NBA Free Agency: Predicting Where the Remaining Top Options Will Land
This summer's edition of NBA Free Agency has been extremely eventful.
Many teams were quick to re-sign their star players; Deron Williams re-signed with the Nets instead of joining the Mavericks, and Kevin Garnett will be back in Boston at age 36.
However, several perennial All-Stars will play elsewhere this upcoming season; two-time MVP Steve Nash is now a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, and the NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers, Ray Allen, has joined the Miami Heat.
When it's all said and done, free agency is usually "won" by teams who made quiet additions that may have been overshadowed by highly publicized signings.
Ryan Anderson, last year's most improved player, was acquired by New Orleans in a sign-and-trade deal, and he'll be expected to play an important role for the the Hornets next season. Versatile forward Ersan Ilyasova, last year's runner-up for most improved player, surprised many by resigning with Milwaukee, and the Bucks will hope he's enough to make them a serious threat in the Eastern Conference—something they haven't been in recent years.
While the majority of the "big name" free agents are now off the board and under contract, there are certainly some talented players still available. Let's put the top ten remaining free agents under the microscope for a closer look.
10. SG Courtney Lee
New Team: Boston Celtics
In an effort to bolster their depth in the backcourt, the Celtics signed veteran guard Jason Terry. However, even with Terry in the fold, Boston has continued to show interest in several shooting guards, such as Lee, O.J. Mayo, and Ray Allen—before he joined the Miami Heat.
According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the Celtics are serious suitors for Lee, and as a natural scorer, Lee looks like a great fit to play in a rotation along with the defensive-minded Avery Bradley at shooting guard.
9. SG Randy Foye
New Team: Houston Rockets
As part of the food chain that is free agency, Houston will need to fill the void left by Courtney Lee if he indeed signs elsewhere, and Foye is certainly capable of doing the job. Since coming into the league in 2006, Foye has demonstrated a natural ability to score, averaging at least 9.8 points per game every year.
Ken Berger of CBS tweeted that Houston is one of several teams interested in acquiring Foye, and coming off a season in which he started 48 games for the Clippers, he'd be a welcome addition to the Rockets' relatively shallow backcourt.
8. PG Raymond Felton
New Team: Dallas Mavericks
After veteran point guard Jason Kidd spurned the Mavericks for the New York Knicks in a surprising move, Dallas has a sudden need for a starting point guard. Heading into the NBA draft, Dallas looked like a possible destination for North Carolina's Kendall Marshall, but he was taken four picks earlier by the Phoenix Suns, leaving the Mavericks with uncertainty at point guard.
The Knicks had emerged as the clear front-runners to sign Felton, but now with Kidd in the fold and Jeremy Lin expected to return as a restricted free agent, New York no longer looks like the destination for Felton. Kidd's former home in Dallas, however, could be an ideal fit for Felton.
7. G Lou Williams
New Team: Phoenix Suns
Expecting to lose Steve Nash this offseason, the Suns made it pretty clear that they wanted to stabilize their backcourt when they signed New Orleans guard Eric Gordon to a max offer sheet. NBA.com's David Aldridge tweeted that the Hornets will match the Suns' offer sheet, which means Gordon will return to New Orleans.
With their top target out of the picture, Sports Illustrated's Sam Amick suggested that the Suns could shift their attention to former 76ers guard Lou Williams. Alongside pass-first point guard Kendall Marshall, Williams' natural scoring ability seems like a perfect fit.
6. SF Rashard Lewis
New Team: Atlanta Hawks
Even after signing veteran shooting guard Ray Allen, it's been suggested that the Miami Heat are the favorites to land Lewis as a free agent. Lewis is one of the most ridiculously overpaid NBA players of all-time, so he may be willing to accept a minimum contract with Miami, however, another team will likely outbid for his services.
Having traded Joe Johnson to the Nets this offseason, Atlanta looks like a good fit for Lewis to get his career back on track, and according to Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Hawks are indeed interested.
5. SG J.R. Smith
New Team: New York Knicks
It had been suspected that Smith would return to the Knicks, so it was a surprising move to many when he opted out of his contract to test the market as a free agent.
Despite testing the waters of free agency, Smith is very much still on the Knicks' radar, and as a deadly shooter, he'd be a direct beneficiary playing alongside Jason Kidd and Jeremy Lin next season. Ken Berger of CBS Sports tweeted that re-signing Smith is now at the top of New York's to-do list.
4. PF Antawn Jamison
New Team: Charlotte Bobcats
Despite being one of the worst teams in NBA history, the Bobcats have an average—average meaning good by Charlotte's standards—backcourt with D.J. Augustin, Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson all showing promise. So it was a bit perplexing when the Bobcats decided not to bolster their weak group of post players and passed on drafting Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson.
However, signing Antawn Jamison, as the Charlotte Observer reports is a distinct possibility, would be a very smart move for a team that started the inexperienced duo of Bismack Biyombo and B.J. Mullens for much of last season.
3. C Chris Kaman
New Team: Indiana Pacers
Ever since the Portland Trail Blazers signed Pacers center Roy Hibbert to an offer sheet for four years and $59 million, there have been conflicting reports as to whether or not Indiana will resign the 7'2" center. Tony Giardina of Bleacher Report gave great insight regarding what the Pacers could do instead of matching the Blazers' offer for Hibbert.
If Indiana can sign Kaman to fill Hibbert's shoes at center, as well as sign their top target O.J. Mayo, then they'd be better off with those two players than they would be with Hibbert alone.
2. C Roy Hibbert
New Team: Portland Trail Blazers
Mike Wells, of the Indy Star, tweeted his gut reaction is that the Pacers will not match the Blazers' offer for Hibbert, allowing him to leave Indiana for Portland. Hibbert enjoyed an All-Star season in 2011 and emerged as one of only a few premier centers in the NBA.
On paper, Portland looks like an absolutely perfect fit for the 7'2" center. Playing alongside another All-Star post player in LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers would have one of the best post duos in all of basketball.
1. SG O.J. Mayo
New Team: Indiana Pacers
Perhaps the best player still available in free agency is unrestricted free agent guard O.J. Mayo. He is drawing interest from several different teams, but as the Indy Star's Mike Wells points out, Indiana has had interest in the USC alum for a few years now.
If the Pacers can find a way to sign both Mayo and former Hornets center Chris Kaman, they'd be much better off than signing only Roy Hibbert. Mayo would compete for the starting job at shooting guard with Paul George, or he'd come off the bench and provide an instant scoring punch much like Manu Ginobili in San Antonio. Mayo and Kaman would be a slam dunk for a promising young nucleus in Indiana.