Power Ranking Attractiveness of Every NBA Free Agency Destination in 2013

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistOctober 26, 2012

Power Ranking Attractiveness of Every NBA Free Agency Destination in 2013

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    As the 2013 NBA free agency period approaches, soon-to-bee free agents must assess which franchises are most attractive to them.

    For the elite players in the league, the two most important factors are loads of cap room and a chance to win the NBA crown.

    For less-expensive players, other factors such as organizational comfort, the city's quality and a winning culture carry more weight.

    In 2013, iconic franchises such as the Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat won't have the cap room to land significant free agents, but are still appealing enough to draw role players. Conversely, some small-market franchises such as the Utah Jazz will be attractive in 2013 due to substantial cap room.

    Which clubs top our list?

30. Charlotte Bobcats

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    There aren't too many upsides to signing with the Charlotte Bobcats in the near future other than money. One is that there is a lot of playing time up for grabs, and the other is that the climate in North Carolina is favorable.

    Other than that, it's an unappealing destination.

    Considering how mishandled the franchise has been the last eight years, it's going to take significant progress in the draft and on the court before major free agents show interest.

    When Michael Jordan can prove that he and his staff can sustain success, and the team wins more than 40 percent of its games, players will finally bite. Don't expect a rosy scenario like that until 2014 at the earliest.

29. Orlando Magic

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    Potential Orlando Magic signees have several reasons to be apprehensive about joining the franchise.

    For starters, there's uncertainty surrounding the new general manager Rob Hennigan (30 years old) and head coach Jacque Vaughn (37 years old). They might end up being great leaders for this franchise, but since they are so young, they need to earn players' trust.

    The other negative factor is the weak roster, and it looks like the team will struggle to win over the next couple years, no matter how good the new regime is.

    Market-wise, it's definitely a notch below other southeastern destinations like Miami or Atlanta.

    Dwight Howard's torturous final season and awkward exit set this club back several years, and it will directly affect the 2013 free agency market.

28. Sacramento Kings

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    With the future location of the franchise still undecided and the team in a mediocre state, Sacramento has an uphill battle to convince free agents to come aboard in 2013.

    Washington Post columnist Antonio Gonzalez explained that any on-court progress this season will be hampered by organizational unpredictability:

    No matter what success might come Sacramento’s way this season, the franchise’s future is still murkier than ever...No other plan has been in the works between Sacramento and the Maloofs, which will again open the possibility of relocation if nothing develops by early 2013, not to mention lead to endless speculation from Anaheim to Seattle to Virginia Beach — and everywhere in between — about luring the franchise.

    If the franchise somehow lands a deal with either Seattle or Anaheim within the next 10 months, it could end up being a huge boost for their 2013 free agent hunt. If not, they'll only reel in the small fish.

27. Toronto Raptors

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    Toronto is no small market, but despite the size of the city and the fan base, it's typically not a top choice for free agents.

    General manager Bryan Colangelo has done most of his roster structuring via draft and trades, but that trend could change if his recent moves work out.

    If the addition of point guard Kyle Lowry and 2011 draftee Jonas Valanciunas translates to wins and the team flirts with .500 again, it could go a long way in persuading a key player to join the team in 2013.

    Until then, the geography and lackluster legacy of the franchise makes it a rather underwhelming option for potential signees.

26. Milwaukee Bucks

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    Unfortunately for Bucks fans, Milwaukee will always be overshadowed by its neighbor to the south, Chicago.

    The Bulls are in the biggest city in the midwest and the most relevant sports town in the midwest, while the Bucks are stuck with the leftovers.

    Technically, both Brandon Jennings (restricted free agent) and Monta Ellis (unrestricted free agent) could find their way out of town in 2013, which would leave a bunch of cap room for newcomers.

    But Milwaukee will do everything in its power to keep at least one of the two.

    The result is a relatively unattractive franchise; it's a basketball squad with a mediocre ceiling playing in a mediocre market.

25. Houston Rockets

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    The Rockets spent a ridiculous amount of money on Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik during the summer of 2012, as each will be making $8.4 million in 2012-13. Houston acquired them because Chicago and New York were unwilling to overpay for them as restricted free agents.

    Darryl Morey might have to overspend in a similar fashion in 2013 if he wants to land substantial free agents.

    Houston is undoubtedly viewed as the weakest Texas team from a basketball and organization perspective. Any free agents who are interested or willing to play in Texas are more inclined to sign with Dallas or San Antonio.

    The club hit a run of bad luck with Yao Ming's injury and retirement, and really hasn't recovered since.

24. Washington Wizards

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    Ever since Gilbert Arenas began declining, the Washington Wizards have been trying to avoid tripping over their own feet. Most of the time, they've failed to do so.

    Baby steps have been taken in the right direction, but even in the process of trying to improve the team as a whole, the Wizards got themselves in trouble.

    The frontcourt that complements John Wall and Bradley Beal is vastly overpaid. Emeka Okafor, Nene and Trevor Ariza could make a combined $70 million over the next two seasons, and they might not even have the playoffs to show for it.

    Until Washington can prove it's a contender in the Southeastern Division, free agents are only going to be interested in playing there because it's a major market.

23. New Orleans Hornets

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    The jury is out on the future of the young New Orleans Hornets squad, so the jury is out on the 2013 free agency market for them.

    That being said, there are some exciting roster pieces in place that make it an intriguing option for middle-tier free agents. Also, monetary resources won't be a problem in the summer of 2013.

    The retention of Eric Gordon, acquisition of Ryan Anderson and drafting of Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers suggest a bright future. Monty Williams is only a couple key signings away from competing for a playoff spot.

    Unfortunately, it's going to be tricky for management to convince any featured players to play in New Orleans, especially after Chris Paul's desire to escape in 2011.

22. Detroit Pistons

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    Although the city of Detroit is no Miami, and the Pistons ranked last in attendance in 2011-12, the franchise's outlook for 2013 and beyond isn't totally bleak.

    Potential signees know the team is improving, especially in the frontcourt, and once the 2012-13 campaign is over, general manager Joe Dumars will have some cap space to work with.

    Between now and then, head coach Lawrence Frank and the Pistons squad must mix it up in the Central Division and in the entire Eastern Conference.

    More specifically, they must prove they're a better destination than small-market divisional foes Milwaukee and Cleveland. 

21. Cleveland Cavaliers

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    A nice chunk of cap space will be cleared for the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2013 because several players are free agents.

    Most notably, overpaid role players Luke Walton ($6.1 million in 2011-12) and Daniel Gibson ($4.8 million in 2011-12) will come off the payroll (unless re-signed). It will give general manager Chris Grant some room to work with next summer. 

    It's too bad that the cap space doesn't change the city of Cleveland and its unappealing market.

    LeBron James' departure is one major piece of evidence that the market and franchise are unattractive, and the other piece of evidence is the fact that Cleveland failed to get anyone better than C.J. Miles in free agency last summer.

20. Minnesota Timberwolves

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    This picture depicts the environmental downside of Minnesota, but Minneapolis was actually ranked as the 12th best city to live in by Bloomberg BusinessWeek.

    What potential Timberwolves signees should really worry about is not the winter, but rather the current leadership in the front office and the unpredictability of the franchise.

    General manager David Kahn has been nothing short of erratic and unpredictable during his tenure at the helm of the team. He has made a couple of good moves, including signing head coach Rick Adelman and guard Brandon Roy, but they are heavily out-weighed by the bad ones.

    Whether it's an ill-advised trade, a ridiculous contract extension or a lucrative signing, Kahn is susceptible to subpar transactions.

    This might tempt money-hungry free agents, but smart free agents who want to win know that the foundation of the organization is still shaky.

19. Phoenix Suns

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    The city of Phoenix is desirable enough, but is the post-Nash squad convincing enough for free agents to join Marcin Gortat, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic?

    General Manager Lance Banks' reacquisition of Goran Dragic shows that the Suns have the capability to draw second-tier free agents.

    The question is whether they can repeat or exceed that feat in 2013. On paper, this is a mediocre team, and a No. 8 seed at best, so they will want to make some improvements when free agency hits.

    The amount of financial flexibility Phoenix will have in 2013 depends on whether the team picks up the options of Wesley Johnson and Markieff Morris. It's unlikely that it will pick up both, so money will be available to sign a role player.

18. Memphis Grizzlies

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    Although Memphis is a small market, the team has a sizable amount of guaranteed and non-guaranteed cash dedicated to its roster beyond 2012-13.

    That will slightly hurt it's chances during the 2013 free agency period, but overall, the team and the organization is an intriguing one.

    The Grizzlies have developed a winning culture under Lionel Hollins, and even though the FedEx Forum isn't filled to the brim in the regular season, it's a fun venue in the playoffs.

    For now, the team isn't financially flexible enough for big-time players, but that will change in the summer of 2014.

17. Brooklyn Nets

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    A brand new arena and a revamped look turned the Nets into one of the most relevant franchises moving forward.

    For 2013 free agents, the lure of Brooklyn, top notch facilities and the promise of on-court success is all on the table. But the money won't be.

    The Nets have a boatload of guaranteed money invested in their starting five over the next few years, so the club will only be appetizing to lower-tier free agents looking to sign for modest amounts. But for those actually willing to sign reasonable contracts, Brooklyn is an extremely appealing situation.

    If this were a 2012 ranking, Brooklyn would be much higher on this list. But Mikhail Prokhorov's wallet is much lighter now, and it would be unwise for the team to spend freely this upcoming offseason.

16. Indiana Pacers

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    The Colts and Hoosiers might be kings of Indiana, but playing for the Pacers isn't so bad.

    Indianapolis isn't a magnet for free agents, and the team ranked 26th in the NBA in attendance in 2011-12, but the upside is that it's a solid basketball program.

    Indiana continually competes in the Central Division and have Roy Hibbert and George Hill to work with in the future. The Pacers have been on the upswing since 2010 and would be a great place for a role player to fit in and grow.

    If players really took into account how much they could thrive with a center like Hibbert on their side, more of them would consider Indiana.

    Unfortunately, Indianapolis itself isn't enough to bring in the cream of the crop.

15. Golden State Warriors

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    Between the raucous crowd at Oracle Arena, the overall appeal of the Bay Area, and the potential of the basketball team, the Golden State Warriors are a compelling option for free agents.

    Considering how inconsistent and substandard the team has been in recent memory, the club is blessed with a loyal fan base (96 percent capacity at Oracle in 2011-12). Once the Raiders season is over, Oakland turns into a basketball town ready to root on its underdog warriors.

    The leadership in the front office has been inconsistent over the years, but the signing of coach Mark Jackson and the roster tweaks made in the spring and summer of 2012 are promising.

    If Golden State can return to the playoffs in 2012-13, it will draw more looks from interested role players in the summer.

14. Portland Trail Blazers

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    Portland won't have much spare money in 2013 to offer stars, but a decent two or three-year contract for a starter or role player is doable.

    The Trail Blazers aren't incredibly deep at any position on the roster, so free agents will view Portland as a legitimate option.

    It's an exciting time for the franchise. A pair of young draftees, Damian Lillard and Meyers Leonard, join All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and French star Nicolas Batum in a quest to return to the playoffs.

    Although the team was disappointing in 2011-12, the ever-devoted Portland fans still stormed the gates and packed the Rose Garden.

13. Denver Nuggets

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    To stay competitive in the west after the 2012-13 season, the Denver Nuggets need to be attractive enough to retain their most important players.

    Andre Iguodala has an early-termination option in his contract in 2013, and Ty Lawson is a restricted free agent after the 2012-13 season. Can George Karl and company do enough in the meantime to keep them around? Lawson is more questionable than Iguodala.

    The city of Denver isn't doing anything to hurt the Nuggets' overall stature. The metropolis and surrounding area is unique, there are plenty of things to do and the fan base is solid.

    There is a ceiling to the club's potential, though. It's highly unlikely that general manager Masai Ujiri will land any colossal names, but for a small-market team, he will do pretty well.

12. Philadelphia 76ers

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    If the Philadelphia 76ers are attractive enough for Andrew Bynum to return beyond 2013, that's all that matters for now.

    Provided Bynum's knee issues are solved, the Sixers would love to sign him to a long-term deal. When he was traded in August 2012, he said at his press conference he's leaning toward sticking around.

    Doug Collins looks like he has a solid squad entering the 2012-13, one that might be good enough to compete with the Knicks and Nets for second or third place in the Atlantic Division. 

    Philadelphia's market and leadership shouldn't be a problem, so biggest factor in its 2013 attractiveness will be the effectiveness of the 2012-13 performance on the court.

11. Utah Jazz

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    Even though Salt Lake City itself isn't a huge city, the metro area surrounding it is substantial and the fans are passionate enough to make the Jazz an appealing destination compared to most other small-market teams.

    But the unique fan base won't be Utah's most attractive feature in 2013. It's payroll flexibility will be.

    The Jazz will have a minimum of $41 million coming off the books this offseason, which makes them legitimate players in free agency.

    However, Utah isn't the type of club capable to lure a megastar, so they must decide whether they should go after a pair of B-plus free agents or try to retain Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson.

    The summer of 2013 is a pivotal offseason for the Jazz, one that could determine whether they stay in the playoff picture for the next five years.

10. Los Angeles Clippers

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    The Los Angeles Clippers' 2013 offseason is all about Chris Paul. Are they set up well enough to re-sign him.

    Southern California's market and the opportunity to continue playing alongside Blake Griffin make the Clippers tempting, and the Clippers will also have plenty of money to throw at him.

    Therefore, Paul's decision desire to remain in Los Angeles is directly related to the team's chances of contending for a title.

    That's where attracting other free agents comes in. Los Angeles must rely on its Tinseltown reputation and the promise of continued progression in order to sign role players to replace its six potential departures.

9. New York Knicks

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    For players seeking the veteran minimum or the rookie minimum, the New York Knicks are a desirable option in 2013.

    The Big Apple is still a big draw, and the prospect of having Madison Square Garden as your home arena is still exciting.

    But much like their crosstown counterparts, New York will be strapped for cash in the near future due to a guy named Carmelo and a guy named Amar'e.

    The fact that international standout Pablo Prigioni was willing to sign for the rookie minimum in 2012 says a lot about the Knicks' attractiveness.

    To maximize its appeal, New York must overachieve in 2012-13, challenge for the Atlantic Division and reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

8. Oklahoma City Thunder

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    The Oklahoma City Thunder's attractiveness this upcoming summer depends on whether James Harden signs an extension this fall. 

    If Harden does sign an extension, the team will be pushed to the limit financially, according to Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports:

    If Harden signs for the amount several free agent suitors have him pegged for, they'll be paying well over $60 million a year in a couple of seasons just for the team's four-star core...That's rarely good financial sense for any team, even the ones in Los Angeles and New York, and certainly not good business for a team located in one of the NBA's smaller markets.

    As good as Oklahoma City is, it will take an highly-unselfish free agent to sign in such a small market for such a low price.

    But the tradeoff is Western Conference contention and the chance to run with the most fun, young group in the league.

7. Los Angeles Lakers

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    The 2012-13 season will essentially be an audition for the Los Angeles Lakers to convince Dwight Howard to re-sign with them.

    By the end of the season, the proposition of re-signing will sound tremendously appealing to Howard, and if not, that means something went terribly wrong.

    The combination of southern California, Hollywood, Kobe Bryant and championship contention should be all Howard needs.

    The only possible negatives are the "pressure" to live up to the Lakers legacy, and the uncertainty that Mike Brown lead to a title. But that's nitpicking.

    Once Howard is locked down in early July, Los Angeles will only be attractive to free agents looking to take less money in pursuit of a ring.

6. Boston Celtics

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    As far as cold-climate NBA destinations go, it doesn't get much better than Boston.

    The Celtics have the prestige of the winningest franchise in the sport, along with a championship-caliber leadership and a dynamic point guard to play with. Since 2007, the combination of Danny Ainge and Doc Rivers has been sensational. The town and the market are first-rate as well.

    In 2013, there will be another round of questions surrounding the future of the franchise and the changing of the guard from the savvy veterans to the young guns.

    The transition of the franchise over the next couple years could be seen as an uncertainty worth avoiding, or an awesome opportunity. Potential signees will agree with the latter more often than not.

5. Miami Heat

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    Miami is such an exciting destination and franchise that Ray Allen took a hefty pay cut to make the trip down from Boston.

    Pat Reilly hopes that 2013 free agents will be equally enchanted by the program, that way he can make another inexpensive addition if need be.

    Off the court, the Heat offer a great market, a fun city and ideal surroundings. On the hardwood, there's the opportunity to play alongside the Big Three and have a 50-50 shot at an NBA title.

    Nevertheless, if players aren't willing to sign for significantly less than market value, the Heat won't be able to sign them. Miami has $75.5 million guaranteed and $93.1 million guaranteed dedicated to the 2012-13 roster.

4. Chicago Bulls

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    Chicago is well above-average when it comes to free agency appeal due to their strong front office, successful team, massive fan base and massive market.

    When Derrick Rose came along in 2008, the franchise was finally able to shed its post-Jordan malaise and regain its place among the NBA's top destinations. Chicago is a first-rate sports town, and they love their Bulls just as much as they love the Bears, Cubs, White Sox and Blackhawks.

    That doesn't mean the franchise is flawless. Carlos Boozer is being paid far more than his basketball value warrants, and the team also has huge sums tied up between Rose and Luol Deng.

    The summer of 2013 probably won't be the summer that Chicago hits it big and finds Rose the ultimate sidekick, but Chi-town will still draw lots of interest from players at every level. It will be the summer it decides whether to give Taj Gibson a big payday.

3. San Antonio Spurs

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    A mastermind coach, a winning tradition and a strong fan base makes the San Antonio Spurs a desirable destination. Anyone who wants to become a better all-around basketball player and win while doing it should consider Gregg Popovich's squad.

    San Antonio doesn't have the market appeal of a New York, Los Angeles or Chicago, but what it will have in 2013 is money.

    Bleacher Report NBA Featured Columnist Hunter Konsens explains that, in addition to the possible departure of Manu Ginobili, a slew of restricted free agents might leave the Spurs with a lot of cap space:

    The San Antonio Spurs will go into the summer of 2013 with a luxury that has become quite foreign to them in the past decade: cap space... With the foursome of DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter, Derrick Byars and Gary Neal being restricted free agents, the Spurs have the ability to unload tons of money off their payroll without losing much in terms of talent.

    The Spurs won't ever have the notoriety of other cities and clubs, but it does have the strongest basketball reputation.

2. Dallas Mavericks

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    Mark Cuban's crew couldn't persuade any of the elite 2012 free agents to sign with Dallas, and it will be a tough sell again in 2013.

    But the Mavericks will have anywhere from $15 to $30 million available, which could be enough to draw one superstar or two almost-stars.

    For the most part, Cuban himself is a part of the attractiveness of the franchise. He's a committed, passionate owner who cares about his players and cares about winning. But his leadership style might not be the right fit for everyone.

    The Mavericks can only do so much, and it has to hope that Dirk Nowitzki's 2011 championship credentials, money and outstanding fan following can lure a big signing. 

1. Atlanta Hawks

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    Danny Ferry's Hawks will be an attractive option in 2013 because the team will be high bidders in free agency and it also offers the exciting city of Atlanta.

    Josh Smith's looming free agency is the most serious decision facing the club, but no matter what happens, the Hawks will still have money burning a hole in their pocket this coming summer.

    Signing Smith to an extension or trading him for talent could increase Atlanta's chances of landing him a championship-caliber sidekick or quality starter.

    The only downside to Atlanta is the fact that they are in LeBron's division and will constantly be struggling against the Heat on the court and in the southeast.

    For true competitors, it's actually a bonus.

    What's your take? Comment below and follow me @Danielobleacher