The 2011 free agent class isn’t rich with talent or stars, but there are a few hidden gems and to no surprise a few donned a Denver Nuggets jersey last season.
- Arron Afflalo, Denver, 6-5 215, 26 years old (restricted): Afflalo is arguably the hardest working player in the NBA and he brings a winning mentality when he steps on the floor. NBA general managers are starting to take notice and according to Marc Stein, Afflalo is among the most popular free agents on the market and luckily (or unluckily) enough for the Nuggets he is a restricted free agent. Afflalo is one of those players that has gotten better each year; his field goal percentage, minutes, points, rebounds and assists have increased each season. He also has shot over .40 percent from behind the arc the previous three seasons and has shown an ability to hit clutch jump shots. No doubt, resigning him is the Nuggets top priority but how much are they willing to spend? VIDEO: Afflalo’s game-winner
- Nene, Denver, 6-11 250, 29 years old: Nene has had an interesting career. He was an extremely raw player when he was younger and injuries derailed his growth. His game didn’t start to develop until his late 20s and for the last three seasons Nene has been able to put up semi-consistent numbers, but he was doing it while playing out of position at center. He is dangerous in the post and is a great one-on-one defender (mediocre help defender), not to mention he is an underrated passers. However, the Brazilian big man is not a good rebounder and isn’t a consistent enough scorer to be a team’s go-to player. And due to his inadequacies he isn’t worth the max money, and that is his asking price. VIDEO: Nene at his best
- Rodney Stuckey, Detroit, 6-5 205, 25 years old (restricted): If Afflalo is the most underrated player in the NBA, Stuckey isn’t far behind. He is a poor man’s Dwyane Wade, who can score with the best of them and provide toughness on defense. The fourth-year combo guard finished last season with five consecutive games with 20-plus points. He also had three double-doubles during that time. During that stretch he averaged 25.8 points and 9.4 assists a contest. In a perfect world, Stuckey would be an ideal sixth man for the Nuggets. He can defend shooting guards and also has a scoring spark that would be dangerous off the bench. Stuckey isn’t attracting too much attention, partly because the Pistons said they would match all offers for him. But if Denver decides not to match Afflalo, Stuckey wouldn’t be a bad replacement. VIDEO: Stuckey going for 40
- Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Milwaukee, 6-8 230, 25 years old (restricted): To continue with the underrated theme, Mbah a Moute should be mentioned with some of the top defenders in the League. He can defend any position on the floor – and he can do it with the best of them. No doubt, he is a favorite of George Karl or any coach for that matter, especially with his versatility. Mbah a Moute had defend the likes of Chris Paul, LeBron James, Wade, Kobe Bryant and even Carmelo Anthony last season. And the Nuggets need a versatile defender like that, especially to replace Kenyon Martin. He is offensively challenged, but that didn’t stop Ben Wallace from making an impact in the NBA. It also isn’t a coincident that he also attended UCLA. VIDEO: Mbah a Moute outworks the Heat
- Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia, 6-8 220, 23 years old (restricted): You can’t find a player with a bigger upside in this year’s free agent class than Young. He just turned 23, has great size and may be the most versatile player available. Young has a nose for the ball, deadly in transition and is very active on both sides of the floor. He is a matchup nightmare at both forwards and was arguably the best player for Philadelphia in the playoffs. In the opening round against the Heat, Young went for 20 points and 11 rebounds in the first game and followed that with an 18-point effort – all while having to defend James. Like Stuckey and many of the restricted free agents available the Sixers will probably match any offer for Young, but his potential makes it worth over paying for. VIDEO: Young’s Top Plays In 2011
- Nick Young, Washington, 6-7 210, 26 years old (restricted): Everything about Young screams J.R. Smith. His athletic ability, his scoring, shooting, ability to get hot in a hurry, his talent and also his mentality. Young actually may be a better scorer and shooter than Smith. He averaged a career best 17.4 points last season and did while shooting nearly .44 percent from the field, .38 percent from behind the arc and more than .81 percent from the charity stripe. Young has great size, but is a surprisingly sub par rebounder and defender. If the Nuggets do feel they need to replace Smith’s spark off the bench, they shouldn’t look any further than Young. And according to sources, Denver has been in contact with the former USC star. VIDEO: Young goes for 38 against Heat
- DeAndre Jordan, LA Clippers, 6-11 265, 23 years old (restricted): Jordan has been the forgotten man in this free agent class as most teams talk about Nene, Tyson Chandler or Gasol. But Jordan is younger, more athletic and has more upside than any of them. While he is still really raw on offense, he is impressive on defense – blocking nearly two shots a game. And despite playing only 26 minutes, he grabbed more rebounds than Gasol last season and almost as many as Nene. He also blocked more shots than Chandler, Gasol or Nene. Jordan is considered a poor-man’s Dwight Howard, he does need to stay out of foul trouble but locking this kid up will help any team’s defense for years to come. And if his offense develops it could be scary. VIDEO: Jordan’s Top Dunks
- Josh McRoberts, Indiana, 6-10 240, 24 years old: McRoberts can make it in the NBA, he has all of the tools to succeed. Great size, athletic ability, good passer and range on his jumper. Not to mention, he is cheap. McRoberts is coming off his career season in which he shot over .54 percent from the field, averaged 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds – all of which were career bests. But the Pacers are willing to let him go in order to land a high-priced free agent big man like Marc Gasol, Nene or David West. If Nene leaves, McRoberts would help the Nuggets in the post at a reasonable cost. And have I mentioned he is cheap? VIDEO: McRoberts Top 10 Dunks
- Jeff Green, Boston, 6-9 235, 25 years old (restricted): Green, much like Nene, can’t carry a team and is much more valuable as a secondary player. He has a career average of 13.9 points and can play both forward position. He has a wide array of moves on offense, which includes a solid jump shot and good drive to the basket. However, he does struggles against post players and isn’t a great rebounder and on the Nuggets he’d have to start at power forward and defend bigger players. But what makes Green intriguing is his team mentality, athletic ability and his versatile defense. Which would all fit in well on a young Nuggets squad that isn’t built around one player.
(NOTE: GREEN’S AGENT SAID HE WOULDN’T SIGN AN OFFER SHEET WITH ANOTHER TEAM. SO HE WILL STAY IN BOSTON) VIDEO: Green’s highlights
- Shannon Brown, LA Lakers, 6-4 210, 26 years old: There are two ways to look at Brown: One, he hasn’t had his chance to shine due to his lack of playing time with the Lakers. Two, the Lakers bring out the best in Brown. Either way you look at it, Brown is an amazing talent, who is about as athletic as they come. He was great coming off the bench for Los Angeles and played his two best seasons of his career for the Lakers. Brown isn’t the biggest player, but is surprisingly strong and athletic. He has range on his jump shot and is an adequate defender. He isn’t a player that will make or break a team, unless they overpay for his services. He’d be a good fall back guy for the Nuggets if they miss out on Young of Stucky and he wouldn’t be a bad replacement for Smith. VIDEO: Brown dunking on Bird
- Michael Redd, Milwaukee, 6-6 215, 32 years old: This former All-Star
iswas one of the top shooters in the NBA. But Redd has missed more than 180 games over the last three seasons due to a major knee injury. Before the injury, Redd was a favorite of Karl, when he coached the Bucks, due to his work ethic and scoring prowess. But now he isn’t more than a sharp shooter and the Celtics, Bulls, Heat and Knicks have each contacted him, but the Nuggets could definitely use his leadership and outside jumper. VIDEO: Redd goes for 42 against the Nuggets
- Tracy McGrady, Detroit, 6-8 223, 32 years old: T-Mac used to be among the top players in the NBA. He could get his shot off, and make it, over any defender and in his prime there was a debate if he was a better player than Bryant. But that was then, and this now. Back problems nearly shelved McGrady’s career before he staged a minor comeback last season with the Pistons. McGrady didn’t shoot lights out, and only averaged 8 points a game. But it was his versatility, veteran leadership and intelligence that was impressive as he showed he could impact a game without scoring. That is the type of player the Nuggets need, one that understand the team concept and can also take over a game late. VIDEO: T-Mac’s top plays for Detroit
- Chuck Hayes, Houston, 6-6 238, 28 years old: Hayes and Martin are nearly identical players, at least statistically.
Hayes averaged 7.9 points, 8.1 rebound, 2.7 assists, 1.1 steal and .7 block
K-Mart averaged 8.6 points, 6.2 rebound, 2.3 assists, .9 steal and .7 block
But the reality is they are two different players. Martin plays more above the rim, while Hayes does most of his work below it. But both are lockdown defenders. Hayes doesn’t have the size or athleticism to do what he does, but he gets by with his heart and intelligence. He can be considered a modern day Charles Oakley that will bang with the best of them. And he has quick hands that he uses to swat balls and get easy steals. He won’t help out much on offense, even though he is an adapt passer. But luckily enough he knows his limitations on offense. VIDEO: Hayes triple-double
- Brandan Wright, New Jersey, 6-10, 210, 24 years old: In four short years, Wright has gone from a lottery pick to a bust. Injuries derailed his development and his confidence took a shot. But he hasn’t even turned 25 and lets not forget there was a reason why he was a top-10 pick. Wright has great length and a good mid-range jumper, there are questions about his health and motivation but playing with his old college teammate Ty Lawson may help (the two played together during their freshman year). It wouldn’t hurt to sign him to the minimum and see what he has. VIDEO: Wright’s Tar Heel days
- Vince Carter, Phoenix, 6-6 220, 34 years old: And to continue with the North Carolina theme, Vinceanity needs a home and the Nuggets need a scorer. Carter doesn’t have the lift he once had and he still isn’t the most motivated player, but he still averaged 14 points last season and can give the Nuggets minutes at shooting guard and small forward – as well as a . VIDEO: Carter’s Top Plays 2011
Topics: Arron Afflalo, Boston Celtics, Brandan Wright, Carmelo Anthony, Charles Oakley, Chris Andersen, Chris Paul, Chuck Hayes, David West, DeAndre Jordan, Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons, Dwayne Wade, George Karl, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, J.R. Smith, Jeff Green, Josh McRoberts, JR Smith, Kenyon Martin, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, Marc Gasol, Michael Redd, Milwaukee Bucks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Nene, New Jersey Nets, Nick Young, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Rodney Stuckey, Shannon Brown, Thaddeus Young, Tracy McGrady, Ty Lawson, Tyson Chandler, Vince Carter, Washington Wizards