Best and Worst Destinations for Each High-Profile 2013 NBA Free Agent

Adam FromalNational NBA Featured ColumnistJune 12, 2013

Best and Worst Destinations for Each High-Profile 2013 NBA Free Agent

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    When 2013's high-profile NBA free agents hit the market, they'll quickly decide where they'd like to end up. Each player has a best and worst destination, and they'd clearly like to wind up in the former over the latter. 

    Some of these marquee free agents are looking for a shot at a championship. Others are seeking the best system and a set of surrounding personnel best suited for maximizing their talents. Others still are looking to avoid getting constantly booed by fans. 

    Regardless of their motivation, each player has a best destination. And if you can have a best, you can have a worst. 

    When you're looking through the rest of this article, please keep money in mind. For example, Andre Iguodala would be a tremendous fit for the Los Angeles Lakers, but Mitch Kupchak doesn't exactly have the money necessary to land him. The Miami Heat aren't going to be able to solve their center problem by signing Al Jefferson or Andrew Bynum, and Chris Paul certainly won't be replacing Mario Chalmers at the point. 

    Be realistic, but go ahead and leave your own opinions about where these guys will end up.

Andrew Bynum

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    Last Team: Philadelphia 76ers

    Age: 25

    Position: C

    2011-12 Per-Game Stats: 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.9 blocks, 0.5 steals, 23.00 PER (with Los Angeles Lakers)

    Type of Free Agency: Unrestricted

     

    Best Destination: Charlotte Bobcats

    At this point in his strange career, Andrew Bynum doesn't need to be looking for an opportunity to win a championship. 

    Instead, he needs a landing spot where he can restart his career, playing his way back into his old L.A. form without the constant attention that would go hand in hand with a more glamorous destination. The Charlotte Bobcats would be perfect for him, as he'd immediately become the unquestioned star of the team while remaining out of the public eye. 

    Could Bynum turn the Bobcats around while learning from Patrick Ewing? Maybe, maybe not. But that's completely irrelevant, as he could view this as a stepping stone toward getting his basketball career back on track. 

     

    Worst Destination: Philadelphia 76ers

    There are always exceptions, but the majority of Philadelphia 76ers fans don't seem to want Andrew Bynum back in blue. He let them down by sitting out the entire 2012-13 season after arriving in the Dwight Howard mega-trade, and it's unlikely that they'll forgive him any time soon. 

    Philly is the perfect situation for Bynum on the court, but that's not what this free-agency foray is about for him. While he'd be the paint presence the Sixers need on both ends of the court, that's not as important as gaining the confidence and fan support that can let him restore his old glory. 

    As is the case for many top free agents, there aren't really many bad landing spots for Bynum. However, this is the worst of the bunch because of the inevitable boos that would be showered down upon him at every game in the Wells Fargo Center. 

Monta Ellis

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    Last Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Age: 27

    Position: SG

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 19.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 0.4 blocks, 2.1 steals, 16.30 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Player option

     

    Best Destination: Portland Trail Blazers

    If Monta Ellis truly wants to maximize his talents, he'll recognize that starting is overrated. It's all about the minutes, not the strange notion that the players who begin the game on the court have to be the best players. 

    Filling in as a sixth man would do wonders for Ellis' career, as he could capably play either guard position and be counted on for instant offense off the pine. The 27-year-old struggles when pigeonholed into the role of a traditional point guard or shooting guard, and he thrives when allowed to serve as a hybrid guard. 

    No team offers him a chance for more individual glory in that role than the Portland Trail Blazers. 

    Rip City desperately needs depth at all positions, and Ellis could help significantly upgrade a bench that basically couldn't score last season. This would take pressure off Damian Lillard, who led the league in minutes played last season, and would provide a serious spark for the fringe playoff contenders. 

     

    Worst Destination: Milwaukee Bucks

    Monta Ellis and the Milwaukee Bucks never meshed for a variety of reasons. 

    He and Brandon Jennings had trouble coexisting in the backcourt, and that's a problem that may or may not be solved during the offseason. The point guard is a restricted free agent, so general manager John Hammond does ultimately control his rights. 

    Ellis also didn't receive much aid from Milwaukee's frontcourt, and that forced him to loft up perimeter shots to avoid the relentless swarming of defenses whenever he drove. This certainly isn't changing unless Ersan Ilyasova decides he's tired of being a stretch 4. 

    The shooting guard needs a new home to restart his stalled career. 

Tyreke Evans

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    Last Team: Sacramento Kings

    Age: 23

    Position: PG/SG/SF

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.4 steals, 18.16 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Restricted

     

    Best Destination: Detroit Pistons

    I'd love to see what Tyreke Evans could do in a positionless backcourt, and that's the situation he'd find himself in with the Detroit Pistons. 

    Much like Evans, Brandon Knight doesn't have to be confined to a single position. Each guard can capably line up at either the 1 or the 2, and defenses wouldn't be quite sure how to react to Detroit's inevitably creative sets. 

    Evans needs a fresh start, and he's still boiling over with potential. If his jumper ever develops and complements his slashing ability, he could get back on the career path his rookie season started him down. 

    This 23-year-old joining the Pistons would make them a dangerous team, despite the overwhelming abundance of youth on the roster. He would also take a great deal of offensive pressure off Greg Monroe, allowing the center to take the next step and look like an All-Star. 

     

    Worst Destination: Sacramento Kings 

    For the third time in a row, the worst destination is the team that the free agent in question wishes to leave. 

    Even under the new ownership group led by Vivek Ranadive, Evans has no reason to desire a return to Sac-Town. The Kings haven't exactly done wonders for his career, as there's been no consistency on the sideline or when discussing his role in the lineup. Although this could change rather soon, Sacramento has been a toxic place for Evans. 

    It's time for a change, but the young guard is a restricted free agent. Even if he falls in love with another team, he could ultimately be brought back. 

    Here's hoping that for Evans' sake that doesn't happen. 

Dwight Howard

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    Last Team: Los Angeles Lakers

    Age: 27

    Position: C

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 2.4 blocks, 1.1 steals, 19.48 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Unrestricted

     

    Best Destination: Houston Rockets

    Going to the Houston Rockets blows every other destination out of the water for Dwight Howard. 

    He wouldn't need to be the unquestioned No. 1 guy, which would ease some of the enormous pressure that always seems to rest on his massive shoulders. James Harden is there to help with that burden. 

    Additionally, his playing style fits in perfectly with Houston's system. He'd be a devastating screener in pick-and-roll sets for Harden and Jeremy Lin, and his inside presence would draw enough attention from defenses that Houston's myriad long-range snipers would experience even more success. 

    In a lot of ways, Houston is an upgraded version of the Orlando Magic, at least the Magic that were surrounding Howard before he moved across the country. There are even more shooters, and Harden is better than any Orlando player Howard lined up next to. 

    If Daryl Morey can make the finances work, the Rockets are clearly the best option for D12. 

     

    Worst Destination: Atlanta Hawks

    Assuming that Dwight Howard is healthy, no destination is truly a bad one for him. He's one of the few players in the league that can immediately turn even a more lackluster roster into a playoff squad. 

    In the same vein, Atlanta wouldn't be a bad fit for the league's best big man (again, when healthy). It would just be worse than all the other options because of the uncertainty. 

    Will Atlanta be able to surround Howard with quality pieces? Will Mike Budenholzer be a good head coach? Will there be chemistry? 

    The Hawks present Howard with more questions than any other location, and we don't have any answers yet. 

Andre Iguodala

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    Last Team: Denver Nuggets

    Age: 29

    Position: SG/SF

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 13.0 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 0.7 blocks, 1.7 steals, 15.27 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Early termination option

     

    Best Destination: Denver Nuggets

    Although Andre Iguodala has yet to make up his mind, I'd be shocked to see him turn down $16 million and a good fit for the chance to be an unrestricted free agent one year earlier than he would otherwise. 

    Between his versatile offense, stellar perimeter defense and ability to play either shooting guard or small forward, Iggy is a perfect fit for the Nuggets. He meshes well with his teammates, and the results were quite impressive after time allowed him to truly build chemistry. 

    Additionally, the Nuggets give Iguodala his best chance at a championship. This roster is set to be true contenders during the 2013-14 season.  

    Denver would have had a serious shot to advance out of the Western Conference this year if Danilo Gallinari hadn't torn his ACL. Next year the Nuggets will be even stronger.

     

    Worst Destination: Anywhere else

    There are three players in this slideshow who will receive the "anywhere else" option as their worst destination. Iguodala is one of them. 

    He certainly has appealing options, but Denver is just so far ahead of them that it doesn't matter in what order they fall. 

    If we say that Denver presents Iguodala with a nine on the 1-to-10 scale and the other destinations fall in between one and two, the actual numbers are irrelevant. They're just that far behind.

Al Jefferson

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    Last Team: Utah Jazz

    Age: 28

    Position: C

     2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.0 steals, 20.99 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Unrestricted

     

    Best Destination: Dallas Mavericks

    Al Jefferson needs to find a quality team with a hole at center and the money necessary to make it worth his while. You know, like the Dallas Mavericks. 

    He and Dirk Nowitzki would form a terrifying offensive duo. Would defenses focus on slowing down Jefferson's work on the left block, or would they pay more attention to the German's jumper and one-footed fadeaway? 

    These two frontcourt members complement each other perfectly, and Jefferson is young enough that he could still be viewed as a centerpiece for when Dirk inevitably retires. 

     

    Worst Destination: Utah Jazz

    The Utah Jazz aren't a terrible fit for Al Jefferson, but a change is necessary, both for him and the rest of the organization. If Jefferson returns to his old stomping grounds in Salt Lake City, he's blocking the future of this team.

    Again. 

    Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter are the future, and at some point, they need playing time. Re-signing Jefferson would only slow down their development, preventing them from getting too many more minutes. 

    It just doesn't make much sense for this hypothetical destination to lose that "hypothetical" designation.

Brandon Jennings

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    Last Team: Milwaukee Bucks

    Age: 23

    Position: PG

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists, 0.1 blocks, 1.6 steals, 16.20 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Restricted

     

    Best Destination: Detroit Pistons

    Brandon Jennings needs to land in a situation where he can serve as the primary ball-handler, have free reign to shoot and play alongside a quality offensive big. 

    The Detroit Pistons fullfil all three of the criteria, and they have the money to sign him (assuming that the Milwaukee Bucks don't match any offer). 

    Although Brandon Knight would certainly get his hands on the rock quite often, the Pistons would still be Jennings' show to run. And paired with Greg Monroe, he could make a lot of noise, especially because Monroe's passing abilities would aid Jennings' relatively lackluster facilitating tendencies. 

     

    Worst Destination: Orlando Magic

    The Orlando Magic are a fringe possibility for Jennings because they have cap space and a need at point guard. After Jameer Nelson's disappointing season, the 1 has clearly emerged as the primary spot for improvement. 

    That said, Nelson is still there. Jennings wouldn't get as much playing time in Orlando, and he wouldn't experience the thrill of victory as often either. 

    Orlando has a number of intriguing pieces, but general manager Rob Hennigan hasn't yet fit them together to form a completed puzzle. We're still a long way away from that happening, and Jennings wouldn't do much to speed up the process. 

Paul Millsap

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    Last Team: Utah Jazz

    Age: 28

    Position: PF

     2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.6 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 blocks, 1.3 steals, 19.89 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Unrestricted

     

    Best Destination: Atlanta Hawks

    Paul Millsap and Al Horford would create an incredibly undersized frontcourt, but it would still be an effective one. 

    The two big men are both quite versatile, and their games would complement each other perfectly. Both are capable of banging around down low and stepping out for mid-range jumpers. The pick-and-pop sets Atlanta could run would be devastating, and we know that new head coach Mike Budenholzer loves running plays that involve innumerable screens. 

    Size would definitely be a concern here, but Atlanta has so much cap space that general manager Danny Ferry could remedy that be signing some big bodies to come off the bench.  

     

    Worst Destination: Utah Jazz

    The argument used for Al Jefferson's slide applies here as well. 

    The Utah Jazz and Millsap are good for each other, but his return would prevent Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter from truly blossoming. Both players need significant playing time going forward, and Millsap would prevent that from happening. 

    Just as was the case with Jefferson, it's time for Utah and Millsap to say their goodbyes. 

Chris Paul

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    Last Team: Los Angeles Clippers

    Age: 28

    Position: PG

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.9 points, 3.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 0.1 blocks, 2.4 steals, 26.43 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Unrestricted

     

    Best Destination: Los Angeles Clippers

    Returning to the Los Angeles Clippers still makes sense for Chris Paul. 

    They present him with the best option when it comes to winning games. Blake Griffin probably isn't going to completely no-show the postseason again. Probably. 

    He knows he fits in well with the rest of the roster. 

    He'll have significant impact on which coach gets hired, as the new head coach will basically be brought on board to appease him. 

    There are too many positive factors working in LAC's favor for any other team to even be considered a contender for this spot. 

     

    Worst Destination: Houston Rockets

    At first glance, the prospect of Chris Paul joining the Houston Rockets seems incredibly appealing. The immediate reaction is something like, "Whoa, he and Harden would form the best backcourt in the league." 

    But here's the problem: Harden and CP3 both dominate the ball. When they're on the court, they need to control the rock at the expense of every other ball-handler. 

    Harden's game is based upon his dribbling skills letting him either penetrate into the interior of the defense or create his own shot from the perimeter. Paul needs the ball to get to his spots and run offense for both himself and his teammates. 

    Those don't mesh well together, and this potential backcourt would likely fail to meet the expectations. 

Nikola Pekovic

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    Last Team: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Age: 27

    Position: C

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 16.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 blocks, 0.7 steals, 20.26 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Restricted

     

    Best Destination: Minnesota Timberwolves

    Nikola Pekovic isn't going anywhere. While nothing is set in stone, it would be absolutely shocking if the Minnesota Timberwolves let him get away. 

    Pek means way too much to this team, between his improving defense and his physical, consistent offensive play. He was one of the few bright spots during the injury-plagued 2012-13 campaign, and he'll be a crucial part of next season's playoff push. 

    There's no reason to think any other team provides him with a better destination. 

     

    Worst Destination: Anywhere else

    Again, Pekovic is going to stay with Minnesota. He's the priority this offseason, even if he receives an inordinately high offer from another team in desperate need of a quality big man. 

    Every other option, even a team like the Portland Trail Blazers or Dallas Mavericks, pales in comparison. 

Josh Smith

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    Last Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Age: 27

    Position: PF

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 blocks, 1.2 steals, 17.82 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Unrestricted

     

    Best Destination: San Antonio Spurs

    Josh Smith desperately needs some direction and discipline wherever he goes. The man is an incredible physical talent, but his head holds him back when it tells him to shoot long two-pointers instead of attacking the paint with relentless fury. 

    Allowing the San Antonio Spurs and Gregg Popovich to get their hands on Smoove almost borders on unfair. David Stern would have to consider blocking the move, because Smith would be too perfect in that system. 

    Under Pop's tutelage, Smith would have an outside shot at becoming an MVP candidate. He has that much natural—and unfortunately unrealized—talent. 

     

    Worst Destination: Atlanta Hawks

    Atlanta Hawks fans do not want Josh Smith back in Philips Arenas. Well, unless he's visiting as a member of the opposing team. 

    They've become too tired of his bad decisions, inconsistent play, unfulfilled potential and cavalier attitude on the court. He'd be booed relentlessly if he was brought back. 

    Atlanta is Smith's home (the city, not the team), but he's worn out his welcome with the hometown organization. 

Jeff Teague

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    Last Team: Atlanta Hawks

    Age: 24

    Position: PG

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 14.6 points, 2.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 0.4 blocks, 1.5 steals, 16.82 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Restricted

     

    Best Destination: Atlanta Hawks

    While Atlanta Hawks fans have turned on Josh Smith, they still have plenty of affection for Jeff Teague, even after his lackluster postseason performance against the Indiana Pacers. 

    Teague and Al Horford form a solid duo with great chemistry, and it's a pairing worth building around. This is especially true now that Mike Budenholzer is the head coach, as he's the man who helped shape Tony Parker into the elite point guard he is today. 

    The Wake Forest product has received more and more responsibility as his career with the Hawks has progressed, and he's responded well at each and every turn. He's a project that Atlanta hasn't given up on, and now it's time to stick with him for a few more years. 

     

    Worst Destination: Milwaukee Bucks

    Teague thrives when he's running pick-and-roll sets, and he's not particularly great in a more free-form offense. He's also benefited tremendously from the time he's spent playing alongside a good offensive center. 

    The Milwaukee Bucks don't give him a chance to continue either of those trends. 

    Larry Sanders may be a great interior defender, but he's not exactly Al Horford on offense. And there aren't many appealing PnR partners for Teague in Milwaukee. 

    It's unlikely that Atlanta gets away, but he shouldn't turn to the Bucks if Danny Ferry decides to let him walk. 

David West

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    Last Team: Indiana Pacers

    Age: 32

    Position: PF

    2012-13 Per-Game Stats: 17.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 0.9 blocks, 1.0 steals, 20.15 PER

    Type of Free Agency: Unrestricted

     

    Best Destination: Indiana Pacers

    David West was not the best player on the Indiana Pacers during the 2012-13 season. That was Paul George's title, and West and Roy Hibbert competed for the No. 2 spot on a day-to-day basis. 

    However, the power forward was the heart and soul of the team. 

    His physical play set the tone on both ends of the court. The tough-as-nails defense revolved around Hibbert's ability to protect the rim and West's knack for switching onto smaller players. His jump-shooting and bulldozing post play was invaluable on offense as well. 

    West fit in perfectly with the Pacers, and that won't change now that he's a free agent. 

     

    Worst Destination: Anywhere else

    The power forward joins Nikola Pekovic and Andre Iguodala as one of three players to receive this type of worst destination. 

    He could make a difference on a number of teams, but why exactly would he choose to leave? Indiana is head and shoulders above the rest of the possible destinations for West. 

    I'd be absolutely shocked to see him in a different uniform for the 2013-14 season, and he'd probably feel the same way.