Every NBA season, right around Finals time, speculation and rumors begin to fly regarding the impending free agent market. Who will be moved and where? Who will re-sign? These are questions that are continually asked until all of the major free agents have signed their new contracts.
So, here are the most likely destinations for the top five free agents who are most likely to leave their current teams. I must make it clear that this isn't a list of the top five free agents, but a list of those who are likely to change teams for the 2012-2013 season.
While I do think that there is a solid chance that Steve Nash will remain in Phoenix, where he has showcased his skills for the past eight seasons, I have to lean more towards him making a move and chasing a championship before the retires. Nash has expressed his desire to play for three more seasons, which is a relatively short window, so he'll want to be on a team that can immediately compete for a championship.
Can Phoenix put together a team that is a realistic threat to win a championship over the next three seasons? Probably not.
I think that Steve Nash will wind up in a Miami Heat uniform next season. He's already said that he would consider joining the Miami Heat, and I think that it would be a great fit for the two-time MVP. Nash has proven that he doesn't mind only taking a few shots a game and facilitate his teammates. Can you imagine Nash running the point and dishing to Wade, Lebron and Bosh?
The Heat would be the immediate favorite if Nash lands in South Beach, if they aren't already. If Nash utilized his unselfish style of play to maximum effect, this team could be a threat to win close to 70 games.
Being a University of Connecticut fan my entire life, former Husky Ray Allen is one of my favorite players in the league at the moment. Allen will be 37 next season, but he still has a lot to give and is a solid veteran that could be brought in to a team that's on the cusp of contending for a champion. The NBA team that Allen would fit in best with is the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Clippers are on the outside looking in on the NBA's elite, but they aren't far away. Allen could give them a very solid shooting option that would make them even more dangerous. And if he continues to experience injury issues, he doesn't seem like the type of guy that would be averse to playing off the bench if it would help his team.
Allen already has a ring, and isn't as desperate as Nash for a title, so he won't necessarily look to go to a truly elite team like the Heat or the Thunder. Look for him to go to that other team from Los Angeles. I mean, he already almost wound up in a Clippers uniform a few months ago, so why wouldn't they sign him now?
Williams is going to be an interesting story in this year's free agency. There seems to be a division amongst experts about where he'll end up when the free agency dust settles, or if he'll even be moved at all. While I think the Nets move to Brooklyn and their brand new arena will entice him to stay, I think that ultimately he won't end up in a Nets uniform for 2012-2013.
Williams will be best off in Dallas next season. For starters, he is from the Dallas area, and what player wouldn't want to go home? Secondly, there's no income tax, which is always an attractive option. Third, and most importantly, he'd be going to a team that with his assistance would be ready to compete for another title. If Williams teams up with Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks would be at worst the third-best team in the West overnight.
The Mavericks weren't exactly the paradigm when you think of defending champions with their performance last season, but Williams being added to their squad would change all that. If Deron Williams is smart, he'll be a Maverick for 2012-2013.
Eric Gordon had about as quiet a great season as anyone ever has. Gordon averaged over 20 PPG this past season, and was the lone bright spot for a woeful New Orleans Hornets team.
Although the Hornets have the #1 pick in the draft, I don't think Gordon has any intentions of sticking around there any longer. He's stated that he wants his next NBA team to offer him a long-term deal, so he'll want to go to a place he wouldn't mind living for an extended period of time.
The perfect destination for Gordon is the Indianapolis Pacers. Gordon is from Indy, and the fans there would undoubtedly really appreciate a hometown kid coming back to play there. The Pacers have previously expressed interest in trading for Gordon, so it's obvious that they appreciate his talents and think that he could be a great addition to the team to help them reach the next level.
Perhaps the most important factor is that the Pacers are ready to win now. They were only two wins away from the Eastern Conference Finals this year, and with Gordon on the team they'll remain among the elite of the East and be poised to contend with the Heat and Bulls for supremacy for quite some time.
The second Celtic on the list, Garnett is a player that I just can't firmly say will end up remaining in his current uniform next season. Of all the places that Garnett will wind up, the Los Angeles Lakers could potentially be the best fit for the aging power forward.
Garnett lives in Southern California in the off season, so it'd be a good fit for him geographically, as older players would definitely prefer not to have to move away from home. And if Pau Gasol isn't brought back by the Lakers next season, Garnett could slide right into his position and play alongside Andrew Bynum giving the Lakers another 1-2 big man punch. The Lakers almost got rid of Gasol in January, so moving him wouldn't be a big surprise.
Garnett could get the Lakers back over the hump, and KG and Kobe Bryant could try and team up with Andrew Bynum to have a legitimate chance to win a title for the next few seasons. It'd be a great fit, and there's a good chance it happens.
Follow me on Twitter: @rlongo924