Some say that money makes the world go 'round, and they would be 100 percent correct if they were talking about the NBA. Teams only have a certain amount of money to spend per season, and a small handful are definitely going to be breaking out the checkbooks this summer.
The 2013 free agent class is set to be a big one, with guys like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul hitting the open market. They are going to be in high demand, but only certain teams will have the means to make a pitch to them. Lots of money will be coming off the books for many teams, though, allowing them to chase big name free agents.
One team that is sure to be in spending mode is the Houston Rockets, who have about $10 million coming off the books. It's not much, but it is still enough for them to make a key move if the numbers are moved around in a certain way.
There are also teams like the Dallas Mavericks, who will have over $30 million coming off the books after this season.
Simply put, this summer's free agency class is going to be one to watch, and fans should keep an eye on the following teams once the negotiation period begins.
The Hawks are going to be in a great position this summer, one that probably has GM Danny Ferry shivering with anticipation. They have close to $50 million coming off the books, and can definitely use some of that to match any offer given to dynamic point guard and restricted free agent Jeff Teague.
How Atlanta uses the rest of its money could go in two different directions. They can either pursue a top power forward to replace Josh Smith, who is likely to depart via free agency, or find a 2-guard that is more reliable than Devin Harris.If the numbers are moved around correctly, the team will be able to sign both.
This summer is going to be a crossroads for Atlanta. Josh Smith's time is almost definitely over, and a new era is about to begin, one headlined by Teague and Al Horford. Ferry must choose his options wisely, though, as he is not only shopping for his team's needs, but for its future as well.
The Bucks have two priorities this summer, with about $31 million to spend. First, team management must bring back point man Brandon Jennings at any cost. He is a restricted free agent, and the Gilbert Arenas Rule will allow them to re-sign him, regardless of the money.
After that, the Bucks' main priority is simple: decide which position needs the most help.
Some may argue that shooting guard is the way to go, since Monta Ellis is likely to opt out of his deal, but the team already has Doron Lamb to step up and fill that role if necessary. The same can be said at the power forward positions, where John Henson has shown great potential this season.
Just the same, gambling on a benchwarmer in Lamb is risky. GM John Hammond's first priority should be to find help on the wing, whether it's Ellis or not. If Ellis walks, guys like J.J. Redick and Nick Young will be available.
Either man can continue the production at the 2 that Ellis has provided since being traded from Golden State last season, and providing Jennings with a go-to guy is the key to continued success in Milwaukee.
Jazz fans will either be very excited or greatly disappointed this summer. GM Ted Lindsey has nearly $50 million to play with, thanks to the heavy contracts of both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap coming off the books. However, do not expect him to pursue their replacements.
Utah already has two fine young bigs in Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, both of whom will likely step into the starting lineup once Millsap and Jefferson are gone. Rather, Lindsey should use that money to pursue phenomenal guards who can give the Jazz some help in the scoring department. Guys like Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick will be available, so landing one of them, while also re-signing Mo Williams, could be enough for the team to maintain its current pace while also improving as a whole.
It really all depends on what happens with Jefferson and Millsap. For all we know, one or both of them could be traded for a top guard this season, making Lindsey's sole priority re-signing Williams or bringing in a completely new point man. However, assuming that both bigs will finish the season in Utah, it's safe to say that Lindsey will be guard-shopping this summer, and with a lot of money to spend.
Dallas GM Donnie Nelson has $32 million to play with this season, and he'll need to use it to bring in plenty of help. The Mavericks need help practically everywhere, from small forward to point guard to even center.
Granted, if the team stays on its current pace, they will definitely have a high draft pick, which will also help. Nelson should still pursue top free agents because Dallas is nowhere near far enough removed from its championship season in 2011 to enter a rebuilding phase so soon.
Nelson needs to reach out to Al Jefferson, and he needs to give Jarrett Jack's reps a call. Also, why not contact Chris Paul and David West, just for good measure?
Yes, one can argue that Nelson will be in a bit of a pickle if all of those men show interest, but he just has to pick and choose who he feels fits the team's philosophy the most. In doing that, he can have a productive offseason and turn any and all acquisitions into money well spent.
With $36 million about to come off the books, San Antonio could pursue one of two roads this summer. GM R.C. Buford can either keep the core intact and re-sign Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson, or he can move on and choose to let head coach Gregg Popovich start using the young guns more. In the latter case, the money would be used to sign role players to complement the top unit.
The Spurs have already proven that they can compete without key players, with their reserves having nearly defeated the defending champion Miami Heat on November 29. Call me crazy, but that game is a sign that it's time to slowly start breaking up the band and letting the youngsters take over as the new era of Spurs basketball slowly begins.
Of course, Buford can choose to look past Ginobili being 36 years old by the start of next season and re-sign him anyway. He has helped the Spurs to three championships, and his three-point shooting and defense are still valuable to the team.
It's all going to depend on how San Antonio does in the postseason, not to mention how Ginobili feels. If he can be brought back, it will likely be with a huge pay cut and a short-term deal. If not, the team still has the tools to be great.
In the aftermath of the Rudy Gay trade, the Pistons are a different team. They have a fine pass-first point guard in Jose Calderon, but still have something of a hole at small forward. Nothing against Kyle Singler, but he is little more than a scorer and does not possess the defensive abilities required for the position.
Fortunately, the Pistons have over $47 million to spend this offseason, and a big splash can be made with guys like Josh Smith and Andre Iguodala available, not to mention Chase Budinger.
If GM Joe Dumars decides that Singler is the man he wants at the "3," then he needs to use all available money for one purpose: re-signing Calderon. This all depends on if the Spanish floor general is a hit in the Motor City, but Dumars should still work hard to bring him back, even if he is just mediocre.
Having Calderon in the lineup allows Brandon Knight to shift to shooting guard, a position better suited for him. Calderon also gives the Pistons a leader on the floor who looks to regularly create plays on top of being a scoring threat.
If both Calderon can be re-signed and a top small forward can be brought in, Detroit will finally start to rise up from the bottom of the barrel and get back in contention where it belongs.
Michael Jordan's Charlotte Bobcats are a young team, and $31 million worth of offseason money could be used to bring in a lot of helpful tools. The team has gaping holes at shooting guard and power forward, and there are plenty of players available in next year's free agent crop who can fill them.
The first thing that Jordan and GM Rich Cho must do is amnesty Tyrus Thomas. He is a solid dunker, but he is hurt far too often and is not worth the $26 million left on his deal.
Instead, Jordan and Cho should reach out to players like Josh Smith and Paul Millsap, both of whom bring a fine interior game and excellent defense to the table. If they can be sold on playing in Charlotte, then the team will be in a great position to improve over the next few years.
Charlotte should also reach out to J.J. Redick and/or Nick Young about taking over at shooting guard, assuming that Ben Gordon opts out of his current contract. The Bobcats need a shooting guard who can regularly score a decent number of points, night after night, and from multiple spots on the floor. Also, both Young and Redick can shoot threes as well as create off the dribble, so both would be great fits in Charlotte with Kemba Walker and Ramon Sessions getting them the ball.
It's just a matter of making certain numbers fall into place, and Charlotte can finally go from being the laughingstock of the NBA to a team that regularly performs well.
The Houston Rockets are a young and feisty run-and-gun team, and their ceiling is remarkably high. However, the team is without a solid power forward who can both work the low post and be a force on offense.
Patrick Patterson has talent, but does not have the interior presence required for head coach Kevin McHale's system. Marcus Morris has talent as a scorer, but not much else.
That said, GM Daryl Morey has many avenues that he could pursue with the immense amount of money that he has available to spend. Josh Smith is probably the best option at the position, with Paul Millsap and David West available as well.
It may be tough to land those guys, but Morey is the same man who managed to pull off a last-minute trade for James Harden right before the start of this season. Long story short, the man is a front-office wizard, and if there's anybody who can solve the Rockets' power forward issues with just over $10 million with which to work, it's him.