The NBA’s signing period begins on Dec. 9. Until then teams will be frantically courting players to fill holes on their rosters ahead of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
With an expected $58 million salary cap forthcoming in the new collective bargaining agreement and a relatively unspectacular class of free agents from which to choose, NBA teams will spend the next week trying to land an impact player to improve their season prospects.
Yesterday we previewed the top available centers in the 2011 free agent class. While considerably deeper, the pool of forwards is full of players surrounded by questions marks ranging from health (David West, Caron Butler, Josh Howard) to age (Grant Hill, Shane Battier) to inconsistency (Jeff Green, Thaddeus Young) to wedding vows (Kris Humphries).
Here’s Michael Lee’s take on the top forwards on the market:
David West, Hornets - 18.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg
ML: West is coming back from a torn ACL in March but has always been one of the more underrated and effective power forwards in the league. Could stay in New Orleans, but Indiana and New Jersey will make plays for him.
Whether Chris Paul stays or goes, the Hornets are making re-signing West a top priority. West, who was drafted by the franchise in 2003, has provided consistent offense and rebounding over the last seven seasons and, if healthy, is one of the top big men in the Western Conference.
West’s agent, Lance Young, told the Times-Picayune that GM Dell Demps “has always said he wants David to be a Hornet for life and retire his jersey and put it up in the rafters, a pillar in the community and with the Hornets forever.”
Sounds like embellishment, but it also sounds like New Orleans wants him back.
Jeff Green, Celtics - 13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 1.4 apg
ML: Former Georgetown star’s value diminished after trade from Oklahoma City but Green is still a versatile and athletic 6-foot-9 forward capable of playing multiple positions. Celtics will look to re-sign him but he could get interest from Sacramento and New Orleans.
Some have questioned Green’s ability to produce on both ends at a consistent clip — a notion the former All-American would like to dismiss.
“In Oklahoma, I was kind of overshadowed by Kevin (Durant) and the way Russell (Westbrook) picked up, but, excuse my language, I can really (expletive) play,” Green told the Boston Herald last month. “I can really play this game, man.”
Kris Humphries, Nets - 10 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 1.1 apg
ML: No longer keeping up with the Kardashians, Humphries will try to turn his new-found fame and career-year in New Jersey into more Benjamins. Could be a solid rotation player for a quality team.
The former Mr. Kim Kardashian is currently seeking an annulment of his short-lived marriage. Meantime, the Nets have not lost that loving feeling for the budding power forward.
“They made it very clear Kris is a priority and they would certainly like to retain him,” Humphries’ agent Marc Cornstein told the New York Daily News. “Kris would certainly enjoy coming back if it worked out.”
Caron Butler, Mavericks - 15 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 apg
ML: Former Wizard got a championship ring with the Mavericks but couldn’t play in NBA Finals while recovering from knee injury. He has fully recovered and his toughness and scoring will attract attention from Dallas, Miami, New Jersey, San Antonio, New York and the Los Angeles Clippers.
Shane Battier, Grizzlies - 7.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.3 apg
ML: A defensive specialist who can knock down threes, Battier shouldn’t have a problem finding a suitor. Could be the missing piece for Miami or Oklahoma City or re-sign with the Grizzlies.
As Dave Hyde of the Sun-Sentinel points out, Battier has the skills Miami needs: he shoots 38.5 percent from three-point range, knows how to play defense and can rebound. But several other teams could be in the mix for the 33-year-old vet.
Grant Hill, Suns - 13.2 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2.5 apg
ML: After rejuvenating and prolonging his career in Phoenix, the 39-year-old Hill is unlikely to leave to Suns. Reston native never was interested in playing for the Wizards, but several contenders could use the solid professional and defensive specialist.
Steve Nash, for one, has said retaining Hill is “very, very important” to him. But how much longer will Nash be around in the desert to enjoy Hill’s company?
Josh Howard, Wizards - 8.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.3 apg
ML: Howard has struggled with a left knee injury the past two seasons, but he is a savvy, skilled veteran who could help a contender or provide leadership for a young team like the Wizards. Boston, Miami and Chicago are expected to make a push for him.
The Wizards have told Howard they will not use the amnesty clause to waive their highest-paid player.
Other notable free agent forwards: Thaddeus Young, Glen Davis, Carl Landry, Andrei Kirilenko, Tayshaun Prince, Chuck Hayes
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