2013 NBA Free Agency: An Early Primer on Next Year's Class

Daniel O'BrienFeatured ColumnistAugust 20, 2012

2013 NBA Free Agency: An Early Primer on Next Year's Class

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    Next summer is shaping up to be a busy one for NBA executives, as the 2013 free-agent class is stacked with talent.

    Several Olympians and All-Stars will be on the market and the group will significantly impact the landscape of the league after all transactions are made.

    Teams like Utah and Dallas are unloading a bunch of roster spots via free agency and will look to land a couple of bigger fish if they can.

    The depth of the class is incredible, so we put together a sneak peak of the best 2013 free agents at each position.

    Some qualifiers to keep in mind:

    • Restricted: Current team has power to match other teams' offers and retain player
    • Unrestricted: Player is free to test market and sign with new team
    • ETO: Early Termination Option; player has chance to opt out of remainder of contract

Point Guard: Chris Paul (Unrestricted)

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    Will Lob City be remembered as a brief phenomenon from 2011-2013, or a fixture in Los Angeles sports for years to come? Chris Paul's negotiations next summer will definitely help shape the look and balance of the Western Conference.

    Paul will be 28 by this time, so he'll still have several years of high-level basketball left in him.

    Los Angeles already has an advantage, as Blake Griffin is already invested in the franchise's future. If Paul can gel with the retooled roster this year, Los Angeles has a better chance of re-signing him.

    If the Clippers do somehow let him slip away, will New York be his pick? He hasn't ruled it out.

Point Guard: Brandon Jennings (Restricted)

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    If both parties could reach an agreement, Milwaukee Bucks guard Brandon Jennings wouldn't be on this list.

    But if general manager John Hammond can't convince Jennings to sign an extension, he could test the market as a restricted free agent.

    He's been asked to shoulder much of the playmaking responsibility during his young career in Milwaukee, which has turned him into one of the best scoring guards in the league. The southpaw speedster can change direction on a dime and score from anywhere on the floor.

    Throw in Jennings' facilitating skills and great hands on defense, and it's easy to see why he'll command a hefty price. His prime years are right around the corner.

Other Notable Point Guards

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    Stephen Curry (Restricted)

    Ty Lawson (Restricted)

    Darren Collison (Restricted)

    Jrue Holiday (Restricted)

    Jeff Teague (Restricted)

    Devin Harris (Unrestricted)

    Jose Calderon (Unrestricted)

    Patty Mills (Unrestricted, Player Option)

Shooting Guard: Monta Ellis (ETO)

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    Speaking of Milwaukee guards, Monta Ellis headlines 2013's shooting guard class.

    But calling him strictly a "shooting guard" is a disservice to his passing aptitude. He can distribute the ball effectively and consistently—Ellis has averaged at least five assists per game the past three years.

    His numbers dipped last year when he was shipped from Golden State to Milwaukee, but that shouldn't concern Bucks fans. He's sharing the backcourt with Brandon Jennings and will only grow more comfortable with the club.

    Ellis will score upwards of 20 points per game and notch five or six assists per game next year. That should be enough to earn him a huge payday when the calendar hits July next summer.

Shooting Guard: James Harden (Restricted)

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    James Harden has already accomplished more at 22 years old than most NBA players do their entire careers.

    He hasn't even inked his first mega-contract, but he's already made a trip to the NBA Finals, been named Sixth Man of the Year and won an Olympic gold medal.

    Harden is a rock star in Oklahoma City. Whether it's the acrobatic drives, 49 percent field-goal shooting or the robust beard, he's caught the attention of most casual observers. But will he remain a Thunder for the coming years?

    The Tucson Citizen asks whether Serge Ibaka's recent lucrative deal will edge Harden out of town and into Phoenix next summer.

    Regardless of OKC's financial situation, Harden's departure would be a tough loss. His offensive versatility makes him a  a prime target for many teams waiting in the wings.

Other Notable Shooting Guards

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    Tyreke Evans (Restricted)

    O.J. Mayo (Unrestricted, Player Option)

    Ray Allen (Unrestricted, Player Option)

    Tony Allen (Unrestricted)

    Kevin Martin (Unrestricted)

    Manu Ginobili (Unrestricted)

    DeMar DeRozan (Restricted)

    Ben Gordon (Unrestricted, Player Option)

    J.J. Redick (Unrestricted)

Small Forward: Andre Iguodala (ETO)

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    As one of the primary pieces of the colossal Dwight Howard trade, Andre Iguodala landed in Denver, where he'll immediately provide defense, timely shooting and passing. 

    The newly-crowned gold medalist is one of the only veterans on an otherwise-youthful Nuggets squad. However, just because he's the second-oldest player on the squad doesn't mean he won't provide a spark. Iguodala is still only 28 and thrives in the open floor.

    As for his future, he's made it clear that he likes the idea of making Denver a permanent home.

    Will the Nuggets be his long-term answer? The first couple months next season will be an early indicator.

Small Forward: Andrei Kirilenko (Unrestricted)

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    After a year in Russia, Andrei Kirilenko is ready to take his talents back across the pond, to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

    If his return to the NBA is as successful as his recent Olympic tournament, Minnesota fans are in for a treat.

    The slashing forward led his country to the bronze medal on the strength of his stingy defense, open-court skills and improved offensive game.

    Kirilenko hasn't scored more than 15 points per game since 2006, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him challenge that mark again. If he does, there will be a bidding war in 2013 for his versatile skill set.

Other Notable Small Forwards

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    Shawn Marion (Unrestricted, ETO)

    Rashard Lewis (Unrestricted, Player Option)

    Corey Maggette (Unrestricted)

    Derrick Williams (Restricted, Team Option)

    Kawhi Leonard (Restricted, Team Option)

Power Forward: Josh Smith (Unrestricted)

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    How good is Atlanta's Josh Smith? The only NBA forwards who are better than him have gold medals around their necks.

    The Hawks star is an eight-year veteran who's just 26 years old, with plenty of miles and highlights left in the tank.

    This means the Hawks must use up a heaping pile of chips to make a bid to keep him next summer.

    As expensive as Smith will be, they'd be foolish not to at least attempt to retain him. He's an explosive playmaker with fast-break prowess, rebounding consistency and increased versatility. He also has an improved jump shot and is an above-average passer and defender.

Power Forward: David West (Unrestricted)

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    Next summer will be David West's last major contract signing in the NBA, and it's up to him to determine just how big the contract will be.

    After playing the first eight years of his career with the Hornets franchise, West stepped into a slightly decreased role with the Indiana Pacers last season.

    The result was fewer touches per minute and fewer points, but there's good news for potential suitors: he maintained superb field-goal efficiency and free-throw percentage.

    Out of the Eastern Conference power forwards in a contract year, West is the most skilled. This should give him some leverage as he heads into the 2013 negotiations as an unrestricted free agent.

Other Notable Power Forwards

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    Paul Millsap (Unrestricted)

    Taj Gibson (Restricted)

    Elton Brand (Unrestricted)

    DeJuan Blair (Restricted)

    Lamar Odom (Unrestricted)

    Tyler Hansbrough (Restricted)

    Carl Landry (Unrestricted)

Center: Dwight Howard (Unrestricted)

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    With the Orlando Magic "Dwightmare" officially in the past and the blockbuster trade in the books, Dwight Howard's future is now the concern of the Los Angeles Lakers.

    He hasn't officially committed to the Lakers beyond 2013, as he is keeping all options open for the best possible deal.

    If he waits till next summer, he's eligible for a five-year contract extension worth $100 million, as opposed to a three-year, $60 million deal. 

    Los Angeles wouldn't have pulled off this gigantic trade if they didn't feel somewhat assured that Howard will sign a lengthy extension. But nothing's set in stone, and in the worst-case scenario, the Lakers could have a Dwightmare of their own throughout 2013.

Center: Andrew Bynum (Unrestricted)

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    The biggest eastbound parcel in the Dwight Howard trade also happens to be the next-best center on the market in 2013.

    New Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum looks to build on his breakout 2011-12 season.

    A couple years ago, he was primarily a put-back and baby-hook player. Now he's a star in the paint with a variety of pivot moves, an improved touch and mid-range jumper.

    He, like Howard, is tentatively planning on making his new home his permanent home.

    For now, we'll focus on seeing how he does with a new city, a new franchise and a new conference. If he can put up 18-22 points and 12 rebounds and eventually sign an extension, Philadelphia will be very pleased with the trade they made.

Other Notable Centers

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    Al Jefferson (Unrestricted)

    Nikola Pekovic (Restricted)

    Chris Kaman (Unrestricted)

    Andris Biedrins (Unrestricted, ETO)

    Emeka Okafor (Unrestricted, ETO)

    Tiago Splitter (Restricted)

    Samuel Dalembert (Unrestricted)

    Timofey Mozgov (Restricted)