Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are going to have a lot to talk about with one another this summer.
Doesn't it seem like just yesterday that 2012 NBA free agency was upon us? Well, that was almost a year ago now, as the 2013 free-agent market is almost set to open.
Big men will rule the summer this offseason, with numerous talented centers and power forwards available for teams to bid on. Sure, you have Chris Paul and some other solid guards, but make no mistake: 2013 is mainly about the interior.
The question is, which free agents are most likely to break the bank? Who is essentially guaranteed to receive a lucrative deal?
A couple of them are fairly obvious. Others, however, may seem borderline at first glance, but upon a deeper examination, you'll see that they will likely get paid.
It's too bad Andrew Bynum has those chronic knee issues. If he didn't, then this summer would be even more interesting.
This one may seem pretty obvious, but at the same time, it may not. So it goes with Dwight Howard, one of the most polarizing figures in the NBA.
Howard was clearly not himself throughout the 2012-13 season, as he was in the process of recovering from back surgery. That said, even though he was "not himself," Howard still managed to average a league-leading 12.4 rebounds per game and shot 57.8 percent from the floor.
Dwight is still the best big man in the game when he is right, and while he's not a kid anymore, he is only 27 years old. Those two qualities are certainly enough to land him a monster deal this summer, back problems or not.
It is a bit concerning that Howard posted only .133 win shares per 48 minutes this past year, his lowest mark since his rookie campaign, but if there's a franchise looking to get to that next level (looking at you, Houston Rockets), it should be willing to take the gamble and give this man what he wants.
Dwight will get paid this summer, even if some don't feel he is worth it.
In a league starving for offensive big men, players like Al Jefferson reign supreme.
While Jefferson is not exactly a superstar, he is undoubtedly one of the best low-post scorers in the league, and he will be compensated accordingly on the free-agent market.
That's not all Jefferson can do, though. He is also very good on the glass, as Big Al recorded 9.2 rebounds per game in 2012-13 and averages 10.1 boards per 36 minutes over the course of his career.
Thanks to Bynum's persistent knee problems, Jefferson is probably the second-best free-agent big man behind Howard. There likely isn't a team out there who wouldn't love to have Jefferson down on the low block.
We've been seeing throughout this postseason just how valuable good bigs are, and Jefferson will reap the benefits this summer.
Despite the fact that many balk at the idea of giving Josh Smith a max contract, someone is going to offer him big bucks.
The thing with Smith is that he is not the kind of guy you can build your team around. Thanks to his versatility, however, he is an incredible complementary player who could flourish in the right situation.
Advanced stats from Basketball-Reference.com are not all that kind to Smith, as the forward averages .099 win shares per 48 minutes over his career. Also, in 2012-13, he posted negative-0.3 offensive win shares. That's right; negative 0.3.
That dismal number has a lot to do with the fact that he attempted 201 three-pointers, and if you've watched any of Smith at all, you'd know that outside shooting is not his strong point. The way the Philips Arena crowd in Atlanta collectively groans whenever he takes a triple is a fairly good indication of that.
What's strange is that in 2009-10, he took only seven threes (and he missed all of them), so why he is suddenly taking over 200 is beyond comprehension. Sure enough, 2009-10 was his best season in terms of win shares, as he posted .155 win shares per 48 minutes that year.
Regardless of his inconsistency on the offensive end, Smith is an outstanding defender and is also a very good rebounder for his size. He does have plenty of value, notwithstanding his less-than-stellar win share numbers.
Give him someone like CP3 to work with, and you'd see just how effective J-Smoove can be under ideal circumstances.
Of course, if a non-playoff team decides to sign Smith, you wouldn't see much of a difference in his impact.
In a free-agent market that features big men like Howard, Jefferson and Bynum, Paul Millsap could end up being one of the hidden gems of the summer. Still, the word "hidden" may be doing him an injustice. It's no secret that the guy can play, and he will have numerous ballclubs after him.
Unlike the aforementioned Smith, Millsap's advanced numbers look pretty darn good. He has averaged .156 win shares per 48 minutes throughout the first seven years of his career, posting as much as .179 in 2011-12.
While he isn't the greatest defender in the world, you have to love Millsap's versatility offensively. This is someone who can score in the low post, hit the jumper and get to the free-throw line, not to mention set up his teammates with some fine passes. A lifetime 51.6 percent shooter, Millsap is also very efficient, never shooting below 49 percent in any one season.
While the Louisiana Tech product isn't going to get top dollar, he should get a nice-sized contract. It wouldn't be the least bit surprising to see an organization give him $10 million a year.
J.J. Hickson is one of the biggest wild cards of the free-agent market, and if it weren't for Bynum, he'd probably be the biggest.
This might seem hard to believe, but despite the fact that Hickson has been in the league since 2008-09, he is only 24 years old. He enjoyed his best season in 2012-13, averaging a double-double with 12.7 points and 10.4 rebounds. Hickson also shot 56.2 percent from the floor, a career best.
There are several reasons to be wary of Hickson, though.
First of all, he has been wildly inconsistent. He posted .142 win shares per 48 minutes this past year, but in the two seasons prior, he tallied .032 and then .066. In 2009-10, he recorded .123 win shares per 48 minutes. So, what kind of player is he?
Is the reason why Hickson suddenly took such a big leap in 2012-13 because he is maturing, or is it because it was a contract year? Hmm...
Not only that, but J.J. is a pretty awful defender. The Portland Trail Blazers ranked last in defending the paint this season, a direct reflection on Hickson.
All of that being said, Hickson is young, athletic and hits the glass very well, not to mention that his per-36 numbers of 15.8 points and 12.8 rebounds make him look even better.
He will get paid by somebody. No doubt.
Nikola Pekovic doesn't get his just due, and it's almost definitely because he has been playing for the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.
The 6'11" behemoth averaged 16.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 2012-13, connecting on 52 percent of his field-goal attempts in the process.
Pekovic isn't exactly a stalwart defensively, but he makes up for that with his consistency on the offensive end and his rebounding prowess (he averaged 10 boards per 36 minutes this past year). He gets to the free-throw line often, too, and he is a good foul shooter for a big man (74.7 percent for his career).
At only 27 years of age, Pek is ripe for a pricey long-term deal.
Saved the best for last (you'll see how Paul is last based on the next slide).
Paul is an absolute shoo-in to haul in a colossal contract this summer.
Arguably the best point guard in the game today and in the process of becoming one of the best floor general to ever set foot on a basketball court, Paul boasts a career average of .244 win shares per 48 minutes. That is absolutely absurd. In 2012-13, he posted .287 while tallying 16.9 points, 9.7 assists and 2.4 steals a contest. On top of that, he shot 88.5 percent from the free-throw line.
The question isn't whether or not Paul will get a big deal. It's whether or not he will remain with the Los Angeles Clippers, a team he is reportedly upset with, according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.com.
A player of CP3's caliber can change the entire dynamic of the NBA landscape, so the Clippers better hope he isn't too miffed.
David West is an outstanding player. He is tough, physical, and he plays both ends of the floor very well. However, him getting a huge deal is no guarantee.
Because West turns 33 in August, and the chances of him getting anything beyond three years is probably rather slim. It's hard to believe that West is that old already, but he is, and that will likely prevent him from hitting it big.
Plus, West has said he wants to remain with the Indiana Pacers. That could mean that he would be willing to take a hometown discount.
West will undoubtedly be one of the best players on the open market, but he won't get paid like it.