Best and Worst Scenarios for Every NBA Team's 2013 Offseason
Of the 30 franchises in the NBA today, 22 could care less about the outcome of the next few weeks.
All their attention is solely focused on the offseason and what their plans are moving forward as an organization.
With no 2013-14 salary cap announced, we can gauge from the 2012-13 number of $58.044 million. The tax level for the year was $70.304 million.
The 2013 free agency class has some big names and even more quality role players. Who has money to spend on them will be the most interesting part of the next few months.
While not everything is hit or miss and black and white, each team has a pretty interesting best or worst-case scenario. The chances are, most will wind up in some gray area in between, but extremes are important for a basis.
With factors such as who is making the decisions, how much money is available, and who is available to take that money, weighing on the outcome, it should be a wild summer for NBA movement.
All stats were accurate as of May 10, 2013.
All salary figures were taken from www.hoopsworld.com
The Atlanta Hawks were once again victims of the one-and-done plague that has visited them fairly regularly over the last five years.
They finished 44-38 on the year, good for the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference. The Indiana Pacers quickly dispatched them, pushing the franchise to an interesting point with seven unrestricted free agents.
A large portion of the eyes in the league this summer will be trained on Atlanta and what happens with Josh Smith. Smith is sure to be one of the most sought after free agents, with his all-around skill set in high demand.
A great scenario for the Hawks would be for him to not get the max-deal he is looking for from anyone else in the league. That would make him feel more wanted back home in Atlanta, where they could re-sign him for a small discount.
Atlanta will have plenty of money to match Smith's max-deal if they and he choose to continue their relationship, though that would quickly dry up the money they're hoping to use on Jeff Teague. The Hawks' young point guard is due a $3.5 million qualifying offer this summer.
If Atlanta can re-sign both of those players, their core will have a better chance to grow in the post-Joe Johnson era.
Joining Smith on Atlanta's free agent line is Zaza Pachulia and Johan Petro. That leaves Al Horford feeling real lonely in the frontcourt. If the Hawks are caught up with Smith's saga for too long, they could miss out on the other free-agent bigs in the league.
Smith and the Hawks have a tendency to drag their feet with these decisions. If they do that and he ultimately lands elsewhere, the Hawks will be desperate for quality size. Only, at that point, Al Jefferson, Dwight Howard and the likes could be off the table already.
The Boston Celtics made a respectable appearance in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs, but were ultimately ousted by the New York Knicks in six games.
Their 41-40 record seemed fairly indicative of a largely mediocre season riddled with injuries. Playing without Rajon Rondo for much of the year, Boston was a .500 team.
A healthy Rondo for training camp would be the greatest scenario for the Celtics this offseason. They certainly don't want to waste another year of the bargain train that pays Rondo just $11.9 million next season.
Where Boston's real decision lies is with Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The duo appear to be attached to one another, and thus a package deal in a trade or retirement.
The Celtics really don't want to pay Pierce all of his $15.3 million non-guaranteed contract next season. They could buy him out for a cool $5 million instead, or work him into a trade. Garnett is set to make $12.4 million guaranteed, but is a risk to retire at any moment.
The act of trading Pierce away from Boston still doesn't seem right—for obvious reasons. Which brings about the idea of amnestying him instead. For the Celtics to have any shot in free agency, a trade or amnesty has to be made. Otherwise they are attacking the 2013-14 season with the same roster.
The Celtics have locked themselves into medium-sized deals with guys like Jason Terry, Brandon Bass and Courtney Lee, which are sapping their ability to be active this summer.
In reality, only Pierce and Garnett have a decent amount of trade value, with Rondo hurt and Jeff Green still not fully proven. However, if the Celtics trade them just to create space, that is wrong.
With Danny Ainge, there has to be a plan or path in place for guaranteed results. Creating cap space just to take your chances in free agency isn't a good move. The Celtics would be better off making a run with a healthy Rondo and the same roster next year.
No matter how you swing it, this was a disappointing first year for the Brooklyn Nets. Despite making the postseason with a 49-33 record, they were eliminated in the first round by a severely depleted Chicago Bulls team. Losing Game 7 at home was the rotten cherry on top of a heartless playoff appearance.
The Nets are currently without a head coach, having gone through two over the past six months. They canned Avery Johnson midseason, then P.J. Carlesimo after their playoff exit. The best case for them now is to hire a coach that can deal with high-priced players.
The prime candidate is Phil Jackson. He has major experience dealing with the egos of players like Deron Williams and could get the best out of this group. If they could attract Jackson with a high-salaried and high-profile position, they would be in good shape for 2013-14.
The worst thing that can happen is that they wind up with another "interim-style" head coach who can't properly lead the team.
The Nets have little-to-no wiggle room entering the offseason. They are going to be well over the cap no matter what, so they'll have to get creative if they want to improve.
Kris Humphries will be their lone attractive expiring deal next season at $12 million. If they aren't able to move him for another big contract attached to a talented player, they'll be in this exact same position come May 2014.
The Charlotte Bobcats saw an improvement in winning percentage from .106 to .256 in 2012-13. Unfortunately, that only elevated them to a 21-61 record and the second-best chance at the No. 1 overall pick. They are still a team without direction, and after firing Mike Dunlap, without a head coach.
Dunlap's hiring seemed ill-advised last offseason. There is no way a coach with zero experience can come into a mess like the Bobcats and succeed. They need to find a coach with some experience that can help grow their young talent.
They will have some money to play with this summer, despite being stuck paying Ben Gordon his $13.2 million player option. It would be wise to use their amnesty provision on Tyrus Thomas—who had another miserable season. That would save Charlotte $18 million over the next two seasons. They can spend that wisely on a couple nice pieces.
They are sure to get a draft spot near the top of the lottery—whether it is No. 1 or not is unknown. If they can nail that pick and spend smartly on free agents and a coach, they'll finally be going in a positive direction.
Obviously, if they make another hire like Dunlap, they'll be continuing to postpone what really needs to be done.
If the Bobcats don't amnesty Thomas and then run out of money before being able to extend Gerald Henderson, things won't be pretty in Charlotte next season. Losing Henderson implies yet another directional shift that throws off young players like Kemba Walker.
Should the lottery fail them, and they get bumped out of the top couple picks, they'll have to be even more careful. Nerlens Noel could really help this team develop a defensive identity, but other than that things are murky in the draft.
Against all odds, the Chicago Bulls are still alive in the 2013 postseason. Despite playing without Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, Tom Thibodeau's club is in the second round against the Miami Heat.
Thibodeau is locked up for another four years, and Joakim Noah and Rose are right there with him. Things are good and looking to stay that way in Chicago.
The most important thing to happen over the offseason and entering 2013-14, is that Derrick Rose is fully healthy and back to his MVP-caliber play.
Outside of Rose's full recovery from the ACL injury, the Bulls have some surprise stars this year that need to be locked down. Both Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli have been huge in the postseason, yet both are free agents as soon as the Bulls stop playing. If they can convince both to return for reasonable prices, they'll have great depth for 2013-14.
The decision may not be as easy as just paying their free agents, as the Bulls will be well over the cap. Amnestying Carlos Boozer would save them $32.1 million against the cap over the next two seasons.
However, even that won't get them underneath it. Given how Boozer has performed this season, and how reliable he was in the face of so many injured teammates, it is probably best that the Bulls keep him around and deal with the cap repercussions. They can also explore trade scenarios for his, hoping to shave some salary while not sacrificing too much production.
They'll also have to consider buying out Richard Hamilton for $1 million, instead of paying him his $5 million salary.
The Bulls don't have many bad scenarios, as they have the right people making decisions.
Should Rose return and not be the player he once was, that is a disastrous situation, as his contract continues ballooning.
If they opt not to use the amnesty provision, they'll probably look to deal Boozer or Deng as an expiring contract ($14.3 million). Deng has become somewhat expendable during Jimmy Butler's breakout season, though that could potentially be just a flash in the pan. If they cut ties with Deng for good, and Butler flops, they'll look pretty bad on and off the floor.
The other piece of the bad puzzle would be losing Robinson and Belinelli to teams willing to pay them more than the Bulls can afford.
This was another lost season for the Cleveland Cavaliers, as a series of injuries kept them from improving as a whole. They again landed with a sub-.300 winning percentage, dropping them to 24-58 and a bottom-three spot in the lottery.
They had a quick turnaround with the head coach position. Just a week after firing Byron Scott, they hired Mike Brown. That reunites them with a coach who had a lot of success with the franchise.
First and foremost, the Cavaliers are finished paying Luke Walton! That immediately knocks $6 million off their books, along with the $4.9 million they paid Daniel Gibson.
They'll have some money to attract free agents this offseason, though the goal may be to wait another year. Anderson Varejao has only one more guaranteed year at $9 million, making him an attractive trade target.
Unlike the rest of the teams near the bottom of the league, the Cavaliers really could be one piece from the playoffs. If Kyrie Irving and Varejao remain healthy and they grab a favorable draft pick, things are looking up.
If Varejao's breakout season was merely an outlier and his injury has lasting effects, the Cavaliers are suddenly a lot weaker and thinner up front.
Should the 2013 NBA draft be particularly weak, and the Cavaliers land outside the top-five, the odds of them getting a player who can immediately help them get to the postseason shrink drastically.
Promising youngster Wayne Ellington is also a question mark. Should he reject a $3.1 million qualifying offer, the Cavaliers will have to drop some of their precious cap space to re-sign him.
Thanks to signing a series of short-term contracts last offseason, Mark Cuban is going to have a fair amount of money to sling around this summer. The 2012-13 season itself was a disappointment, as the Dallas Mavericks fell to a .500 record and out of the playoffs.
Superstar Dirk Nowitzki is entering the final year of his contract for $22.7 million, and is also turning 35 in June. The Mavericks are going to want to lock him up for the remainder of his career—hopefully to a team-friendly deal.
The Mavericks' top target could be a starting-caliber point guard since they don't consider Darren Collison to be one. He has a $3.3 million qualifying offer, but hopes to be a starter. If the Mavericks can land Brandon Jennings or Jose Calderon, they can fill a lot of holes with one player.
Dallas was one of the worst defensive teams in the league. With a plethora of defensive free agents, they'll have their pick. The likes of Tony Allen and Matt Barnes will hit the market and be there for the taking.
O.J. Mayo will be turning down his $4.2 million player option after proving he can still score at a high and efficient level. That leaves a big hole in the offense for Dallas. If they can't fill it with another talented shooting guard, there will be too much offensive pressure on Nowitzki.
If Dallas isn't the prime destination they see themselves as, they'll have a hard time attracting top-level free agents. If that is the case, Cuban will be forced to spend his money on lesser talents and Dallas will spend another year biding its time with shot-term deals.
Being knocked out in Game 6 of the first round as the No. 3 seed is a sizeable embarrassment. The Denver Nuggets had an impressive regular season, finishing 57-25, but once again failed in the postseason. They'll have most of the same crew back for next season, looking to continue building up.
With the expectation that Andre Iguodala will opt out of the final year of his contract, saving the Nuggets $16.1 million, they have to look to improve defensively. If that means re-signing Iguodala to a longer-term but less lucrative per-year contract, then so be it.
After raking in both Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year awards, it is unlikely for the franchise to totally abandon this style of team-building. If the Nuggets can save money towards the cap with a friendly Iguodala deal, there may be enough money to add a valuable role player or re-sign Corey Brewer.
The chance is about equal that they lose Iguodala altogether. That would leave a gaping hole in the defensive scheme that still allowed 101.1 points per game.
Brewer is also becoming a free agent, which could continue to decimate the wing position for Denver.
Obviously, returning the same roster wouldn't be a bad thing, but losing two of your best defensive players and not replacing that athleticism and prowess could be a disaster for a young team.
The Detroit Pistons are treading water in the middle of the lottery right now. Their 29-53 record to finish the 2012-13 season is only part of the problem.
They have a lot of decisions to make this offseason—hopefully coming to a conclusion about direction. First and foremost is finding Lawrence Frank's replacement at head coach.
The Pistons have a ton of money coming off the books this summer. Only Rodney Stuckey and Charlie Villanueva are set to make more than $5 million—both on player options. There is also the possibility of amnestying Villanueva to save another $8.6 million.
All that money is great, but it is meaningless without the right leader. The Pistons have been doing the dance with mediocre coaches since Larry Brown left in 2005. It is time they make noise with a hire of someone like Stan Van Gundy.
After a solid coach is in place, the Pistons can decide who to target with their financial space.
One possibility is re-signing Jose Calderon.
The Pistons have suffered through inexperienced guard play for years. Calderon is a good guy and quality leader, who can help bring along their raw and supremely talented bigs.
If the Pistons go after another Flip Saunders or Lawrence Frank, they won't go anywhere. They need to get someone who can bring them back to the Detroit teams of past decades.
Another problem with hiring one of those second-tier coaches is that free agents won't be flocking to Detroit, no matter how much cash you flaunt. A big name coach helps the recruiting of top free agents to the franchise.
Without that first piece, the money will go to waste for sure.
Golden State Warriors
Feelings are good in the Bay Area, and deservedly so. The Golden State Warriors are still playing—deep into the spring. After knocking off the No. 3 Denver Nuggets, they are battling the San Antonio Spurs in Round 2. A 47-35 breakout year was only the first part of the equation.
The Warriors have one big question heading into the offseason—whenever that eventually happens.
Jarrett Jack is that question.
He will become a free agent this summer, and Golden State has to decide what he is worth.
Jack definitely out-played his $5.4 million deal for 2012-13, but the Warriors will have some hold-ups. They'll most likely have to pay $20 million to little-used Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins, should both opt-in for their final years. That sucks up a lot of money that could be given to Jack on a long-term deal.
The best-case scenario involves Jack having a soft spot for the Warriors, and both Brandon Rush and Carl Landry opting in to their $4 million options next season—neither of which is a sure thing. Both could definitely attract suitors elsewhere.
Should they have to use what is left of their cap room for Jack—and possibly to extend Landry and/or Rush—there will be small money left for a big fish coming down the line.
Andrew Bogut, ($14 million) will play the final year of his contract in 2013-14. While it is still unclear if he can remain healthy enough to deserve another big deal, he's sure to attract sizeable offers a year from now.
Worst-case scenario is the Warriors using up all their cash this offseason and not having enough to retain Bogut beyond next year.
It is tough to tell whether the Houston Rockets lucked out or not when they lost a tiebreaker and the No. 7 seed to the Los Angeles Lakers. The final result was the same—a first-round exit in the postseason. Still, the Rockets showed a lot of improvement and it was a fine 45-37 début season for their new look.
The Rockets need defensive help badly. In particular, they will be hunting for the power forward and possibly point guard position.
Houston will need to start pinching their pennies, so they should consider pulling the $6.4 million team option Francisco Garcia has coming. They can also weigh the value of retaining Carlos Delfino ($3 million) and Aaron Brooks ($2.5 million)—both not guaranteed for next season.
Whether that frees up enough money for a high-end big like Josh Smith, Pau Gasol or Paul Millsap will depend on the market.
There are few other options for the Rockets right now. They cashed in their chips for James Harden, who sees about an $8 million bump this summer, and are building around him.
The Rockets have been at this free agency game for a while now, with very limited success.
In recent years they have been pining desperately for a big-name star during the offseasons, but are continually denied. They were forced to make a trade for Harden and sign a big player, in name only, with Jeremy Lin.
Even with all their possible free money this summer, there is a fair chance they won't get their first or second choice on the market.
If they are unable to attract a major free agent, particularly one that can help on the defensive end, that could mean entering 2013-14 with the same abysmal defense as this past year.
The Indiana Pacers are knee-deep in a second-round series with the New York Knicks. So their offseason plans should be out of sight and out of mind.
A 49-32 regular season and No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference earned them that right. Soon enough, though, the Pacers will have to confront a couple big items.
The Pacers really have to hope David West has enjoyed playing with them over the past two seasons. His deal is coming due and his skill set is sure to attract the attention of many general managers. West is a rarity in the league today. He can play physical defense from the power forward position while maintaining a diverse offensive game.
For the Pacers to re-sign West, it will have to be for similar money to his current $10 million annual salary. Other than West, they don't have a lot of money coming off the books. They'll save $3.5 million on D.J. Augustin, but they're going to have to pay some guys coming up.
Their biggest hope is that Danny Granger returns healthy and stays that way next season. He's seeing a pay bump to $14 million in the final year of his deal and they can't waste that again.
If David West commands a higher salary than the Pacers can pay—courtesy of Roy Hibbert's monster deal—then he'll find a job elsewhere. That would severely hamper Indiana's abilities on the interior.
Along with West, they have to worry about Tyler Hansbrough, who supplies great depth to that unit. He's going to receive a qualifying offer of about $4.2 million with the option to reject and seek a long-term contract.
Indiana has to be forward-thinking with these dealings as well. They'll be in a Hansbrough-like situation with budding star Paul George next year and have to figure out what to pay starter Lance Stephenson—who currently makes less than $1 million.
Los Angeles Clippers
It is a judgement call on whether it was a disappointing season for the Los Angeles Clippers. It was definitely a disappointing finish in the postseason, though. A team once thought of as contenders was knocked out in Round 1 of the playoffs.
Their 56-26 record was impressive, but it means little due to the fact that they are no longer playing.
It seems odd to say that the best scenario for the Clippers involves changing head coaches. Though, it appears Vinny Del Negro has proven that he can't elevate this team when it counts. A quality coach would have better control over his younger players, helping Chris Paul lead them.
The best scenario also involves retaining Paul. Their superstar point guard finished off the final year of his deal this past season, and should get a max contract this summer.
The Clippers would be wise to find another scorer on the trade market. They'll be able to dangle Caron Butler's expiring $8 million deal, as well as young cheap assets like Eric Bledsoe.
Things could be tight for the Clippers—finding the money for Paul and Blake Griffin seeing a $9 million bump for next year. Though they can save $12.2 million by watching Lamar Odom and Chauncey Billups walk.
If the Clippers decide to make a run at things with Del Negro again, it is a concern that they will start treading water in the middle of the Western Conference.
Even worse than that is the chance that Paul is fed up with trying to will this young team to mature and chooses to walk in free agency to one of many other suitors.
Los Angeles Lakers
Just about nothing went right for the Los Angeles Lakers this past season. They fired their first coach, lost numerous players to a variety of minor and major injuries and finally were swept out of the postseason by the San Antonio Spurs. A 45-37 record was not the plan when this team was put together.
The faster he gets back, the faster the Lakers can get with their best-case scenario. The possibility of an amnesty is there, but it would be a major deal to do that to such a well-respected player.
The Lakers will be in a bind with the salary cap no matter what happens with Bryant. They've got to aggressively go after Dwight Howard and not let him leave while also paying Pau Gasol $19.3 million.
It probably isn't a best case to deal either Bryant or Gasol, unless a top-level point guard or wing player is available. If they can figure out a deal for a player like Andre Iguodala, then that will definitely help them evolve.
The Lakers have their amnesty provision available and can use it on Bryant, Gasol, Metta World Peace or Steve Blake. If they want to keep Bryant and Gasol around, using it on World Peace saves them a decent chunk of change to put towards Howard.
Bryant missing out on most or all of next season, while cashing that $30 million check, is the absolute worst scenario for the Lakers.
As far as the offseason is concerned, the Lakers could very well lose Howard to one of the teams in the league flush with cap space. If that happened, the worry would be that Los Angeles would panic and extend undeserving players like World Peace ($7.7 early termination option) and Chris Duhon ($3.75 million non-guaranteed).
The Memphis Grizzlies have their hands full with the Oklahoma City Thunder right now, so the offseason is far off in the distance for them.
When it comes around, the Grizzlies are in good shape and have little to worry about. This team—that went 56-26 this past regular season—is well put together for the present and future.
The Grizzlies are more-or-less experiencing their best scenario offseason right now. Their core of Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Tayshaun Prince are all currently well under contract.
The big concern is Tony Allen. Memphis' defensive wing stopper is playing out the final year of his deal, earning $3.3 million. The Grizzlies would create a hole in a talented defensive unit if they let him go, but he should be seeing some big figures from other teams this summer.
Allen has become an All-Defensive team staple, but if he likes it in Memphis they could be able to bring him back at a discount.
If one of Allen's suitors is able to woo him away from Memphis, they could be forced to become a different team next year. Allen's responsibility to take out a scorer on the opposition is nearly irreplaceable.
If Allen leaves, the Grizzlies will be forced to look elsewhere to fill their wing role. There are only a few Allens in this league and they might not find a player of equal value.
The Grizzlies have their amnesty available—but only for Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, both of which they want back.
Year three of the Miami Heat's super team experiment has been a success so far. Their 66-16 record earned them the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs where they are currently battling the Chicago Bulls in Round 1.
The Heat have very little to concern themselves with this offseason in terms of top-line talent. The big three's contract concerns won't start for another year or two.
Where there is opportunity for good things is with their secondary role players. The Heat will be looking for ways to extend Mario Chalmers but will probably just allow him to play out his $4 million team option next season.
Miami is already well over the cap—which will make it difficult to bring back Chris Andersen. Their best-case scenario is that he will be so enamored by the championship possibilities he stays on for small dollars.
In order to save some cash, they have their amnesty provision available. While the big three are off the table there, Miami could trim Joel Anthony ($7.6 million over two years), Udonis Haslem ($9 million over two years) or Mike Miller ($12.8 million over two years).
If the Heat are unable to convince Andersen to stay, they run the risk of falling back into their old ways of finding weak bigs to back up Chris Bosh.
If Andersen is stolen away by another team, the Heat may be forced to go after subpar players or look seriously at Rashard Lewis and James Jones.
Another possibility for the offseason is that Ray Allen will call it a career. Allen is due a $3.2 million player option for next season and is playing well right now. However, turning 38 years old this summer, one can never tell.
The Milwaukee Bucks' 38-44 record earned them a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, though it was hardly impressive.
It was a record that would have landed them in 11th place in the West and they were promptly swept by the Miami Heat in the first round. The Bucks are entering a shaky time with some big names possibly walking out the door this summer.
Brandon Jennings has had one foot out the door for a while in Milwaukee. He will be turning down his $4.3 million qualifying offer—becoming an unrestricted free agent.
That could prove to be a good thing for the Bucks.
If some team wants to over-pay for Jennings, let them. Milwaukee will be creating a boatload of room to focus on building something sustainable. If they choose to keep Monta Ellis around for $11 million or extend him, it would be an interesting feature next season.
With the money coming off the books for Jennings and Samuel Dalembert ($6.7 million), the Bucks have money to bring back J.J. Redick, Mike Dunleavy or another shooter of their choosing.
Finding a steal with the No. 15 pick certainly wouldn't hurt either.
Milwaukee's biggest issue is finding the right coach to set a standard for the organization. With a wave of players moving on, the franchise needs direction. The wrong coach just continues to perpetuate their current state of mediocrity.
If the Bucks choose not to use their amnesty to save $6.7 million the next two seasons on Drew Gooden, they are essentially setting fire to $13.4 million.
If and when the Bucks lose Jennings to free agency, while also terminating Monta Ellis for $11 million, they run the risk of bottoming out next season due to a severe lack of talent. That type of thing wouldn't be good for the development of their young players like John Henson and Larry Sanders.
Things didn't go as planned for the Minnesota Timberwolves this past season. They were thought to be a possible surprise team in the Western Conference but, courtesy of some injury bugs, dropped to 31-51 and back into the lottery.
The Timberwolves' core is solid and under contract, with Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio set for next season. Minnesota just has to hope they can stay healthy for a whole year.
Where things can really go right for the Timberwolves this offseason is with their secondary players and locker room leaders.
Andrei Kirilenko picking up his $10.2 million player option for next year would certainly help the team continue down the right path. He is a leader who can facilitate the team along the path to building something real.
Likewise, Nikola Pekovic will have the opportunity to accept a $6 million qualifying offer to stay with the team through next season.
Should Pekovic and Kirilenko shun the Timberwolves and look for work elsewhere, Minnesota could be in a real bind. If they both turn down their options, the team is out a couple of talented and important players. Both are starters, and it could be a struggle to replace them.
The Timberwolves should have a top ten pick in the upcoming draft and to waste that would be costly immediately and down the line. If the pick falls to No. 14, though, it goes to the Phoenix Suns as a part of the Wesley Johnson trade.
Minnesota is in a risky position right now and multiple missteps this offseason will have lasting impacts.
New Orleans Pelicans
The New Orleans Hornets are out. It is time to welcome the first offseason of the New Orleans Pelicans. They will be looking to put a 27-55 season behind them and move forward with a young core of talented players.
There are a few things the Pelicans can do this offseason to improve their standing.
With a core set up long-term featuring Eric Gordon, Anthony Davis and Ryan Anderson, the Pelicans need to build outwards around them.
The money will be there, with Rashard Lewis' deal coming off the books. New Orleans should be able to attract some good young talent in the free agent market.
They'll also have to consider immediately re-signing Al-Farouq Aminu, and look forward to paying Robin Lopez and Greivis Vasquez down the line.
New Orleans has a hit-or-miss history with signing free agents. Their huge deal for Gordon remains a question mark while the move to lock up Anderson seems great.
With that much money ready to go, a common mistake will be to overspend due to an overreaction to the team's deficiencies. The Pelicans can continue moving forward as an organization without bringing in a rash of overpaid veterans.
Another concern will be their drafting position.
They took a reach last season with Austin Rivers at No. 10 and it hasn't panned out yet. With their lottery pick in 2013, it will be important to get an NBA-ready player who can contribute in some way.
New York Knicks
The New York Knicks are in unfamiliar territory right now—the second round of the NBA playoffs. How far they continue will be the responsibility of some players who may not be around next season.
The Knicks used the perfect storm of high-priced talent and bargain role players to jump out to a 54-28 record and the No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Knicks owe a lot of money to a few players. Tyson Chandler, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire will make roughly $58.2 million combined next season—which potentially covers the entire salary cap.
There is little chance at escaping, but the obvious scenario that helps them most would be someone looking to trade for Stoudemire's massive deal. Those chances are incredibly slim, leaving the Knicks paying some serious penalties.
The chances are equally slim that J.R. Smith chooses to accept his $2.9 million player option to return next season.
The Knicks are already strapped for cash so their hopes of keeping Smith around are fairly slim. As the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year, he'll command a hefty price tag this summer.
There are a few other Knicks due to see pay bumps this offseason. Kenyon Martin and Pablo Prigioni could potentially be seeking work elsewhere—if the Knicks can't afford them.
New York has relied heavily on these role players this season. Without them next year, they may not be able to repeat the success of 2012-13.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The 2012 NBA Finals runner-up Oklahoma City Thunder are looking to get right back to where they were a year ago. Another great season led them to a 60-22 season and No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.
Now, they're faced with a Russell Westbrook injury and a struggle in the second round against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The No. 1 thing on the minds of the Thunder this offseason will be getting Westbrook back healthy for 2013-14.
Second, they will have to figure out what direction they want to go for a third scorer. Kevin Martin made $12.4 million in his first year with the Thunder but will be a free agent this summer. His next contract will most likely be for less money, but the Thunder are already over the cap and nearing penalty markers.
The best thing for them to do would be to utilize the amnesty provision and trim either Kendrick Perkins ($18.6 million over two years), Thabo Sefolosha ($3.9 million) or Nick Collison ($4.8 million over two years) from the team.
That could free up enough financial space for Martin or another free agent shooting guard.
The Thunder are unproven at this stage without James Harden. The Westbrook injury gives them reasonable explanation should they fail to reach their 2012 heights again.
However, his injury has allowed them valuable experience in seeing exactly what else they need to succeed. Should Derek Fisher retire or head elsewhere, they'll need to find a replacement for his bench scoring. The same goes for Martin.
If those guys leave and the Thunder are unable to sign suitable replacements, they run the risk of falling short repeatedly.
The Orlando Magic deserved a one-year grace period after the turmoil Dwight Howard put them through. Now that time is over and a new direction is needed.
Orlando's league-worst 20-62 record puts them in the best position for the 2013 NBA draft. Still, there is a lot of work to be done before this franchise is competitive again.
The Magic have some money coming off the books this summer and, now that the Howard saga is over, it might be time to test those free-agent waters.
They should have little desire to bring back Beno Udrih at his 2012-13 salary of $7.4 million. They could also buy out Hedo Turkoglu's non-guaranteed deal for $6 million—just half of his ghastly stated salary. Hakim Warrick's $4 million is also dropped this summer.
The best case for the Magic is that they attract a higher-profile talent. They have a young core but the talent level of their team is just too low. They feature a series of role players with little guidance outside of Jameer Nelson.
Unfortunately, as Howard proved, Orlando isn't a big draw for top talents and personalities in the league. Luring a big free agent there could be difficult.
That leads to contracts like Turkoglu's that don't help a team evolve at all. The Magic don't want to stall before they get to experience what their young talent can accomplish.
They also don't want to bring in a personality who will overpower their cheap youth. The Magic have six or seven guys making less than $2 million per year who played major roles in their season. Those players can be easily distracted and intimidated by a max-level contract awarded to a veteran.
The Philadelphia 76ers would love nothing more than to scrub themselves clean of the 2012-13 season. From the Andrew Bynum trade to Doug Collins' departure, not a lot went right for the franchise. The team finished four games out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture, earning a 34-48 record.
With Bynum's $16.8 million in dead weight coming off the books, the 76ers are open to do just about anything during the offseason.
Item No. 1 on their to-do list is to find a good long-term coach. Since 2003, the 76ers have been running through coaches way too often. Their new hire will be No. 8 since Larry Brown left in 2003. A new head coach will hopefully stabilize a team that went through massive changes last offseason and should see more turnover this year.
Nick Young and Dorell Wright add about $9.8 million in free space this summer while creating a definite need on the wing and in the frontcourt.
Philadelphia will need some scoring help—so guys like O.J. Mayo and J.J. Redick will be very much in play. For depth behind their young big men, they can easily search the secondary market for someone like Zaza Pachulia.
If the 76ers take too long with their coaching search, they run the risk of missing out on the top free agents.
It is a long shot that they would be able to entice a Dwight Howard type back to the east coast but without a solid head coach in place, it is next to impossible.
It is tough to imagine a worse scenario than the one that just occurred with Bynum. Bringing him back with a monster deal would be unwise. A team like this can't' keep taking risks on a player with his injury issues.
The Phoenix Suns threw some money around last summer. Unfortunately, they did so a bit too frivolously. A slew of free-agent signings couldn't elevate the Suns out of the Western Conference cellar. A 25-57 season later, they will try to correct some of those mistakes this time around.
The Suns didn't hammer themselves down into a lot of really bad contracts so the cap room will still be there this summer—even with a host of new additions from last year.
They'll save $4.3 million on Wesley Johnson—their only sizeable free agent—should Shannon Brown pick up a $3.5 million player option.
Where the Suns can really look to improve is the trade market. They'll most likely have a top-five pick and should they feel the need to move up, the assets are there. Marcin Gortat is a prime trade chip as a talented and hard working big on an expiring $7.7 million deal. They could easily flip him for picks or a few young prospects.
New general manager Ryan McDonough will be looking to make a splash in his first offseason—both in free agency and the trade market. He is an exciting young choice to lead the franchise.
If the Suns are unable to find a good deal for Gortat, they will be stuck going through the 2013-14 season with close to the same roster they have now. That isn't a recipe for success—which their awful record proves.
Phoenix should be looking into any deals involving pretty much their entire roster. McDonough will have his own game plan and these players may not be a part of it. Of course, the rookie GM could be a total bust. Thus continuing the downward spiral of this franchise.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers started out the 2012-13 season hot but finished cooler than they'd like. Their 33-49 record has them planted firmly in the lottery with a slim chance at a high draft pick.
The Trail Blazers have mostly been smart of late. They obviously nailed last year's draft by taking Rookie of the Year Damian Lillard at No. 6. They also have a core of LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum under reasonable contracts.
The one area they have question marks is the frontcourt around those two. J.J. Hickson played out the final year of his contract for $4 million. He out-played that fee and will be hitting the market looking for a pay day this summer.
Portland will have the space available to sign him long-term but they appear to view him as something less than other teams. General manager Neil Olshey will be looking for a more prototypical starting center who can protect the rim defensively.
If Hickson is offered big money elsewhere, Olshey doesn't appear ready to top them. Portland could instead be targeting the likes of Andrew Bynum, Nikola Pekovic and maybe even Dwight Howard with their money.
The Trail Blazers have to hope their first round pick lands inside the top-12—a probability. If their pick is No. 13 or 14, it will go to the Charlotte Bobcats via the Gerald Wallace trade.
If Hickson walks and doesn't wish to return to the team, the Trail Blazers find themselves with a big hole in the frontcourt. Hickson is one of the league's best rebounders when he wants to be and players like him are tough to find.
Eric Maynor may also reject his $3.4 million qualifying offer. Maynor came over in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder and has the potential to be a great backup to Lillard in the future. However, Portland won't want to tie up too much money in him with paydays for their stars coming down the line.
Portland finished with the 10th-worst record in the league but if the ping-pong balls don't fall their way, they could lose their first-rounder to Charlotte.
It looked like the Sacramento Kings would be staying in Sacramento but recently the bid from Seattle to buy the team increased dramatically. Wherever they play, the Kings will be returning much of a roster that finished 28-54 last season.
The Kings are a young team that has some serious potential—along with some quality assets that could be moved fairly easily.
The first item of business should be to use their available amnesty on John Salmons to save $7.6 million next season and $7 million non-guaranteed in 2014-15. That frees up a bit of extra money to be aggressive in free agency. It also provides them with leverage, should they wish to re-sign Tyreke Evans.
Evans could reject a $6.9 million qualifying offer to become an unrestricted free agent but the Kings could also use him as trade bait. They have plenty of that with both James Jones ($3.9 million) and Toney Douglas ($3.1 million) in the same situation.
The Kings need to make smart decisions for their future—no matter where that is. That means treating this current draft with care and facing the truths of the offseason. They aren't good and won't be good until some changes are made.
If the Kings get cold feet during the offseason and panic by offering Evans far more than he's worth, it would be another hindrance to their development. The same goes for DeMarcus Cousins, who has another year before his qualifying offer kicks in.
The Kings will again have a high pick in June's draft. Unfortunately, their recent track record in that area isn't great. They can't go after a hot name like Jimmer Fredette. Instead, they need a smart pick who can help them immediately.
San Antonio Spurs
The San Antonio Spurs are once again battling deep in the playoffs. They recently took a 2-1 series lead over the Golden State Warriors in the second round. Their 58-24 record was good for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference and they look to be in good shape for next year as well.
The Spurs are set to have an incredible amount of cap space next season—particularly for a team doing as well as they are currently.
They will have $24.1 million coming off the books courtesy of Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson. They'll obviously want to use some of that to re-sign Ginobili, but for much less than his current $14.1 million price tag.
The Spurs will also look heavily into re-signing Tiago Splitter ($5.9 million qualifying offer) and Matt Bonner ($3.9 million non-guaranteed)—both of whom are important to their current playoff run.
The Spurs do have some issues with depth should they lose a couple role players to bigger deals elsewhere.
Boris Diaw will be offered a $4.7 million player option and DeJuan Blair is entering free agency. If the Spurs lose both of those guys—or Splitter and Bonner—they will certainly be strapped for frontcourt depth behind Tim Duncan.
There is also the possibility that Ginobili—turning 36 this summer—retires during the offseason. That could take San Antonio by surprise and leave them scrambling to find scoring off their bench.
The Toronto Raptors have been trying to improve recently. Their attempts, however, have not been successful. A 34-48 record is not what the Raptors had in mind when making moves for Kyle Lowry last summer and Rudy Gay this past winter.
The Raptors are going to be up against the cap and that is before guaranteeing Lowry his $6.2 million or extending him and Linas Kleiza ($4.2 million player option).
Luckily, they have an easy way out of that cap trouble. Their amnesty provision is still available and waiting to be used. The most sensible use of it is on Andrea Bargnani, which would save $22.25 million over the next two years.
That space can be put towards Lowry and perhaps another minor free agent. Then Toronto is building around a high-scoring core of Lowry, Gay and DeMar DeRozan.
If the Raptors choose to hang on to their amnesty, they are hoping Bargnani not only returns and stays healthy but has the same game that he did two years ago.
Keeping him around is not moving forward as a franchise. The team made a mistake, but it was seven years ago when they took him No. 1 overall in the 2006 draft.
There is no sense in still paying for it now.
The Raptors will most likely be losing their first-round pick this summer. It is top-three and 15-30 protected—none of which are likely landing spots for Toronto in the lottery. That pick goes to the Houston Rockets as a part of the old Lowry trade.
Who from the 2012-13 Utah Jazz is not heading into free agency?
The Jazz disappointed a year after earning a playoff appearance in 2012. This time around, they were bounced into the late lottery. Their 43-39 record placed them just behind the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets for the final seeds in the Western Conference.
The Jazz are in an interesting position. With the money they'll have this offseason, they can really pick who they want to re-sign or attack in free agency.
The big decision to be made is whether they'd prefer to continue moving forward with Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap. Both move into free agency this summer as talented and desirable big men.
Joining those two on the market are Mo Williams and Randy Foye. The Jazz have only five players under guaranteed contracts for next season.
The Jazz should take a more defensive approach moving forward. That is the direction that will help them advance out west. That means attacking Millsap over Jefferson and looking into defensive help elsewhere on the market.
If the Jazz continue down the path they have been, they'll be stuck in mediocrity.
Their moves in recent years reek of cautiousness. Everything was done to make sure they remained competitive—while nothing was done to make sure they could win big.
Giving Jefferson a max contract would be in line with their recent way of managing. So would weak moves like extending Marvin Williams ($7.5 million early termination option).
There is a path for the Jazz to take this offseason that will pay off in the long run—but they may miss it to ensure a No. 8 seed next year.
A weak final record of 29-53 isn't indicative of how good the Washington Wizards can be. They finished the season on an impressive run and have quite the core to build around moving forward.
There are still some decisions to be made and money to be spent but this team could make noise next year if the summer goes well.
In terms of guaranteed contracts, the Wizards are well under the cap. However, they've got a couple whoppers to decide on before they hit the market.
Emeka Okafor, who had a real solid season, has a $14.5 million early termination option for 2013-14. Trevor Ariza could pick up his $7.7 million player option for next year as well.
Since it is just one year—and he can still rebound—I see no problem paying Okafor to stick around. He is a great locker room guy and veteran leader. The Wizards also don't want to lock up their capital in a deal with a free agent when John Wall's big payday could come next summer.
Ariza is a different story as he didn't have a great season and managed to play only 56 games. If he chooses to stay with the team another year, the Wizards can live with it but he's probably not worth extending.
The Wizards really want to be careful with their money. They can't risk not having enough to keep Wall around next summer or the one after that.
If they go out and try to catch a big fish that will help them get to the postseason in 2014, they risk blowing their future sustainability on a cheap playoff run.
The Wizards would also be wise to re-sign Martell Webster as quickly and quietly as possible. If he gets out on the open market after a season like the one he just had, the Wizards could be priced out early. Wall needs sharp-shooters like Webster around him to be successful.