You (and every NBA team with cap room) will have to wait a year for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to become free agents. Unless, of course, they sign contracts with their current teams before then. The 2009 class isn't nearly as star-studded, but it boasts dozens of talented players who officially moved into the open market July 1. Randy Hill condenses that list to the top 10. Once players start signing deals (July 8 is the earliest), he'll remove them from the list while adding the best of those who are still available.
Shawn Marion, SF/PF, Toronto Raptors (unrestricted)
Marion is an unrestricted free agent with a history of doing the dirty work and creating overflows on the stat sheet; rebounding well above his 6-foot-7 stature has been Shawn's signature. He also has become well known for whining about respect and touches, while working for huge money on what had been an extremely successful run in Phoenix. Marion didn't exactly kill in Miami (12.0 points per game) or Toronto (14.5), and everywhere we turn for NBA gossip, nobody's talking about him. You'd think there might be a few teams coveting Shawn for their vacant 3 spot. It should be noted that the Raptors drafted USC freshman Demar DeRozan, a Marion-type athlete, with their lottery pick. Marion may have a couple of years left in those springy pins and would seem like a nice on-court fit for a contender in need of tough perimeter defense and big-time (8.5 per game last season) rebounding. Unfortunately, Shawn's tradition of crabbing about a lack of notoriety and a reported interest in getting pa
Marvin Williams, SF, Atlanta Hawks (restricted)
Marvin checks in higher on this list than some might expect because he's only 23 years old, has nice length (6-foot-9), decent lateral movement for a three and can really shoot. As a restricted free agent, Williams may not be as valuable to another team as he is to the Hawks, who lost (at least temporarily) Josh Childress to last summer's surprise journey to Europe and may be interested in moving bouncy Josh Smith while his value is at least close to the level of his head on those tomahawk slams. The Hawks could have money enough to keep Marvin if they lose Mike Bibby, Flip Murray and Zaza Pachulia to free agency this month. Marvin should consider making his stand with the franchise that drafted him over Chris Paul and Deron Williams.
Jason Kidd, PG, Dallas Mavericks (unrestricted)
Despite his advancing years and inability to stay in front of those ultra-quick point guards, the Mavericks reportedly are willing to spend enough of Mark Cuban's fortune to keep the unrestricted Kidd in Dallas. While averaging a triple-single last season, the veteran assist master did register as one of the more offensively efficient players in the league. And the Mavs have enough finishers on offense to eliminate any need for Jason to create shots for himself. But the New York Knicks reportedly consider Kidd a potential upgrade as the push component in their fast-break attack. It should be noted that coach Mike D'Antoni prefers having a point guard who poses a stop-and-pop option on his frequent use of high screen-and-roll tactics. Other allegedly interested franchises include the Portland Trail Blazers and champion Los Angeles Lakers, who, in Kidd, would have yet another point guard incapable of guarding someone like Aaron Brooks.
Trevor Ariza, SF, Los Angeles Lakers (unrestricted)
Please bestow all deserved credit upon the one-and-done former UCLA Bruin who worked hard enough on his perimeter stroke to become a star role player on a championship team. Ariza also rates mention for giving the Lakers above-average on-the-ball defense and several key efforts in the passing lane. Now let's add a dose of reality by suggesting that it's far easier developing as a young player when anything you contribute on offense is considered gravy. With Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom making the bulk of the plays when Los Angeles had the ball, all Trevor had to do was move to an open spot for a wide-open three or cut to the hoop for a pass-and-dunk opportunity. That's not to say anyone with some length, quickness and ups can duplicate what Ariza gives the Lakers. But teams interested in hiring Trevor for big loot (his agent insists no hometown discount should be expected) should make sure the kid doesn't have to do more than he's capable of without such hotshots around him. H
David Lee, PF, New York Knicks (restricted)
This kid loves to defend and rebound, but hasn't made a 3-point shot in four seasons as an NBA employee. How can Mike D'Antoni coach a guy like this? Actually, it's pretty easy. On a team with several disinterested rebounders and defenders, Lee has provided the Knicks with enough toughness to drag them toward respectability. Now, they must decide if his 16 points and 11.7 rebounds per game (career highs) are worth paying whatever is market value just one year before officially wooing LeBron James and a crony. With rookie Jordan Hill and the great Darko Milicic added to the rebounding stable, the possibility increases that New York will be in rear-view mirror for this high-leapin' former Florida Gator. After watching Lee leading the league with 65 double-doubles, the usual-suspect Detroit Pistons may consider lobbing a big deal his way. Other interested parties could be the Oklahoma City Thunder and Portland Trail Blazers, the latter reportedly interested in dealing for Lee during the l
Paul Millsap, PF, Utah Jazz (restricted)
Millsap, who started three games for Utah over his first two years as a pro, received the honor 38 times during this season's injury interlude for Carlos Boozer. The 24-year-old Millsap, whose 30 minutes per game were about 10 more than his average the previous season, gave the Jazz 13.5 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. Using quickness and a strong face-up game, the 6-foot-8, 250-pound Millsap kept Utah viable in Boozer's absence while being paid less than $800,000 for his third season. Several NBA teams would love to make him a lot wealthier, but precious few (yeah, yeah ... the Detroit Pistons reportedly are interested) can make it happen. He'd be a great fit in Cleveland, but the title-contending Cavaliers would be offering short money to a player who has yet to enjoy a serious NBA payday. Oklahoma City has the money and the need for someone with Millsap's skills. But Jazz officials insist they will pay the freight to keep Paul in Salt Lake City.
Ron Artest, SF, Houston Rockets (unrestricted)
Prevailing speculation has the controversial Artest prepared to seek employment elsewhere after it was reported that Yao Ming's foot injury could take more than a year to heal. If it heals at all. Observers of the NBA scene have been attempting to put Ron in a Lakers jersey for a couple of years, with the departure of Lamar Odom (through trade in the past and free agency now) seen as the catalyst for such a desperate move. The word desperate is used, of course, because Artest who was a dandy citizen while working for the Houston Rockets may not be prepared to maintain a reasonable level of sanity under the Los Angeles microscope. On the court, Artest certainly provides defensive toughness, although at age 29 he no longer possesses the lateral-movement chops required to earn the reputation he still has. He's a decent three-point shooter (40 percent last season), but takes bad shots inside the arc because he can't beat defenders off the dribble as easily as in
Ben Gordon, SG, Chicago Bulls (unrestricted)
A professional scorer (20 points per game last season), the 26-year-old Gordon is listed as 6-foot-3 but may be closer to 6-1. It really doesn't matter because the former Connecticut Husky works hard enough on defense to prevent being excessively taken advantage of inside. He's not exactly a facilitator on offense, but has the handle, foot quickness, balance and release to squeeze off a decent shot against anyone. He benefited by playing alongside the penetrate-and-kick-oriented rookie Derrick Rose, but Ben's interest in pounding the ball himself made him seem expendable to Bulls executives who prefer watching Rose dribble. Of course, the Detroit Pistons have been mentioned as one team prepared to make a strong charge for the unrestricted Gordon. Didn't they just struggle last season with a short two-guard who likes to dribble and shoot? They sure did, but Ben will work for much less and (as mentioned) has no problem playing defense. UPDATE: Gordon has reportedly a
Lamar Odom, SF, Los Angeles Lakers (unrestricted)
Even though Trevor Ariza is younger and has yet to bump into his ceiling, Odom's versatility makes him more vital to the Lakers' bid for a championship repeat. While playing out the last season of a lucrative contract, Lamar rose from coach Phil Jackson's bench to produce better numbers in the playoffs than he did during the regular season; it should be noted that Phil relied upon Odom more in the postseason, a variable that could create bigger financial numbers ... from another team. The 6-10 Lamar insists he wants to remain a Laker and why shouldn't he? The big question is how low will he go and how high will team owner Jerry Buss go over the luxury-tax threshold to keep his title team reasonably intact. If both answers are "not very," a team tracking this 29-year-old lefty will be looking at a player who can run an offense as a slick-handling, point-power forward. Odom remains nimble enough to defend many small forwards, hungry enough to dominate the glass and skilled enough to scor
Hedo Turkoglu, SF, Orlando Magic (unrestricted)
In dealing for Vince Carter on draft day, the Magic seem prepared to begin life after Hedo, a skilled 6-10 swingman who was voted the league's Most Improved Player in 2008. Opting out of the final year of his contract, Hedo probably expects to pull in an offer for considerably more than the $7 million and change he would have made in Orlando. Magic general manager Otis Smith has claimed continued interest in re-signing Turkoglu, but must hope the market really crashes for free agents and Hedo who was offered and turned down an extension of four years and $35 million slinks back to the Magic for a price that prevents catastrophic luxury-tax issues. Turkoglu, who spent many fourth-quarter stretches as the initiator of the Magic offense, is a solid driver, expert marksman and far better defender than most of you think.