Now that the trading deadline is past us, it's time to look ahead to another big personnel frenzy: free agency. And unlike the tease of a week ago, something actually is going to happen this summer. One of the best free agent crops in years is set to go on the market, with All-Stars Chauncey Billups, Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis potentially headlining the crew if all three choose to exercise early termination options in their contracts.
Unfortunately, our free agents might be all dressed up with no place to go this summer. Charlotte and Orlando are the only teams that figure to have enough cap space to make a maximum contract offer, although Memphis and Milwaukee could get into that range with another deal around draft day. That means most of the players on this list will be fighting over midlevel scraps instead of mulling max-type offers, and even then the pickings might be slim because so many clubs have luxury tax concerns.
Thus, get ready for a rarity in recent years -- a buyer's market. Teams that saved their pennies for this summer should end up doing well, as there's plenty of talent to choose from. I've updated my list of the top 25 free agents available this summer based on how players have performed this season (I last revised it at the start of the season), and as you'll see, a number of players have made bids for serious paydays thanks to breakout years.
Here's how the top 25 looks today, keeping in mind that this list is not based on present value but future performance over the life of a multiyear contract. Also, note that my list doesn't include players who are unlikely to become free agents -- Mike Bibby, for instance, has an opt-out in his contract that he said he won't exercise, so I've scratched him from the list.