Looking ahead to NBA free agency (if and when it happens)

Photo courtesy of watchesbydesign.com. Yao Ming (pictured above) could be a potential bargain pick up for a contender when the CBA situation is eventually figured out according to our very own Nick Craddock.

By Nick Craddock

With a Thursday midnight deadline looming, NBA owners and the NBA players union appear nowhere near close to hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement that would allow for free agents to start negotiations, as regularly scheduled, on July 1.

However, whenever the 2011 free agency period does commence, there will be some talented ballers available for general managers to sign. How a new CBA affects player contracts is yet to be seen, but here is a list of this summer’s free agents who are overvalued and in line to start taking baths of Benjamins. On the other hand, potential bargain players could reap huge rewards for teams:

5 overvalued players

1. Jose Juan Barea (Dallas Mavericks): The diminutive Puerto Rican point guard won many admirers for his performances during the Mavericks’ 2011 championship run, but whether or not this former undrafted player and star from Northeastern is ready for primetime is yet to be seen. Sure, Barea sliced-and-diced the Lakers during the playoffs, but could this career bench player sustain such success for 82 games a year in a more demanding role? Regardless of my skepticism, his playoff heroics will be the most recent memory general managers have of Barea and, consequently, he will undoubtedly cash in with a hefty pay raise. Once Barea receives a bump in pay, one can only hope he will follow the path of fellow Puerto Rican Jennifer Lopez; although he used to have a little, but then a lot, he’ll remember where he came from because he’s J.J. from the block.     

2. Andrei Kirilenko (Utah Jazz): There’s no way AK-47 gets signed to another maximum-dollar deal such as the one the Utah happily handed its star Russian comrade in the summer of 2004, right? Kirilenko continues to be a more-than-capable defender, but his offensive production has topped out at marginal the past four seasons. His offensive production should only decline as he enters the twilight of his career and teams have to question a man who suddenly decided to get a dragon tattoo that covers his entire back. Maybe a dragon forced him to get inked when he failed to save a maiden fair from its lair?

3. Jason Richardson (Orlando Magic): The former Michigan State standout has scored in bunches during his professional career, but hasn’t offered much else to his employers. In fact, Richardson seems to be confined to be the type of player who scores, but with one caveat: He has to play on underachieving or bad teams. After a decade in the NBA,Richardson has an underwhelming 32 games of playoff experience. Talk about putting a team on your shoulders!

4. David West (New Orleans Hornets): Despite West rehabilitating from microfracture knee surgery, some team will throw lots of money at this upper-tier, but not exactly dominant power forward.  Some may argue that New York’s Amar’e Stoudemire successfully recuperated from the same surgery, but Stoudemire was also in his early 20s when he did so, not 30 years of age like West. Furthermore, West’s rebounding and scoring numbers already began to decline the past two seasons, so weariness should be the course when it comes to West and his knee made of string cheese.

5. Glen Davis (Boston Celtics):Davis is not a “Big Baby,” he’s just a “Fat Man.” Fat men with big contracts in professional sports never seem to fulfill long-term contracts the entire duration because the game takes a toll on their large bodies.  Davis is better suited for a smaller pay check and a bench role.

5 potential bargain players

1. Reggie Evans (Toronto Raptors): Evans averaged a paltry four points off the bench, but 11 rebounds in 26 minutes per game, which was good enough to put Evans as the most efficient rebounder in the NBA last season.  If Evans would’ve played 48 minutes per game, he would’ve averaged 20.8 rebounds per game. Any team could use that sort of rebounding presence from a 6-foot-8 player.

2. Yao Ming (Houston Rockets): When healthy, Yao was one of the most unstoppable big men in the game.  Injuries have seemingly derailed his career, but if he could even get somewhat healthy, he could make an impact for a contender.

3. Tayshaun Prince (Detroit Pistons): Prince is likely to depart the Motor City after relations between he and his team have soured the past two seasons. However, Prince has been the model of consistency during his NBA career, which though lacking individual accolades, includes an NBA championship ring and an Olympic gold medal.  A proven winner.

4. Al Thornton (Golden State Warriors): Lost in the shuffle of Golden State Warriors’ youth movement (and the Washington Wizards’ youth movement prior to that), this former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Clippers seemed poised for more success after averaging 16.5 points during his second season with the Clippers. If Thornton finds the right situation, he’s still young enough to find his form from earlier in his career.

5. Michael Redd (Milwaukee Bucks): Another player whose career was derailed by injuries. Former big-time scorer Tracy McGrady managed to latch on with the Pistons this season because a McGrady on one knee is still better than most options. Likewise, if Redd can become a shell of the once 20-plus per game scorer he was, why wouldn’t a team take a flier on him?

As an aside, if I’m a general manager, I don’t hesitate to sign Celtics forward and restricted free agent Jeff Green to an offer sheet. When Green was traded to the Celtics from the Oklahoma City Thunder this season, it cut into his playing time and his numbers plummeted. Playing alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, Green was a valuable member of a contending team. He needs to find the opportunity to become relevant once again.

Stay tuned for the next edition of TheSportsKraze.

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