While teams are finishing up polishing their rosters for the upcoming season, a select handful have had their sights set on the free agent class of 2013.
However, those aren't the only prizes available next summer. The 2013 class is full of established talent up for grabs, including Josh Smith, Al Jefferson and Monta Ellis. Even if teams are to strike out on the top names, there's still good reason to have cap space in 2013.
There's a big shakeup coming in the NBA following next season. These few teams in particular will be best equipped to weather the free agent storm and challenge the incumbent teams for players services.
Atlanta GM Danny Ferry has worked to clear cap space on this roster, shipping Marvin Williams for the expiring contract of Devin Harris and acquiring Anthony Morrow in the Johnson deal. The $31 million dollars in expiring contracts in total makes the Hawks the biggest spenders in 2013.
The open space in Atlanta shouldn't go to waste next offseason. The organization has a big decision regarding Josh Smith's future. The dynamic forward has been an Atlanta cornerstone for several years, but the Hawks don't even have an Eastern Conference finals appearance to show for it.
With Al Horford and Jeff Teague the only major players signed long-term, Atlanta will be bringing in some new faces next fall. Dwight Howard or Chris Paul are realistic options in Atlanta when there's Horford and money to blow.
There's nothing for Dan Gilbert to be shook up about now as his team is in stellar standing.
After all the hoopla about a decision that went down at a boys and girls club, the Cavaliers have been all business in building for a better future.
They already have a future star in Kyrie Irving, complemented by willing role players Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson.
Their current roster may have just as much significance as the names who will be leaving the Cavs next season. Cleveland possess about $30 million in expiring contracts coming off the books, including the likes of Baron Davis, Luke Walton and Daniel Gibson. The Cavaliers organization and fans alike will be happy to see those three no longer mentioned in the same breath with their franchise.
And while Cleveland seems like a lowly destination on a NBA player's wish list, there's potential for stars to want to play with Irving, an exciting player and willing passer.
Let's not forget Andrew Bynum put Cleveland on his trade wish list only a month ago. The current Philadelphia center is still in play next summer and will be a high priority in next summer's spending spree in Cleveland.
First, he rejected re-signing Tyson Chandler after the Mavs won a championship, going against conventional rationale and aiming for bigger fish in the free agent market.
Those fish will be swimming in 2013. Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will most likely be entertaining suitors, and none looks more attractive than playing next to Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas’s decent-sized market.
Cuban, along with his general manager Donnie Nelson, have maneuvered their roster so well that they could have as much as $30 million in expiring contracts coming off the books next summer, all the while keeping capable veterans Nowitzki and Shawn Marion in Big D.
The Mavs’ situation has become tricky, though, with some new players on their roster that could make a case to be prominent pieces in the rotation.
Elton Brand, O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman were signed to one-year option deals for a temporary fix, but a strong year could convince management to go re-sign them rather than a risky play for Paul or Howard.
Perhaps an Al Jefferson or Andrew Bynum, along with an influx of fresh role players would be a better roll of the dice.
While the focus in Houston has been centered on pursuing Dwight Howard and overspending for Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik, Rockets GM Daryl Morey has done his share of wheeling and dealing for his team to have a large say next summer.
The Rockets have a ton of $3 million dollar deals or less ending next year, rounding out about $25 million in expiring contracts. Kevin Martin's $12 million, in particular, will come off the books to give the Rockets flexibility to determine their future.
No doubt the Houston brass will give another go at both Howard and Bynum, offering max deals to both in an effort to grab that elusive center presence they've been missing since Yao Ming retired. Al Jefferson may be a more realistic option that they can pay and still address the rest of their roster, as well.
Another issue that will be addressed in the summer of 2013 will be Martin's future with the team. He hasn't been a game-breaking wing by any stretch, but he's still a productive player who can fill it up from deep.
Perhaps throwing out money to a proven guard with a different skill set, such as the all-around production of Andre Igoudala or the scoring prowess of Monta Ellis can change the makeup of this entire team's game plan going forward.
With Lin, Asik and an assortment of young talent, though, the Rockets roster is ripe for a big time player to complete their roster. 2013 will be telling to see if they can finally capitalize in an offseason.
New Orleans fans have to be excited about their franchise's upcoming season with Anthony Davis, Austin Rivers and Ryan Anderson joining Eric Gordon by the bayou, but it gets even better in 2013.
The Hornets are one of the top players in next year's free agent market as well, with around $20 million in expiring contracts vanishing in thin air.
The Hornets will first have to see what they have in their current core since they will be infusing many new talents together under Monty Williams. All signs point to a future backcourt in Gordon and Rivers and a frontcourt of Anderson and Davis.
That leaves one lineup spot that is Al-Farouq Aminu's for the taking; he'll have all the chances to fill out that three spot he assumed when he came over in the Chris Paul trade last season.
If all bodes well next season, New Orleans will look to fill out their bench with quality role players and perhaps a starting point guard if River's transition to the point proves to be a hindrance in team development.
Taking a run at James Harden (RFA) or Lamar Odom could give their team an edge on the wing. Cheaper efficient options to fill out their roster could be Mo Williams, Tony Allen or Kyle Korver.
No matter how they address their cap room, New Orleans has made one quick turnaround after dealing Chris Paul last year.
The Utah roster features a glut of big men. In their talented foursome of Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Enes Kantor and Derrick Favors, they do not have enough playing time to go around to maximize their utility.
However, Jefferson and Millsap will come off the books next summer, along with one-year tryouts Randy Foye and Mo Williams, which allows them to go in a different direction.
Credit the Deron Williams trade for a potential $46 million to come off the books next summer (assuming Marvin Williams opts out as well).
With both Jefferson and Millsap entering their primes, the Jazz wouldn't want to miss out on both. Signing one of two and going after a point guard, in particular, would give the Jazz a more complete outlook going forward.
They would have to outspend opposing teams for restricted free agents Jrue Holiday or Brandon Jennings, but that may be the piece that brings this roster into contention.