With the 2013 NBA draft looming, the basketball community has inevitably turned their focus to the annual selection process. While we'd be remiss to ask any viewer from turning away from the league-altering event, it would be just as criminal to ignore the steadily approaching period of free agency.
The question is, where will the top free agent stars end up?
This is a question that the entire NBA community is hoping to answer, as they anticipate the restructuring of the championship landscape. While role players will have their own impact, there are degrees of separation that maximize a star's value.
While we cannot provide definitive answers just yet, the rumors point us in a direction that could answer our questions.
Doc Rivers' Impact on Chris Paul's Re-Signing
According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, Doc Rivers agreed to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers under the impression that he would coach Chris Paul in 2012-13. Wojnarowski also reports that CP3 had been lobbying for the Clippers to hire Rivers.
Per Marc Stein of ESPN, the Clippers believe that Paul will inform the organization of his intention to re-sign in the near future.
If that proves to be the case, the most significant domino of all will fall into place.
This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, as the Clippers have Paul's Bird rights and can thus offer him the most money and longest contract. While there may be alternatives that offer intrigue, L.A. displayed a commitment to winning by bringing in a head coach that has won a title.
The type of leader CP3 has never played under before.
Vying for D-12
If not Chris Paul, then unrestricted free agent Dwight Howard is the most prized gem of the 2013 period of free agency. While back and shoulder injuries as well as off-the-court questions have hurt Howard's public perception, he still maintains dominant form.
That's exactly why multiple parties are hoping to recruit him to their respective franchise.
According to the average fan or writer, Howard struggled during the 2012-13 NBA regular season. By that, of course, we mean to say that D-12 led the NBA in rebounding and ranked in the top five in blocks with averages of 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
"Those guys are hard to find, they don't grow on trees," Bryant said on 710 ESPN Los Angeles. "When you have someone like that with his talent level, you have to be able to keep him and lock him in with this franchise."
"I've spoken to him maybe a couple of weeks ago, just to check in with him," said Bryant. "I haven't spoken to him since. I know he's got a big decision to make and I'm sure he'll take the visits and talk to the players on the teams he's considering. We'll touch base a lot more."
It's not too surprising to know that Bryant isn't alone in hoping Howard joins his team.
Amongst the teams competing with the Lakers for Howard's services is the Houston Rockets. Not only do they boast a superstar of their own in James Harden, but they possess the necessary cap space to sign Howard to a hefty contract.
“After watching [the NBA Finals],” Parsons said, “I hit [Dwight Howard] with, ‘Come to Houston. That could be us.’”
“I talk to Dwight every day,” Parsons said. “I’ve created a relationship with him, where I feel like we’re very close. He hits me up about everything. I’ve covered pretty much every question he’s had. I basically tell him, ‘We have a chance to be really good without you next year. We’re going to have a good season. Why not come and join us, join our core guys who are for sure to be here and make us great, make us contend for a championship?’"
The offseason is about to get crazy, ladies and gentlemen.
Former Atlanta Hawks star forward Josh Smith becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1. With Smith unlikely to re-sign with the Hawks, that leaves countless teams in position to potentially secure Smith in a long-term deal.
Add the Boston Celtics to the list of interested parties.
According to Sean Deveney of Sporting News, the Celtics are looking to swap Paul Pierce for Smith in a sign-and-trade. While nothing has been offered just yet, Boston has an offer prepped and ready for action.
It this holds true, there's reason to believe that J-Smoove will be headed to Boston.
If the Celtics can unload Pierce to a team with enough cap space to absorb his salary, they will get a trade exception worth Pierce’s salary, or $15.3 million. And if that happens, the plan is already in place. According to a source, the Celtics have a sign-and-trade offer ready for Atlanta forward Josh Smith that would be the top priority in free agency.
The validity of this report is unclear, but one thing is certain—this deal is a long time in the making.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported at the 2013 NBA trade deadline that the Celtics and Hawks came close to a deal to swap Pierce and Smith. Months later, it appears as if the two sides are in position to strike up that very deal once again.
Perhaps the second time will be the charm.