Which Free Agent Should Each NBA Team Prioritize Re-Signing This Offseason

Alec NathanFeatured ColumnistJune 13, 2013

Which Free Agent Should Each NBA Team Prioritize Re-Signing This Offseason

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    It's summer, and the rumor mill is churning, which can only mean one thing: Free Agency will soon be upon us.  

    Franchises will be looking to make splashes with big signings, but it's important to remember that front offices won't have to look far to find solutions to certain personnel problems. 

    The criteria to qualify for the slideshow was as follows: The players listed are either restricted or unrestricted free agents, and they have played previously for the team they're listed with. 

    Note: All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference unless noted otherwise. 

Atlanta Hawks: Jeff Teague

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    The Atlanta Hawks are in the midst of a complete overhaul from a personnel standpoint. 

    Obviously, the team's most noteworthy unrestricted free agent is Josh Smith, but given his frustrating habits and presumably high price tag, Jeff Teague should be the team's No. 1 priority. 

    Coming off of a season in which he averaged 14.6 points, 7.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game on 45.1 percent shooting (35.9 percent from three), Teague is trending in the right direction at age 25. 

    In a league that's dominated by the point guard position, he is a dual threat that the Hawks must keep in-house. 

    A restricted free agent this summer, the Hawks would be wise to match any offers Teague receives from rivals. 

Boston Celtics: None

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    The Boston Celtics' only unrestricted free agent this summer is Chris Wilcox, and it's hardly imperative that Danny Ainge makes a big push to keep him in tow. 

    Instead, the focus for Ainge and the Celtics should be on planning for the future. 

    According to ESPN's Chris Broussard, head coach Doc Rivers feels that an amicable split may be best for both sides: 

    Although Boston Celtics team president Danny Ainge has stated that Doc Rivers will return to coach Boston next season, Rivers believes it "may be time for a change," according to a source close to the situation.

    "Doc loves coaching," the source told ESPN. "He loves coaching in Boston. But he feels it may be time for a change."

    Should Rivers put Boston in the rear-view mirror, Ainge will have crucial (albeit, easier) decisions to make regarding the futures of Paul Piece and Kevin Garnett

    Sadly, it appears as if a prosperous period in Boston may be coming to a screeching halt. 

Brooklyn Nets: Andray Blatche

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    It's not every day that you see a player on a non-guaranteed deal produce the way Andray Blatche did in his first season with the Brooklyn Nets. 

    Arguably the Nets' most effective reserve last season, Blatche posted averages of 10.3 points and 5.1 rebounds in 19 minutes per game. 

    Brooklyn's salary-cap situation is none too pretty, so the team will need to focus on smaller, under-the-radar moves in the offseason. 

    Signing Blatche would be one, but as the New York Post's Tim Bontemps points out, the Nets may not be able to offer him enough money: 

    The Nets have said they would like Blatche to come back, and Blatche has said the same, but we’ll see what happens. With the Nets all but certain to use their one exception to sign a player for more than the minimum to sign Bojan Bogdanovic, the only way they could re-sign Blatche is to offer him 120 percent of what he signed for last year – or a little less than $1.5 million.

Charlotte Bobcats: Gerald Henderson

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    With his play over the last two seasons, Gerald Henderson has earned himself a nice payday. 

    He has averaged 15.3 points per game over the last two seasons and has turned heads with his stunning athleticism. 

    Aside from the offensively challenged Michael-Kidd Gilchrist, the Bobcats don't possess much depth on the perimeter. Ben Gordon's play has declined drastically of late, making Henderson all the more valuable. 

    While Charlotte could choose to pursue a shooting guard with the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, the Bobcats need to maintain a veteran presence at the 2-guard who can stabilize the offense and defense. 

Chicago Bulls: Marco Belinelli

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    The Chicago Bulls relied on a supporting cast of unsung heroes to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2013. 

    Among them was Marco Belinelli, the Italian wing whose stroke from beyond the arc helped breathe life into a moribund Bulls offense. 

    Belinelli proved his worth in the postseason, averaging 11.1 points per game (1.5 points better than his regular-season average) while connecting on a steady 34 percent of his threes. 

    There will be more buzz surrounding the unrestricted free agency of one Nate Robinson, but the Bulls would be wise to let another team overpay for the streaky point guard while they lock up Belinelli. 

Cleveland Cavaliers: Wayne Ellington

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    Wayne Ellington has always been a quality rotation player, but the 6'4'' shooting guard carved out a real niche for himself with the Cleveland Cavaliers following a trade from Memphis. 

    In 38 games (17 starts) with the Cavs last season, Ellington recorded a career-high 10.4 points per game on 43.9 percent shooting. 

    With the Cavs in need of depth behind Dion Waiters at the 2, Ellington is a logical fit long-term. He can be effective in 15-20 minutes per game and is a 38.2 percent shooter from beyond the arc for his career. 

    While he may not have the most diverse offensive game, Ellington is capable of stretching the floor and knocking down shots off the catch as defenses key in on Kyrie Irving. 

Dallas Mavericks: Brandan Wright

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    The Dallas Mavericks sorely lack long-term stability in the frontcourt, which is why Mark Cuban's proximate goal this summer should be to lock up Brandan Wright. 

    Wright's never played more than 18 minutes per game over the course of a season during his five-year career, but he is primed to take on a larger role in year six. 

    Looking at Wright's per-36 minute metrics, it's clear the rangy 6'9'' big has the tools to be a legitimate center. 

    According to Basketball-Reference, Wright averaged 17 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game per 36 minutes during the 2012-13 seasons. With a bump in minutes and a vote of confidence from the organization, he could be a candidate to break out next year. 

Denver Nuggets: Andre Iguodala

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    It wasn't all that long ago that the Denver Nuggets were considered one of the brightest young organizations in basketball. Now, after a first-round playoff exit, the departure of their general manager and the firing of the reigning Coach of the Year, the Nuggets' future is a bit more uncertain. 

    They still possess the talented young pieces that had the NBA community buzzing all season long, but one could soon be walking out the door. 

    Andre Iguodala has the ability to exercise an early termination this summer, making him an unrestricted free agent. According to the Denver Post, you'd be smart to bet on Iguodala opting out. 

    Iguodala's impact isn't easily quantifiable, because he does so many little things that don't show up in the box score. However, his outburst in the 2013 playoffs proved what a diverse weapon he is. Over six games, Iguodala averaged 18 points (on 50 percent shooting, 48.3 percent from three), eight rebounds, 5.3 assists and two steals per contest. 

Detroit Pistons: Jose Calderon

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    The Detroit Pistons' backcourt remains rather unsettled. Brandon Knight hasn't inspired enough confidence for new coach Maurice Cheeks to hand him the starting point guard job, but he hasn't looked particularly comfortable playing at the 2, either. 

    Enter Jose Calderon. 

    The Pistons acquired Jose Calderon in a three-team deal at the 2013 trade deadline, and he immediately brought stability to the point guard spot. In 28 games with the Pistons, Calderon shot 52.7 percent from the floor, 52 percent from three and racked up 6.6 assists per game. 

    He is also one of the most careful passers of the ball, as he averages a meager 1.7 turnovers per game for his career. 

    The Spanish point guard recorded the second-highest assist-to-turnover ratio in the NBA last season (4.11), and his efficient, calculated style of play is what the Pistons need to start off a new regime right. 

Golden State Warriors: Jarrett Jack

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    Given Stephen Curry's injury history, the Golden State Warriors' best move this summer would be to re-sign Jarrett Jack to a long-term deal. 

    The offensively minded Jack made the most of his one-year deal with Golden State throughout the 2012-13 season and really emerged as a solid player during the Warriors' playoff run.

    In 12 playoff games, he averaged 17.2 points per game on 50.6 percent shooting and hit on 89.6 percent of his free throws. 

    Jack impressed in a contract year, and the Warriors can only hope he produces at a similar level as he settles into life in the Bay Area. 

Houston Rockets: None

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    The only free agents the Houston Rockets should prioritize signing are Chris Paul and Dwight Howard

    Houston's only real free agents-to-be are Francisco Garcia, Carlos Delfino and Aaron Brooks. But the team would be wise to decline the combined $11.9 million in team options those three could be due next season. 

    The Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen reports that both Howard and Paul are the Rockets' primary targets, which would put all other signings on the back burner: 

    Dwight Howard will not be the only object of the Rockets’ free-agent affections, and the Los Angeles Lakers center has not been the only subject of their intensive preparations for next month’s sales pitches.

    Howard has generated by far the most attention as a Rockets free-agent target, but the team plans a similar and simultaneous pursuit of Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul, a person with knowledge of the Rockets’ thinking said. According to another individual familiar with the team’s plans, “they are targets No. 1 and 1A.”

    Adding even one of those two superstars would propel the Rockets into the Western Conference's elite, as James Harden and Chandler Parsons have already formed a formidable one-two punch. 

Indiana Pacers: David West

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    David West's blue-collar style of play is exactly what Frank Vogel and the Indiana Pacers are looking for from their primary contributors. 

    The 32-year-old forward meshed beautifully with center Roy Hibbert in the tandem's second year together, with West the offensive anchor. 

    After averaging 17.1 points and 7.7 rebounds per game last season, West is going to be a hot commodity on the open market this summer. In fact, according to Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix, he is likely to receive some generous offers: 

    An Eastern Conference executive suggested West could draw a three-year, $36 million deal on the open market, a contract that he would finish at age 35. But West relies on brute strength, not athleticism, and his feathery 15-foot jump shot suggests he will age better than most.

    The good news for the Pacers? West told Fox Sports Florida that his preference would be to return to Indiana.  

Los Angeles Clippers: Chris Paul

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    The biggest prize the summer of 2013 has to offer is Chris Paul. 

    At one point, it felt like a foregone conclusion that Paul would re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. Now? Not so much. 

    After temporarily being blamed for the firing of former head coach Vinny Del Negro, ESPN's Chris Brouassard reported that Paul was none too happy with Clippers management. 

    More recently, the Houston Chronicle's Jonathan Feigen has reported that the Houston Rockets are aiming to lure Paul, Dwight Howard or possibly both to H-Town this summer. 

    Paul's 2012-13 season was nothing short of spectacular, as he averaged 16.9 points, 9.7 assists and a league-best 2.4 steals per game—one reason why he was graced with First-Team All-NBA and First-Team All-Defense honors.

Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard

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    If Chris Paul is free agency's biggest prize, Dwight Howard is prize No. 1A. 

    Howard's first season in Hollywood wasn't the stuff of fairy tales, and seems to have raised doubt in his mind about returning to L.A., according to ESPN's Marc Stein

    The Los Angeles Lakers don't have a ton to sell Howard on, but their ability to offer more years and more money than any other team is certainly appealing. 

    With Kobe Bryant's time as the Lakers' centerpiece winding down, Howard will soon be able to soak in all of the spotlight should he choose to re-up with L.A. 

    It may be a tough sell for the Lakers, but it's tough to imagine Howard bolting from his desired destination after one underwhelming year.  

Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Allen

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    After capturing All-Defensive First Team honors each of the past two seasons, Tony Allen has established himself as one of the NBA's stingiest perimeter defenders. While his offensive efforts are nothing to write home about (8.9 points per game on 44.5 percent shooting in 2012-13), his effort and hustle on defense personify what the Memphis Grizzlies represent. 

    On a tough-minded team that wins with defense first, Allen is an indispensable piece. 

    The Grizzlies lack quality depth at shooting guard, and, as it turns out, both Allen and backup Jerryd Bayless could be free agents this summer (if Bayless declines his player option). While Bayless does provide more of an offensive spark, there's no denying that Allen is the more valuable piece. He meshes perfectly with what the Grizzlies want to do: wear down opponents with relentless defense en route to gritty victories. 

Miami Heat: Chris Andersen

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    Talk continues to surround the Miami Heat's need for a prototypical big man, but they've made out just fine with an unconventional big in Chris Andersen. Birdman's impact in the postseason has been a marvel to watch, as he's scoring 6.9 points on 81.8 percent shooting. Yes, you read that right. 

    For the playoffs, Birdman has missed a grand total of 10 shots (45-of-55 from the floor). He may not be able to post up and go to work on the low block, but Andersen is the perfect energy player off the bench for a team like Miami that's sorely lacking size. 

    Andersen's reasonable price tag, combined with Miami's inability to spend in free agency, makes him an ideal candidate to re-sign with the Heat. 

Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings

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    The Milwaukee Bucks have decisions aplenty to make this summer regarding the team's backcourt. 

    Monta Ellis (early termination option) and Brandon Jennings (restricted) could both leave the nest this summer, but it would be foolish for the Bucks to let both waltz out the door. 

    According to Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Bucks offered Ellis a two-year extension worth roughly $12 million a season, which Ellis declined: 

    As part of the discussions the Bucks offered the 27-year-old guard a two-year extension through the 2015-’16 season, resulting in a total package of nearly $36 million over three years, according to a source. Ellis would have been required to opt in to get the additional two years on the deal.

    That includes the opt-in first year at $11 million, with annual raises bringing the total to $11.8 million in the second year of the deal and $13 million in the final year.

    It's clear Ellis believes he can garner greater value on the open market, and the Bucks shouldn't kill themselves to hold onto the streak shooter. Instead, Milwaukee should match offers for Jennings, the 23-year-old point guard who averaged 17.5 points per game and shot 37.5 percent from three last season. 

    Like Ellis, Jennings doesn't play with efficiency in mind. However, the NBA is driven by quality play at the point guard position, and Jennings is a budding star with a complete skill set. 

Minnesota Timberwolves: Nikola Pekovic

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    Nikola Pekovic may be a restricted free agent, but the Minnesota Timberwolves have no intentions of letting him sign elsewhere. 

    According to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, president of basketball operations Flip Saunders expects Pekovic to be back and better than ever next season:

    The Wolves are expecting starting center Nikola Pekovic, a restricted free agent, to be back next season. Saunders said he would meet with Pekovic during a trip to Europe next week.

    "We feel he's a vital part of where we're going, and we'll do what we have to do to try to bring him back," Saunders said. "Kirilenko is the same way. Until he exercises his option, we feel he's a guy who is going to come back."

    Coming off of career year in which he averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, it wouldn't be an upset to see Pekovic haul in more than $10 million per year in a league short on quality big men. 


New Orleans Pelicans: Al-Farouq Aminu

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    Al-Farouq Aminu has shown glimpses of potential over his first three professional seasons, but nothing that's inspired great confidence in the 22-year-old. 

    However, with a 6'9'', 215 pound frame, Aminu has undeniable value. His 2012-13 numbers don't jump off the page, but it's clear that with a bump in playing time he could have some real value to the New Orleans Pelicans at the 3. 

    According to Basketball-Reference, Aminu averaged 9.7 points and 10.2 rebounds per 36 minutes last season, and the fact that he managed to bump his shooting percentage up to 47.5 from 41.1 shows real progression. 

    His play thus far hasn't validated his high draft slot (No. 8 overall in 2010), but the Pelicans are in need of an athletic wing at a relatively low price. 

New York Knicks: J.R. Smith

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    J.R. Smith has claimed, via ESPN New York's Ian Begley, that he'd love to retire donning Blue and Orange. 

    However, after having a career year that culminated with a Sixth Man of the Year award victory, Smith will reportedly opt out of his contract and seek a raise from the New York Knicks.

    Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York has the details:  

    Another league source said it's "likely" Smith will re-sign with the Knicks come free agency (starting July 1), putting their roster at eight players under contract for next season. That number could extend to 10 players if New York re-signs Pablo Prigioni and Chris Copeland, who both have qualifying offers of $988,872. If they don't accept the offers by June 30, they will become restricted free agents.

    After averaging a career-high 18.1 points per game last season, Smith has earned a raise. 

    While he is among the league's most erratic shooters (a career 42.6 percent shooter), the Knicks desperately need perimeter players capable of spacing the floor for Carmelo Anthony

Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Martin

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    His wonky shooting motion aside, Kevin Martin is one of the league's premier sixth men. Although he couldn't fill the void of James Harden, few, if any, are capable of doing so. 

    In his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Martin was efficient and effective off the bench. He averaged a respectable 14 points per game on 45 percent shooting, including a 42.6 percent conversion rate from three. 

    While the Thunder may want to take some time and explore their options, Martin has expressed serious interest in returning to Oklahoma City, according to The Oklahoman's John Rohde

    I'm at a point in my career where I don't need to get what I can get (monetarily). It's more about happiness, and looking back on this experience, I've been on both sides of the fence — being on a championship-caliber team and being on a team trying to make it into the playoffs — so I have a vision of what I want my career to be, and the main thing is happiness and being a part of something special.

    Martin publicly stating that he'd be willing to take a pay cut to stay in OKC isn't a wise negotiating tactic. But if all he truly cares about is winning, the Thunder could do a lot worse than re-signing the sixth man to a team-friendly deal. 

Orlando Magic: Beno Udrih

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    The Orlando Magic's crop of impending free agents is underwhelming, to say the least. But if we're to single out one that the franchise could conceivably keep, it's Beno Udrih. 

    Jameer Nelson was limited to appearances in 56 games a year ago thanks to knee and ankle issues, and Udrih acquitted himself well in spot starts. 

    In 27 games (nine starts) with the Magic, Udrih recorded 10.2 points and 6.1 assists per game, shooting 40.8 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three. 

    One thing's for certain: Udrih is a talented point guard with ideal size and could help out as a backup, regardless of if the team acquires another point via the draft or a trade. 

Philadelphia 76ers: Dorell Wright

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    Forget Andrew Bynum. That's what the Philadelphia 76ers' mindset needs to be as free agency approaches. 

    Bynum was nothing but trouble from the moment he arrived in Philadelphia, and his shoddy knees are hardly worth an investment, no matter how big or small. 

    Rather than breaking the bank this summer, the Sixers would be wise to save up for the summer of 2014. 

    What does that mean for 2013? Re-signing swingman Dorell Wright remains a viable option, particularly if he's willing to agree to a team-friendly deal. 

    Wright wasn't able to prosper in Doug Collins' stagnant offense in his first season in Philly, but under the guidance of a new coach, he could regain his peak form from beyond the arc. 

Phoenix Suns: Wesley Johnson

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    The pickings are slim for the Phoenix Suns in terms of impending free agents. There's Wesley Johnson, Jermaine O'Neal and that about sums it up. 

    Johnson has shown incremental improvement each of the past two years, but he is still nowhere near the player many thought he'd be when he was selected at No. 4 overall in the 2010 NBA draft. The Syracuse product only managed 19.1 minutes per game in 50 appearances last season. But he's still young enough where bits of promise can inspire hope that he'll one day be a regular contributor.

    Signing Johnson to a low-risk, one-year deal couldn't hurt and will help Phoenix at the small forward spot. 

Portland Trail Blazers: Eric Maynor

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    If the Portland Trail Blazers do anything this summer, they should aim to bolster their depth. 

    According to HoopsStats, the Blazers' bench was the least utilized group league-wide, with reserves playing an average of 13.3 minutes per game and the unit as a whole scoring a league-worst 18.5 points per game. 

    One way to improve the league's worst second unit would be offering Eric Maynor a new deal. 

    Maynor arrived in Portland after a deadline trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder in what amounted to no more than a salary dump. Serving as the backup to Damian Lillard, Maynor averaged 6.9 points and four assists per game—numbers that extrapolate to 11.8 points and 6.9 assists per 36 minutes, according to Basketball-Reference

    It's hardly a flashy move, but keeping Maynor in the fold would be an inexpensive way to provide the Blazers with established depth at point guard. 

Sacramento Kings: Tyreke Evans

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    What are we to make of Tyreke Evans at this point in his career? 

    It's been all downhill for Evans since he won the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year award, and the numbers aren't pretty. 

    After averaging 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.8 assists and 1.5 steals per game during his inaugural campaign, Evans' scoring average has declined each of the last three seasons. Bottoming out at 15.2 points per game during the 2012-13 season, he hasn't been able to find his footing in a backcourt that's been shuffled countless times. 

    One positive for the Sacramento Kings, should they choose to re-sign Evans: He shot a career-best 33.8 percent from three last season, while his field-goal percentage ticked up to 47.8 from 45.3 a year prior. 

San Antonio Spurs: Tiago Splitter

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    The San Antonio Spurs have a couple significant players whose contracts expire this summer, namely Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. 

    It's impossible to imagine Ginobili donning another uniform, and combined with the fact that Splitter is younger and thus more appealing on the open market, the Brazilian is the choice. 

    Splitter is just now finishing up his third year in the NBA and will turn 29 years old next season. An unheralded interior defender, he has thrived under the guidance of Gregg Popovich. 

    Coming off of his most productive season to date (24.7 minutes, 10.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game), Splitter figures to be a highly sought-after big on the open market. According to NBA.com's Sekou Smith, you can bank on a market developing for Splitter's services: 

    Like almost every skilled big man, Splitter is going to be worth more than a man half his size with better credentials. That’s just the way things work in this league. He’s due for a significant raise from the $3.9 million he’s earning this season. In fact, he should have no trouble doubling that in a free agent market (for unrestricted and restricted free agents) that is relatively light on centers.

Toronto Raptors: Sebastian Telfair

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    A case could be made for Alan Anderson, but the swingman will soon be 31 and the Toronto Raptors are stacked with talent on the wing (see: Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Landry Fields and Terrence Ross). 

    Perhaps a more logical signing would be Sebastian Telfair, the one-time prodigy-turned-NBA role player who was traded from Phoenix to Toronto last season. 

    Telfair's signing would really be exclusively for purposes relating to depth at point guard. 

    Kyle Lowry has missed 33 games over the last two seasons, and if he misses extended time in the future, the Raptors will only have John Lucas to lean on. 

Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap

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    The Utah Jazz took a gamble at the trade deadline when they held onto both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson. But they will likely have to part ways with at least one of their talented big men this summer, according to Kurt Kragthorpe of the Salt Lake Tribune.

    If the Jazz choose to pursue one over the other, their target should be Millsap. 

    The 28-year-old power forward plays a position at which the Jazz have less depth, and his versatile skill set is one rarely seen by frontcourt players who measure 6'8'', 245 pounds. 

    Letting Jefferson walk would allow Derrick Favors to step into the limelight at center while Enes Kanter picks up more second-team reps behind him. 

    With an abundance of cap space, the Jazz should go hard after Millsap. 

Washington Wizards: Martell Webster

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    Martell Webster is far and away the Washington Wizards' most intriguing free agent. And after an impressive 2012-13 campaign, he has earned himself a bump in pay. 

    According to CSN Washington, Webster is interested in staying in Washington. The only problem is that the Wizards don't have a great deal of financial flexibility: 

    Webster is serious about wanting to stay. He played well enough to increase his value. The Wizards don't have a lot of space under the salary cap, but they have a mid-level exception and bi-annual exception available. 

    Playing on a "prove-it" deal last season with the Wizards, he averaged 11.4 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting from three. 

    Far and away the Wizards' most consistent wing, Webster has the chops to start on a full-time basis next season.