The 2013 group of NBA free agents is a lot deeper and more talented than last year’s crop. Star players like Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, and Josh Smith will be available this summer and there are several teams that have put themselves in position to make some major splashes in free agency. Here is a look at the Top 20 NBA free agents for this off-season.
1. Chris Paul, Clippers (UFA)
CP3 helped transform the Clippers into a true contender out west and will get max money this off-season. There will several other teams able to make serious runs for his services but they are all in rebuilding mode so re-signing with L.A. seems like the best option for Paul. He gets my nod as the best of the NBA free agents.
2. Dwight Howard, Lakers (UFA)
Howard was supposed to bring the Lakers back to dominance in the NBA but as we saw, (and heard about 8 million times during the season) things didn’t exactly pan out that way. Still, the Lakers pretty much have to give Howard a max deal this summer because of Kobe’s injury and the uncertainty on his return. The only other option for Howard would be a return home to Atlanta and the Hawks have a ton of cap space and could lure pairing him with his former AAU teammate Josh Smith.
3. Josh Smith, Hawks (UFA)
Speaking of Smith; did you realize he is only 27 years old? Anyway, I’m not a huge Josh Smith fan because he seems like a bit of a headcase and not a great teammate, but there is no doubting his ability to impact the game. He and Howard could be a package deal due to their past connections. If not, Smith will probably get a massive contract even though he is better suited as a complementary player as opposed to being the go-to option.
4. Andre Iguodala, Nuggets (PO)
Since Iguodala probably has one big contract left in him, there is a really good chance he will opt out of the final year of his contract which would pay him almost $16 million, officially join the NBA free agents list, and look for a long-term extension. He has been a great fit with the run and gun Nuggets and I imagine they will do everything in their powers to bring him back.
5. Al Jefferson, Jazz (UFA)
With a two frontcourt NBA free agents, the Jazz will face an interesting decision this summer with both Jefferson and Paul Millsap on the market. They have a pair of high lottery picks in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors waiting in the wings so Utah could elect to save some money and let Big Al walk since both young bigs appear ready for extended roles. Jefferson is never going to be the star player on a title contender but will draw a lot of interest due to his ability to score down low.
6. Andrew Bynum, 76ers (UFA)
Philly’s acquisition of Bynum might go down as one of the worst trades in NBA history since he didn’t play a single game for the Sixers tonight. He carries some massive injury baggage with him but some team will still roll the dice and give him a monster deal since big men with his skill level are rare in this day of age.
7. Brandon Jennings, Bucks (RFA)
There were already rumblings last season that Jennings wanted to test the market once his rookie contract expired. He certainly runs the show and it would be a huge loss for Milwaukee to just let him walk without getting anything in return. However, I am not sure they would be willing to cough up anywhere near max money to extend Jennings. I would not at all be shocked if Jennings accepted his qualifying offer, played out his contract, and became an unrestricted free agent in 2014 since the Bucks would have the right to match any offer sheet he signs.
8. Nikola Pekovic, Timberwolves (RFA)
NBA teams tend to get crazy with NBA free agents who play in the middle. If Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert each received max contracts and JaVale McGee got $44 million over four years last summer, Pekovic is due for a monster payday himself. You would imagine some team will throw max money his way since size is always in demand in the association.
9. Paul Millsap, Jazz (UFA)
Like I wrote for Jefferson, Utah figures to lose either he or Millsap. Millsap should be the least expensive of the pair so he seems most likely to re-up in Utah. With that being said, he should draw plenty of interest on the free market and could look for a prominent role on a team.
10. Monta Ellis, Bucks (PO)
Ellis has an $11 million player option for the 2013-2014 season and assuming he doesn’t want to stay in Milwaukee for another year, figures to opt out. Ellis is a gifted scorer but the fact that he is an undersized two-guard hurts his value as one of the top NBA free agents. Plus, he has never really played for a contending team.
11. Andrei Kirilenko, Timberwolves (PO)
I gasped when I saw Minnesota sign AK47 to a two-year, twenty million deal last summer but Kirilenko to once again be a solid role player in the NBA. He is due to make more than ten million dollars next season but I would imagine Kirilenko could opt out and officially join the list of NBA free agents. Expect him to them sign a long-term deal with some team looking to add a versatile forward who does a little bit of everything.
12. David West, Pacers (UFA)
After a lackluster 2011-12 season, West bounced back with a very solid showing this year proving he can still be a very valuable option on a playoff team. Someone with his experience should be in high demand this summer and I wonder if he will take less money to play for a contender if Indiana doesn’t give him an enticing enough offer.
13. Manu Ginobli, Spurs (UFA)
Like Tim Duncan last summer, I can’t see Ginobli leaving San Antonio. The Spurs do a great job of limiting their veteran’s playing time to keep their legs fresh and he will probably sign for a bit of a hometown discount which makes his return to San Antonio very likely.
14. J.R. Smith, Knicks (PO)
The NBA Sixth Man of the Year has a player option worth a little less than three million bucks for next season so I imagine he will opt out and seek a long-term deal. Talent has never been an issue for the 27-year old but finding the right fit and role on the right team has been. The Knicks have a ton of money locked up for Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler so they might have let Smith walk.
15. J.J. Hickson, Blazers (UFA)
It’s crazy to think that Sacramento straight up released Hickson a year and a half ago. Hickson found new life in Portland and averaged double figures this past season. He is only 24 years old so his best basketball still lies ahead. Of all the NBA free agents, don’t be surprised if he accepts the highest bidder and gets somewhere near ten million a year.
16. O.J. Mayo, Mavericks (PO)
There have already been reports that Mayo will opt out of his contract with Dallas and become a free agent once again which makes sense since he’s slated to only earn about $4.2 million in 2013-14. There should be several teams lining up for his services and he will see a more lucrative payday from somebody.
17. Jose Calderon, Pistons (UFA)
Calderon tops the list of affordable point guards who won’t break the bank but can come in and be a major factor on a quality team. The biggest question he may face this summer is taking more money to play for a less talented team or pursue a mid-level exception to be a role player for a playoff squad.
18. Tyreke Evans, Kings (RFA)
After an insane rookie campaign, Evans’ production has steadily dipped off in each of the past three seasons. He still doesn’t have a true NBA position but his versatility and size does allow him to play either the one, two, or three. I think he desperately needs a change of scenery but will any team offer him a big enough contract that the Kings won’t want to match? Doubt it.
19. Kevin Martin, Thunder (UFA)
Martin was likely a one-year rental for the Thunder replacing James Harden as their sixth man. Since OKC has recently signed Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and Serge Ibaka to expensive extensions, it is unlikely they can afford to keep Martin unless he is willing to take a major pay cut.
20. Tony Allen, Grizzlies (UFA)
I imagine a number of teams will be lining up to bring in a veteran, defensive specialist who doesn’t need to score to be productive. Plus, his price tag won’t be off the charts so a mid-level type contract should suffice.
Other Key NBA Free Agents: Chris Andersen (UFA), Trevor Ariza (PO), D.J. Augustin (UFA), Matt Barnes (UFA), Marco Bellinelli (UFA), Chauncey Billups (UFA), Andray Blatche (UFA), Elton Brand (UFA), Earl Clark (UFA), Darren Collison (RFA), Samuel Dalembert (UFA), Mike Dunleavy (UFA), Randy Foye (UFA), Ben Gordon (PO), Tyler Hansbrough (RFA), Devin Harris UFA), Gerald Henderson (RFA), Jarrett Jack (UFA), Antawn Jamison (UFA), Chris Kaman (UFA), Kyle Korver (UFA), Carl Landry (PO), Byron Mullens (RFA), Gary Neal (RFA), Lamar Odom (UFA), JJ Redick (UFA), Nate Robinson (UFA), Tiago Splitter (RFA), Beno Udrih (UFA), Martell Webster (UFA), Marvin Williams (PO), Mo Williams (UFA), Metta World Peace (PO), Nick Young (UFA)
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.
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