2011 NBA Free Agent Center Rankings

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With the NBA Lockout coming to an end, we now know that teams can start signing free agents on December 9th.  Like the NFL experienced once their lockout ended, there will be a frenzy period for teams to fill out rosters with the season tipping off on Christmas.

There are some changes to free agency in the new labor agreement.  A player can only receive a four-year maximum deal (five-year deal if they re-sign with their current team) and beginning in the 2013-14 season, teams will start receiving a harsher luxury tax penalty if they exceed the salary cap.  Teams will now only have three days to match an offer sheet for one of their restricted free agents.  Also, some names will be added to free agency after teams decide which players will be released under the one-time amnesty clause option.

With the salary cap expected to be around $58 million, half of the teams will under that number and have room to sign free agents.  Check out the bottom of the page to see which teams have space and how much.

Here is a look at the top free agent centers, where they might sign, and what kind of payday they will receive.

1. Marc Gasol, Grizzlies (RFA)
Gasol has drawn a ton of buzz and added value to his off-season worth with a strong showing in the post-season.  At only 26-year olds, he should get a good deal of interest this summer and will be due a handsome pay raise from the $3.5 million he made this season.   Memphis already opened up the checkbook to keep Zach Randolph and will likely do the same for Gasol.

Predicted Contract: 4-years, $56 million
Possible Destinations: MEM, DEN, NJ

2. Nene, Nuggets (UFA)
Nene turned down the $11.6 million option on the final year of his contract and is an unrestricted free agent.  He could still re-sign with the Nuggets especially since there are not a lot of teams with a ton of salary cap fitting the type of contract Nene will seek.

Predicted Contract: 4-years, $48 million
Possible Destinations: DEN, NJ, SAC, LAC, GS

3. Tyson Chandler, Mavs (UFA)
When he is healthy, you know what you are going to get from Chandler; a physical presence inside who will protect the glass.  Dallas committed a ton of money to Brendan Haywood last off-season, which means Mark Cuban will have to open up his checkbook to keep Chandler.  If Chandler decides to move on, he will either have to sign with a re-building team or take the mid-level to go to another title contender.

Predicted Contract: 4-years, $42 million
Possible Destinations: DAL, SAC, DEN, NJ, LAC, GS

4. DeAndre Jordan, Clippers (RFA)
Chris Kaman’s injury opened the door for Jordan who capitalized on his opportunity and suddenly becomes a hot commodity this off-season especially since he only turns 23 this summer.  The Clips have a lot of money tied up in Kaman but he is in the final year of his contract and could be dealt so it should be a priority to re-sign Jordan.  Several other teams will be knocking on the door to try and steal Jordan away from L.A. since he is a young and likely cheaper option than Nene or Chandler.

Predicted Contract: 4-years, $32 million
Possible Destinations: LAC, SAC, NJ, GS, TOR, CHA, HOU

5. Samuel Dalembert, Kings (UFA)
Dalembert has found his niche in the NBA as a rebounder and shot blocker.  His accountability is through the roof as he has only missed two games in the past five seasons.  Some playoff team in need of a true center will assuredly throw their mid-level exception his way.

Predicted Contract: 3-years, $15 million
Possible Destinations: NY, BOS, SA, MIA, HOU, GS, DAL, DEN

6. Greg Oden, Blazers (RFA)
For someone who has only played in 82 NBA games during his three seasons in the league, a team would be foolish to try and pry him away from Portland with a long-term deal.

Predicted Contract: Plays out final year of contract
Possible Destinations: POR, DEN, GS

7. Spencer Hawes, 76ers (RFA)
A change of scenery did not do much to help Hawes’ productivity this past season.  I can’t imagine any team banging down the door to steal the big man away from Philly but then against, the Sixers likely won’t be enticed to match any offer.

Predicted Contract: Accepts qualifying offer
Possible Destinations: PHI

8. Chuck Hayes, Rockets (UFA)
Despite being 6-6, Hayes has played the center position in the NBA and actually started 145 games the past two seasons.  I don’t think any team will be interested in signing Hayes to be their starter, but he can be a real asset off the bench as a role player.

Predicted Contract: 2-years, $6 million
Possible Destinations: SA, HOU, BOS, CHI, POR, CHA

9. Joel Przybilla, Bobcats (UFA)
Injuries have hampered Przybilla throughout his career but the 32-year old can still provide a big body and rebounding off the bench for some team.  He will be a Plan D for any team that strikes out on Nene, Chandler, and Dalembert.

Predicted Contract: 2-years, $5 million
Possible Destinations: SA, HOU, GS, DET, BOS, NY, TOR

10. Kurt Thomas, Bulls (UFA)
Thomas is a veteran who knows his role; play physical down low, crash the boards, and hit mid-range jumpers when given the opportunity.  He also brings invaluable experience to the locker room and would be a great back-up on a team in contention for a title.

Predicted Contract: 1-year, $2 million
Possible Destinations: CHI, SA, BOS, NY, MIA, DAL, HOU, GS, POR

Other Free Agent Centers:
Hilton Armstrong (UFA), Tony Battie (UFA), Kwame Brown (UFA), Jason Collins (UFA), Eddy Curry (UFA), Erick Dampier (UFA), Francisco Elson (UFA), Melvin Ely (UFA), Kyrylo Fesenko (UFA), Jeff Foster (UFA), Dan Gadzuric (UFA), Aaron Gray (UFA), Hamed Haddadi (RFA), Solomon Jones (UFA), Jamaal Magloire (UFA), D.J. Mbenga (UFA), Hamady Ndiaye (RFA), Josh Powell (UFA), Theo Ratliff (UFA), Joe Smith (UFA)

Teams With Expected Cap Space (in millions):
Sacramento: $26.2
Denver: $25.8
Indiana: $21.0
New Jersey: $16.2
Washington: $13.3
L.A. Clippers: $13.1
New Orleans: $12.6
Detroit: $8
Toronto: $8
Golden State: $7.1
Houston: $6.9
Charlotte: $6

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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