Apr 29, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson (25) and Paul Millsap (24) during the second half of game one in the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center. The Spurs won 106-91. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE
We answer the Millsap vs. Jefferson question (for now) and place Brandon Jennings, DeMar DeRozan and Jrue Holiday in their spots.
We're creeping up to the top of our 2013 NBA Free Agent Boogaloo Beatdown, with this offering covering players ranked Nos. 11-20. The specific flavor and quality of this free agent period is represented by where these players fall -- in a year like 2010, some of these fellas would fall in the 30s. But in a year like 2011 (just awful), one of them was actually in the top five. So it's all relative. Teams that have cap space in 2013 but aren't chasing the elite prospects have some nice options.
20. DAVID WEST
West was No. 4 in our 2011 rankings last November, and ended up signing a two-year, $20 million deal with Indiana. The Pacers surely feel good about that deal after a banner season, though West showed unmistakable signs of wear. His per-minute scoring dropped to 15 per 36 and Frank Vogel restricted his minutes quite a bit. If he does that again, the Pacers or whoever chases West will account for the reduced role in setting his salary. He just turned 32 this week, so one more multi-year deal is a no-brainer; I doubt, however, it'll hit eight figures in annual salary, however.
19. TIAGO SPLITTER
The Brazilian big man will wrap up his first NBA contract in 2013 and become a restricted free agent. His arrival was not all we dreamed it could be: he's playing less than 20 minutes per game in San Antonio, and even less in the playoffs. But the per-minute numbers are there, and he's going to break out soon. I can feel it in my bones. Last season, he averaged 17.6 points and 9.8 rebounds per 36 minutes, and had a 64.9 percent True Shooting percentage -- those are really legit numbers. It's just a matter of opportunity. Tim Duncan's not getting any younger, and the Spurs aren't tremendously deep up front (though they do have DeJuan Blair and Boris Diaw).
18. TONY ALLEN
Allen, one of the NBA's most ... interesting characters and best wing defenders, will be up for grabs in 2013, barring an extension. Last season was actually the first time in his career that he averaged more than 25 minutes a game. He's been a credible enough scorer to get those minutes, thanks to the rest of Memphis' offensive prowess. (Word up to Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph.) But for whatever reason Lionel Hollins didn't keep him in late in playoff games. Allen, who has made two straight All-Defense teams, will be 31 when he becomes a free agent, and is making only $3.3 million this season. Expect him to get a nice raise.
17. MARVIN WILLIAMS
Williams can opt out of a $7.5 million contract after this season; that all depends on how he does in Salt Lake, having been sent there for Devin Harris. The strangest thing about Williams' career is that he never turned into the scorer he looked like he'd be coming out for North Carolina. He average 11 points in 22 minutes off the bench in Chapel Hill, but is around 13 points per 36 minutes in the NBA. It just hasn't translated at all. He's a good rebounder and doesn't turn the ball over, though. Last season, he took and made more threes than ever. That will be an important stat to watch this season as we figure out where his career is headed.
16. TAJ GIBSON
The next restricted free agent for someone to pry from the mysteriously hard-capped Chicago Bulls. Actually, it's likely the Bulls passed on keeping Omer Asik in order to be able to extend Gibson without making sweet love to the steep bits of the luxury tax. Gibson fits really, really well with the Bulls as a defender and rebounder, though expect Carlos Boozer to be in heavy rotation while Derrick Rose is out, simply because Chicago will need the points. Gibson should land around $8 million per season in his next contract, whether it's in Chicago or elsewhere.
15. PAUL MILLSAP
The absolute key to how surprisingly good the Jazz were last season has everything to do with two names: Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. Millsap had a glorious season, averaging 16.6 points, 8.8 rebounds and a PER of 21.8. Jefferson was even better, which is why he's a couple spots higher on this list. But both are really, really good NBA power forwards. 'Sap will be 28 when he fits free agency next July, coming off of an $8.6 million contract. He should be back in that zone for the next four years, too.
14. DEMAR DEROZAN
Compton two-guards ain't nothing to mess with, and DeRozan has settled in as a supplemental wing scorer ... we think. He doesn't soak up a ton of shots, shoot particularly well or make plays for teammates, but he's a credible starting two-guard in the NBA, and a relatively good fit for Kyle Lowry (though you'd prefer that DMDR could stretch the floor -- there's always Andrea Bargnani). DeRozan might get overpaid in 2013 (despite restricted status) by virtue of his youth and quality character -- he'll be 23 and hasn't had a single attitude blip, which compares favorably to many fellow Class of '09 products.
13. AL JEFFERSON
It's hard to overstate how good Jefferson was last season. I'm just glad he shut up the "empty numbers of a bad team" crowd who discounted his production back in Minnesota. He averaged 19.2 points and 9.6 rebounds while shooting 49.2 percent for Utah last season, and had a 22.8 PER, the second highest finish of his career. And as it's easy to forget, he's just 27 years old -- he'll be 28 in time for 2013 free agency. He's got one more massive contract in front of him, and it'll be well-deserved.
12. JRUE HOLIDAY
We're going to learn a lot about Holiday this season as he'll have Andrew Bynum anchoring the offense. We'll also learn what Doug Collins really thinks about Holiday based on how much freedom he allows. Holiday had a tough season as his scoring and assist numbers dropped, but the real problem has been his scoring efficiency. He needs to make better decisions on when to take it into the lane, when to shoot and when to find teammates. If he can figure that out, he could legitimately enter the second tier of NBA point guards (behind Chris Paul, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook) within the next year or two. But it'll take some real improvement.
11. BRANDON JENNINGS
Compton's second entry in this set of rankings. The fear I have here is the same fear teams always have about Jennings: at his best, he looks elite. At his most common, he looks fatally flawed. At his worst, he looks like Knicks era Steve Francis. I know he's young, but it took him three years to have a season shooting percentage over 40 percent. (He landed at 41.8 percent last year.) Sure, he scored 19 points per game last season. He needed 18.5 total shot attempts per game to get them. But you look at that and remember just how raw he still is, and how he has improved in the NBA, and that despite uninformed beliefs otherwise he's remarkably surehanded with the ball, and that he cares as much or more about winning than he does all the other stuff you hear about ... and, man, he's a nice prospect.
He's going to get paid really well, and he'll probably deserve it. I think. Just stop with the long jumpers, man.
Friday: the top 10! Who will land at No. 1: Chris Paul, Dwight Howard or Francisco Garcia? Find out in 24 hours!
The Hook is a daily NBA column by Tom Ziller. See the archives.