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NBA Lockout Ends: Free Agency Could Begin December 9

With the NBA lockout over as the players and owners reached a tentative agreement early Saturday morning, the focus shifts to the actual season. The first step of that: free agency, with a crunched period expected to start December 9.

It'll take until then to wrap up the myriad legal issues and get ratification of the deal from both sides. At that point, with new league salary rules in place, the long-suffering free agents of 2011 can hit the market. The class is led by David West, Nene, Marc Gasol ands Tyson Chandler. Wings including Marcus Thornton, Thaddeus Young and Jamal Crawford will also be up for grabs.

Back in June, Mike Prada put together our 2011 Free Agent preview. It remains totally relevant, except that players who signed in China during the lockout -- including J.R. Smith, Wilson Chandler and Kenyon Martin -- will not be allowed to leave their teams until the season ends. Most expect Smith at the very least will find a way out of his deal and back onto the NBA market.

Also, don't forget that there will likely be an amnesty clause in this deal, one which allows teams to clear cap space by cutting players. Those players will become free agents; some, like Brandon Roy (if he's cut), will become very popular free agents and much lower price points.