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There are some 95 unrestricted free agents heading into the 2011-12 NBA season, but only a handful of quality fantasy- worthy players...and none at the level of last year's "super" class.
There is no LeBron James, Chris Bosh or Amare Stoudemire in this year's group. The "valedictorian" of the 2011-12 class should have been Carmelo Anthony, but he forced a trade to the New York Knicks and signed a long-term deal.
This year's "cream of the crop" includes; Jamal Crawford, Glen Davis, Jose Juan Barea, Caron Butler, Tyson Chandler, Nene Hilario, Yao Ming, Kris Humphries, Carl Landry, David West, Grant Hill and Tim Duncan.
Good players, but not fantasy superstars.
Four year's ago, the last name on the list would have qualified for superstar status, but age and 1,129 games played, including 176 playoff games, are finally taking their toll on Duncan.
Duncan (2010 ADP 31) averaged a career-low 13.4 ppg and 8.9 rpg as guards Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken over as the main cogs in the San Antonio Spurs offense. I can't see Duncan playing in any other uniform, which means he'll likely put up statistics similar to this season. The "new" Duncan performance level makes him a solid, but only slightly above average big man selection for next season. He'll likely be overpriced on Draft Day as many fantasy owners will still remember the younger, dominating Duncan.
Three of the names are coming off serious injuries that cut their seasons short - Butler, Yao and West. It remains to be seen if Yao and West will be ready for the start of the season.
Let's look at a few other names to see what their value might be.
Crawford (2010 ADP 74) is a pure scorer, but as the players around him in Atlanta have improved, he has gotten fewer opportunities. His scoring average has dropped from 19.7 ppg in 2008-09 to 14.2 ppg last season as his field goal attempts have dropped from 15.8-per-game to 11.5. If he goes to a team which needs scoring he could put up close to 20 ppg, but the only rumors at this point are from the Celtics and he'd be a fringe scorer, not a primary cog in the Boston offense.
The championship winning Dallas Mavericks have a couple of fantasy-worthy free agents which they may not be able to keep. Owner Mark Cuban's Mavs have six free agents and likely won't keep them all. Barea averaged 9.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg and 3.9 apg, but showed he can play at a higher level in the playoffs. If he stays in Dallas he'll still come off the bench, but he could be a starter elsewhere and have improved statistics.
Dallas' Tyson Chandler (2010 ADP 174) also had an impressive post-season and the Mavs should go all out to keep him. His 10.1 ppg, 9.4 rpg were just average fantasy numbers, but he can be a force when he puts his mind to it.
Nuggets center Nene Hilario (2010 ADP 35) will opt out of his contract, but has said he would like to stay in Denver. The Nuggets have shown plenty of interest in keeping him, so it's likely that the big center will stay in Colorado. He averaged 14.5 ppg and 7.6 rpg last season, but as the Nuggets only inside threat could improve on those statistics next season.
Free agent Kris Humphries of New Jersey wants to stay with the team where he averaged 10.0 ppg and 10.4 rpg last season. He's a good fit with the Nets where he can help Brook Lopez on the boards. He was a much improved player in the second half of the season (14.1 ppg, 14.1 rpg after the All-Star break). With his second-half success should come even more playing time (he averaged 10 more minutes-per-game after the break) and he could be an above average fantasy power forward.
New Orleans Hornets' general manager recently said Carl Landry (2010 ADP 92) was "an important part of our team." Seeing as how they gave up a solid scorer in Marcus Thornton to obtain his services, it seems unlikely that they will let him walk. Landry averaged 11.8 ppg and 4.1 rpg in his 23 games with the Hornets, but he's capable of doing much more as he did in Houston. In addition, with the unknown condition of David West's knee, the Hornets would seem to be the best fit for Landry and if they re-sign him he could post much better numbers than last season, maybe even at a West-like level (18.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg).
As stated earlier, there are no guys in this class who can turn your fantasy team around, but there are a number of solid players who can put you over the top if you have a good core group.
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