While the season has just started, next summer is already a hot topic. With the deadline having just passed for players from the class of 2003 (LeBron, D-Wade, Melo, et al.) to ink extensions, we know with much more clarity just who will be on the market. And since players such as Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis and Darko Milicic have been in the news talking about their situations, it's high time we sized up the free agent class again.
This summer's big player figures to be Milwaukee -- the only team that has both gobs of cap room and projects to contend for the 2007 playoffs. Memphis also has cap space and figures to return to prominence with a full year from Pau Gasol. Charlotte, Atlanta and Seattle also hold more than the midlevel exception, and it's possible Orlando could depending on how the Magic handle Milicic's restricted free agency.
There's no question who the Bucks' primary target is -- faster than you can say "tampering," Detroit's Billups already has taken note of the Bucks' salary-cap windfall next summer. He's the marquee free agent in what shapes up as the best class in a while -- and in an era when nearly every good player is locked up with an extension, perhaps the best for some time.
Here's a look at the top 25 players. This list has changed some from my last edition based on changes in playing time and production, and the deletion of a few players who signed extensions and are now off the market.