Potential 2013 Free-Agent Disasters That Could Cripple NBA Franchises
The 2012-13 NBA season is officially winding down, which means we're inching closer and closer to free agency.
For some teams, free agency is a time to improve. But for others, it's a time to avoid losing one of their best assets.
Some teams have a lot to gain, while others are avoiding catastrophe. It's tough to predict where each player will land, but while some teams will stay intact, others will worry about what comes next.
Note: All salary info was collected from HoopsHype.
Backcourt Bails on Bucks
When Monta Ellis was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, the team was supposed to have one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA. Needless to say, Ellis and Brandon Jenninngs have been respectable together, but their looming contract situations have given fans cause for concern.
With the two scorers in the lineup, the Bucks have become a playoff team that have given the Miami Heat some trouble. The problem is that they've only established themselves as an eighth seed, which doesn't give them much room to fall should both guards depart.
As the 12th-best scoring team in the NBA, Milwaukee could find ways to make up the difference if one chooses to go. However, the two of them combine for nearly 40 points a game, making them a tough tandem to replace should they go their separate ways.
Don't forget also that J.J. Redick will have the option to leave in free agency. There's really no telling what this team will look like in 2013-14, but the year could end up being a struggle if the summer doesn't go its way.
Chris Paul Shocks the Clips
With the 2012-13 season winding down, nobody's making much noise about Chris Paul's contract. He's arguably the game's best point guard on one of the top teams out West, and people have seemingly forgotten that he's set to become a free agent.
Nobody wants to think about it, but if the 27-year-old decides to leave the Los Angeles Clippers, it will spell trouble for the energetic franchise.
The Clippers have an incredibly deep roster, and it can be argued that they'd remain relevant without their superstar. The question, though, becomes how long until that depth disappears with Paul?
Between the 2013 and 2014 offseasons, this team will have Matt Barnes, Chauncey Billups, Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe—among others—up for new deals. Without Paul leading the way, you have to wonder how many will want to come back.
The way things are going for this group, it'd be surprising to see Paul go elsewhere, but stranger things have happened in a league full of surprises.
J.J. Hickson Out, No Center in for Portland
J.J. Hickson is an exciting young player who is making a legitimate case for the Most Improved Player award. He's become a top-10 rebounder, he's fifth in double-doubles and his energy has allowed his team to compete night in and night out despite being undersized.
The problem for the Portland Trail Blazers is that he's playing for a contract, and they may not be able to retain him when the year comes to an end.
Portland is set to have cap space, so losing Hickson won't be catastrophic if it can find a solid replacement. However, if the team lets its man walk and can't bring in another big body, 2013-14 will be a struggle in the paint.
The Blazers have Meyers Leonard, a 7'1" rookie, backing up Hickson. He's shown potential, especially when given the chance get out in transition, but his talent is raw and he gets bullied on the block regularly.
Portland finally severed ties with Greg Oden back in 2012, which means until it finds a center, the roster will remain in flux despite an otherwise solid starting lineup.
Hedo Turkoglu Opts in to Orlando's Rebuild
The Orlando Magic have made it clear that it's time to rebuild. With Dwight Howard gone, the team is looking to start fresh, and needless to say, Hedo Turkoglu doesn't appear to be a long-term option.
Turkoglu has two options when it comes to his free-agent status. He can either opt out of his deal and find a contender, or he stay with a struggling team and make a boatload of money.
Orlando would love to retain the $12,000,000 it will owe him in 2013-14, but if Turkoglu is smart, he'll stick around and collect the money he won't make anywhere else.
The Magic have become a young team, and if they hope to continue growing organically, they'll need more minutes for future prospects.
Every team needs leadership, but a 2.9 points-per-game average in 11 games played isn't what Orlando is looking for.
Ben Gordon Sticks Around Charlotte
Like the Orlando Magic, the Charlotte Bobcats would benefit from extra cap space moving forward. There's not much incentive for free agents to join this squad, but having money to flaunt would be a step in the right direction.
From a performance standpoint, a player of Ben Gordon's caliber is actually what the Bobcats are looking for. He's averaging nearly 12 points per contest in just 21.4 minutes, and his three-point shot continues to keep defenses honest.
But for all the points Gordon has put on the board, it hardly justifies the $13.2 million he's set to make, especially when you consider any off-the-court issues.
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Gordon and head coach Mike Dunlap briefly feuded in February. The 2-guard was refusing to follow orders in practice, which led to speculation that the team was determined to trade him before the deadline.
If Gordon sticks around Charlotte, it will be for the money—money the Bobcats could use to help rebuild their franchise.
Dwight Howard Leaves L.A.
The Los Angeles Lakers brought in Dwight Howard to be the long-term piece that kept the organization moving forward in the post-Kobe Bryant era.
If the big man leaves, it will add a serious twist to the team's plans.
It's no secret that Howard hasn't been himself throughout the 2012-13 season. His athleticism and conditioning, although improving, have been points of discussion for all the wrong reasons, but he's shown that he can still dominate in a league lacking great big men.
At less than 100 percent, Howard is still the best center in the game. He's leading the league in rebounding, he's blocking nearly 2.5 shots per game and he's shooting a ridiculous 57.1 percent from the field.
His 16.5 points are lower than what we're used to seeing, but put that number alongside his other statistics and you have someone who is virtually irreplaceable in today's NBA.
If Howard walks, the Lakers need to get back to the drawing board quickly. Nobody is going to claim that 2012-13 has been a success, but losing their center would be a giant leap backward for a struggling organization.