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Chris Paul tops Newsday's NBA free agent rankings

CHRIS PAULLos Angeles Clippers, guard19.2 points per game,

Los Angeles Clippers, guard
19.2 points per game, 3.5 rebounds per game, 9.1 assists per game
5th All-Star selection
Credit: AP

The Nets haven't yet played a game in Brooklyn. Anthony Davis hasn't made his debut. Dwight Howard hasn't fist-bumped Jack Nicholson.

But that didn't stop us from taking a first look at the class of 2013 NBA free agents.

Next year's summer signing period figures to include some of the league's best players, a class so deep that the Bobcats' top scorer from last season is ranked 55th.

OK, maybe that doesn't do it justice. But the 14th-ranked player was the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year. No. 21 is the NBA's all-time three-point king. At 36, 37 and 39 are a trio of point guards who started -- and were effective -- for NBA teams last year. And No. 88's last name is literally "World Peace."

Your fearless leader at the Double Dribble ranked the top 100 players in the class, starting with superstars and ending with guys that will add depth to a contender's bench.

Atop the rankings, you'll see two players who are the best at their position, and are legitimate contenders for MVP: Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. As rankings start to come out, you'll see Paul and Howard splitting time as the top-ranked free agent. I went with Paul, partially because of how much better he makes his teammates, and partially because I'm still feeling hungover from last season's D-12 drama. Regardless, should both decide to test the waters, a pair of teams will have a shot at becoming instant contenders.

You'll also see:

- Nikola Pekovic (13th) ranked higher than Tyreke Evans (14th). I don't think this is that much of a stretch after what Pekovic (18.5 points, 9.9 rebounds per 36 minutes) showed last season . . . and what Evans hasn't showed the last two seasons.

- Two Jazz players (Al Jefferson at No. 6 and Paul Millsap at No. 12) and two Raptors (DeMar DeRozan at No. 18 and Jose Calderon at No. 20) in the top 20. Who woulda thunk it?

- Jrue Holiday low (No. 22) and J.J. Redick high (28) compared to what you might have expected. Holiday could definitely move up the list -- especially alongside Andrew Bynum -- but the hype surrounding him still far out-distances the on-court returns, so I'm cautious. Redick, meanwhile, is in prime position to break out for the Magic this year, a la Ryan Anderson last season.

- A pair of veterans in need of a bounce back season right next to each other: Ben Gordon at No. 48, and Lamar Odom at No. 49.

- A ton of three-point specialists, including -- but certainly not limited to -- Kyle Korver (59), Anthony Morrow (62), Richard Hamilton (69) and Marco Belinelli (78).


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