Sixers' Off-Season: The Summer of 2011?

News will be light as a feather from an infant chicken (chick?) in the next few days until the Orlando Summer League gets going but that hasn't stopped us before and it won't now. Harumph! So to pass the time between your minesweeper games at work, let's get a little bit frisky for Free Agency 2011. It's painfully early, but we started the Big Board 4 years ago and that came out great, right Cole Aldrich?

Here's a list via ESPN of 15 potential 2011 impact free agents in alphabetical-by-team-order:

  1. Al Horford - Atlanta - RFA
  2. Kendrick Perkins - Boston - UFA
  3. Caron Butler - Dallas - UFA
  4. Carmelo Anthony - Denver - UFA
  5. J.R. Smith - Denver - UFA
  6. Nene Hilario - Denver - UFA
  7. Reggie Williams - Golden State - RFA (!!!)
  8. Yao Ming - Houston - UFA
  9. Marc Gasol - Memphis - RFA
  10. Michael Redd - Milwaukee - UFA
  11. Daequan Cook - OKC - RFA
  12. Jeff Green - OKC - RFA
  13. Greg Oden - Portland - RFA
  14. Tim Duncan - San Antonio - UFA
  15. Tony Parker - San Antonio - UFA 

I didn't put in Kevin Durant or Aaron Brooks because I'm pretty much 100% sure there's no chance they'll leave their teams. And I didn't put in Joakim Noah because I hate him about as much as one man can irrationally hate another. But here's a very interesting list. It's not 2010 interesting, but there's some names here that could end up in Philly depending on what happens this season. Let's whittle it down to 5, in no order.

1. Al Horford

I think he's a stud that's only going to get better. His offensive game has improved each year, and while he hasn't played as well defensively as most thought he would out of college, I still see plenty of development left for the 24-year-old. The likelihood of the Hawks letting him leave at this point is slim, and it would take a bigger contract the likes of which the Sixers are not currently equipped to dish out, but tons of moving and shaking could happen before then, so we can't be sure.

2. Carmelo Anthony

Oh my. Melo's Syracuse team in '03 was the first team I had ever rooted for to win a championship (until Phils in '08 what up) and I thoroughly enjoy his game. Lately there has been fluff about the Nuggets trying to trade him this offseason because they can't reach an agreement on an extension but I don't buy it. I think they'll end up retaining him for a number of years, but if something happens this season where the Nugs aren't contenders, look for Melo to get dealt circa the deadline. If it's to us, it would involve Andre Iguodala. I'm excited to see Andre/Turner play together, but the idea of Turner/Melo gives me shivers. The good kind.

3. JR Smith

Ugh. Pains me to talk about him because I think he's the definition of punk (along with Sum 41), but he's another guy we could target if the wing situation here doesn't work out. I don't think the Nuggets will let both Carmelo and JR walk for nothing, so at least one of them will get signed or maybe traded prior to their contracts expiring. JR is a lights-out shooter with tons of athleticism. If he cared about defense and team play, he'd be a top 10 shooting guard. If he can get his act together, he's only 24 and along with Jrue and Evan would make a formidable trio for a while.

4. Marc Gasol

I came away from the younger Gasol's rookie year very impressed. He's every bit of 7'1 and 265 pounds with room to flesh that out. He's got nice moves around the rim, including a throwback hook shot into the middle of the lane with either hand. While his jump shot needs more refining, teaming him with Speights or Hawes, who both prefer playing outside of the lane, would form a nice high-low combination that we dreamt about when Webber and Dalembert were together for 12 minutes. He's solid on the boards and should improve as his conditioning gets better, but with his high basketball IQ typical of most European big men, he's got plenty of projection in that department. I don't know what the Griz are planning on doing with the young Spaniard, but if he goes to free agency I'd ditch Hawes and go hard after Gasol and start him alongside Speights or whatever terrific big man we pick in next year's draft.

5. Greg Oden

Ahh yes. As friends of mine will attest, I have not ever liked Oden. While I begrudgingly cheered for him in the NCAA tournament loss against Florida (top 3 non-Philadelphia sports night of my life - Giants Super Bowl, TJ Sorrentine/Taylor Coppenrath Vermont over Syracuse 2005), I've never thought he would amount to anything in the NBA and laughed in Portland's face when they took him over Durant. And so far, he's barely played due to injury after injury. If the Blazers let him walk, despite my disdain for the man, I'd go after him for a big contract for 2 years. More than his production deserves, but giving him a chance to stay healthy and prove to other teams he can play in the league. And if it pays off, then holy cow, we've got a basketball team.

Of the 5 I listed, Oden excites me the most based on availability, potential, and salary. We'll see what happens until then, but since Ed and the gang will be sitting out this free agency, I figure it's never too early to look ahead and dream.

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