Mighty Moke’s Free Agent Rankings

1LAL_Howard_DwightDWIGHT HOWARD, C, LA LAKERS: Were you expecting the Easter Bunny? The Lakers have slowly climbed back to .500, and Dwight has come around. His 16.1 points, 12 rebounds and 2.3 blocks are pedestrian (for him) but he is still the game’s top center and the top prize on the market, for now. Last week, he averaged 14 rebounds and three blocks even though he is not 100 percent.
2LAC_Paul_ChrisCHRIS PAUL, G, LA CLIPPERS: Remember when we weren’t sure if Paul was better than Deron Williams? Me neither. Paul is a rarity in today’s NBA: a culture changer and a leader. Every scout and front office person I’ve spoken to doesn’t think he is leaving, but all agree he would be one of the top prizes if he did. Hasn’t publicly endorsed a return to the Clippers, so expect GMs to trip over one another trying to woo him.
3UTA_Jefferson_AlAL JEFFERSON, C, UTAH: Has spent most of his career as one of the game’s better centers, even if undersized at 6-10. The Jazz appear ready to commit to Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors as their future frontcourt, so Jefferson and Paul Millsap could be elsewhere next season. Although his name comes after Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum, he has every bit the chance of being a difference maker.
4ATL_Smith_JoshJOSH SMITH, F, ATLANTA: We were all surprised to see J-Smoove stay in A-Town past the deadline, though a deal that would have sent him to Milwaukee was close. Although he hasn’t been an All-Star, he is a talented defender and boasts a “Smoove” all-around game that will have teams willing to pony up, even if a bit short of the maximum $19 million per year deal he wants.
5UTA_Millsap_PaulPAUL MILLSAP, F, UTAH: See Al Jefferson, except wherever you see “center,” pretend it says “power forward,” and where it says “6-10″ pretend it says “6-8.” Aside from that, Millsap finds himself in much the same predicament as Big Al. The major difference is that centers are always preferred over smallish power forwards.
6MIL_Jennings_BrandonBRANDON JENNINGS, G, MILWAUKEE: Even before racking up 36 assists in his last two games, Jennings had quietly become a more mature, refined point guard. Since he couldn’t agree on an extension, he will hit the market as the second-best point prospect after Paul and likely will sign an offer sheet that the Bucks match. Seems to be a comparable talent to the likes of Jrue Holiday and Jeff Teague, so an annual salary of $10 million is in line.
7PHI_Bynum_AndrewANDREW BYNUM, C, PHILADELPHIA: In 2008, the Wizards signed Gilbert Arenas to a six-year, $111 million deal even though he played just eight games. Bynum has not this season, but the only question 76ers are asking is how many years they will guarantee Bynum in his new deal. Five years seems silly, but so would pretending he won’t have suitors if negotiations hit a snag. The only center arguably in the same class as Howard. Considering the assets Philly dealt for him, it has to re-sign him and hope for the best.
8IND_West_DavidDAVID WEST, F, INDIANA: For about eight years now, he’s been the same guy. You can count on 18 points, seven rebounds, a decent midrange touch and for him to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder. Occasionally, he will surprise you with a 31-point effort, like he did Sunday vs. the Bulls. West signed a two-year, $20 million deal with the Pacers that expires July 1. He probably sticks in Indy, but there’s always a market for an above average power forward.
9MagicJ.J. REDICK, G, MILWAUKEE: Who thought Redick would be the biggest name moved at the deadline? Magic GM Rob Hennigan was fairly certain it would cost too much to re-sign him, especially with long money committed to Arron Afflalo. Numbers have dipped a bit to 15.4 points since joining the Bucks, who are 4-1 since his arrival. Just 28 and emerging as a solid two-way shooting guard.
10POR_Hickson_JJJ.J. HICKSON, F, PORTLAND: The question was never about his talent or potential but his drive. He’s having a career-best season, fresh off a fairly normal 18 and 16 vs. Minny on Saturday. His 13.2 points and 10.5 boards make him one of eight guys averaging a double-double. Five of the other seven make at least $11 million this season, so some greenbacks are in Hickson’s future.
11SAC_Evans_TyrekeTYREKE EVANS, G, SACRAMENTO: Call me a sucker, but anyone who averages 20-5-5 as a rookie has serious potential. Evans has been stuck in a crowded backcourt,  splitting time with Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and Isaiah Thomas and shots with DeMarcus Cousins. Just 23 and probably just needs new surroundings. Last week’s 26 points, four boards, four assists and five steals at is what he is capable of.
12SAS_Ginobili_ManuMANU GINOBILI, G, SAN ANTONIO: Not much doubt “El Contusion” will re-sign with the Spurs, which is why there hasn’t been talk of his pending free agency. A player like Ginobili – who can dominate off the bench and has championship pedigree – will always be in demand. Over next four weeks, he will have a chance to improve his stock, as Spurs are without Tony Parker.
13OKC_Martin_KevinKEVIN MARTIN, G, OKLAHOMA CITY: Just turned 30 but still proving he is an effective scorer off a contender’s bench. Although James Harden has risen to superstar status, Martin has done a solid job of replacing the bench scoring The Beard provided. Has been in double figures just four of the last nine games but still nailing 43 percent from the arc and averaging 14.5 points. Best of all, has stayed healthy, missing just two games after sitting out 26 last year.
14MIN_Pekovic_NikolaNIKOLA PEKOVIC, C, MINNESOTA: Has emerged as a sturdy pro and is already an offseason target of Wolves and Blazers. His 21 double-doubles is enough to get him paid handsomely on the open market, and centers are always a hot commodity. Last week’s lone stinker (8 and 5) was excusable since it came against Howard and the Lakers. As long as those performances don’t become commonplace, Pekovic will stick in the Top 15.
15LAL_Clark_EarlEARL CLARK, F, LA LAKERS: Tumultuous season in LA  has given him the opportunity to show he can be a productive supporting scorer when given minutes and shots. After Phoenix declined his third-year option (?), Clark was dealt to Orlando and eventually found his way to LA. Last week wasn’t his best, but he averages 10.4 points and 7.9 boards starting for Pau Gasol.

ON THE BUBBLE: Jose Calderon (Detroit), Andray Blatche (Brooklyn), Rodrigue Beaubois (Dallas), Samuel Dalembert (Milwaukee), Nate Robinson (Chicago).

OTHER RANKINGS: MVP |  Most Improved | Rookie | Heisler’s Power Rankings | Sixth Man | Euroleague  | Draft Prospects

Moke Hamilton is a Senior NBA Columnist for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MokeHamilton


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