NBA Free Agency By Tiers

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The NBA’s free agency period is nearly upon us, and with all the insane plot twists we’ve already seen this summer, there’s no question that we’re still in for quite the rollercoaster ride over the next couple of months.

Naturally, every fan is excited at the prospect of adding a new player to their favorite team and scared to death at the prospect of losing one. The following is list of free agency tiers that give fans a sense of what types of players will be available this summer. The real game-changers are few and far between, but there are a lot of good players on the market this summer. Here’s a look at how they stack up:

Tier 1 – The Max Players – Even though these guys may take less money to have an opportunity to compete for championships, they could get paid the max by any team in the league if they really wanted to push for it.

LeBron James
Carmelo Anthony
Chris Bosh

Tier 2 – The Near-Max Guys – Ironically enough, there are players in this group that may end up getting paid more than the guys in Tier 1 (if James, Anthony or Bosh choose to take a strategic pay cut), but generally speaking they are players who have done enough (and are still young enough) to at least be in the conversation for max deals.

Greg Monroe (restricted)
Eric Bledsoe (restricted)
Gordon Hayward (restricted)

Tier 3 – The Upstarts – These players won’t be in the conversation for max contracts, but eight-figure annual salaries are certainly possible. Their combination of relative youth and proven ability means they still have at least a full four- or five-year contract in them during their prime years.

Kyle Lowry
Lance Stephenson
Marcin Gortat
Chandler Parsons (restricted)

Tier 4 – All-Star Resumes – There’s no telling what players in this group will end up making, but they have impressive resumes that mean any team in the league would love to have them for the right price. Some will get big paydays, and others will settle for less, but everybody in this group is a proven enough commodity to make them worth the investment.

Luol Deng
Dirk Nowitzki
Dwyane Wade
Pau Gasol
Paul Pierce

Tier 5 – Starters – Once most of the guys in Tiers 1-4 have agreed to new deals, this is the group of players who likely will get the rest of the big dollars teams have to spend. They’re all probable starters, or high-functioning sixth men at worst.

Isaiah Thomas (restricted)
Trevor Ariza
Avery Bradley (restricted)
Spencer Hawes
Evan Turner (restricted)
Boris Diaw
Channing Frye

Tier 6 – Important Role Players – These are the types of players who get good-sized chunks of mid-level and mini mid-level exceptions. All have proven their value as role players on their respective teams, and they’ll get paid appropriately.

Shaun Livingston
Greivis Vasquez (restricted)
Josh McRoberts
Andray Blatche
Nick Young
Steve Blake
Patty Mills
D.J. Augustin
Mike Miller
P.J. Tucker (restricted)
Jordan Hill
Kris Humphries
Caron Butler
Marvin Williams
Darren Collison
Ed Davis (restricted)

Tier 7 – Aging Vets – Nobody is giving these guys lucrative or long-term contracts any more, but on one- or two-year deals at reasonable money, they’ll find homes as reserves for good teams.

Shawn Marion
Vince Carter
Jermaine O’Neal
Kirk Hinrich
Mo Williams

Tier 8 – Slightly Less Important Role Players – We’re not to minimum money yet, but these are the types of players who will start getting calls once a lot of teams’ cap space has mostly dried up. They’re more than good enough to end up on an NBA team, they just won’t get the money they and their agents probably hope they’ll get.

Rodney Stuckey
Chris Kaman
Jerryd Bayless
Ramon Sessions
Jodie Meeks
Mario Chalmers
Patrick Patterson (restricted)
Alan Anderson
Thabo Sefolosha
Glen Davis
Chris Andersen
Devin Harris
Udonis Haslem
Jordan Crawford

Tier 9 – Vets Who Might Be Worth A Gamble – Every player in this group used to be a real impact player once upon a time, but through either injuries or inactivity they’ve lost a step and are no longer the significant contributor that they once were. For the veteran’s minimum, any of them could get another shot. Slightly more money is possible, but not much more.

Danny Granger
Andrew Bynum
Rashard Lewis
Ray Allen
Charlie Villanueva
Ben Gordon
Emeka Okafor
Richard Jefferson

Tier 10 – Eighth Man Off the Bench – Good enough to make rosters, but not quite good enough to command big money or long-term deals, these are guys that come off the bench as eighth, ninth or 10th men. They dress, but they’re not essential. The money’s not going to be great for these guys, but most of them should have jobs next season.

C.J. Miles
Jordan Farmar
Luke Ridnour
Al Farouq-Aminu
Anthony Morrow
Kent Bazemore (restricted)
Mike Scott (restricted)
Brian Roberts
Gustavo Ayon (restricted)
Michael Beasley
Xavier Henry
DeJuan Blair
Greg Oden
LaVoy Allen (restricted)
James Jones

Tier 11 – Running on Fumes – Retirement will be a consideration for each of these players. How much money can teams really spend on players with so little left to give?

Chauncey Billups
Elton Brand
Antawn Jamison
Al Harrington

Tier 12 – Fighting for Roster Spots – These are the minimum guys. A good number of them will either be in Europe or at home next season, but several can still contribute in the NBA.

Jimmer Fredette
Aaron Brooks
E’Twaun Moore (restricted)
MarShon Brooks
Metta World Peace
Wesley Johnson
Francisco Garcia
Andrew Goudelock
Beno Udrih
Drew Gooden
Toney Douglas
Jeff Adrien
Shannon Brown
Jordan Hamilton
Jason Smith
Kevin Seraphin (restricted)
Anthony Tolliver
Chris Douglas-Roberts
Ryan Kelley (restricted)
Shelvin Mack (restricted)
Sebastian Telfair
Nando De Colo (restricted)
Earl Clark
Dante Cunningham
Matt Bonner
Darius Miler (restricted)
Byron Mullens
Ryan Hollins
Jan Vesely
Greg Stiemsma
Aron Baynes (restricted)
Trevor Booker (restricted)
Ekpe Udoh (restricted)
Bernard James
Aaron Gray
Cole Aldrich
Jason Collins
Andris Biedrins
Nazr Mohammed

The free agency firestorm will be here in no time, so it won’t be long before these guys start flying off the board. It might not be in exactly this order, but it will be close.

Which of these players look like good fits for your favorite team? How many can they afford? Click here for a complete list of 2014 NBA free agents. Click here for a breakdown of every team’s salary cap situation. Click here for some free agency notes so you can better understand the process.

Soon, we’ll see who ends up where.