NBA Free Agency 2013: Top 5 Players at Each Position in Next Year's Class

Josh BenjaminCorrespondent IJuly 12, 2012

NBA Free Agency 2013: Top 5 Players at Each Position in Next Year's Class

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    Though this year's NBA free agency period is turning out to be a good one, next year's will be even better.  Lots of great players hit the open market and looking at the list of those who could be on new teams, next summer could be a lot more intense than this summer.

    Take reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year James Harden, for example. He is a lock for some great scoring off the bench and can shoot from anywhere on the floor, so you know that he'll be getting a lucrative pay raise.

    Similarly, next summer could be reminiscent of LeBron James' free agency, as 2013 could very well see multiple superstars become available.  Let's have a look at the top five at each position.

No. 5 Point Guard: Mario Chalmers

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    Chalmers is not your typical point guard, as he isn't a top distributor and doesn't score a lot of points.  Rather, the former Kansas Jayhawk made his mark in the NBA as a silent assassin.

    Not only can Chalmers play great defense, but he is a major three-point threat.  In his four seasons, he has averaged 1.5 steals and has shot 36 percent from long range.

    That said, how does one put a price tag on him?  He's an unrestricted free agent next summer and given the state of Miami's payroll with the new luxury tax looming large, chances are he'll look for a new team.  Seeing as how his talents speak for themselves, he'll get more than a few good offers.

No. 4 Point Guard: Jeff Teague

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    Teague finally got a chance to play significant minutes this year, and made the most of them.  Playing for Atlanta, he averaged 12.6 points, 4.9 assists and 1.6 steals.  For someone running an offense for the first time in the pros, those numbers are pretty good.

    The man is a restricted free agent next summer and seeing as how the Hawks are now rid of Joe Johnson's contract, they could be in a prime position to match any offer.  With the great potential that Teague has, new GM Danny Ferry would be insane not to do so and thus keep Atlanta in contention.

No. 3 Point Guard: Stephen Curry

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    Curry is also a restricted free agent in 2013 and while he still has to learn about being a true point guard, his talents right now are off the charts.  In just 26 games last year, Curry averaged 14.7 points and just 5.3 assists, being more of a scoring point guard.

    However, he also shot 45 percent from long range and averaged 1.5 steals per game.  He's clearly doing a good job of balancing his offensive and defensive games, so that can only help him in the future.

    Should his Golden State Warriors contend next year, team management could very well look to match any offer he receives.

No. 2 Point Guard: Ty Lawson

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    For someone 5'11", 195 pounds, Lawson plays as though he is much larger.  The former Tar Heel averaged 16.4 points and 6.6 assists for the Nuggets last year, and also developed his defensive game.

    He too is a restricted free agent and if he can build on this past season, he's going to be a hot commodity on the open market.  Whether his future is in Denver or on another team, whichever squad gets his services will be getting not just a great athlete, but also a fine leader in the making.

    Long story short, keep your eyes on Lawson next season as he could very well find himself in the upper echelon of point guards.

No. 1 Point Guard: Chris Paul

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    As was shown in his first season with the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul has the ability to transform a franchise.  Once he was aboard, the Clippers went from being a group of lovable losers to the contending team known as "Lob City."

    Just why did the Clippers do so well with Paul running the point?  Well, probably because he's a great all-around point guard.  He averaged 19.6 points to go with 9.1 assists and an astounding 2.5 steals per game.  Long story short, he simply did it all.

    Thus, don't be shocked if Paul becomes the LeBron James of next year's free agency class.  When he receives his field of offers, people will be watching with anticipation when he finally makes his decision.

No. 5 Shooting Guard: Stephen Jackson

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    Jackson is a very volatile player, but his time with the San Antonio Spurs this year was very telling.  In just 21 games with the team, it became apparent that he is most comfortable as a role player and not as the top dog in the lineup.

    That said, especially since he was so instrumental in the Spurs' march through the postseason last year, look for Jackson to have a very prominent role off the bench next year.  Just how much he'll produce is up in the air, but one thing is for certain.  Jackson seems to be a great locker room guy when he wants to be and come next summer, teams looking for some life in the lineup will definitely come his way.

No. 4 Shooting Guard: Kevin Martin

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    Martin is a pure scorer.  Nothing more, nothing less.  In eight NBA seasons, he has averaged 18.4 points while shooting 37 percent from long range.

    That said, it's going to be hard to find a price tag for Martin when next summer rolls around.  Yes, he can score points well, but is he in the same league as other pure scorers like Carmelo Anthony and Eric Gordon?

    Still, the man can shoot and for teams needing a star player to take control in the scoring department, Martin could be their guy.

No. 3 Shooting Guard: Manu Ginobili

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    Ginobili turns 35 in a few weeks, so it's going to be interesting to see how his advancing age will effect his play in the near future.  He had another good year for the Spurs, averaging 12.9 points on 41 percent three point shooting despite playing in just 34 games due to injury.

    Therein lies the greatest issue regarding Ginobili's next contract.  Yes, he is a great shooter and plays some tough defense, but staying healthy has been a problem for him, especially in recent years.  More importantly, he always seems to be going back and forth from being a starter to being a bench player.

    That said, depending on how next season goes, just how much Ginobili is offered for his next contract is up in the air.  Still, with his skills, multiple teams could be interested.

No. 2 Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis

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    Though he averaged 20.6 points to go with six assists last year, Ellis is definitely a shooting guard first.  Unfortunately for him, he's a bit undersized for the position at 6'3", 185 pounds.  Still, he knows how to score points in great numbers and can also play tight defense, having averaged 1.7 steals for his career.

    Even more interesting is Ellis' free agency itself.  He can opt out of his deal after next season and look to re-sign a bigger contract.  If he can keep doing what he does best in a full season for the Milwaukee Bucks, don't be shocked if he gets a nine-figure deal.

No. 1 Shooting Guard: James Harden

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    Harden has made a career of coming off the bench, but he puts up numbers one would expect to see from a starter.  Last season, the former Arizona State Sun Devil averaged a career best 16.8 points while shooting an astounding 49 percent from the floor and 39 percent from three-point land.

    Sure enough, he was named Sixth Man of the Year and next summer, he will be a restricted free agent.  Of course, he will almost certainly receive his fair share of max-level offers.  Whether or not his Oklahoma City Thunder match those offers remains to be seen.

    Considering how great a role Harden has played in the Thunder's recent successes, they would be insane not to bring him back.

No. 5 Small Forward: Dorell Wright

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    Though Wright is built like a small forward at 6'9", 205 pounds, he is little more than a three-point shooter.  Still, he is great at that and has shot 36.5 percent from long range for his career.

    Even though his game is highly one-sided, Wright is simply great at what he does.  He isn't a starter by any means but if teams are looking for a three-point threat and nothing more, they needn't look any further than this man.

No. 4 Small Forward: Marvin Williams

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    Williams never really found his niche in the NBA, but has managed to get by as an average scorer.  Ever since being drafted second overall back in the 2005 draft, the former North Carolina Tar Heel has averaged 11.5 points per game.

    That said, once he becomes a free agent next July, it's going to be interesting to see how his situation plays out.  He is set to finish out his contract for the Utah Jazz next year, having just been traded there from the Atlanta Hawks.  If he can fit into that offense and be effective, then he could easily field a few offers for scoring services.

No. 3 Small Forward: Chase Budinger

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    A product of the University of Arizona, there is one thing that Budinger does quite well: Shoot, shoot and shoot some more.  He shot 40 percent from long range last season and showed that he can dunk too.

    He finishes out his contract with Minnesota this coming season, having been traded there before this year's draft. Given the team's needs at small forward, he is in a position to get some significant minutes.  If he can make the most of those and balance his talents effectively, he could be in line for a big payday in July 2013.

No. 2 Small Forward: Trevor Ariza

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    Ariza's greatest strength is his defense, but he is also one of the most underrated players at his position in that his other skills don't get recognized nearly enough.  Not only does the former UCLA Bruin make some clutch shots from long range every once in a while, but his dunking abilities are absolutely insane.

    He's in an interesting position now, as he was recently traded from the New Orleans Hornets to the young and immature Washington Wizards.  If he can be the leader on that young team and thus help point them in the right direction going forward, his overall value is going to skyrocket.

    Don't be fooled by his modest numbers, ladies and gentlemen.  Ariza is a player who can do wonders for a team just by utilizing his strengths.

No. 1 Small Forward: Shawn Marion

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    Marion is no longer the high-octane scorer he was during his prime years with the Phoenix Suns, but he still plays harder than probably any player at his position.  He can still make the occasional long range shot and is an absolute pest on defense, making life difficult for any opposing player who tries to get past him.

    Last year, for the Dallas Mavericks, Marion averaged 10.6 points and 7.4 rebounds as his defensive intensity was continuously off the charts.  He's getting a bit older at 34 years old, but still plays with the energy of someone much younger.

    That said, he should fetch at least a two-year deal in 2013.

No. 5 Power Forward: Lamar Odom

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    Odom is a player in need of a fresh start, as he had the worst season of his career playing for the Dallas Mavericks last year.  Fortunately, he was recently traded to the Los Angeles Clippers, with whom he spent his first four seasons before leaving via free agency.

    Simply put, this coming season is a make or break year for Odom.  If he can return to his old form, as in the multitalented player we saw with the Los Angeles Lakers, then he will have a shot at getting a lucrative offer next summer.  If he doesn't improve, however, he could be setting himself up for finishing his career on veteran's minimum contracts.

    Yet, this is still Lamar Odom we're talking about.  His skills are undeniable when he's on and in a city that he knows well, something tells me he could be bound for a comeback year.

No. 4 Power Forward: Taj Gibson

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    Gibson is a restricted free agent next summer but given the development of his game the past couple of years,  I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Bulls let him walk.  He has already proven that he can be a top power forward when given significant minutes and unless Chicago finds a way to unload Carlos Boozer, Gibson is doomed to be stuck on the bench if he stays in the Windy City.

    Fortunately for him, he has great size for his position at 6'9", 225 pounds and has shown tremendous athleticism on defense.  For teams needing defensive intensity, Gibson could be a great option.  Just how much he is worth, however, remains to be seen.

No. 3 Power Forward: Paul Millsap

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    Millsap is small for his position at 6'8", 253 pounds, but he plays power forward as though he is closer to 7'0".  The man from Louisiana Tech averaged 16.6 points and a career best 8.8 rebounds last year and if his skills keep progressing, he could easily average a double-double in 2013.

    More importantly, lots of teams are going to need help on defense and in the paint.  Those areas are Millsap's specialties and considering how he is an unrestricted free agent next summer, Utah would be wise to start extension talks now.

No. 2 Power Forward: Serge Ibaka

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    I could go on about how Ibaka has great size for his position at 6'10", 235 pounds or the fact that he's on his way to becoming a truly dominant big man.  Playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder last year, he averaged 9.1 points and 7.5 rebounds.

    Yet, Ibaka continued to make his mark defensively and also led the league in blocked shots with an astounding 3.7 per game.  Enough said.

No. 1 Power Forward: Josh Smith

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    Let me put it this way, ladies and gentlemen.  I LOVE Josh Smith.  Whenever his Atlanta Hawks are on national television, I make a point of watching the game just so that I can watch him fly high above the basket and dunk or just play some incredible defense.  Seriously, the man's skills are a treat ripe for the viewing.

    Last season, Smith averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game.  That's pretty incredible for someone just 6'9", 225 pounds.

    Either way, be it in Atlanta or another city, Smith is going to get paid next year.  He is too great an athlete and too talented overall to not get anything less than a max deal.  Seeing as how many teams will need help at forward, Smith's overall tenacity will be more than welcome.

No. 5 Center: Samuel Dalembert

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    Dalembert is a center with good size at 6'11", 250 pounds, but his game is a bit one-sided.  For most of his NBA career, the former Seton Hall Pirate has made his living as a rebounder and tough shot blocker.  Playing for the Houston Rockets last year, he averaged seven rebounds to go with 1.7 blocks.

    Today, however, Dalembert is suiting up for the big-man needy Milwaukee Bucks as he was traded there before the draft this year.  If he can be a dominant force in the middle for them in his contract year, then he could find himself signing yet another multiyear deal even though his offense is unpredictable.

No. 4 Center: Nikola Pekovic

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    In just his second NBA season, Pekovic showed that he had what it takes to be a good center.  The 6'11" Montenegrin averaged 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds for the Minnesota Timberwolves, who finally showed flashes of potential before losing point man Ricky Rubio to a knee injury.

    That said, it's going to be an interesting summer for Pekovic in 2013, as he will be a restricted free agent. 

    Assuming that he has another career season after a full year with Rubio, teams could very well look to offer him heavy contracts so that he can bring his dominance to them.  Yet, should the Timberwolves find themselves with a lot of money so that they may match that offer, Pekovic could very well find himself on the way to becoming a Minnesota sports legend—assuming last year wasn't just a fluke.

No. 3 Center: Al Jefferson

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    For the past five years, Jefferson has become one of the most dominant centers in the game.  At 6'10", 289 pounds, he is a phenomenal scorer and great rebounder, and his shot blocking isn't bad either.  Last season, he averaged 19.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.7 blocks as he helped the Utah Jazz just barely make it to the playoffs.

    He hits unrestricted free agency next summer and seeing as how he is only 27 years old, he will surely get multiple offers from center-hungry teams so long as he has another great season.  Given his overall athleticism under the basket, something tells me he could have a 20-10 year in his future.

No. 2 Center: Andrew Bynum

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    Going into next season, nobody should be more motivated than Andrew Bynum.  Not only is he coming off a career season in which he averaged a career high 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds, but he now has a phenomenal point guard in Steve Nash, who will get him plenty of scoring opportunities.

    More importantly, last season was one that was borderline miraculous in that Bynum didn't miss any time due to injury.  Ever since being drafted by the Lakers in 2005, last year was only the second time he had ever played a full season.

    Simply put, while he should easily be the most motivated, Bynum also has the most to lose in that another injury-riddled and underachieving year could serve as proof that last year's breakout campaign was just a fluke.  If he wants to be taken seriously on the free agent market, he needs to be completely locked in this coming season.

No. 1 Center: Dwight Howard

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    Assuming that the Orlando Magic don't trade him at all, Dwight Howard is going to be, along with Chris Paul, the most sought-after player on the free agent market next summer.  Despite his attitude in recent months, the man is still one of the most dominant centers in the league and brings a lot to the table.

    Last season, the 6'11", 265 pound center averaged 20.6 points, 14.5 rebounds and 2.1 blocks.  For his career, the former No. 1 pick has averaged 18.4 points, 13 boards and 2.2 blocks.

    More importantly, the man is just a monster in the paint.  He was named NBA Defensive Player of the Year three years in a row (2009-2011) and has made six All-Star teams.  Put him at center, and a team's defensive woes could pretty much be fixed.

    Still, he could be traded and/or signed to an extension at any time, so all we can do now is keep our eye on his status.