7 2013 NBA Free Agents Guranteed to Search for Huge Payday in Offseason

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 26, 2013

7 2013 NBA Free Agents Guranteed to Search for Huge Payday in Offseason

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    Stringent collective bargaining agreement be damned, there are still plenty of NBA free agents who will be searching for a monstrous payday this summer.

    While the Association's trade deadline was littered with arid, bordering-on-meaningless moves, the offseason promises to see much more action. Not in the sense that there will be more trades (there may), but in the sense that the free-agency period guarantees more player movement.

    From Chris Paul and Dwight Howard deciding upon their futures in Los Angeles to Josh Smith (finally) forcing his way out of Atlanta, we're staring down the barrel of a free-agency period that promises to advocate change, some of which will be expensive.

    Given the financial implications of the latest CBA, those "expensive" moves we speak of will be harder to come by. But that doesn't mean players will stop searching for max or even close-to-max contracts.

    Which athletes are set to do some window shopping this summer?

    Championship potential is an important aspect of the free-agency process, but for a few of this summer's most eligible talents, it will be more about the Benjamins than the rings.

     

    *All stats used in this article were compiled from Basketball-Reference, Synergy Sports and 82Games.com unless otherwise noted.

What Do We Mean by 'Search'?

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    Superstars like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul aren't going to have to "search" for money this summer; teams will gladly hand it over.

    The same goes for a player like Al Jefferson, among others. 

    When we're talking about players who will "search" for that big payday, we're considering only those whose market value hasn't been set. Howard and Paul are guaranteed max deals, while others just aren't.

    In these cases, certain athletes will be forced or inclined to test the market and see what kind of compensation their talents can yield.

    Comprende?

    Awesome. 

J.R. Smith, SG, New York Knicks

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    Age: 27

    2013 Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted (Player option)

    J.R. Smith, as always, has had some moments to forget, but he's in the middle of a season to remember.

    Smith is averaging a career-high in points (16), rebounds (4.9) and has tied a career best in assists (2.8) per game. His shot selection remains questionable (40.1-percent shooting), but he's hitting on a respectable 34.6 percent of his three-pointers.

    As a Sixth Man of the Year candidate, Smith has matured a great deal under New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson. He's not immune to committing a boneheaded play every now and again, but his restraint on offense and commitment on defense is at an all-time high.

    Last summer, Smith signed a two-year pact at a steep discount. He's making just over $2.8 million this season, with a player option for $2.9 million heading into next year.

    Given the season he's having, I can't imagine Smith not exploring free agency. This is his time to cash in. Past struggles, coupled with a guard-heavy market, could taper his value, but he's due for a raise regardless.

    How much will he be paid and will the Knicks be the ones doing the paying?

    We'll just have to wait and see.

Paul Millsap, PF, Utah Jazz

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    Age: 28

    2013 Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Anyone else surprised Paul Millsap is still a member of the Utah Jazz?

    The oft-prolific power forward seemed like a lock to be dealt leading into this year's trade deadline, but the Jazz held onto him. Now, he seems like a lock to leave this summer.

    As a power forward who can score from anywhere on the floor and is tallying 15.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 1.1 blocks per game, Millsap is going to be a hot commodity on the open market.

    With Derrick Favors waiting in line behind him, Utah is unlikely to meet his inevitable asking price. But another team will. We think.

    Millsap is earning $7.2 million this season and is due for a significant raise. While he's considered a star in many circles, he's never been named to an All-Star team nor has he been someone the Jazz have attempted to build around.

    He'll easily be looking for $10 million-plus annually, a price someone is bound to pay. How much above $10 million he'll receive and how much interest he ultimately draws, though, remains to be seen.

Jarrett Jack, PG, Golden State Warriors

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    Age: 29

    2013 Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    No, I'm not kidding. Jarrett Jack is going to try and get paid.

    Spending most of his career as an afterthought, Jack has proved that he can make a sizable contribution to a winning team during his ongoing stint with the Golden State Warriors.

    He's averaging 13.8 points and six assists per game, and shooting a whopping 42.7 percent from behind the rainbow. In fact, he's one of just three players in the NBA averaging at least 13 points and six assists per game while shooting 40 percent or better from three.

    The other two?

    LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

    What I also continue to marvel at is Jack's ability to play off the ball. A point guard at heart, he has spent a majority of his minutes manning the shooting-guard position in Golden State. That hasn't stopped him from assisting on about a third of his team's basket's while on the floor, though.

    Impressed?

    You should be, as will any team in the market for his services this summer.

    Presently, Jack is earning a very reasonable $5.5 million, but he'll undoubtedly be looking for more.

    Will the Warriors pony up the cash necessary to retain him? Or will another team outbid them?

    Jack will be a highly sought-after target this summer and his pockets are going to get stuffed.

    We're just not sure how stuffed.

Josh Smith, F, Atlanta

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    Age: 27

    2013 Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Josh Smith appears destined to spurn the Atlanta Hawks this summer. What isn't as certain is how much money he'll receive in the process.

    Few players are as athletically gifted and effective on both ends of the floor as Smith, but his attitude presents a dilemma for any team not equipped to meet the needs of a self-proclaimed superstar.

    Still, it's difficult to refute Smith's worth on the floor. He's currently the only player in the league averaging at least 15 points, five rebounds, four assists and two blocks per game. His value from a defensive standpoint is undeniable and his ability to stretch the floor is one that will be coveted league-wide.

    Versatile as he is, though, Smith is a tumultuous shooter. He's hitting on a career-high 33.6 percent of his deep balls, but the fact that a 33.6 percent clip is a career high is troubling.

    Shortcomings and absence of an All-Star appearance aside, Smith's current performance is right in line with the $13.2 million he is currently making. 

    Why is he going to have to scour the masses during the offseason then?

    Because he fancies himself a max-contract player.

    Impressive a talent as Smith may be, there's no telling whether teams will invest larger-than-life sums of money in a supposed star who has never made it out of the second round of the playoffs. Atlanta surely won't.

    It will be interesting to see if other teams follow suit.

Andrew Bynum, C, Philadelphia 76ers

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    Age: 25

    2013 Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted

    Seriously, what can we say at this point?

    Upon being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, a gargantuan contract worth nearly nine figures was a formality for Andrew Bynum. But then Bynum had to go ahead and be all Bynum-like.

    The oft-considered second-best center in the game has yet to see a minute of action this season and has cast some serious doubt on what is going to happen this summer. Not just with the Sixers, but with everyone.

    Can Philly offer a max contract to someone who is all but guaranteed to play in fewer than 20 games this season? Will any other team be prepared to do the same?

    On the heels of his first All-Star appearance during a year that saw him average 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game, Bynum has been a disappointment. Of all the regular-season games he has been eligible to play in during his career, he has now missed more than 35 percent of them.

    Again, I ask, how can the Sixers or any other team throw a max contract his way now?

    Knowing that Bynum has spent more than a third of his career on the shelf and that Philadelphia is currently paying him $16.5 million to sit on the sidelines and experiment with various hairdos, no one will readily toss nearly $100 million his way.

    Which will leave Bynum in search of an unwitting faction (Sixers or not) that will.

Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks

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    Age: 23

    2013 Free-Agency Status: Restricted

    Fresh off his rookie deal, Brandon Jennings deserves a raise from the $3.2 million he's presently earning, just not a Stephen Curry or Ty Lawson-sized increase.

    Though Jennings is averaging 18.9 points and 6.1 assists per game for the Milwaukee Bucks this season, he remains wildly inefficient. He's shooting 36.9 percent from three-point range, yes, but he's hitting on just 40.3 percent of his shot attempts overall.

    Being a restricted free agent, the Bucks can match any and all offers Jennings receives, and all signs point to them doing just that. But after watching Curry and Lawson, and even Jrue Holiday, land massive extensions earlier in the season, Jennings is going to be seeing dollar signs. And lots of them.

    Offensively inclined as Jennings may be, it's difficult to imagine Milwaukee investing $10 million or more in him annually. The Bucks can offer him more money than any other team, yet I can't picture them maxing Jennings out.

    How much is his volume scoring worth then?

    The Bucks, when they either match an offer he receives or allow him to traipse his way to another team, will be the judge of that.

O.J. Mayo, SG, Dallas Mavericks

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    Age: 25

    2013 Free-Agency Status: Unrestricted (Player option)

    No one, not even the Dallas Mavericks, is going to be able to steal O.J. Mayo this summer.

    Dallas picked Mayo for nearly half of what he was slated to make with the Memphis Grizzlies last year, signing him to a two-year deal that paid him $4 million annually. Mayo has the option to forego the second year of his deal, though, and become an unrestricted free agent.

    Which he will.

    Why?

    Because he's averaging 17.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game while shooting 45.9 percent from the field overall and 40.8 percent from downtown.

    Not many wings have the ability to defend as many positions as Mayo can. At 6'4" and with a working knowledge of the point-guard position, he can defend three out of the five positions on the floor.

    Offensively, he's a versatile gem, someone who can handle the playmaking responsibilities for his teammates, create opportunities for himself or play off the ball when needed.

    Following a disappointing campaign in Memphis, Mayo has really been able to distinguish himself in Dallas. He's one of just five players in the league averaging at least 15 points and four assists per game while shooting 40 percent from outside. That puts him in the company of Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.

    Still believe he's going to pick up that player option of his?

    I didn't think so.