Without a single 2011 All-Star, this year's free-agency class will not dazzle—but there will be plenty of action, thanks to the short window that teams have to fill out their rosters. Here are the 10 best options to be had on short notice.
This is an article from the Dec. 5, 2011 issue
Tyson Chandler, C, Mavs
A more punitive luxury tax in 2013--14 threatens the Mavericks' hopes of making the long-term signings necessary to bring back their full championship team from last season, but expect owner Mark Cuban to make an exception for Chandler. He is the most valuable center in franchise history, and the Mavs could not have triumphed last season—and couldn't hope to repeat this year—without his defensive leadership.
David West, F, Hornets
This 31-year-old two-time All-Star has been viewed as a natural target for the under-the-cap Pacers, but they may choose to extend the minutes for incumbent Tyler Hansbrough instead. West would be a terrific investment for the Kings, who are desperate for veteran leadership, and the Nets, where he could help persuade Deron Williams to re-up.
Marc Gasol, C, Grizzlies
The 26-year-old is one of the few traditional, physical centers in the league. He would fill a need for the Pacers, Wizards and Timberwolves, but owner Michael Heisley is likely to retain Gasol (who is a restricted free agent) in order to build upon the Grizzlies' progress to the NBA final eight last season.
Jason Richardson, G, Magic
His scoring dropped to 13.9 ppg in 55 games after being traded to Orlando last season, but the 30-year-old shooting guard remains an explosive scorer in transition and from the three-point line. He would fit the needs of the shooting-depleted 76ers, though they lack the necessary cap space and would need to be inventive in a sign-and-trade.
Tayshaun Prince, F, Pistons
A key contributor to the Pistons' run of six straight Eastern finals appearances, the 31-year-old will be an intriguing midlevel option for a number of contenders, including the Heat—if the Pistons don't re-sign him.
Caron Butler, F, Mavs
Dallas would like to bring back the 31-year-old small forward, who remained an inspirational team member while trying in vain to return from a midseason knee injury. But the Heat may be interested in bringing him back to Miami.
Jamal Crawford, G, Hawks
The 31-year-old can start or come off the bench as a playmaker or scorer, which makes him an excellent finishing piece for a contending team like the Lakers or (yes, them again) the Heat.
Thaddeus Young, F, 76ers
A Sixth Man of the Year candidate last season, Young is a restricted free agent, and the Sixers aren't likely to let him get away.
Shane Battier, F, Grizzlies
This plug-and-play 32-year-old will improve the chemistry of any team, young (Kings) or old (Hawks).
Nen√™, C, Nuggets
The efficient big man will be one of the top talents on the market, but expect Denver to re-sign him unless his price goes unexpectedly high.