The 2013 NBA period of free agency is shaping up to be one of the more memorable times in recent memory. It may not be 2010, but there are superstars and All-Stars all on the market and in the midst of their respective primes.
The question is: Which non-stars will help shape the market?
Dwight Howard and Chris Paul will be the players who everyone watches for, while Andre Iguodala, Josh Smith, Andrew Bynum and the rest of stars help create contenders. Beyond them, however, is a sense of uncertainty.
That uncertainty actually appears to be something—an under-appreciation for just how deep this class of free agents truly is.
From grizzled veterans to players with years of postseason experience, there's no shortage of quality players. With a mixture of young, upside-ridden talent, the class of 2013 appears to be one that significantly alter the face of the NBA.
So who should you be watching for to help do just that?
Tony Allen, UFA
It's criminal to even suggest that the Memphis Grizzlies will be hesitant to re-sign shooting guard Tony Allen. Not only have general managers voted Allen as the best perimeter defender in the NBA in 2011 and 2012, but he's just as important to Memphis' top-ranked defense as Marc Gasol.
With that being said, who in their right mind would be on the fence about re-signing head coach Lionel Hollins? According to the Associated Press, the Grizzlies, that's who.
So don't think for a second that Allen is safe.
If the Grizzlies do let Allen walk, the entire NBA will likely champ at the bit to get him under contract. Not only is Allen the league's premier on-ball defender, but he's a former NBA champion.
How much better of a free agent could you possibly be looking for?
Allen is 31, but he's displaying no signs of slowing down defensively, and any contender would be foolish to pass over him. In a class where the shooting guard position is as weak as ever, the interest will likely be at a high.
With few, if any, max-contract off guards, Allen could be viewed as the cream of the crop in 2013—and rightfully so.
Brandon Jennings, RFA
Arguably the most prized possession during the upcoming period of free agency will be point guard Chris Paul. Beyond CP3, however, the position is led by young players with ability worth marveling at but with upside untapped.
Brandon Jennings is at the heart of those players.
Jennings will become a restricted free agent, which gives the Milwaukee Bucks the right to match any offer he receives. With that being said, Jennings is, arguably, the point guard with the most upside behind Paul and will thus be in line for a max contract.
It may not be something he's earned just yet, but consider the reason for this odd truth to be two words—Eric Gordon.
In 2012, Gordon was a beneficiary of the fact that there just weren't any franchise shooting guards on the market. In turn, he went from being an above-average shooting guard with star potential to a player being paid like an All-Star.
Expect the same thing to happen with Jennings.
Jennings is on the border of stardom and possesses every tool necessary to be an All-Star in his prime. With that being said, the 23-year-old point guard has not yet made that leap, posting flashy numbers but struggling to discover consistency.
With a point guard market rather bare on stars after Paul, however, Jennings will set the standard for what other young floor generals receive.
Al Jefferson, UFA
In terms of what he puts on the floor, Al Jefferson is one of the better big men in the NBA. Unfortunately, spending his career with small-market teams has prevented Jefferson from becoming the All-Star he deserves to be.
This offseason, he'll be paid in a manner that makes up for that disrespect.
The Utah Jazz may let Jefferson walk, as they have both Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter in their frontcourt. Should that be the case, there's a strong probability that Jefferson becomes the most valued center after Dwight Howard.
Andrew Bynum's extensive history of injury certainly doesn't hurt Jefferson's cause.
In terms of raw ability, you could make the case that Jefferson is a top-10 player at his position. In terms of production, your argument becomes even easier to make.
He may not be the biggest name, but everyone will know his name this summer.
Jefferson will be one of the key dominoes to fall, regardless of what position he plays. After D-12, Jefferson's potential contract will help determine the market value of other players that fall into the second tier of players.
More importantly for Jefferson, it will grant him the opportunity to put his All-Star-caliber abilities on full display.