NBA: What’s next?

With Carmelo taking his talents to Manhattan, expect smaller trades to fall into place. Last year, about this time, teams were positioning themselves for the Wade’s, Lebron’s and Bosh’s of the world to enter free agency.  The next huge free agent class doesn’t come until the Summer of 2013, but its never too early to prepare, right?

First things first. Before the deadline of 3pm Thursday, clubs will be looking to acquire expiring contracts or possibly position themselves to have cap space for the apple of their eye in free agency. Three big men are on the horizon headed for free agency this Summer. The Rockets Yao Ming,  The Grizzlies Zach Randolph and the Mavericks Tyson Chander will certainly spark interest. The Warriors have already hinted an interest in Yao, Chandler is having the best season of his career, while Randolph is an absolute scoring and rebounding machine. On the perimeter, the pickings are even slimmer, Orlando’s Jason Richardson, Atlanta’s Jamal Crawford and Dallas’ Caron Butler are the best of the group.

The Summer of 2012 unrestricted free agent group features a mix, with a handful of aging future Hall of Famer’s included. Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd, Steve Nash, Kevin Garnett, Vince Carter and Ray Allen are all up a summer from now. Will the Celtics be in total rebuild mode by then? Then, there is the younger set with Laker super-sub Shannon Brown, new Nugget Ray Felton and Hornets big man David West the best of the lot.

The Summer of 2013 is where things get REAL interesting. Need a big man? How about Orlando’s Dwight Howard? Too rich for your blood? How about Atlanta’s Josh Smith? Take a chance on injury prone Lakers big man Andrew Bynum? The guards are just as sexy. Already Utah point Deron Williams has been rumored to be interested in joining Melo in the Big Apple. New Orleans guard Chris Paul may be the most sought after of the bunch as he has not been shy about his intent to move along. Will we have another dream team ala Miami?

We have seen teams like the Knicks and Nets mortgage everything to prepare for the free agent class of 2010. Trading away every and anything of cap value, draft picks, whatever, to have space for a megastar. Its a fine line for NBA teams as they need to remain competitive for their paying fan base AND have enough talent onboard so the courted superstar doesn’t feel alone. The Knicks wanted Lebron, ended up with Carmelo, a good job of “saving” the situation in my opinion. The Nets appear to have lost out again, perhaps they will be best suited for the great crop of 2013.

Note: There is alot of uncertainty surrrounding upcoming labor talks and many things may change. Additionally, free agents mentioned are “unrestricted ” in year cited, however some have a player option which may “release” them to free agency a season earlier.

Author: Tom Blaz

Tom is our featured columnist on FantasySP with more than 25 years of media experience in Radio and TV. You may know his work as a beat reporter for the Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland. He also reported LIVE from the Summer Olympics in Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta. He is an avid Auburn fan, and writes for The Recruiting Eagle, a website focusing on Auburn athletics.