NBA Free Agents 2013: Available Players Who Will Transform Franchises

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVMay 18, 2013

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 29:  Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks reacts to the fans in the final minutes of their 102-91 win over the Indiana Pacers during Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Philips Arena on April 29, 2013 in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There are a handful of stellar NBA players coming out of this year's free-agent class that have served as the focal point of their team and franchise.

Simply said, there's a lot to like in this year's NBA free-agent class, as there are a handful of players who will serve as stars for their respective suitors.

While there is no shortage of talent outside of the top players and many teams will upgrade their rotations tremendously, the real meat lies with the maximum-salary players who have experience as franchise players.

Let's take a look at the top players available in the free-agent class who will transform the franchise that they join.


Dwight Howard, C

If you don't think Dwight Howard is capable of changing a franchise completely, just look at the Orlando Magic right now.

Whether it's his odd antics, dominating post-presence or funny-guy personality, Howard has captivated the entire NBA fanbase at times and shown the ability to create headlines like wildfire whenever he pleases. 

The Los Angeles Lakers are still keen on retaining the big man and seem to be the front-runner since they can offer more money than any other team. But his first year in L.A. wasn't all bright lights, as they saw a massively hyped team get swept in the first round by San Antonio. 

ESPN personality Mike Greenberg wasn't shy about sharing his thoughts on an interesting team that could be forming in Houston if D12 were to join James Harden and company. 

Howard certainly has a lot to think about before he decides whether to stay with the Lakers. And there's no doubting that, by now, L.A. is all in to make him their new franchise player in the post-Kobe Bryant era.

All it comes down to now is if D12 would rather stay on the west coast or join a team like the Dallas Mavericks, Brooklyn Nets, Houston Rockets or other teams looking to make Howard the face of their franchise. 


Josh Smith, PF

After years of trade talk and speculation, Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith is finally free to decide where he'll continue his NBA career, and whatever decision he makes will have huge consequences.

Smith has had numerous issues with the Hawks, from inconsistency to a low motor. But that hasn't stopped some of the NBA's biggest franchises from having interest in the power forward.

Despite great players like Al Horford and Jeff Teague playing in Atlanta, Smith has remained the most popular and effective player on the team. His ability to do everything in the post as well as shoot makes him a hot commodity in the free-agent market.

If the Lakers lose out on the Howard sweepstakes, they could go with Smith to fill the post void, and the Celtics are also looking to bolster their frontcourt with a new star. But they're far from the only franchises willing to gamble on Smith.

It's unclear if Smith will remain a star in a new location, but there are definitely teams who are willing to bet that he will be.


Chris Paul, PG

Not to be outdone by Howard or Smith, Paul is likely the gem of the 2013 free-agent class. Unfortunately for 29 other teams, he's also the most likely participant to stay with his previous team.

Chris Paul has game-changing ability and has the most complete game of any point guard in the NBA in some time. His clutch gene is through the roof, and he is a threat to win the MVP each and every season.

There's no doubt that able teams will be backing up dump trucks full of cash to even gain the interest of CP3, but they'll have to bring a lot to the table as far as winning championships for Paul to make the move. He's already in a great spot with the Clippers, where he is surrounded with growing talent. 

But it's not an easy decision for a player in his prime who is desperately seeking his first ring, and Los Angeles Times writer Mike Bresnahan was quick to make a not-so-glowing comparison. 

Whatever decision CP3 makes this summer will transform not only the franchises it affects but the entire landscape of the league. I truly believe Paul can go to one of the league's worst teams and make them a championship contender in one season. 


Andrew Bynum, C

Embattled 76ers center Andrew Bynum joins Howard on this list as a player who brings a lot of risk to the table but the potential reward is so huge that he's worth pursuing.

Sure, things didn't work out for Philadelphia when they lost Andre Iguodala and Jason Richardson in order to gain what they thought was their new franchise player, but that's largely due to a freak injury that happened at the wrong time.

When healthy (which, admittedly, isn't too often), Bynum is a dominant center and a player that you can rely on as the focal point of your offense. Teams that have struggled in their frontcourt offense will be looking long and hard at Bynum, who has one of the most polished postgames in the league.

The fact that he was replaced by Howard isn't a tribute to his skill. In fact, D12 might be the only center worthy of replacing a player of Bynum's skill. 

Injury troubles raise a red flag, but despite the issues, Bynum is entering his prime and his game will be better than ever once he can reach full health.


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