Well, it has become pretty clear that Nene is going to be the No. 1 free agent out there, and somebody is going to give him a max deal. The Nuggets, Nets, Warriors, Rockets, Pacers, Clippers and Trail Blazers were among the teams that contacted his representatives yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports is reporting.
If you need a pure scorer, Jamal Crawford is the No. 1 option, and here were a LOT of teams impressed by what J.J. Berea brought to the Dallas Mavericks in their championship push.
If you need a rebounder, Kris Humphries is coming off a career year. And if you need a center but cannot afford Nene, the leftovers run the gamut — Tyson Chandler, Samuel Dalembert, Joel Przybilla, Kurt Thomas, Kwame Brown and Aaron Grey.
But what if you want a value buy, someone who will upgrade your team’s talent base without you having to break the bank (something similar to the Memphis Grizzlies signing of Tony Allen prior to last season) in order to get him?
Here are my five hidden gems in the free agent class of 2011.
All will become available beginning Dec. 9, and all are being discussed now that team executives and agents were cleared Wednesday to begin speaking about free agents.
1. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Bucks (Restricted)
Every team needs a defensive stopper, correct? (Yes, even you, Mike D’Antoni). Mbah a Moute is the one guy out there this fall who can bring what Allen brought to the Grizzlies last season, and there is a chance the Bucks will not match because of the investment they have already made in Drew Gooden (four years and $26 million remaining on his contract) and their bigger need for a backup center to play behind Andrew Bogut.
2. Shawne Williams, Knicks (Unrestricted)
He said at the end of the season in May that he wants to return to the Knicks, where his chances of supplanting Landry Fields as the starting 2-guard are better than good. But New York is looking to sign players to one-year deals to retain as much cap space as possible for the summer of 2012, and the lure of multiple seasons of guaranteed money will probably be enough to get Williams to re-assess his priorities. He is a poor man’s Jamal Crawford.
3. Michael Redd, Bucks (Unrestricted)
Probably the least-remembered member of the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team, he has been on the shelf for a year and a half (making max money) after undergoing two surgical procedures on his knee. Redd can still shoot it (his next 3-pointer will be the 1,004th of his career), and there are teams out there (that would be you, Chicago Bulls) who are one shooter away from being legitimate championship contending material.
4. D.J. Mbenga, Hornets (Unrestricted)
Centers usually cost extra to acquire — that is one of the unwritten rules of free agency that is time-tested. Mbenga is one of the most imposing physical specimens ever to don an NBA uniform, and if you need a guy (at a fraction of the cost of a Dalembert or Chandler) to block shots, rebound and give a hard foul here or there, fewer are better qualified than Mbenga, who has a black belt in judo and could kick the ass of any NBA player in a fight, according to Andrew Kamenesky. (He also speaks five languages: English, French, Portuguese, Lingala and Tshiluba.)
5. Reggie Evans, Raptors (Unrestricted)
The fan favorite in Toronto earned the nod here over Chuck Hayes of the Houston Rockets because of my personal bias — the fact that he won me a bunch of money in fantasy basketball each of the past two seasons by being a rebounding machine. He is a black Biedrins at the foul line, but teams have learned to live with having guys like that on their roster. He will likely be available at a fraction of the cost of someone like Humphries, and his total rebounding percentage according to NBAstuffer.com is No. 1 among NBA power forwards. Yes even better than Kevin Love’s.