Some big names will be unrestricted free agents this summer, including an NBA MVP candidate and a couple of dangerous big men.
Some teams will be able to re-sign their stars—others will lose them and have to find ways to fill a large void.
Whether teams are in need of a point guard or a center this offseason, there will certainly be some firepower on the market. Here's a look at my top unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2013, including where I think they will land.
3. Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson averaged 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 1.0 steals this season with the Utah Jazz. His PER of 20.9 ranked 19th among all players who played more than 29 games, according to Basketball-Reference.com.
The 28-year-old big man, who can play both power forward and center, also stepped up big time when the Jazz were trying to make the playoffs in April, averaging 21.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.3 steals in eight games. He shot 57 percent from the floor and 83 percent from the free-throw line during this span.
Jefferson isn't the best defender, but his offensive game tends to overshadow that.
Projected Team: Atlanta Hawks
With Josh Smith set to be a free agent and the Hawks unlikely to retain him, they could be in the market for a premier free agent like Jefferson. They need someone to play alongside Al Horford and a Jefferson-Horford duo could do some big things. Plus, the Hawks will have significant cap room if they let Smith go this offseason, as Larry Coon of ESPN pointed out.
Dwight Howard averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.4 blocks and 1.1 steals, but those numbers are a bit misleading. Howard's PER of 19.4 ranked 35th among players who played more than 29 games, per Basketball-Reference.com. Many believed his effort level wasn't there on a consistent level, particularly on defense.
That being said, Howard is still one of the league's best centers, and the best center when he's committed and focused on both sides of the floor.
Projected Team: Los Angeles Lakers
The Dallas Mavericks are thought to be one of the teams that could try to lure Howard away from Los Angeles this offseason, but that appears unlikely.
Marc Stein of ESPN recently said he thought the Mavericks had a "10 percent chance" of stealing Howard away from the Lakers, via the Dallas Morning News.
The thing is, despite Howard having a nightmare of a first season with the Lakers, the Lakers can still offer him a lot of money in the summer. Plus, the lure of playing for the historic Lakers has a way of keeping stars at bay.
1. Chris Paul
Chris Paul finished fourth in NBA MVP voting this season, exemplifying the kind of year he had with the Los Angeles Clippers. He averaged 16.9 points, 9.7 assists and 2.4 steals while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 89 percent from the free-throw line. His PER of 26.4 ranked third among all players who played more than 29 games.
Paul formed an electric duo with power forward Blake Griffin as the Clippers soared to the playoffs as the Western Conference's No. 4 seed.
Projected Team: Los Angeles Clippers
I'm sure Paul will entertain some teams in the summer, but I just can't see him leaving the Clippers. He's eligible to sign a five-year, $108 million extension beginning on July 1 and he's made a home for himself in Los Angeles, building a connection with Griffin.
Plus, Paul has significant pull in front-office decisions. A Clippers official reportedly told HoopsHype, "This is Chris's roster."
Clippers vice president Gary Sacks also said he's "very confident" Paul will re-sign with the team, according to Arash Markazi of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
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