NBA Free Agents-to-Be Likeliest to Bolt in 2013
Nowadays, free agency absolutely dominates the NBA. Players do not stick around in unfavorable situations for long and are often willing to forsake winning for a shot at a major payday.
The 2013 offseason will feature plenty of recognizable faces looking to ink new deals, and many of them are coming from less than ideal situations that they will look to put behind them.
The average NBA career is too short for a player to sit idly by while being underpaid or not seeing the touches and minutes he feels he deserves.
With that in mind, here are 10 soon-to-be free agents that will likely depart for greener pastures once their contracts expire.
Statistics accurate as of January 2, 2013.
Tyreke Evans (Sacramento Kings)
Tyreke Evans may not even finish the season with the Sacramento Kings, as trade rumors have been swirling around him, but even if he does, do not expect him back in Kings purple for 2013-14.
Evans' production has dipped considerably since his rookie campaign, and his averages of 15.1 points, 4.8 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game are solid, but all are below his career averages. He has struggled to find a natural position with Sacramento, logging time at both guard positions and even some small forward.
This season Evans has battled knee problems that have kept him out of several games. He is also playing a career-low 30.9 minutes per game.
The Kings have a number of scoring guards that can create shots off the dribble and also have plenty of depth at small forward, making it unclear just where they would use Evans going forward. Players like Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton both deserve their minutes and still have plenty of upside as offensive guards.
Sacramento chose not to tender Evans a contract extension, allowing him to become a restricted free agent. Because of his versatility, some team will take a risk on him, but that team will not be the Kings.
J.J. Redick (Orlando Magic)
J.J. Redick already tried to leave the Orlando Magic once by signing a deal as a restricted free agent with the Chicago Bulls, so it would hardly be surprising to see him leave the team as an unrestricted free agent.
The Magic have actually played fairly well in Dwight Howard's absence, but the 28-year-old Redick is having a career year and should look to parlay that into a deal with a title contender.
Thriving in a sixth man role, Redick is posting 14.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, all of which are career highs. He is shooting 44.1 percent from the field and 36.6 percent from three-point range while taking a more active role in Orlando's offense.
What is most striking about Redick's development is how he has improved as a facilitator. He came into the league out of Duke as primarily a spot-up shooter, but has now become a solid ball-handler that can run the pick-and-roll and make plays for his teammates.
The Magic made Arron Afflalo the centerpiece of the Howard deal, indicating that he is their 2-guard of the future. Playing the same position, it would not make sense for Orlando to give Redick the big contract he will likely receive elsewhere.
Whether it is sustainable or a contract-year run, Redick's performance in 2012-13 means his run with the Magic is done.
Paul Millsap (Utah Jazz)
The Utah Jazz have no shortage of talented big men, and their depth has actually come to be somewhat of a problem. Both incumbent starters Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are free agents in the summer of 2013, and with Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, one, or both, will not return to the team.
At present it seems that Millsap is the odd man out. Though he is averaging 14.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 46.2 percent from beyond the arc, he is losing minutes to Favors and playing just 30.1 minutes a contest.
Millsap is a slightly undersized power forward, but he makes up for it with his strength and activity around the basket. He can bang in the paint with larger players and really attack the glass.
However, he is incapable of playing center, and Utah will likely opt to keep Jefferson, who spends plenty of time at the 5, instead.
The 27-year-old Millsap is in the prime of his career and could make an immediate impact on a playoff team looking to add some interior grit and dependable scoring to its roster.
Millsap may never make an All-Star team, but his intensity and consistent effort will earn him a lucrative contract outside of Salt Lake City.
O.J. Mayo (Dallas Mavericks)
When the Dallas Mavericks signed O.J. Mayo to a two-year, $8.2 million deal in the summer of 2012, they could not have possibly anticipated how well he would play early in the season.
With Dirk Nowitzki out due to knee surgery, Mayo shouldered the load on offense, averaging more than 20 points per game and leading the league in three-point percentage.
However, his numbers have decreased recently, as he now averages 18.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game while shooting 46.2 percent from the field and 46.3 percent from distance.
The combination of an illness and Nowitzki's return have had Mayo looking less comfortable offensively, and he has struggled with his shot, particularly from three-point range.
Even with this slump, he has certainly earned himself a hefty pay increase over the $4 million he is earning in 2012-13. He has a player option for 2013-14 and will likely look for a lucrative long-term deal with a different team.
There is plenty of uncertainty surrounding the Mavericks going forward as their team is built of expiring contracts, and that is not an ideal situation for a young, on-the-rise talent like Mayo.
Jose Calderon (Toronto Raptors)
After acquiring Kyle Lowry in a trade with the Houston Rockets, many people expected the Toronto Raptors to deal incumbent starter Jose Calderon, but the team opted to keep him to begin the 2012-13 season.
That plan has not exactly worked. The Raptors have seriously underachieved, jumping out to an 11-20 start. Calderon has played well, however, averaging 10.3 points, 2.7 rebounds and 7.6 dimes per game. He is also shooting 44.1 percent from the floor and an impressive 42.9 percent from deep.
Initially losing the starting job to Lowry, Calderon has managed to play strong basketball all year and even posted a pair of triple-doubles.
However, Lowry is a better fit going forward for this young and athletic Toronto team, and he provides more in the way of defense and scoring than Calderon, a pure passing point guard.
Calderon is earning $10.6 million for the 2012-13 campaign, and while he is unlikely to sign another eight-figure deal, a veteran team like the Dallas Mavericks should be willing to give him good money to run their offense.
He is one of the best facilitators in the league today, and that ability will earn him some serious interest from the NBA's United States contingent.
D.J. Augustin (Indiana Pacers)
The 2012-13 season has been one to forget for D.J. Augustin. He signed a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Indiana Pacers but has been playing only 13.7 minutes per game behind starter George Hill.
In such a diminished role, Augustin is averaging a mere 3.7 points, 0.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game while shooting just 28.3 percent from the field.
He is still a capable starter though, as he posted 17 points and six assists with four made three-pointers in his only start of the season against the Memphis Grizzlies' tough defense.
At 25 years old, Augustin is just entering the best years of his NBA career and will not want to waste them playing a marginal role for a fringe contender. He will likely jump at another opportunity to start, even if it means going to a rebuilding team.
Augustin has always had trouble scoring efficiently, but he has good court vision and can find open teammates. Plenty of teams could use an upgrade at point guard, and while Augustin is far from elite, he knows how to make his teammates better and does not turn the ball over much.
His dismal campaign will likely hurt his value on the open market, but Augustin will almost certainly bolt for more money and minutes in 2013-14.
Antawn Jamison (Los Angeles Lakers)
Antawn Jamison signed a one-year veteran's minimum deal with the Los Angeles Lakers to contend for a championship, but the team has gotten off to a rocky start and Jamison has not been pleased with his marginal role.
He won the 2004 Sixth Man of the Year Award, but has not adjusted well to a bench role for L.A., averaging just 7.2 points and 4.5 rebounds per game while shooting 43.9 percent from the field overall. To make matters worse, Jamison has been benched in several games despite being perfectly healthy.
Whether the Lakers manage to win a championship, and it certainly seems unlikely now, Jamison is not expected to return to the team. Even at 36, Jamison is too skilled of an offensive player to be logging a mere 20 minutes per game.
As a stretch-4 he creates serious matchup problems with his outside shooting, but also has the ability to get to the rim and finish in the paint. He is not a strong one-on-one defender due to his lack of quickness, but Jamison is a capable rebounder at 6'9".
Given his veteran status there is a chance he may retire at the season's end, but if not there are a number of teams that could use a classy veteran presence in the locker room and a sweet-shooting big man on the court.
What looked like a smart signing for Los Angeles has clearly gone sour, and it would be a shock if Jamison remained with the Lakers organization.
J.R. Smith (New York Knicks)
J.R. Smith signed a two-year, $5.7 million extension with the New York Knicks in the summer of 2012, but his excellent play makes it likely he will decline the second-year player option and test the free-agent waters.
Firmly entrenched as New York's sixth man, Smith is averaging 16.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists on 41.5 percent shooting overall and 36 percent from three-point territory. He is one of the leading candidates for Sixth Man of the Year and the Knicks' second-leading scorer.
Smith clearly fits with the city of New York, and the crowd has embraced him, but his stellar performance early in the season means he has the chance to earn some serious money in free agency. This could be one of his last chances to receive a hefty long-term contract as he is still in his prime.
One issue for Smith going forward will be getting his shots. With Amar'e Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert sidelined, Smith was the clear second option on offense, jacking up as many shots as he wanted to.
However, with Stat and Shumpert back, his touches and minutes should decrease somewhat.
Obviously the Knicks would love to retain him, but with so much of their money tied up in the huge deals of Carmelo Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler, it might prove difficult.
There is a chance Smith remains in New York, but it is by no means a guarantee as he will garner some serious interest.
Devin Harris (Atlanta Hawks)
The Atlanta Hawks received Devin Harris in exchange for Marvin Williams, but while Harris was an All-Star in 2009, he has had trouble staying healthy and playing consistent minutes.
Atlanta has two other guards in Jeff Teague and Louis Williams who dominate the ball, and Harris is playing just 23.1 minutes per game as a result. His stat line has suffered too, as he is posting 7.7 points, 1.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game on 44.1 percent shooting.
Harris will earn $8.5 million for the 2012-13 season, and while he is unlikely to earn that much as a free agent, some team in need of instant offense will be willing to pay for him either to start or to play the sixth man role.
Though he has lost some of his explosiveness with time, Harris is still capable of attacking the rim off the dribble, kicking out to open teammates and hitting a few outside shots per game. He is by no means an elite defender, but his quick hands help him to force steals and jump into passing lanes.
Williams is still under contract for 2013-14 and Teague is a restricted free agent, making Harris the odd man out in the Hawks' backcourt rotation. Harris is 29 years old and probably not a part of the team's future going forward.
Harris has clearly lost a step since his days with the New Jersey Nets, but he should still garner some decent interest on the open market.
Dwight Howard (Los Angeles Lakers)
Dwight Howard being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers seemed like a match made in heaven, but L.A. has limped out to a 15-16 start and has been one of the most dysfunctional teams in the league.
Howard claimed in an interview with the Los Angeles Times' T.J. Simers that he knows where he will play next year, but coming from Howard that should not instill confidence in anyone. With the amount of times his stance changed during his last year in Orlando, there is no way of knowing where Howard will end up until the ink dries on his contract.
Coming off of back surgery, Howard is averaging 17.3 points, 11.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.6 blocks per game, but is not looking quite as dominant as usual. He has had some difficulty co-existing with his new superstar teammates, and his struggles from the foul line have been heavily scrutinized by the public and the media.
Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash are aging and Pau Gasol is no longer a dominant power forward, making it likely that Los Angeles will be in complete rebuilding mode within a few years and then all of the scrutiny will fall on Howard's shoulders if the Lakers are not successful.
There are not a ton of teams that can throw a huge offer his way, but a team like the Dallas Mavericks could certainly make a play for him on the open market.
Howard could end up back in purple and gold, but given his indecisiveness it is far from a foregone conclusion.
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