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The One 2013 Free Agent Each NBA Team Should Already Be Eyeing

Brendan BowersContributor IIApril 14, 2013

The One 2013 Free Agent Each NBA Team Should Already Be Eyeing

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    The one 2013 free agent that each NBA team should already be eyeing is a player who fills a specific need while also being able to fit within salary-cap restraints.

    With the increased luxury tax penalties set to begin next season—as detailed by Larry Coon's NBA Salary Cap FAQ—the free agents identified with each team include only those who could be afforded while avoiding those penalties as much as possible.

    In projecting as much, a luxury tax ranging between $70-72 million for 2013-14 was roughly assumed. 

    This list considers all players currently scheduled to become either restricted or unrestricted free agents according to ESPN.com.  

    The total salary dollars already committed by each team were also identified using Hoopsworld.com's salary tracker as a reference. 

    In some cases, the player each team should be keeping a close eye on is a restricted free agent on its own roster. In others, it is a minimum-contract player needed to simply fill out a roster while avoiding tax penalties, as well as max-contract players who could reshape the face of a franchise.

Atlanta Hawks: Dwight Howard, Center

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $18,583,800

    After a tumultuous first season with the Los Angeles Lakers, Dwight Howard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. 

    There will obviously be a number of teams competing with the Lakers for his services, but the Atlanta Hawks have two compelling reasons to believe acquiring Howard is a real possibility.

    The former Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy star was born and raised in Atlanta, and the Hawks have put themselves in a financial position to absorb his salary.

    With contracts committed to only Al Horford, Lou Williams and John Jenkins heading into free agency, Atlanta could afford to pay Howard a max deal while also adding significant pieces around him. 

    Teaming Howard up alongside Al Horford in his hometown could provide the stability that Dwight has been looking for on and off the court over the last few years. Doing so could also turn the Hawks into a legitimate threat to win the Eastern Conference as soon as Howard arrives.

Boston Celtics: Louis Amundson, Power Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $62,604,091

    If the Boston Celtics decide to part ways with future Hall of Famer Paul Pierce this summer, their approach to free agency changes dramatically.

    Only $5 million of Pierce's $15.3 million deal is guaranteed for 2013-14. These dollars are reflected in the committed salary total highlighted above, and an additional $10.3 million would be needed for Boston to secure Pierce's services throughout the season.

    Doing so, in all likelihood, would put the Celtics over the luxury tax threshold. But because I cannot imagine Pierce playing for any other team—along with his productive stat-line of 18.8 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.8 assists—Boston's target at this point should be an extremely inexpensive big.  

    The Celtics rank 29th in rebounding at 39.4 per game in 2012-13. So while hoping for a healthy return from Jared Sullinger to improve on the glass, along with Fab Melo contributing on the NBA level, Louis Amundson is a 6'9" power forward who could be signed on the cheap.

    After appearing in the 2012 playoffs with the Indiana Pacers, Amundson has spent time with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Chicago Bulls this year before being signed by the New Orleans Hornets.

Brooklyn Nets: Sam Young, Small Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $84,445,148

    The Brooklyn Nets are on schedule to be one of the hardest hit teams by the increased luxury tax penalties in 2013-14.

    If this year's luxury tax line of $70.3 million is any barometer, the Nets could be paying upwards of $20 million in taxes—in addition to their $84.4 million payroll.  

    They will not be adding any significant pieces in free agency as a result without making a major trade.

    In an attempt to fill the type of role that Jerry Stackhouse assumed off the bench moving forward, however, unrestricted free agent Sam Young is a possibility.

    On a $416,527 contract with the Indiana Pacers, the 6'6" small forward has appeared in 54 games during 2012-13. He's averaged 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds in 12.2 minutes of work per night and could be acquired on a minimum deal.

Charlotte Bobcats: Al Jefferson, Center

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $40,161,207

    Ben Gordon could do the Charlotte Bobcats a tremendous favor by declining his $13.2 million player option for 2013-14.

    Unfortunately for Bobcats Nation, however, there's nobody else lining up to pay Gordon that type of money. His contract for next year was assumed in the committed salary total above for that reason.

    Even with the commitment to Gordon, though, the Bobcats could still bring in a high-impact player in free agency to help Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist field a competitive team.

    Unrestricted free agent Al Jefferson does specifically that, while instantly improving the No. 28 ranked scoring offense at 93.1 points per game in 2012-13.

    It might take a max contract to land Jefferson, but the impact he'd make in the win column could be well worth the investment. 

Chicago Bulls: Marco Belinelli, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $73,104,343

    Only $1 million of Richard Hamilton's $5 million contract for 2013-14 is guaranteed.

    To keep Hamilton in Chicago, then, it would cost the Bulls an additional $4 million—bringing the total commitments to a projected figure of approximately $77 million.

    As a result of extending that far into the luxury tax, the Bulls could be shopping for a shooting guard to replace Hamilton on a $2.5 million-ish deal.

    If they can re-sign unrestricted free agent Marco Belinelli at that price, the Bulls may not need to look any further than their own locker room.

    Averaging 9.6 points and two assists for the Bulls during 25.9 minutes per night, Belinelli has provided great value on a $1.9 million contract.

    Playing alongside a healthy Derrick Rose moving forward, Belinelli only becomes more effective.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Corey Brewer, Small Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $27,483,284

    As a fan of the Cleveland Cavaliers, I'm highly tempted to suggest Al Jefferson as the player that general manager Chris Grant should be keeping an eye on.

    Pairing Jefferson with Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and a healthy Anderson Varejao could result in a 2014 playoff berth.

    But while I imagine this same hypothetical has been discussed, signing the 28-year-old Jefferson to a multi-year contract isn't why the Cavaliers created all of the salary cap flexibility they now have.

    They will enter the summer of 2014 looking to add a max player in free agency.

    Until then, unrestricted free agent Corey Brewer is a player to target at a reasonable price point who would add needed credibility to the defensive attack on the perimeter.

Dallas Mavericks: Josh Smith, Small Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $27,898,653

    The Dallas Mavericks are in a position to acquire a max-contract player via free agency.

    While they will make a run at Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, a more likely match is unrestricted free agent Josh Smith.

    After averaging 17.6 points and 8.5 rebounds for the Atlanta Hawks in 2012-13, Smith could combine with Dirk Nowitzki to help Dallas back into the 2014 playoffs.

    Whether Smith deserves a maximum deal or not, the Mavericks will be eager to return to postseason play after missing out for the first time in 12 years this season.

    The 2013-14 campaign could also be the Mavs' last opportunity to win with Nowitzki, and Smith increases their chances to do that dramatically.

Denver Nuggets: Andre Iguodala, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $51,737,846

    In a conversation with Fox Sports Florida's Chris Tomasson on March 30, Andre Iguodala indicated that he is likely to opt out of the final year of his contract with the Denver Nuggets this summer.

    That final season is valued at $16.2 million for 2013-14, but it includes an early-termination option that results in an unrestricted free agent status for Iguodala.

    While adding needed strength to the Nuggets' attack defensively, Iguodala has averaged 12.7 points, 5.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds in 2012-13. He has helped Denver to a No. 3 seed in the Western Conference along the way and could provide a similar impact moving forward.

    With less than $52 million guaranteed, keeping Iguodala in a Nuggets uniform must remain a priority for Denver in free agency.

Detroit Pistons: J.J. Redick, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $21,176,686

    After trading Tayshaun Prince to the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this season, the future of the Detroit Pistons officially revolves around Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Brandon Knight exclusively.

    In an effort to help Knight in the backcourt—while spacing the floor to allow Monroe and Drummond room to operate inside—J.J. Redick is a player for the Pistons front office to keep an eye on.

    Redick is scoring a career-high 14.1 points per night in 2012-13 after averaging double figures since 2010.

    If he can be acquired for a value close to the $6.2 million he's currently earning, Redick would make a lot of sense for the Pistons moving forward.

Golden State Warriors: Jarrett Jack, Point Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $44,949,902

    The Golden State Warriors have just under $45 million guaranteed for 2013-14.

    At the same time, though, they also have player options out to Richard Jefferson, Carl Landry and Brandon Rush totaling just over an additional $19 million. 

    So while the Warriors won't have too much room to maneuver in free agency, they should find a way to re-sign unrestricted free agent Jarrett Jack.

    While Jack could have an opportunity to earn more than the $5.4 million he is now elsewhere, he would continue to play a critical role on a playoff team moving forward if he stays in Golden State.

    In 2012-13, Jack is averaging 13 points and 5.5 assists while helping the Warriors to the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference.

Houston Rockets: J.J. Hickson, Power Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $39,338,522

    Dwight Howard and Josh Smith appear to be targets No. 1 and 1a respectively for the Houston Rockets once free agency begins. 

    After attempting to acquire Howard via trade last summer, the Rockets have positioned themselves with the cap space needed to sign a max-level player of his magnitude now as a free agent.

    In a back-up plan scenario, however, unrestricted free agent J.J. Hickson is worth keeping an eye on in Houston.

    As a starter for the Portland Trail Blazers, Hickson is averaging a double-double at 12.9 points and 10.5 rebounds.

    His offensive touch around the basket would complement Omer Asik's game on the interior, and Hickson will be available for a fraction of the cost associated with Howard and Smith.

Indiana Pacers: David West, Power Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $48,998,027

    The Indiana Pacers do not need to look far for their primary free-agent target this summer. 

    While averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per night, David West has been a stabilizing force for the playoff-bound Pacers all season.

    He has helped Paul George lead Indiana to a No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, despite missing Danny Granger to injury for most of the year. 

    West will become an unrestricted free agent after earning $10 million in 2012-13 and must be locked up before any additional signings are pursued by the Pacers.

Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul, Point Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $45,285,589

    With Blake Griffin locked up through 2017, the Los Angeles Clippers will now exhaust their efforts to re-sign unrestricted free agent Chris Paul this summer.

    They will have plenty of cap space to do so as well, assuming a luxury tax threshold in the $70 million range, and the chances are good that Paul remains with the Clippers heading into 2013-14.

    Since arriving in Los Angeles, Paul has completely reshaped a culture of perennial losing into one that now expects to advance deep into the playoffs.

    The NBA's best point guard is also the primary reason why the Clippers have an opportunity to contend for a Western Conference title for many years to come if he re-ups with his current team.

Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard, Center

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $68,103,755

    The Los Angeles Lakers will need to bite the luxury tax bullet in 2013-14 and sign Dwight Howard to a maximum contract.

    This is as obvious as it is important for the future of Lakers, as well as for the future of Dwight Howard.  

    Though he will be pursued by every NBA team with the cap space needed to do so this summer, Howard and the Lakers are best served together. 

    He has both the ability and potential to be the face of the franchise long after Kobe Bryant retires, and Howard will only improve his production from the slow start he had to his Lakers career in 2012-13.

Memphis Grizzlies: J.J. Redick, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $32,431,769

    Even if Zach Randolph activates his player option for $16.5 million in 2013-14, the Memphis Grizzlies will still have enough room to add a significant piece via free agency. 

    Unfortunately, the long-term replacement for Rudy Gay at small forward may not be among the available free agents this summer. 

    At the shooting guard spot, though, J.J. Redick would improve the Grizzlies' offensive attack from the perimeter.

    Shooting only 34.4 percent from three-point range and 44.4 percent overall, Memphis ranks 24th and 21st respectively in each category.

    Though there will be competition for his services, Redick is a player Memphis should be keeping an eye on to help in each area. 

Miami Heat: Jannero Pargo, Point Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $75,547,200

    The Miami Heat will be minimally involved in free agency this summer.

    With a team option on Mario Chalmers for $4 million, though—which would help extend the Heat past the luxury tax threshold in 2013-14—an inexpensive option at point guard could be worth investigating.  

    Jannero Pargo, having played in the NBA for parts of nine seasons, could be that minimally priced free agent option.

    After signing a 10-day contract with the Charlotte Bobcats on March 24, Pargo's averaged 8.3 points in six games during the month of April, playing 15.8 minutes per night.

Milwaukee Bucks: Paul Millsap, Power Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $29,555,523

    The futures of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis with the Milwaukee Bucks are very much an unknown beyond this season. 

    Each of the Bucks' two top scorers could be playing elsewhere in 2013-14, and Milwaukee will be very active in free agency as a result. 

    But besides eventually identifying a direction in the backcourt, Paul Millsap could help solidify the Bucks' attack up front moving forward.

    Pairing Millsap alongside the defensive-minded Larry Sanders would strengthen Milwaukee's scoring attack around the basket while also providing a foundation to build around.

    Millsap is averaging 14.8 points and 7.1 rebounds in 2012-13 for the Utah Jazz while sharing shot opportunities with teammate Al Jefferson. 

Minnesota Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic, Center

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $37,670,378

    In the follow up to the 13.9 points and 7.4 rebounds that Nikola Pekovic averaged in 2011-12, he's improved each category to 16.3 and 8.8 respectively for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.

    The 27-year-old center has caught the NBA's attention as a result and will generate substantial interest in free agency this summer.

    Pekovic is a restricted free agent with a qualifying offer of $6 million. The Timberwolves would be best served by approaching free agency with the primary goal of keeping Pekovic in Minnesota.

    If they do, he could combine with Ricky Rubio and a healthy Kevin Love to help contend for a playoff spot in 2013-14. 

New Orleans Hornets: Al Jefferson, Center

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    2012-13 Committed Salary: $33,457,332

    Despite a subpar performance that saw Austin Rivers average 6.1 points and 2.1 assists on just 37.2 percent shooting as a rookie, it's too early to give up on the 10th overall pick from 2012. 

    The need to add a point guard in free agency this summer becomes even less imperative when considering the value that Greivis Vasquez has provided at 13.1 points and 9.1 assists.

    Meanwhile, the New Orleans Hornets rank just 25th in points per game as well as 20th in rebounding.

    Al Jefferson would provide immediate returns by improving each category dramatically.

    The attention Jefferson commands on the inside would also allow Anthony Davis to move more freely around the basket, while increasing the win total dramatically in New Orleans.

New York Knicks: Keith Bogans, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $74,752,510

    The New York Knicks will enter free agency with a committed salary total already extended past the luxury tax line. 

    This is without J.R. Smith activating his $2.9 million player option in 2013-14; we'd have to assume he's out-earned by his performance in 2012-13.

    As a result, the Knicks may be looking for a shooting guard who could potentially fill those minutes vacated by Smith at a price that prevents them from advancing too much further into the tax.

    Keith Bogans, while not an exciting option, earned only $1.2 million with the Brooklyn Nets in 2012-13.

    He will become an unrestricted free agent this summer who could be acquired for even less after averaging just 4.2 points in 19 minutes per night for the Nets. 

Oklahoma City Thunder: J.R. Smith, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $64,793,678

    At first glance, J.R. Smith may not be a player who appears to fit the Oklahoma City Thunder model we've come to know over the last several years. 

    In his ninth NBA season, however, Smith has approached his role off the bench with the New York Knicks as professionally as he ever has throughout his career in 2012-13. 

    After scoring 18.1 points to go along with 5.1 rebounds through Saturday, he is likely to turn down his player option for $2.9 million in 2013-14. 

    If Smith can be then acquired on a multi-year deal at an annual range of $6 million—keeping the Thunder just under the luxury tax line collectively—he could be an intriguing option.

    His scoring ability would help fill the role first vacated by James Harden, on a much less expensive contract than the $12.4 million earned by Kevin Martin since.

Orlando Magic: Brandon Jennings, Point Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $42,302,972

    If the Milwaukee Bucks are indeed not willing to match an offer for restricted free agent Brandon Jennings, the Orlando Magic would be wise to keep a close eye on Jennings this summer.

    The 2013-14 campaign will be the last fully guaranteed year on 31-year-old Jameer Nelson's current contract.

    Depending on exactly how much they'd be required to spend, the 23-year-old Jennings could align well with the rebuilding effort in Orlando. 

    Pairing Jennings with a young core that includes Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, along with veteran Arron Afflalo, could improve the opportunity to compete both next season and beyond. 

Philadelphia 76ers: Tony Allen, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $41,696,841

    Tony Allen would be only one in a series of moves required to dig out of the post-Andrew Bynum experiment that engulfed the 2012-13 campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

    By providing a defensive presence in the backcourt alongside All-Star Jrue Holiday, however, he could become a valuable piece in that equation. 

    Highlighted by the staters' minutes awarded to Damien Wilkins recently, the Sixers have a gaping need at shooting guard heading into free agency.

    Though the 31-year-old Allen may not be a long-term solution, he could help stabilize a unit that left Jrue Holiday alone on a island for most of the season. 

    Allen would also add the defensive toughness and veteran leadership lost by the departure of Andre Iguodala. He could be acquired on a reasonable deal after earning $3.3 million with the Memphis Grizzlies.

Phoenix Suns: Andrew Bynum, Center

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $44,420,504

    The Phoenix Suns are on their way to finishing in the Western Conference cellar.

    Why not take a gamble on Andrew Bynum by attempting to lure him to Phoenix with as many dollars as necessary at this point?

    The reward could be that Bynum regains his All-Star form from 2012 and becomes the face of the franchise for the Suns in the post-Steve Nash era.

    The risk, of course—assuming you're a glass-half-empty type person—is that Bynum remains inactive and never plays again.

    If you are the Suns, however, that might be a risk you're willing to take. Drastic times call for drastic measures. 

Portland Trail Blazers: Randy Foye, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $43,240,658

    The Portland Trail Blazers were a second unit away from making the playoffs in 2012-13.

    Heading into free agency, their primary objective will be to improve a bench that is scoring a league-worst 18.4 points per game according to Hoopsstats.com through Saturday.

    Randy Foye is an unrestricted free agent who is coming off a $2.5 million deal with the Utah Jazz.

    He is currently scoring in double-figures at 10.8 points per night for the sixth time in his seven-year NBA career. 

    Foye would provide scoring depth for the Trail Blazers at a reasonable value in 2013-14 and should be pursued this summer via free agency as a result. 

San Antonio Spurs: J.R. Smith, Shooting Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $32,884,578

    Led by Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, the San Antonio Spurs are a winning culture that could help continue to bring out the best in J.R. Smith heading into 2013-14.

    While the Spurs are in a race with the Oklahoma City Thunder for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, both Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili will enter the summer as free agents. 

    The latest hamstring injury to Ginobili, coupled with a decline in production this season, has his future very much in question.

    Smith, meanwhile, is a player who could come in off the bench and help carry that scoring load in San Antonio. Though it might not seem likely to imagine Smith in a Spurs uniform, it's worth keeping an eye on at this point. 

Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans, Point Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $41,135,559

    For his sake, there is a big part of me that would enjoy watching Tyreke Evans be afforded a new lease on his NBA life by signing elsewhere in free agency this summer.

    From the Sacramento Kings' perspective, however, re-signing the restricted free agent should be the first objective explored this summer. 

    With a possible relocation of the franchise looming, attracting a significant free agent from outside the organization is going to be even more difficult than it typically is for the Kings.

    Their best opportunity to add an impact player, as a result, begins and ends with re-signing Evans. 

    The 6'6", 23-year-old guard shot a career best 47.7 percent from the field in 2012-13. Though his scoring average has dipped from 20.1 as a rookie to 15.4 in his fourth season, Evans remains a player the Kings can ill-afford to lose.

Toronto Raptors: J.J. Hickson, Power Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $58,882,884

    If Carl Landry enters the free-agent market by declining his player option with the Golden State Warriors, he would be a player worth targeting for the Toronto Raptors.

    The Raptors rank 28th in rebounding at 39.9 per night and need help on the glass in a bad way. 

    Like Landry, unrestricted free agent J.J. Hickson could also help improve in that area around the basket.

    While collecting 10.5 rebounds per night, Hickson ranks seventh in the NBA in rebounding on his way to registering 40 double-doubles through Saturday. 

Utah Jazz: Brandon Jennings, Point Guard

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $17,827,916

    While the Utah Jazz decided what to do with free agents Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, another player they should be eyeing is restricted free agent Brandon Jennings.

    Mo Williams will become a free agent this summer, and it's uncertain whether he will return in 2013-14.

    Jennings, meanwhile, is a 23-year-old point guard who could help form a solid young nucleus alongside Gordon Hawyard, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. 

    Jennings is closing out the 2012-13 campaign by averaging a career-high 6.6 assists to go along with 17.6 points on a nightly basis. 

Washington Wizards: David West, Power Forward

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    2013-14 Committed Salary: $34,850,739

    The Washington Wizards are a completely different team with a healthy John Wall.

    Just as they've won since his return from injury in 2012-13, the Wizards will continue to go only as far as Wall is able to take them.

    In an effort to significantly upgrade the supporting cast around Wall, however, David West is an ideal fit worth considering at this point. 

    Averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds, West would be a huge upgrade over Nene and Emeka Okafor up front for the Wizards.

    If he was acquired for the $10 million-ish deal he's currently on, West could also fit just under the luxury tax line for Washington.

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