NBA PM: Ranking the 2013 Free Agents
With the trade deadline behind us, teams that want to make significant personnel changes are now looking ahead to free agency. This year’s free agent class features plenty of notable names and there could be a lot of movement this summer.
Last week’s trade deadline was rather anticlimactic, but that just means the upcoming free agency period will be even more fun. The players who have been surfacing in trade rumors for the last several months – such as Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, etc. – will once again be in the spotlight and potentially on the move.
The list of teams with salary cap space this summer is long. The Utah Jazz, Washington Wizards, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Bobcats, Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets, Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Hornets, Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers could all have significant money to spend on a free agent or two.
Here are the top 20 free agents who will be available this offseason:
Chris Paul – Point Guard- Los Angeles Clippers
Nobody expects Paul to leave the Clippers. While the 27-year-old will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, most people around the NBA expect him to re-sign with the team that traded for him prior to last season. Paul seems to love the team and situation in Los Angeles. When the Clippers were pursuing several free agents last offseason, Paul helped recruit the players and they got the sense that the superstar point guard would be with the team long-term. He certainly hasn’t had his foot out the door, and it would be a shock to those within the organization if he decided to sign elsewhere. When Paul left the New Orleans Hornets, he wanted to join a contender and play in a large market. In Los Angeles, he has met both criteria. However, there will still be plenty of teams courting Paul this summer. He’s arguably the best point guard in the league and has proven that he can singlehandedly take a team to the playoffs. It’d be foolish for teams with cap space, such as the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets, not to pursue him. Paul recently made headlines by saying that he hasn’t decided what he’s going to do this offseason, which is just enough to keep the Hawks and Mavericks’ dream of signing him alive.
Dwight Howard – Center – Los Angeles Lakers
It’s no secret that Howard is unhappy. This season hasn’t gone quite as planned for the superstar center. Rather than winning games and repairing his image, Howard continues to run into drama and make headlines for all of the wrong reasons. He and Kobe Bryant have butted heads. He doesn’t believe Mike D’Antoni has used him correctly. He has grown tired of the constant questions and criticism that come with being a superstar in Los Angeles. All of this is true, but is Howard so frustrated with his situation that he would walk and leave $30 million and an extra contract year on the table? The Lakers don’t believe he will, which is why they didn’t trade him prior to the deadline and why they seem so confident that Howard will re-sign. However, that won’t stop rival executives from meeting with Howard and trying to sell them on their situation. Howard left the Orlando Magic because he thought that the grass was greener elsewhere. Will he once again search for a greener pasture after this dismal season? That may be the biggest question entering this summer’s free agency period, and by refusing to discuss his future, Howard has failed to silence the rumors and speculation surrounding his decision.
Andrew Bynum – Center – Philadelphia 76ers
Bynum is one of the most intriguing players in this summer’s free agency class. When healthy, he is one of the best centers in the NBA. The 25-year-old has an incredible resume that includes two championships and All-Star honors. However, staying healthy has been an issue for Bynum, as we’ve seen during his debut season with the 76ers. Because Bynum is so young and has so much upside, he’ll have plenty of teams calling when the clock strikes midnight on July 1. However, it remains to be seen how much teams will be willing to offer him. Bynum will likely take the largest contract on the table, which will likely keep Philadelphia from offering a smaller deal or one that includes protective team options. Bynum’s play, if he’s able to return this season, will help set his price as a free agent.
Josh Smith – Power Forward – Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks decided not to trade Smith at the deadline, but that doesn’t guarantee that he’ll be back with the team next season. Atlanta took a risk by holding onto Smith, and it could end up costing them. Smith and the Hawks have had a shaky relationship over the last several years and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the seemingly inevitable break up comes this summer. At times, Smith has doubted whether the organization was committed to building a championship contender and demanded a trade as a result. There were some reports in recent weeks that Smith’s representatives have been telling people around the league that Smith wouldn’t re-sign with the Hawks this summer. Smith has said that he thinks he’s a max contract player, but there aren’t many executives who share that belief. At the end of the day, Smith is expected to weigh his options and flirt with the teams that have the most cap space.
David West – Power Forward – Indiana Pacers
In typical West fashion, the power forward hasn’t made headlines or attracted a ton of attention as he approaches free agency. However, he’ll be one of the best players available this July and he’ll be highly coveted. Not only is the 32-year-old one of the best post scorers on the market, he’s also an incredible leader who can turn around an organization. Many within the Pacers organization refer to West as the team’s “heart and soul” and credit the veteran for the team’s turnaround. Before West, Indiana was an up-and-coming team. With West, they expect to win every game and contend come playoff time. Last time West tested free agency, he was coming off of a torn ACL, which is why he took a shorter deal with the Pacers. Now, West is completely healthy and has been extremely effective in Indiana. He’ll have a long list of potential suitors this summer, especially if the Pacers make some noise in the postseason.
Brandon Jennings – Point Guard – Milwaukee Bucks
Jennings will be looking for a big payday this summer since he’s coming off of his rookie contract. The 23-year-old didn’t ink an extension with the Bucks earlier this season so, as a restricted free agent, he’ll try to force Milwaukee’s hand by finding a large offer sheet this offseason. Several teams have already been mentioned as potential suitors for Jennings, including the Dallas Mavericks. Jennings made headlines last year when he told ESPN that he was “doing his homework on big market teams.” The Bucks will have the opportunity to match any offer that Jennings receives, but if a team makes a huge offer to the young point guard, Milwaukee may have a tough decision on their hands.
Nikola Pekovic – Center – Minnesota Timberwolves
Can the Timberwolves afford to re-sign Pekovic? That’s the big question surrounding the center’s restricted free agency. The Wolves would love to bring back the 27-year-old center, but there are plenty of other executives that would love to pry him out of Minneosta. Pekovic has been extremely productive over the last two seasons and certainly seems to be part of the Timberwolves’ long-term plan. However, don’t be surprised if a team like the Portland Trail Blazers makes a lucrative offer to Pekovic, just as they did to restricted free agent Roy Hibbert last offseason. If that happens, Minnesota may have to let Pekovic go for financial reasons.
Paul Millsap – Power Forward – Utah Jazz
The Jazz offered Millsap an extension prior to the start of this season, but the 28-year-old power forward turned it down because he wants to test free agency. Utah decided not to trade Millsap prior to last Thursday’s deadline, which was a bit of head scratcher since they could lose him for nothing this summer and they already have his young replacement on the roster in Derrick Favors. Maybe the Jazz know something that we don’t or maybe they made a mistake that will cost them. We’ll see.
Al Jefferson – Center – Utah Jazz
Jefferson finds himself in the same boat as Millsap. He’s also a 28-year-old big man whose young replacement is already on the roster in Enes Kanter, yet Utah decided not to trade him last week. Jefferson could be a highly coveted free agent this summer, especially if he can lead Utah to the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Favors and Kanter seem to be the future in Utah so it appears inevitable that Millsap and Jefferson will be on the way out. It’s hard to imagine Utah giving their veteran big men lucrative, long-term deals this summer. However, the team’s decision to hold onto them past the trade deadline has everyone wondering what they’ll do next.
Andre Iguodala – Small Forward – Denver Nuggets
Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum aren’t the only 2011-12 All-Stars who can test free agency after being included in that four-team deal last August. Iguodala can exercise his Early Termination Option and become an unrestricted free agent. If the 29-year-old decides to test the market this summer, he’ll be leaving $15,904,750 on the table. That’s a lot of money to walk away from, but it’s not uncommon for players opt out in order to ensure their job security for four or five more years. The Nuggets knew that acquiring Iguodala over the summer was a risk because he could walk away after only one season, but the fact that he hasn’t had an outstanding year in Denver may keep him from exercising his ETO.
Tyreke Evans – Shooting Guard – Sacramento Kings
Because of Evans’ struggles in recent years, Sacramento’s front office didn’t give the 23-year-old an extension. Instead, he’ll become a restricted free agent this summer. The Kings want to let the market set Evans’ value rather than bidding against themselves. Evans drew some interest at the trade deadline, with the Boston Celtics inquiring about his availability, and he should have no problem landing a large offer sheet this summer. Even though Evans hasn’t been able to duplicate the success he experienced as a rookie, he’s still a versatile player with a lot of potential. There are plenty of executives who believe he could thrive if put in a better situation and who believe his best basketball is ahead of him.
O.J. Mayo – Shooting Guard – Dallas Mavericks
Mayo wanted a big payday last summer, but he was underwhelmed by all of the offers that he received. Rather than settling for a smaller long-term deal, the 25-year-old decided to sign a shorter contract with the Mavericks in an effort to showcase his game. While Mayo signed a two-year deal with a player option for the second year, it’s all but guaranteed that he’s going to opt out and test free agency this summer, especially after having an excellent year with the Mavericks. Mayo has averaged career-highs across the board so he shouldn’t have any problem finding that lucrative, long-term deal this offseason.
Monta Ellis – Shooting Guard – Milwaukee Bucks
Like Iguodala, Ellis can exercise his Early Termination Option after this season to become an unrestricted free agent. Most people around the NBA expect Ellis to leave that final $11 million of his contract on the table to test free agency, and there’s no guarantee he’ll re-sign with Milwaukee. Some league sources believe Ellis wants to join a contender this summer. Ellis has only made the playoffs once in his career, and it was during the 2006-07 season when he was still coming off of the bench for the Golden State Warriors. He has had plenty of individual success and impressive statistics, but he wants to experience the postseason and have the opportunity to perform on the league’s biggest stage.
Kevin Martin – Shooting Guard – Oklahoma City Thunder
The Thunder wants to re-sign Martin this summer and have made assurances that they will do so, according to sources. However, another team could make a lucrative offer to Martin and Oklahoma City would have no choice but to let him walk for financial reasons, just as they had to part ways with James Harden because they couldn’t afford to retain him. Martin will be one of the top scorers available this summer and a strong postseason with the Thunder could increase his stock heading into free agency.
Manu Ginobili – Shooting Guard – San Antonio Spurs
It’s hard to imagine Ginobili signing with another team. He has always said that he wants to finish his career in San Antonio, and the Spurs are known for taking care of their players. Just as the team re-signed Tim Duncan last offseason, everyone expects them to do the same in this situation. At the end of the day, the 35-year-old Ginobili will likely be deciding between another contract with the Spurs or retirement after professional basketball, either in the NBA or overseas, since 1995.
Jeff Teague – Point Guard – Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks are definitely a team to watch this offseason. Al Horford, Lou Williams and John Jenkins are the only players with guaranteed contracts for next season. Atlanta is keeping their options open and they’re expected to be very active this summer, pursuing some of the top players available. As a result, Teague’s future is somewhat up in the air. He’ll become a restricted free agent this summer, which means Atlanta can match any offer that he receives. If the Hawks can land someone like Chris Paul or Brandon Jennings, Teague is likely gone. However, Teague could be re-signed and put alongside Atlanta’s new pieces. It’s difficult to predict what’s going to happen with the 24-year-old point guard until we know what the Hawks are going to do.
J.J. Redick – Shooting Guard – Milwaukee Buck
This has been a breakout season for Redick, who is averaging career-highs across the board. The 28-year-old shooting guard will have plenty of potential suitors this summer, judging by the long list of teams that were interested in acquiring him prior to the trade deadline. Redick ultimately ended up with the Bucks, but he’ll weigh all of his options this summer. After coming off of the bench for most of his career, Redick may be seeking a starting job. Also, he’ll likely want to join a contender since he’s accustomed to winning and making deep postseason runs.
Carl Landry – Power Forward – Golden State Warriors
Every time Landry becomes a free agent, he seems to fly under the radar. That may change this summer since the 29-year-old has been extremely productive with the Warriors. Landry has helped Golden State establish themselves as a playoff team in the Western Conference, even though they’ve been missing Andrew Bogut for much of the season. Landry has provided a spark off of the bench and never once complained about his role. There should be a larger market for Landry this summer since he has thrived in Golden State and proven, once again, that he’s an excellent team player.
Andray Blatche – Power Forward – Brooklyn Nets
Even though Blatche has had an excellent season with the Nets after signing a non-guaranteed, veteran’s minimum deal last summer, it’s unlikely that any team will be willing to give the 26-year-old a huge contract. Blatche is still viewed as a risky acquisition after being characterized as a team cancer with the Washington Wizards and ultimately being amnestied by the team last offseason. Blatche has played well and he’ll certainly have more suitors this summer than last, but don’t expect a long-term commitment from a team right away.
Andrei Kirilenko – Small Forward – Minnesota Timberwolves
Last summer, there were some question marks surrounding Kirilenko since he had played overseas during the lockout-shortened season and looked like a shell of himself during his final season with the Utah Jazz in 2010-11. However, the 32-year-old has played well in Minnesota, starting every game and thriving despite all of the injuries that the Timberwolves have sustained. Kirilenko has shown that he can still fill a box score on a nightly basis. Kirilenko can opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but it’s hard to imagine him walking away from $10,219,420.
There are plenty of others who will be available this summer. For the full list of 2013 free agents, click here.
Casspi, Cavaliers Discussing Buyout
The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently negotiating a buyout with forward Omri Casspi, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Casspi fell out of Cleveland’s rotation in December and had demanded a trade, but remained on the roster past last Thursday’s trade deadline. Now, Casspi is hoping for the buyout so he can go to a better situation and see the floor before he becomes an unrestricted free agent in July.
Casspi has never hid his frustration with the Cavaliers. In an interview with HOOPSWORLD’s Lang Greene two and a half months ago, Casspi hinted that he had one foot out the door.
“I’m looking forward to free agency to see what’s going to happen and see what [deals] are out there,” Casspi said. “I’m pretty confident where I’m at.”
Over the offseason, Casspi worked with Cavaliers head coach Byron Scott and his staff to improve his jump shot. Coming into the season, he expected to have a significant role. However, his minutes decreased and he became a non-factor in Cleveland. Casspi was frustrated because he felt that he had done everything the Cavs asked over the offseason, yet he still wasn’t rewarded with playing time.
“Most of the stuff [Coach Scott] told me to work on, I did,” Casspi said.
Assuming Casspi and the Cavaliers can reach a buyout before March 1, he’ll have an opportunity to sign elsewhere and reestablish himself as a contributor. The Houston Rockets are reportedly interested in acquiring Casspi as they try to bolster their roster for a playoff push.