One Instant Starter Every NBA Team Could Acquire in Free Agency
There may be dozens of proclamations made to the contrary, but very few—if any—NBA teams have settled on their starting five for next season.
Of course, some of the league's franchises will fill any gaps that they have through the June 27 draft, while others will try to move current players and/or draft picks in an attempt to find that one missing piece in their lineup puzzle.
In addition, those teams that are fortunate enough to clear out some cap space this summer will have yet another avenue at their disposal: free agency. And though the market doesn't appear to be as plentiful as it has been in past offseasons, there are starting-caliber players available for every single team in the league.
1) Atlanta Hawks: Chris Paul
The Los Angeles Clippers haven't exactly done the best job in courting Chris Paul over the past few weeks, so it wouldn't be a shock if the six-time All-Star decided to take his talents to Atlanta this summer.
The Hawks clearly have an interest in Paul: The team sent out a letter to prospective ticket buyers that mentioned the point guard by name (along with Dwight Howard). Atlanta is one of the few teams with the cap space to sign Paul outright, and if they're fortunate enough to get a deal done, the Hawks would immediately vault into contention in the Eastern Conference.
2) Boston Celtics: DeJuan Blair
Unless they move Paul Pierce and/or Kevin Garnett, the Boston Celtics won't have much cap room to speak of. But that doesn't preclude them from going the low cost route with a player such as San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair.
Last year, the Celtics' frontcourt engaged in a season-long game of musical chairs: Plenty of bodies in motion without any stability whatsoever. Adding Blair at the 4 spot would alleviate some of Boston's rebounding issues, and since he doesn't need the basketball to operate on offense, there should be little disruption to the balance between Pierce, Garnett and Rajon Rondo.
3) Brooklyn Nets: Antawn Jamison
Antawn Jamison's stint with the Lakers proves that he's willing to play for the league minimum for a contending team. As such, the Brooklyn Nets should make an overture in his direction this offseason in an attempt to bolster their frontcourt.
With Kris Humphries out of the rotation and Andray Blatche likely headed out of town, Brooklyn has a huge void (offensively) at the power forward spot. That hole can be filled in part by Jamison, who had a decent run backing up Pau Gasol last season (9.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG). At 37 years old, Jamison can't be expected to play more than 25 minutes per night, but his veteran presence and ability to knock down the three—Jamison shot better than 36 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13—make him a very intriguing option who could unseat incumbent starter Reggie Evans.
4) Charlotte Bobcats: Paul Millsap
If the Charlotte Bobcats renounce their rights to some of their free agents, they could have roughly $20 million in cap room. And while they'll have their work cut out for them trying to lure high-level free agents to North Carolina, they may be able to land a second-tier guy such as Paul Millsap.
The youth movement in Utah likely ends in Millsap's departure from the Jazz, but the 6'8" power forward should have his fair share of suitors in free agency. Millsap's Player Efficiency Rating over the past three seasons has never been lower than 19.8, and in Charlotte, he'd give the Bobcats the toughness that they currently lack. The 28-year-old Millsap shouldn't break the bank, either: He made just $8.6 million with the Jazz last season.
5) Chicago Bulls: Anthony Morrow
The Chicago Bulls are in desperate need of a pure shooting guard, and they don't get much purer than Anthony Morrow, a career 42.4 percent shooter from downtown.
With Derrick Rose returning from his torn ACL injury and a newly-acquired Morrow spotting up on the wing, you can pencil the Bulls in as one of the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference next year. Morrow won't turn a whole lot of heads on the free-agent market this summer, but in the right situation (such as Chicago), the five-year veteran could have a huge impact.
6) Cleveland Cavaliers: Andre Iguodala
If the Cleveland Cavaliers don't fill their need for a small forward in the draft, signing Andre Iguodala would be a mighty fine contingency plan, especially for a team that lacks strong veteran leadership in the locker room.
Cleveland allowed more than 101 points per game last year, and one of the best ways to shore up a porous defense is to acquire one of the best wing defenders in the NBA. Iguodala helped the Denver Nuggets make marked improvements on both ends of the court this past season, and he would be a solid complement to superstar-to-be Kyrie Irving.
7) Dallas Mavericks: Andrew Bynum
Andrew Bynum is the biggest gamble on the free-agent market, but Mark Cuban isn't known for being conservative. So while signing the 7-foot big man may be riskier than investing in a company on "Shark Tank", the reward may outweigh the penalty.
When healthy, Bynum is an All-NBA caliber center. But after missing an entire year with knee issues, no one has any idea how good Bynum will be once he finally steps onto the court again.
With an aging Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks may not be in a position to contend for much longer. As such, they need to make a huge splash this offseason, and Bynum is the type of investment that could set Dallas up nicely for the future.
8) Denver Nuggets: O.J. Mayo
O.J. Mayo played his cards right and won: He found a team where he could start immediately, and he used the opportunity to have a breakout season (15.3 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.5 RPG).
Mayo figures to cash in this year, and if some of the Nuggets' free agents (Andre Iguodala, among others) part ways with the team, Denver could be a nice landing spot for the 25-year-old shooting guard.
The Nuggets would lose quite a bit defensively on the wing, but Mayo (who shot 40.7 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13) is a far more accomplished shooter than Iguodala. In addition, Mayo's ability to handle the ball would relieve some of the burden from point guard Ty Lawson.
9) Detroit Pistons: Monta Ellis
Milwaukee Bucks guard Monta Ellis rejected a two-year extension earlier this month, and all signs are that he'll try to get a richer deal elsewhere.
Salary cap constraints will likely reduce the number of teams interested in Ellis, but it wouldn't be far-fetched for Detroit to make a play for his services. The Pistons are in dire need of some scoring punch in the backcourt, and the team could have nearly $30 million in cap space to play with.
Detroit may not be at the top of Ellis' list of preferred destinations, but if the combo guard is adamant about getting paid this summer, the Pistons may be one of the few options on the table.
10) Golden State Warriors: J.J. Hickson
Golden State is one of the few teams whose starting lineup for next season appears to be pretty much set.
That doesn't mean that they plan on resting on their laurels, however. And if the Warriors decide that they don't want to pay $44 million over the next three years to power forward David Lee, they may move him for a cheaper option such as free-agent big man J.J. Hickson.
It's doubtful that Hickson would sign with Golden State outright: After a career-best performance last season (12.7 PPG, 10.4 RPG), Hickson is in line for a king's ransom this summer.
If the team is intent on keeping Lee, then they may consider moving Andrew Bogut if they're indeed interested in Hickson. Bogut has one year and $14 million left on his deal, and the Warriors wouldn't have much of a problem finding a suitor for his services.
11) Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard is one of the crown jewels of this year's free-agent crop, and the perfect marriage of player and team may result in him signing with the Houston Rockets this summer.
Houston will have to do some maneuvering in order to create max-level cap space for Howard, but rest assured, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey will do anything within reason to land a superstar talent this offseason. The Howard-James Harden tandem would be absolutely devastating and would make Houston an instant title contender as soon as next season.
12) Indiana Pacers: Darren Collison
The George Hill full-time starter experiment hasn't quite worked to plan, but the Indiana Pacers don't have a whole lot of money to spend on a replacement.
Enter Darren Collison.
Already familiar with Frank Vogel's schemes thanks to spending two of his first four seasons in Indiana, the 25-year-old Collison (12.0 PPG, 5.1 APG with Dallas in 2012-13) would be an ideal fit for a Pacers team that struggled to put up points last season (94.7 PPG, 23rd in the NBA).
Collison's shortcomings on defense would be negated by the presence of Roy Hibbert (and possibly David West, if he re-signs), and Indiana could then move Hill to a reserve role as the team's seventh or eighth man.
13) Los Angeles Clippers: Brandon Jennings
Brandon Jennings was born in Compton, CA, and he spends his offseason on the West Coast, so it's logical to think that he would enjoy playing in Los Angeles if the opportunity presented itself.
That dream may come to reality if Chris Paul has had his fill of the Clippers organization: a very likely possibility. The $14 million or so in cap space that Paul would leave behind is more than enough to sign Jennings, who seems as though he may benefit from a change in scenery.
Clearly, there's a drop-off in talent between Jennings and Paul, but Los Angeles can't afford to lose their best player and not sign a high-level replacement of some sort. Jennings (17.5 PPG, 6.5 RPG) can definitely fill that role, and he would ensure that the Clippers wouldn't return to mediocrity any time soon.
14) Los Angeles Lakers: Stephen Jackson
In the right situation, Stephen Jackson can still be a vital contributor to a contending team. One of those situations might be with the Los Angeles Lakers as they try to keep their proverbial window open for as long as possible.
The Lakers would love to have more consistency at the small forward position (to call Metta World Peace "erratic" would be a compliment), and Jackson has a chance to be a solid starter if he can bounce back from a disappointing 2012-13 season.
Jackson can't (and won't) command big money on the free-agent market this summer, which is a good thing since the Lakers are destined to be far over the salary cap for the foreseeable future.
15) Memphis Grizzlies: J.R. Smith
Memphis will have to move either Marc Gasol (highly unlikely) or Zach Randolph if they want to make a big play in the free-agent market, but the team could use its mid-level exception on a scorer such as New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith.
As it stands, the Grizzlies' offense is too reliant on its bigs: A scoring threat on the wing such as Smith would bring more balance to the Memphis attack. The 6'6" shooting guard (18.1 PPG in 2012-13) is a threat from 25 feet and in, and could breathe life into a moribund Grizzlies team that averaged just 93.4 PPG last season.
16) Miami Heat: Samuel Dalembert
Miami has shown interest in Samuel Dalembert in the past, and the soon-to-be free agent told Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida that the Heat "will be definitely an option" this summer.
It's no secret that Miami needs someone to rebound and alter shots in the paint—two things that Dalembert excels at. The 11-year center has already come to grips with the fact that he'd have to take a pay cut in order to head to South Beach, but the opportunity for a title is probably more valuable to Dalembert at this point in his career.
17) Milwaukee Bucks: Kevin Martin
"The Purge" isn't just the title of a popular movie: It's also an apt description of what may happen to the Milwaukee Bucks roster come July.
There's plenty of attention focused on what the Bucks will do with combo guards Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings, and Milwaukee might be best served to change course and go with a pure shooter such as Kevin Martin from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Martin was comfortable playing the James Harden role for the Thunder in 2012-13 (14.0 PPG, 42.4 percent shooting from beyond the arc), but it's hard to believe that he wouldn't want to start somewhere if given the opportunity. As long as the 30-year-old Martin isn't looking for a deal similar to the one that he just finished (five years, $53 million), he may be able to find a home in Milwaukee.
18) Minnesota Timberwolves: Carl Landry
Back in 2011, Carl Landry turned a solid postseason run into a one-year, $8.5 million deal with the New Orleans Hornets, and he may be looking to repeat that coup this year.
There is one small problem, however. With only a slight increase projected for the league's 2013-14 salary cap, it may be difficult for Landry (16.8 PPG, 9.3 RPG last season) to break the bank should he chose to opt out.
If he does, he could wind up with a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves, who may lose Nikola Pekovic to free agency. Paired with a presumably healthy Kevin Love, the Timberwolves could boast the best rebounding tandem in all of the NBA.
19) New Orleans Pelicans: Jose Calderon
Jose Calderon's horrible defense will always be something of an albatross around his neck. That said, he's a fantastic playmaker who might be one of the most underrated lead guards in recent memory.
As impressive as Greivis Vazquez was at times last season (13.9 PPG, 9.0 APG), the new-look Pelicans can't be completely satisfied with what they have at point guard. Calderon led the league in three-point percentage last season (46.1 percent), and his career assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.2-to-1 is something that coaches only dream of.
Yes... Calderon is little more than a hand-waver on the opposite end of the court. But with Anthony Davis in the middle, New Orleans can get away with having sub-par wing defenders: The team formerly known as the Hornets allowed just 97.9 PPG last season.
20) New York Knicks: Nick Young
The New York Knicks and cap space are like oil and water, but after winning 54 games in 2012-13, they may be able to convince a player or two to come to the Big Apple this summer.
Playing at a discount in NYC may be attractive to someone such as Nick Young, a no-holds-barred shooting guard who never met a jumper that he didn't like. Even if the Knicks retain J.R. Smith, they'll still need to find someone to man the 2 spot (Pablo Prigioni? Please pick up the white courtesy phone...). Young averaged 13.1 PPG as a starter for the 76ers last year, and his defensive lapses would be a little less troubling with Tyson Chandler roaming the paint behind him.
21) Oklahoma City Thunder: J.J. Redick
It should be noted that Oklahoma City Thunder head coach Scott Brooks doesn't appear to have any issue with Thabo Sefolosha as his starting shooting guard. However, if the team wants a more offensive threat in the lineup, there will be a few options available this summer, including Milwaukee's J.J. Redick.
Redick never really got into a groove with the Bucks (he shot just 31.8 percent from beyond the arc), and his performance last year was likely just an aberration. On a team like the Thunder, Redick's ability to stretch the floor would create plenty of chances for both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook to attack the basket.
22) Orlando Magic: Chase Budinger
The buzz surrounding Chase Budinger's impending free agency is minimal at best. That isn't a surprise, necessarily: The 6'7" small forward missed all but 23 games this past season as he recovered from a torn meniscus, and when he did play, he shot just 41.4 percent from the floor.
But with the majority of the focus on the larger names on the market, Budinger is the perfect low-risk, high-reward option for a team like the Orlando Magic that lacks significant cap space. Budinger can be had for a deal in the neighborhood of the veteran's minimum, and if he can somehow regain his pre-injury form, he may be one of the best sharpshooters in the entire NBA.
23) Philadelphia 76ers: Al Jefferson
If and when Philadelphia decides to move on from the Andrew Bynum debacle, expect them to show interest in Utah Jazz center Al Jefferson. While the 76ers can't offer the 28-year-old veteran a max deal (as it stands now), they may be able to pull off some salary cap machinations in order to make it work.
Jefferson would be an ideal fit for a team that hasn't had a star quality, back-to-the-basket player since the days of Charles Barkley. Most importantly, Jefferson would make life a lot easier on All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday, who was burdened with carrying the offensive load for the 76ers last season.
24) Phoenix Suns: Tyreke Evans
For a team that won just 25 games last season, the Phoenix Suns have a fair amount of assets that they can use in potential deals. If they can create some cap space by packaging together picks and players, Sacramento's Tyreke Evans may find himself on the team's free-agent radar.
Evans would fit in nicely alongside Goran Dragic as a combo guard who can give the Suns a much-needed scoring punch. And although Evans hasn't been terribly consistent throughout his first four years in the NBA, he still has the potential to be one of the league's better scorers. Whether he'll ever reach that promise in Phoenix—or anywhere else, for that matter—remains to be seen.
25) Portland Trail Blazers: David West
Meyers Leonard and Joel Freeland aren't the answer in the middle for the Portland Trail Blazers, but a little creativity could help the team solve its center issues this summer.
There won't be a lot of big men of note on the market, but if David West can't hash out a new deal with the Indiana Pacers, he could find a new home in the Pacific Northwest.
Bringing in West at the 4 spot would mean that LaMarcus Aldridge would have to slide over to the 5, but the Blazers' front line (while non-traditional and undersized) could wreak havoc in the Western Conference. And with Damian Lillard, Wesley Matthews and Nic Batum at the three other starting spots, Portland could find itself back in the postseason for the first time since 2010-11.
26) Sacramento Kings: Josh Smith
Will Sacramento sign Josh Smith this summer? Doubtful. But don't count them out of the sweepstakes entirely: Money talks, and the Kings could have a lot to say come July.
If Sacramento renounces the rights to Tyreke Evans and use their amnesty clause on John Salmons, they could free up enough cap room to sign Smith to a max deal. The thought of a Smith-DeMarcus Cousins pairing is extremely intriguing, and with Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton in the backcourt, the Kings could find themselves back on the road to respectability sooner than many imagined.
27) San Antonio Spurs: Tiago Splitter
The San Antonio Spurs may very well be the team least likely to do much of note in the free-agent market.
Sure...they could try to make a play for someone who can challenge Danny Green at shooting guard, but all signs point to Tiago Splitter being the only starting-caliber player that the team makes a run at come July.
The 6'11" Splitter is finally coming into his own (despite his reverse baptism at the hands of LeBron James), and given the playing time, he has the potential to be a double-double threat. That said, he will turn 29 midway through next season, and San Antonio may be wise to consider other (read: younger) options in free agency.
28) Toronto Raptors: Andray Blatche
During just one season in Brooklyn, Andray Blatche has shed his reputation as a malcontent, making him a wildly interesting free-agent option this summer.
For the Nets, Blatche averaged 10.3 PPG in just 19.0 minutes per game in 2012-13. He'd be a solid complement to Jonas Valanciunas in Toronto, and with a true low-post option, the Raptors could be one of the teams to watch in the Eastern Conference next year.
Toronto doesn't have much money to spend, but they may not need it: Blatche played for a little over $1.1 million this past season.
29) Utah Jazz: Jarrett Jack
With the Utah Jazz set in the frontcourt for the near future, expect the team to make a splash this summer by acquiring the best point guard possible. And while it's doubtful that Chris Paul would choose to call Salt Lake City home, the team could wind up with a solid playmaker such as Golden State's Jarrett Jack.
Jack was fantastic during the Warriors' recent playoff run, averaging 17.2 points, 4.7 assists and 4.4 rebounds per game. That performance will help Jack cash out this offseason, and the suitor best positioned to land him may be the Jazz, who figure to have nearly $30 million in cap space.
Jack's eight years of experience may be his most valuable trait: No member of Utah's projected starting lineup is older than 23 years old.
30) Washington Wizards: Matt Barnes
Even if the Washington Wizards draft small forward Otto Porter this June, the team will still likely be in the market for starting-caliber wing player.
That player could be Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes, who can provide Washington with much of what they need at a fairly reasonable price. The 33-year-old Barnes had a career season in 2012-13 (10.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG) and his ability to lock down his defensive assignment would be a plus to an already defensively stout Wizards' team.
Despite their lack of recent success, Washington is well-positioned for the future: Selling that to Barnes and/or other free agents is the primary hurdle that they'll face this summer.