NBA free agency has begun! There are plenty of intriguing players available, and while many have that gnarly little "restricted" tag in front of their status, it should still make for an entertaining show. More exhilarating could be the trade game. As rumors begin to smoke out once free agency begins, teams look for ways to open up space and take advantage of uncertainty and build for next season and beyond.
To get you prepped, here is SBNation.com's free agent rankings for 2012, broken into four groups with 83 players represented. (There are more than 83 free agents in the NBA. If your favorite free agent is not listed, he's a replacement level player who is not hilarious or I forgot all about him because I'm a clownfraud hack writer.) Let's go!
'(R)' means a player is a restricted free agent. The player's incumbent team can match any signed offer sheet.
1. DERON WILLIAMS
We expected to have three massive fish in the free agent lake in 2012, but two of them -- Chris Paul and Dwight Howard -- teased us and picked up options for the 2012-13 season. So we're left with Deron Williams, one of the best point guards in the league and a player who has reportedly already knocked his options down to two: the Brooklyn Nets and the Dallas Mavericks. He grew up in Dallas but spent the past season and a half with the Nets. It hasn't been a great season and a half, but he nonetheless seems relatively committed to the team.
Williams is a perennial All-Star for good reason: he's among the most prolific scorers among point guards, and could probably average 12 assists per game with the right supporting cast. He's a step behind CP3, Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook among point guards, but it's a small step and a fluid situation. It'd be a massive coup for Dallas to land him and a huge disaster for Brooklyn if Williams leaves.
2. ROY HIBBERT (R)
If the Pacers don't offer Hibbert a max deal, another team will. Hibbert's agent David Falk is smart, experienced and unsentimental enough to know that. The Pacers have plenty of money, so the team may want to handle business with Roy quickly to get in on another player. Like, say ...
3. ERIC GORDON (R)
Gordon hardly played last season after being traded to the Hornets, but we all know what he did in L.A.: evoke half-veiled memories of Mitch Richmond. He's the best two-guard under the age of 25 in the NBA. As with Hibbert, it's likely that if the Hornets don't quickly lock him up with a max or near-max deal (starting at a bit under $15 million per season), someone else will extend the offer sheet.
A constant problem with ranking free agents is that there's a distinct set of veteran players whose value is particularly hard to measure due to their history with their incumbent teams, their lack of actual availability and the fact that length of contract is often more of a sticking point than price. To get around this issue, we're breaking them out into their own group.
T-1. KEVIN GARNETT
T-1. TIM DUNCAN
Garnett has reportedly already locked back in with the C's. Duncan will follow with the Spurs within the next day or two, in all likelihood, quite possibly on a similar contract (more than $30 million over three years). These two guys were never really on the market, apparently. But KG's deal at least helps set the standard for the other Living Legends.
3. STEVE NASH
KG's three-year deal particularly helps Nash, who (like Garnett) always seems one injury from extinction. Nash is legitimately in play, telling ESPN this week that he finally can see himself playing for another club. Them clubs will be lining up for a masterful point guard who still scores efficiently.
4. CHAUNCEY BILLUPS
Billups would like to stick with Chris Paul and the Clippers, and his injury history remains his huge question mark. But when healthy he can still be a game-changing guard due to defense, post ability and fantastic shooting.
5. RAY ALLEN
The silky shooter has still got a stroke, and an offseason of repair could leave him effective over another couple of years. He'll be 37 before next season begins, but he shot 45 percent on threes this season. He's worth the chase for teams that need a designated shooter.
6. GRANT HILL
Hill won't get a contract like the ones that the other Living Legends will -- he's closer to the minimum salary -- but he's still an effective defender, has a killer mid-range game and loves Sprite. A real winning situation.
7. JASON KIDD
Kidd has reportedly signed on to follow Deron Williams wherever he may go. How weird.
8. KWAME BROWN
The line starts here, GMs.
With the eight Living Legends removed and adding back in the obvious top three discussed above, we have 75 free agents of note to run through. Let's go!
4. RYAN ANDERSON (R)
What's better than Peak Rashard Lewis? Peak Rashard Lewis at a fraction of the price with the addition of an ability to hit the offensive glass. Outside of Deron, Nash and Gordon, Anderson might be the best offensive player available this summer.
5. OMER ASIK (R)
Asik is seriously one of the best defenders in the NBA. Please, NBA teams: don't let the Bulls keep him cheaply. You'll regret it. And I swear I'm unnerved we haven't seen one "Omer Coming ..." blog headline yet.
6. ERSAN ILYASOVA
The second Turk in a row is a devastating maelstrom in the lane, with the ability to rebound like a monster and score efficiently. He'd be a solid third banana on a good team, or a monster fourth tangelo.
7. GORAN DRAGIC
Dragic is the third best true point guard available after Williams and Nash, showing his stuff for the Rockets during Kyle Lowry's downtime. But there's some genuine risk involved here -- he wasn't tremendous all the time for the Suns. (If he were, they wouldn't have traded him for Aaron Brooks.)
8. NICOLAS BATUM (R)
Batum, just 23 years old, might deserve to be higher, but there's a little risk with him as well. His value is heavily tilted toward defense, and there remain some questions about both his defensive range and whether he'll improve much given his still skinny frame.
9. BROOK LOPEZ (R)
He'll totally average 20-10 next to Deron if he ever gets healthy. Totally.
10. O.J. MAYO
Mayo's deal will almost assuredly get ripped no matter its price because Mayo has underachieved based mostly on being the No. 3 pick in front of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. But he's still a good player. And good players get paid. Science.
11. LOU WILLIAMS
Williams is the best of a bunch of super scorers available. As with most if not all of the super scorers, defense isn't really part of the deal.
12. JAVALE MCGEE (R)
The JaValevator is going to get paid so much money and make so many people LOL and !!! and it's going to be great.
13. GERALD WALLACE
Wallace's game is regressing quickly as it is primarily predicated on athleticism and, well, he's finally aging. But he's still a firebolt finisher and tenacious defender, and his rebounding is worth a good bit of attention in its own right.
14. GEORGE HILL (R)
Hill is just a solid combo guard who can do everything well, but nothing extraordinarily well. That's valuable in the NBA.
15. ANTAWN JAMISON
If you ignore his devolving shooting percentages, Jamison was a big part of Cleveland's better 2011-12 season, though obviously well behind Kyrie Irving. He can still score and rebound.
16. BRANDON BASS
Like Jamison, Bass is a solid scorer and rebounder; his jump shot helped to keep defenses honest in the playoffs. A short, high-dollar deal for a contender is the best bet here.
17. DARRELL ARTHUR (R)
Arthur missed the entire 2011-12 season due to injury, but folks who paid attention in Memphis' come-up 2010-11 season know his defensive presence and ability to fool opponents on offense.
18. JASON THOMPSON (R)
Another solid, sub-spectacular young big man. Sacramento will almost assuredly be keeping him around to back up both DeMarcus Cousins and Thomas Robinson, once the rook ascends.
19. JEREMY LIN (R)
My favorite storyline going in July 1 is determining whether Lin's agent can convince the kid to lay the wood on the Knicks by taking a better deal than the max that New York can offer. Linsanity!
20. SPENCER HAWES
Did you forget how good Hawes looked when the Sixers were unstoppable early in the season? Some GM out there didn't.
21. JEFF GREEN
Green is an odd case. On reputation, he belongs higher than this. But his reputation is probably far from accurate. He is a valuable wing defender, though, and moves the ball well.
22. JAMEER NELSON
The Magic point guard will likely stay in Orlando, and should remain at a salary slightly above the mid-level.
23. ANDRE MILLER
Next year will be the year Andre Miller body slams an opponent during a game.
24. AARON BROOKS (R)
He spent last season in China, and couldn't even Wilson Chandler it back to the NBA in time for the playoffs. If the Suns lose Nash, he could be a candidate to take the qualifying offer and go unrestricted in a year.
25. NICK YOUNG
Young ended up making the right move by accepting the qualifying offer last year: he's in line for mid-level type deal.
26. RAMON SESSIONS
Amazing how Sessions went from the greatest point guard since Creation when the Lakers acquired him ... to Smush II by the end of L.A.'s run.
27. JAMAL CRAWFORD
Crawford escaped from Portland and will likely take another short deal for mid-level money.
28. CARL LANDRY
The prototypical super-tough power forward who doesn't rebound.
29. MICHAEL BEASLEY
The prototypical power forward who swears he's a two-guard.
30. RUDY FERNANDEZ (R)
I like that Rudy's camp has almost treated his free agency like a hostage situation. "If an NBA team doesn't overpay me, I'll go back to Spain. I SWEAR I WILL."
31. JASON TERRY
This might be too low based on where I put Nick Young and Lou Williams, but JET has exceptional confidence for someone who shot 43 percent from the floor last season.
32. KRIS HUMPHRIES
A rebounder who is otherwise completely non-notable.
33. D.J. AUGUSTIN (R)
It's going to be hard to get the stink of the 2011-12 Bobcats off.
34. RAYMOND FELTON
It's going to be hard to get the stink of the 2011-12 Raymond Felton off.
35. STEVE NOVAK
He's not at all overrated as a big man shooter. Nope.
36. J.R. SMITH
He's worth the trouble like every three out of seven days.
37. GERALD GREEN
A stunning career rebound for Cupcake. Pay the man!
38. DANNY GREEN (R)
A stunning career rebound for Danny, too. Destined to be just a little too cheap. Curse of the Spurs.
39. CARLOS DELFINO
The Argentine LeBron.
40. MARREESE SPEIGHTS (R)
Just intriguing enough to be intriguing.
41. BRANDON RUSH (R)
Not everyone gets to put "traded for Louis Amundson" on their C.V.
42. JODIE MEEKS (R)
Not everyone gets to put "once blockaded Evan Turner from the starting five" on their C.V.
43. KIRK HINRICH
He'd be higher if he weren't objectively terrible last season. Was it a fluke?
44. COURTNEY LEE (R)
The snakebitten and possibly just not as good as he once seemed guard.
45. MARCO BELINELLI
The original Summer League Hall-of-Famer. Accept no substitutes.
46. DELONTE WEST
I feel like maybe he needed his own grouping too. The file on Delonte is as thick as the Affordable Care Act.
47. IAN MAHINMI
No justification necessary.
48. ROBIN LOPEZ (R)
Sideshow Bob is another qualifying offer option, though backing up Marcin Gortat isn't really great for one's rep.
49. BORIS DIAW
See Raymond Felton.
50. MARCUS CAMBY
He's going to quietly last in the NBA until he's 72.
51. REGGIE EVANS
After all of those years rebounding like a menace, he finally gets his due as Blake Griffin's nanny.
52. SEMIH ERDEN (R)
To think: just a few years ago I didn't know my Semih Erdens from my Omer Asiks. The NBA lets us see all.
53. CRAIG SMITH
No justification required.
54. C.J. MILES
C.J. Miles has shot less than 40 percent in three of his seven seasons. It doesn't always get better.
55. KENYON MARTIN
Significantly less interesting now that he remember why Denver was not freaked out about losing him in 2011.
56. JERRYD BAYLESS (R)
The poor man's poorer brother's Rodney Stuckey.
57. MICHAEL REDD
58. NATE ROBINSON
See Player No. 45. The thinly veiled diss was meant for No. 58.
59. J.J. HICKSON
60. JORDAN HILL
61. D.J. WHITE (R)
He's no Byron Mullens, but ...
62. NAZR MOHAMMED
The rare veteran who may leave a title team to get a bit of playing time.
63. MICKAEL PIETRUS
64. DONTE GREENE
... will rise again!
65. ANTHONY RANDOLPH
... will rise!
66. TERRENCE WILLIAMS
His career can absolutely go in any of 2,045 directions at this point. Stephen Jackson, Puerto Rico, double-A baseball ...
67. PATTY MILLS (R)
I feel like Patty Mills has been a restricted free agent since 2008.
68. JOSH HOWARD
Little-known fact: Josh Howard has been a free agent in 27 straight offseasons.
69. MATT BARNES
In most cases, I would just put: "The worst." But we have still have to get to ...
70. BARON DAVIS
71. RANDY FOYE
72. YI JIANLIAN
73. DEREK FISHER
Stuck on five there, Deke?
74. DESHAWN STEVENSON
Anyone know if he can feel his face yet?
75. HASHEEM THABEET
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