Chandler a Free Agent in 2010?

It looks like I may need to add another name to my Top Free Agent List this summer.

A source close to the situation told ESPN.com that Bobcats big man Tyson Chandler is seriously considering exercising an early termination option on his contract this summer. If Chandler terminates his contract early, he'll forfeit the remaining $12.6 million he's due from the Bobcats and become an unrestricted free agent on July 1st.

Chandler, who is now 27 years old, had his best year during the 2007-08 season averaging 11.8 ppg and 11.8 rpg while shooting a scintillating 63 percent from the field. At the time he was considered one of the best defensive centers in the NBA. However, Chandler has struggled with injuries the last two seasons in New Orleans and Charlotte. The same source said that Chandler is now totally healthy and working out in California preparing for the 2010 season.

"He's gotten all of his issues taken care of," the source said, "and he's gearing up to have a big year next season. I think you're going to see the same Tyson who played so well for the Hornets a few years ago."

Chandler almost became a member of the Thunder in February of 2009. The Hornets traded Chandler to Oklahoma City to get under the luxury tax, but Thunder GM Sam Presti rescinded the trade when the Thunder's team doctor became concerned about an injury to Chandler's left big toe. The toe never became an issue, but minor ankle and foot issues nagged him all year last year. Both issues started to clear up by the end of the season.

Now that the injury is behind him, Chandler is looking to seize an opportunity. With so many teams under the luxury tax next season and only five or six top tier free agents out there, a number of teams are going to be left with lots of money to spend this summer. Not everyone can land LeBron or Dwyane Wade. The other thing working in Chandler's favor is that there aren't really any true centers in free agency this summer and a number of teams with cap space including the Thunder, Knicks, Timberwolves, Wizards and Heat need a center badly.

Pair those two factors together and Chandler could be in a for a big payday this summer. While it's unlikely he can get a starting contract at $12.6 million per year, he should be able to snag a 4 or 5 year deal in the $10 million per year range and get some security before the collective bargaining agreement changes next summer.

If Chandler exercises the termination option in his contract, it will leave the Bobcats with just Nazr Mohammed and DeSagana Diop, in the middle. However, getting Chandler's $12.6 million off the books next year would give the Bobcats between $6 and $7 million in cap room this summer to try to replace him.