Free agency kicks off starting tonight at midnight! We've already seen a slew of activity around the league via trades and obviously with the draft last week (Ty Lawson! All right!!), but now we get into the real money being thrown around.

Some chips have already fallen as Carlos Boozer has opted to stay WITH the Jazz and Kobe Bryant also chose not to opt out of his contract prematurely.

So, the list of marquee free agents has dwindled just a bit – and the Jazz may now have a more difficult time re-signing young power forward and restricted free agent Paul Millsap (who is looking for a hefty raise) since Boozer and his $12 million deal are back on the Jazz's books.

Here is my short list of marquee unrestricted free agents heading into the free agency period: Hedo Turkoglu, Ben Gordan, Trevor Ariza, Lamar Odom, Ron Artest, Shawn Marion, and Mike Bibby. Nothing terribly exciting there, but some pretty good role players will be searching for some new homes starting tonight!


Nuggets Free Agents:

And for the Nuggets … Chris Andersen, Linas Kleiza (restructed), Dahntay Jones, Anthony Carter, Jason Hart, and Johan Petro should all be getting some calls from various teams around the league as well. The Nuggets have been saying all the right things regarding Andersen and it'll be interesting to see how quickly the two sides can hammer out a new deal.

The longer the Birdman remains on the market … the more likely a team may come in and offer up a large deal. It'd be nice to lock him up and put any worry to rest that the Bird may be building a new nest away from Denver.

As for the Nuggets other free agents … I think Denver can pretty much take a wait-and-see approach. L.K. should get some offers and might even have a team throw a big chunk of the MLE at him and it'll be very interesting to see how Denver counters any offers the Lithuanian gets.

Dahntay Jones has been rumored to be on the Celtics radar (click here for a link … thanks Celtics Blog.)

Anthony Carter is a very interesting player to watch. Both Jeremy of Roundball Mining Company and Andrew of Denver Stiffs weigh the pros and cons of bringing A.C. back. And after reading Chris Sheridan's piece titled: Dead Money and cap ballast and realizing the Nuggets could be paying say … Jamaal Tinsley $7.2 million, Marko Jaric $7.1 million, Antonio Daniels $6.6 million, or Marcus Banks $4.5 million (what were these GMs thinking?!) … you see that Carter's minimum deals and production have been very underrated. If Denver can bring the veteran back for another one-year minimum deal at $1.3 million to help ease Ty Lawson's transition then I think it's a pretty good idea. If Lawson is as good as the Nuggets front office guys are thinking then A.C. will see his time dwindle next season anyway and the money he'll make will be very minimal as I pointed out with some of the hideous contracts in this paragraph. A.C. could get ballsy and try to play hardball with the Nuggets, but will a 34 year-old point guard get much interest outside of Denver for much more than the minimum anyway? I don't know, but I doubt it.

Jason Hart … thanks for taking up a roster spot for us. If Carter cannot be re-signed and there are no other cheap options and Denver really trusts Lawson (unlikely) then Hart could be brought back on the cheap to help out at point guard when needed. Don't expect Hart back in Denver next season.

Johan Petro should get a look from a lot of NBA teams. The Nuggets did not offer Petro a qualifying at roughly $2.8 million and frankly Petro isn't worth that amount for the minutes he played (especially when you consider that Birdman may get a deal for $3 million to $6 million per season … Petro isn't nearly as valuable as the Bird and shouldn't be in his ballpark money wise.)

Petro's best option would be to sign a cheap one or two-year deal with a team and play himself into a better contract offer down the road. Like we all know,  young 7-footers with athleticism are pretty rare, but Petro shouldn't command big bucks … unless some GM loses his mind. I'd like to see Petro back in Denver for the minimum and I'd really like to see the Nuggets go out and find a more reliable veteran big man to take his spot. I don't expect Petro to be back in Denver next season.


For a complete list of who is going to be free agents (restricted and unrestricted) just CLICK HERE.

UPDATED: Just an initial list of guys I would love to see Denver talk to this offseason (in no particular order):

Unrestricted: Channing Frye (Blazeers/power forward), Zaza Pachulia (Hawks/center), Joe Smith (Cavs/power forward), Brandon Bass (Mavs/power forward), Sean Marks (Hornets/center), Chris Wilcox (Knicks/power forward), Grant Hill (Suns/small forward or shooting guard), and Shawn Marion (Raptors/small forward).

Restricted: Shannon Brown probably out of the question with Lawson in town (Lakers/point guard), Leon Powe (Celtics/power forward), Aaron Gray (Bulls/center), David Lee (Knicks/power forward), Marcin Gortat (Magic/center), and Paul Millsap (Jazz/power forward).

Some of these guys are definitely out of the Nuggets price range, but there are a few vets in here that could make a lot of sense. Like a Grant Hill who has been playing for peanuts ($1.9 million this season) in Phoenix in hopes of winning a title. Grant could be a nice scoring option off the bench in a Brent Barry or Michael Finley role for the Nuggets.
State your case for players you would like the Nuggets to talk with over the summer in the comments section.