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.
Here’s Michael Lee’s take on the top centers on the market:
Nene, Nuggets - 14.5 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg
ML: Unlikely to return to Denver, Brazilian center will be able to pick his spot after being consistent, productive and healthy the past three years. He’s interested in Miami, Houston, Golden State, New Jersey, Indiana and Dallas.
Denver GM Masai Ujiri: “I think he wants to test (free agency) a little bit. We respect that. We respect what he’s doing. We respect Nene as a player. We want Nene back here and we are going to do our best to get him back here playing for the Nuggets.”
Marc Gasol, Grizzlies - 11.7 ppg, 7 rpg, 2.5 apg
ML: His brother Pau is more famous and decorated, but the 6-foot-10 center from Spain will be in high demand this summer after an impressive season in Memphis. Grizzlies plan to match any offers to retain him but have already spent big on Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay and Mike Conley.
Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace said Thursday that signing Gasol is “priority number one.”
Tyson Chandler, Mavericks - 10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 1.1 bpg
ML: In one year, Chandler’s aggressive play on the boards and shot-blocking helped transform Mavericks into an imposing defensive team and helped Dirk Nowitzki get his first ring. He’ll probably re-sign but Miami could be an interesting destination.
On Thursday, Chandler told ESPN.com that he does not expect to return to the Mavs: “I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp. I’m really taking a hard look at all of my options, trying to see what best suits me.”
Others: DeAndre Jordan, Clippers; Samuel Dalembert, Kings; Greg Oden, Trail Blazers; Kwame Brown, Bobcats; Jeff Foster, Pacers; Kyrylo Fesenko, Jazz.
*On Wednesday Portland tendered a qualifying offer to Oden, who has had microfracture on both of his knees. The former No. 1 overall pick missed all of the 2010-11 season.
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