Early Ranking of Top Unrestricted NBA Free Agents in 2013 Offseason
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With the NBA playoffs in full swing, it’s easy to forget that we are just months away from one of the most exciting times of the year. The offseason has never lacked storylines before, and with a handful of great players becoming free agents, 2013 should prove to be no exception.
There are a number of players who don’t crack the top 10, yet are still noteworthy. O.J. Mayo and Chris Kaman will have a chance to test their value, J.J. Hickson is coming off a career year and guards J.J. Redick, Tony Allen and Kevin Martin will have the opportunity to take their role-playing styles to new teams, should they choose to do so.
But while these players would be great additions to almost any squad, there are a few standouts who could help shape the face of any NBA franchise. The world wants to know where Dwight Howard will be in 2014, but we can’t forget about the rest who will be vying for big-time deals once the year comes to an end.
*For the purpose of this article, players with Early Termination Options or Player Options qualify as unrestricted free agents.
10. Monta Ellis
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Monta Ellis will have the option during the summer to opt in to the final year of his contract; however, the guard has the talent to be a scorer on any team, and that fact alone may convince him to test the market sooner rather than later.
Ellis is coming off a solid 2012-13 campaign. Efficiency has always been a problem, and that fact didn’t change; but he did boost his points-per-game average to 19.2, and collected a career-high six assists per contest.
With Brandon Jennings being a restricted free agent—not to mention the Milwaukee Bucks acquiring the Bird rights to J.J. Redick—Ellis’ odds of staying in Milwaukee look bleak if he decides to become a free agent.
9. Paul Millsap
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Paul Millsap is the kind of player virtually every team can use. He’s a good rebounder, and the fact that he’s an undersized power forward has forced him to expand his skill set—something he’s successfully done during his time in the league.
As good as the 28-year-old has been for the Utah Jazz, his time with the team may be coming to an end, as the organization has made it clear that Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors are the future.
It wouldn’t hurt, of course, to keep a player of Millsap’s caliber around for insurance, but it shouldn’t surprise anybody if a new team comes along and steals him away.
8. David West
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It’s going to be interesting to see what kind of deal David West commands during the 2013 offseason.
On one hand, the power forward has had an extremely productive bounce-back year for the Indiana Pacers. He posted averages of 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds during the regular season, and he proved to be a reliable option despite being 32 years old.
The problem is that you can’t ignore his age going into a contract negotiation. He’s not going to be the kind of player who turns a rebuilding franchise around, yet he might be too expensive for a team looking for its final piece.
West will be looking for guaranteed money at this point in his career, and as long as an organization puts more weight on his production than his age, he’ll be in a good situation when it’s all said and done.
7. J.R. Smith
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J.R. Smith was the Sixth Man of the Year for the 2012-13 season, and he couldn’t have earned the recognition at a better time.
If Smith opts out of his current deal, his stock will be high. He can return for one final year with the New York Knicks if he’d like, but with sixth man honors officially his to claim, he’ll have a number of teams looking his way when free agency rolls around.
Smith has never been the most efficient player, but he showed in 2012-13 that he can be counted upon when it matters most. A number of clutch shots only helps his cause, and he’ll use his offensive production as the No. 1 reason a team should take a chance on him moving toward the future.
6. Al Jefferson
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Al Jefferson was one of the big names being talked about at the 2013 trade deadline. The Utah Jazz ultimately decided to keep him on the roster, which means they now risk losing him to another team in free agency.
Jefferson is a big man who has played both the power forward and center spots throughout his career. He’s yet to show he is a true winner, but that shouldn’t deter the right team from bringing in a player with his size and versatile skill set.
With a plethora of big men already in Utah, chances are we’ll see Jefferson pack his bags and find another home once free agency hits. His defense has always needed work, and while that’s not likely to change at this point in his career, his low-post game could complement an already solid defensive team.
5. Andre Iguodala
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Andre Iguodala has found himself in a good situation with the Denver Nuggets. The team plays an up-tempo style that doesn’t require him to be a star—two things that helped him stay comfortable in just his first year with the team.
After a season that saw him average 13 points, 5.4 assists, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 steals, Iguodala has proven that he is about as good of a non-superstar as you can find in the NBA.
This, of course, doesn’t mean he’ll be playing for another team in 2013. It just means that he’ll test his value and see what his options are before signing what could be the final long-term, lucrative contract of his career.
4. Andrew Bynum
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Andrew Bynum has to be considered one of the biggest disappointments of the 2012-13 season.
Entering his first year with the Philadelphia 76ers, he was supposed to be a potential No. 1 option in an offense that desperately needed scoring. Following his breakout season with the Los Angeles Lakers, his career was trending in the right direction, but a season-long injury put a halt on any hopes of he and the Sixers finding immediate success.
All of that being said, people haven’t forgotten about the progress he made in his final year with L.A., and at 25 years old, there’s going to be a number of teams willing to take a chance on a true 7-footer with solid low-post moves.
3. Josh Smith
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The Josh Smith saga has been going on with the Atlanta Hawks for some time now. It hasn’t gotten as ugly as the Dwightmare of 2012, but the forward’s future is as up in the air as anybody’s in the league at this juncture.
At the trade deadline, many were surprised to see Smith not traded. It appeared as if Atlanta would take the approach of trading the star instead of letting him walk, but the deadline came and went and Smith was still a member of the Hawks organization.
Now, with the 2012-13 season nearing its end, it’s time to start thinking about where Smith will play in the coming years.
If Atlanta is willing to pay him the max money he believes he deserves (according to Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution), they’ll be able to use an extra year to sway him toward returning. However, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA TODAY Sports, it is “highly unlikely” that the forward re-signs with his current squad.
2. Dwight Howard
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There’s no denying that Dwight Howard had a disappointing year for the Los Angeles Lakers. He was unable to lead them to a single playoff victory, his health was always in question and his points-per-game average was the lowest it had been since his second season.
Then again, 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks still makes him one of the best centers in the league—if not the best—and he will be coveted as such as a free agent in 2013.
Howard has a big decision to make. Does he want the responsibility of leading L.A. into the post-Kobe Bryant era? Is he willing to sacrifice the sixth year of his deal to sign with another organization?
These are questions that have yet to be answered, but there's no questioning he’s going to be arguably the biggest story for the second offseason in a row.
1. Chris Paul
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Once upon a time, Dwight Howard would have had the top spot on this list. However, following a year of inconsistent play and constant reminders of his health, the center fell to No. 2, while Chris Paul established himself as the clear-cut No. 1 free agent in 2013.
Paul, despite orchestrating a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers in 2011, has the option to look for a team he feels might be better suited to carry him to a championship. The Clippers shouldn’t be afraid to give him max money, but if Paul doesn’t feel the team is at an elite level, he could take his talents elsewhere.
Paul has more to offer than anyone else on the free-agent market. At age 27, he’s a floor general who can be counted upon to score when needed, he plays both sides of the floor and he found his teammates to the tune of 9.7 assists per game in 2012-13.
As long as Paul stays healthy for the foreseeable future, whatever contract he signs will be well worth it for one lucky team in 2013.