Breaking Down the NBA's Biggest 2013 Free-Agent Dilemmas

Josh Martin@@JoshMartinNBANBA Lead WriterJune 26, 2013

Breaking Down the NBA's Biggest 2013 Free-Agent Dilemmas

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    There's no need to weep for the NBA's free agents, unless you're worried about one of them ditching your favorite team for another place to play. For the most part, these guys will be paid handsomely next season, with many of them raking in far more than they did in 2012-13.

    Not that free agency isn't without its perils and pratfalls for those who will patrol the market come July 1. Many will inevitably discover that the big paydays they seek can't always be found with the same teams who'd offer them the best chance to play for a championship.

    And thus do the internal struggles of rich athletes carry on into the summer of 2013.

    To be sure, there are some, like Chris Paul, whose intentions for the offseason are clear as day at this point. As for these five free-agents-to-be, the game of tug-of-war between their wants and needs and those of the teams courting them still has a ways to go before anything's decided.

Rings or Retirement for Ray Allen?

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    Despite winning another championship and hitting arguably the biggest shot of his career in the process, Ray Allen is still undecided as to whether or not he'll return to the Miami Heat next season.

    Retirement is certainly an option at this point for Allen. The soon-to-be 38-year-old sharpshooter has 17 years of NBA service and two titles under his belt and is already ticketed for the Hall of Fame once his playing days are done.

    The Heat, for their part, could always use a marksman like Allen to spread the floor—and save their bacon. And with a 2013-14 payroll estimated to exceed $86 million, Miami will be severely limited in the means by which it can acquire talent to compensate for Ray's potential retirement.

    Chances are, Allen will opt out of the second year of his current deal, though that doesn't mean he won't be back. According to Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida, Allen could garner a slight raise from the Heat and re-up for up to four years via the Non-Bird Exception.

    Not that Ray seems like he'd want to play past the age of 40, though he'll always have value so long as that sweet, sweet jumper of his still rings true.

Fight or Flight for Birdman?

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    That same Non-Bird Exception might also come in handy for the Heat in their quest to retain Chris Andersen.

    Though, by the name of the exception alone, you'd think it wouldn't suit the Birdman.

    Silly semantics aside, Andersen could probably find more than the veteran's minimum—of which he earned a prorated share this past season—if he were to seek employment elsewhere.

    The NBA's owners are anything but immune to handing out inane contracts. Shelling out anything more than, say, $2 million per year for a soon-to-be 35-year-old energy guy off the bench with a spotty personal history and a penchant for aggression on the court would qualify as such.

    For his part, though, Andersen wants to return to Miami to help the Heat go for a three-peat, as reported by Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports Florida. Whether the Heat are willing to offer him anything more than the minimum, or even sacrifice some of their mini-mid-level exception to do so, is another story entirely.

    One in which the Heat's consideration of hosting Greg Oden's comeback could play a pivotal part.

A Match Made In...Ummm...Somewhere for Monta Ellis and the Sacramento Kings?

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    I'm not exactly sure why the Sacramento Kings would want Monta Ellis.

    Sure, there's a sense of familiarity there between Ellis, new owner Vivek Ranadive and head coach Mike Malone from their days together with the Golden State Warriors.

    But, from a basketball perspective, the notion of the Kings signing Ellis—to which Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports recently alluded—ranks somewhere within the realm of the Chewbacca Defense. Sacramento's roster has been rife in recent years with trigger-happy gunners and other ball-dominating players who contribute little on the defensive end.

    Last season alone saw the Kings feature Tyreke Evans, Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons and Aaron Brooks. In fact, the Kings backcourt got so crowded that the team had to waive Brooks, who wound up with the Houston Rockets, mere months after signing him upon return from China.

    Ellis fits all too snugly into the aforementioned category. The last thing the Kings' new management needs is to continue one of the many regrettable legacies left behind by Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs.

    Lest Ranadive and Co. risk alienating an energized fanbase from the jump.

Sixth Man Skipping Town?

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    Nobody should be surprised that J.R. Smith has already opted out of the final year of his contract with the New York Knicks. Smith figures to cash in on his Sixth Man of the Year award to an extent far outstripping the $2.9 million he would've otherwise earned in the Big Apple.

    But there would be a significant opportunity cost to Smith if he were to leave New York to play for, say, the Detroit Pistons or the Milwaukee Bucks, as Ian Begley of ESPN New York recently suggested might happen.

    Both of those teams, and however many others are in pursuit of Smith's services, can and likely will offer him substantially more money than the Knicks would.

    For Smith, though, leaving the Knicks means giving up the chance to continue his on-and-off partnership with Carmelo Anthony on a team that'll be favored to defend its Atlantic Division crown—and, perhaps, compete for a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals—while playing across the river from his home state of New Jersey.

    A dilemma, indeed, though if Smith doesn't think he can compete for a championship in his prime with the Knicks, he'd do well to take the money and run.

The Dwightmare...Because What Else?

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    You're probably already sick of hearing about what Dwight Howard will do this summer, and you'll probably be even sicker of it before "Dwightmare Part 2" comes to a close.

    On the surface, Howard's calculus seems simple: sign with the team that gives him the greatest chance to win. As LeBron James' ascent back into the good graces of the public has proven, winning can be (and often is) a panacea for a given player's broken image. Two championships have done plenty to smooth over LeBron's "Decision."

    Howard could certainly use some of that medicine himself. He handled his exit from the Orlando Magic about as poorly as anyone could, and followed that up with a forgettably frustrating season with the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Hypothetically speaking, winning a title with the Lakers—and following the likes of George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O'Neal in doing so—would elevate Dwight from "merely" a Hall of Fame talent to a member of an exclusive club of immortal big men in basketball lore.

    Problem is, the Lakers aren't exactly equipped to contend at the moment, not after the disaster of this past season and certainly not with Kobe Bryant coming off a torn Achilles. The cap space that's slated to come in 2014 is promising, but counting on free agents to save the day can be a dangerous dance.

    In the meantime, the Lakers would like to secure the signature of a superstar they feel can be the future of the franchise once Kobe retires, even though such would come at a massive (if temporary) expense to the Buss family.

    The Houston Rockets, on the other hand, already sport a promising young core, led by superstar-in-the-making James Harden.

    Couple that with the Rockets' array of shooters, Kevin McHale's presence as a tutor on the bench, Daryl Morey's deft hand from the front office, the relative lack of pressure to perform in Houston, and the lack of a state income tax in Texas, and a move to the Space City appears to fit perfectly.

    Except, the Lakers can offer Howard a longer, more lucrative deal than the Rockets—or any other suitor, for that matter.

    Dwight's savings on income taxes in Houston would be mitigated somewhat by high property taxes and complications involving payment for road games, but I'm hardly a tax professional, so I won't even try to delve into the specifics therein.

    Beyond that, a quick exodus from L.A. would probably hinder Dwight's opportunities in Hollywood somewhat while only further degrading his image as someone always seeking greener pastures elsewhere. It's a tricky situation, albeit one that, per ESPN's Marc Stein, many within the league believe will end with Howard in Houston.

    Regardless of how many (pathetic) billboards the Lakers decide to post around the city.