By Justin Shockley

Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki (L) and teammate Tyson Chandler react as they defeat the Miami Heat to win the NBA Championship in Miami, June 12, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)


When the first reports came out saying that the NBA lockout had been resolved, the casual basketball fan probably had very little to say other than a murmur under their breath about athletes and owners being greedy and obnoxious. For the casual fan the NBA won’t be relevant again until Christmas Day when they can actually watch a game again and even then their fervor or lack thereof for professional basketball will be even less than it has been in previous years.

The free agent market this year will not help create excitement for this year’s shortened season either most because the 2010 and 2012 classes have legitimate superstars like Lebron James in 2010 or Dwight Howard next summer. It is probably safe to assume that there will not be a prime time television special so that Marc Gasol can tell the world if he decides that he will be “taking his talents to the Garden State”. In fact, many causal basketball fans are probably content with watching college basketball when they get a craving for some hoops, and are most likely more interested in who will be on the next season of “Dancing With The Stars” than they are about this year’s free agent class.

While superstars are hard to come by in the current free agent market, this year has some really solid players including a few true centers that could help a team win a championship down the road. With the abbreviated preseason and soon to be a ticking clock for free agents, the next few weeks will teeter on interesting but definitely not be edge-of-your-seat spellbinding.

Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, and Nene are some of the biggest names in free agency this year and also happen to be true centers with big talent.

Tyson Chandler
Photo: Keith Allison/Flikr

Gasol is a superbly talented center with a wealth of experience to be only 26 years old, thanks to his extensive play internationally. With his size, passing ability, and overall skills Gasol will warrant a five or six year deal worth about 13-15 million dollars per year and can be a legitimate puzzle piece for a team hoping to win a championship soon.

Tyson Chandler is older than Gasol at 29 and his health is a bigger question mark than other available players because he has feeling a pain under right rib cage, but his emotional play, off court leadership, and unselfish team oriented nature are truly a great intangible package for a team to have. The Mavericks can attest to just how important Chandler can be because despite Dirk’s uncanny ability to be clutch, their championship hinged on Chandler’s play and presence in many ways. If the Mavericks decide not to pay big money to keep Chandler it would a mistake barring more injuries and if they don’t pay him, someone else definitely will.

Nene Hilario
Photo: Keith Allison/Flikr
As for Nene, yes, it’s true he may not be the biggest center in the NBA but his rebounding ability (when completely healthy) and wonderful offensive presence is a tremendous asset to have on a team looking to be a contender. Nene is also 29 years old and has a knee that is as rickety as an old rocking chair and he has missed way too many games the last three seasons to pay him huge money.

For teams that don’t mind a gamble, Nene could be a pick up worth about 7 to 10 million a year but any kind of gamble with that much money can be unnerving. Indiana, New Jersey, and Houston could be the most likely to roll the dice.

There are other free agents in this year’s field that could have an impact on the league such as Greg Oden, Brendan Haywood, Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan, Vince Carter (if he is waived as expected), and Josh Howard. As it stands however, the free agent market is lackluster when compared to recent and upcoming years and there is just no denying it. The biggest thing that will excite basketball fans in the near future is that possibility that Chris Paul will be traded which will get a rise out of even casual fans. Call us crazy, but no one really cares what Jason Kapono is doing this year…unless there’s a chance he is going to be on the new season of DWTS.

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