The free agent class of 2011 isn't particularly strong. But it should be adding a fairly big name near the top.
The Denver Post reports that Denver Nuggets center Nene Hilario will opt out of the final year of his contract to become a free agent.
Nene is set to officially become a free agent.Nene becomes arguably the second most desireable free agent on the entire market, trailing only Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol. His combination of size, athleticism, experience, proven production and age combine to make him a very attractive pick-up.
The Nuggets starting center will opt out of the final year of his contract worth about $12 million and, as a result, become an unrestricted free agent, a source said Wednesday night. It means Nene can sign with any team without the Nuggets getting a chance to match the offer when free agency begins after the expected NBA lockout, which should begin Friday.
Nene had until Thursday to make a final decision.
The Nuggets, with Chris Andersen and Timofey Mozgov as their only big men currently under contract for next season, will be up a bit of a creek if they lose him to someone in free agency.
Nene, 28, averaged 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds in 75 games last season. Over the last three seasons, his production has been very consistent, as he's averaged roughly 14 points, more than 7.5 rebounds and at least a block per game. He's showing no real signs of slippage -- indeed, he posted a careeer-high 61.5% field goal shooting this year -- and has missed just 12 combined games in the last three seasons.
His opt-out decision comes as a bit of a surprise, although he hinted that he would test free agency back in May. A few weeks ago, reports circulated that the Nuggets were close to an agreement, but nothing came to fruition. Their efforts to re-sign him will surely continue.
Here's a link to the 2011 NBA Free Agency tracker, where you can keep tabs on this year's entire crop.