Los Angeles Lakers
9. Darren Collison (Restricted), Dallas Mavericks
It’s pretty amazing to think how far Darren Collison’s stock has fallen. At the end of last season, the Pacers moved him to a bench role and then subsequently shipped him to Dallas last summer. He never seemed to find his comfort zone in Dallas and considering how the Mavericks are trying create cap space to sign a star, it would be surprising to see him back. Some team is going to get him cheap with the hopes he rediscovers his old form.
Potential Suitors: Boston, Toronto, New York, Utah
10. Nate Robinson – Chicago Bulls
He will never be an above-average defender or passer but Nate Robinson proved his worth in the playoffs. If he were to leave Chicago, Robinson would probably be best served to sign with a team looking for a veteran scorer off the bench. With Derrick Rose returning next season, that locale with unlikely be Chicago but you never know.
Potential Suitors: Chicago, Phoenix, Boston, New York.
Others: Gary Neal (Restricted), San Antonio Spurs; Devin Harris, Atlanta Hawks; Pablo Prigioni (Restricted), New York Knicks; Chauncey Billups, Los Angeles Clippers; Rodrigue Beaubois (Restricted), Dallas Mavericks; Will Bynum, Detroit Pistons; D.J. Augustin, Indiana Pacers;
Jerryd Bayless (Player Option), Memphis Grizzlies; Beno Udrih, Orlando Magic.