The 2013 NBA trade deadline passed on Feb. 21—very quietly—and very few deals were made. All of the major names that circulated in the hours prior to the 2013 NBA trade deadline will begin to make headlines anew this summer when the crop becomes free agents.
Teams will still be pursuing Josh Smith on draft night, and the same holds true for Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and even Dwight Howard. Some, even all, of the free agents available will just sign outright as free agents, but there could be some sign-and-trade agreements in the works.
Regardless of means of purchase, teams will come knocking on the doors of a few prize free agents, whom we'll take a peek at here.
Adrian Wojnarowski reported at the deadline that the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks were the front runners for Josh Smith.
Milwaukee, Phoenix emerging as frontrunners for Josh Smith deal, league sources tell Y! Sports. Boston still a "darkhorse," one source says.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojYahooNBA) February 21, 2013
Expect the Suns to make another run this summer. The team is positioned to be well below the cap. They'll look to acquire Smith outright, but could make a sign-and-trade deal with the Hawks.
The Suns have some assets to offer: Marcin Gortat, Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley—as well as several first-round picks.
The Suns want Smith in Phoenix not only to focus their rebuilding efforts around, but also to help sell tickets. The Suns have struggled with attendance, and having a former Slam Dunk champ playing in the Valley of the Sun could significantly improve their prospects of selling season tickets and injecting life back into the team.
The San Antonio Spurs were said to be interested in Al Jefferson, according to Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops. Jefferson to San Antonio has real legs, because he is the type of player who would fit well in Gregg Popovich's system.
Jefferson is also the high-character type of guy who the Spurs organization prefers, and he'd fit seamlessly into the procession of great Spurs players that has kept the franchise relevant contenders for 15-plus years.
The Spurs' cap situation (via Hoopsworld) is tenuous with Manu Ginobili's contract expiring, but they could be able to tender a nice contract to Jefferson depending on how negotiations go with Ginobili. A contract in the range of $10 to $15 million could get it done, and the high end of that is what Al Jeff is currently receiving.
The Utah Jazz were said to be seeking a point guard according to Marc Stein of ESPN, and the Spurs have Patty Mills backing up Tony Parker. Mills piqued interest around the league this summer with his play in the 2012 Olympics, and the Jazz may feel he could be their starting floor general of the future.
It would obviously take more than Mills to acquire Jefferson, but he'd be a featured piece in any package.
Paul Millsap was rumored to be connected to the L.A. Clippers in the days that approached the 2013 trade deadline, and Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that the Jazz were considering dealing the power forward for Clippers backup point guard Eric Bledsoe.
The Clippers are in a precarious situation: Chris Paul is on an expiring contract, and Eric Bledsoe is drawing a lot of interest around the league. Do the Clippers trade Bledsoe before securing Paul to a long-term deal, or do they play it safe and retain Bledsoe until they are absolutely certain they can and will sign Paul?
Obtaining Millsap for Bledsoe almost sounds like a dream scenario for Clippers' brass, because it fills a need for frontcourt depth while eliminating a luxury in Bledsoe. Even if Millsap isn't dealt for Bledsoe, the Jazz will not be starting next season with Mo Williams and Jamaal Tinsley as their top point guards.
Back in October 2012, Dwight Howard revealed to ESPN's Mike Mazzeo that he had wished for a trade to the Brooklyn Nets during the 2011-12 NBA season. That trade may still be yet to come.
Chris Sheridan speculated that the Nets could acquire Dwight Howard via a sign-and-trade.
Howard's desire to join up with Deron Williams, Jay-Z and Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov could give birth to a sign-and-trade centered around Brook Lopez.
Lopez had been linked to Dwight Howard in a deal as the 2012 trade deadline approached, but Lopez's season-ending injury last year put a quash on those rumors.
Sure, Howard could settle down in L.A. and sign an extension, but as fickle as Howard has been over the last two seasons, what guarantee would the Lakers have that they could keep him happy once signed?
Brandon Jennings told the Dallas Morning News that he really wanted to play in Dallas:
Yeah, of course. You've got an owner who's so into his team. Every time you see the Mavs, you see him cheering or going crazy. They won a championship. They're about winning.
There's a good chance this happens. Jennings refuted initial reports that he had "irreconcilable differences" with Bucks management, but he's a restricted free agent, and if he doesn't want to play in Milwaukee, the Bucks could work a sign-and-trade.
The Mavs don't really have many suitable assets to offer for Jennings, but Mark Cuban will likely part with whatever it takes to obtain Jennings if it comes down to a sign-and-trade. This speculation can fully be expected to re-emerge, but there's just little chance it actually happens.