The Atlanta Hawks will be one of my teams seeking help through free agency this offseason. Josh Smith is likely to help elsewhere.
Our culture glorifies immediacy, and nothing spells quick turnaround more than free agency.
There are a number of teams with cap space heading into the summer and an even more select number that will rely on striking it rich with a top-tier talent.
This season’s free-agent inventory is led by Chris Paul and Dwight Howard. Paul is expected to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, while Howard’s decision-making is anyone’s guess. A secondary tier of free agents include Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala and the seven-foot question mark of Andrew Bynum.
This year’s luxury tax line is expected to be set at approximately $72 million. With money to spend and big-name players available, which teams are the biggest players?
All salary information was found through Spotrac.com.
The Atlanta Hawks have plenty of money to spend this offseason, as the $13.2 million Josh Smith earned last season comes off the books.
The salaries of Devin Harris ($8.5 million) and Kyle Korver ($5 million) are gone, and Jeff Teague may or may not return as he sits with a $3.4 qualifying offer. The Hawks will likely seek to keep Teague, although it depends how much the talented guard can command from the market.
The Hawks have an opportunity to strike it rich through free agency. The thought of bringing in both Dwight Howard and Chris Paul, a possibility according to ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, likely changes now that it seems Paul will stay with the Los Angeles Clippers and new coach Doc Rivers.
The Hawks’ anchor is center Al Horford, who can also play power forward. Teaming him alongside Howard would create the league’s best inside presence, but it would still leave Atlanta in need of backcourt play.
If it’s not Howard, Atlanta could also afford to bring a big man like Al Jefferson and pair him with a guard of Monta Ellis’ skill set.
Regardless, look for the Hawks to be big spenders this offseason as they try to re-invent the franchise under new coach Mike Budenholzer.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is a good businessman. In understanding last season’s big fish weren’t being hooked to his Mavericks, he opted to chase talent on one-year contracts rather than burying the team on second-rate names.
So now, the Mavericks have cap space with O.J. Mayo opting out and the team's ability to let walk Chris Kaman ($8 million), Anthony Morrow ($4 million), Roddy Beaubois ($2.2 million) and Elton Brand ($2.1 million).
With roster room and salary space, the Mavericks have the ability to spend this summer. Dallas superstar Dirk Nowitzki already said he plans to recruit talent this summer as part of the free-agency process.
Cuban may chase a trade for a player like DeMarcus Cousins with the Sacramento Kings, but in terms of free agency, the Mavericks will chase every top-tier free agent: Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and Andrew Bynum.
The Mavericks don’t have a lot of time left in the legs of Nowitzki, and there isn't much talent left on the Mavericks roster—especially if Mayo signs elsewhere. A guy like Bynum would be a huge risk, but his ceiling is higher than everyone other than Howard.
Nikola Pekovic, Al Jefferson and Tyreke Evans all could be lured with Dallas' dollars.
If they hope to take advantage of their superstar's remaining years, the Mavericks may need to make a splash in free agency.
The Detroit Pistons finally have some money to spend and good young talent to pair it with: Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond and Kyle Singler.
This offseason, the Pistons will gain the $10.9 million they were paying Corey Maggette last season. Charlie Villanueva has taken his $8.5 million player option for next season, but the Pistons could amnesty him to gain more flexibility.
Whether or not Detroit brings back Calderon will determine just how much the Pistons have to spend, but it appears they will be more than $20 million under the salary cap of roughly $58.5 million and well below the estimated $72 million luxury tax line.
With that cash, the Pistons could chase a big name. However, Detroit needs to be careful how it spends as not to fall into any more out-of-control deals that would hurt its flexibility to bring back young talent. It doesn’t need a big-name center like Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum anyway, as the team already has that.
Detroit remains in a good position, however, as lighter free agents could pair better. A player like 28-year-old power forward Paul Millsap is a versatile forward who could grow nicely as part of a frontcourt that will be headlined by Monroe and Drummond.
Monta Ellis could be plugged into the backcourt immediately, and he's also still young enough to grow with Detroit's young talent. O.J. Mayo is another still-young guard who would play well with the team's young bigs.
The Cavaliers are in an interesting situation with blossoming superstar Kyrie Irving in place and soon-to-be sophomore backcourt mate Dion Waiters looking more than capable of complementing him.
The team’s frontcourt also looks fantastic with the healthy return of Anderson Varejao and the climbing play of Tristan Thompson. The Cavaliers may further add to their frontcourt depth with the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s draft and the chance to take Maryland center Alex Len or Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel.
It appears the only hole for Cleveland is at the small forward position, which could be answered through the draft or through free agency.
The Cavaliers will cut Luke Walton's $6.1 million and Daniel Gibson's $4.8 million from payroll. Giving them more money to play with are the renouncements of Omri Casspi ($5.7 million) and Wayne Ellington ($5.2 million).
Recently opted out from the Denver Nuggets, small forward Andre Iguodala would be a top-level prize, but his price may be too high to lose flexibility elsewhere. He would be a perfect fit on that team though.
The outside shooting of Kyle Korver or J.J. Redick would fit nicely along Irving and Waiters. Then again, so would the veteran leadership of Jarrett Jack, who was the perfect backup guard to Stephen Curry with the Golden State Warriors.
The Cavaliers are in a good position to hit the jackpot on the perfect free agent to expedite the youth process.
The Utah Jazz have significant decisions to make this offseason that will guide the franchise for years to come.
Utah will watch eight of its players, three of whom are starters, sit out in free agency and collect offers from other teams. The big names are Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap, the team’s most consistent producers.
Between those two and Mo Williams, that's approximately $40 million in contracts from last season. Randy Foye's $2.5 million contract also comes off Utah's books.
Utah didn't make the postseason with that core last season, but efforts should be made to re-sign Jefferson and perhaps Millsap as well. It wouldn’t be a huge splash, but a guard like O.J. Mayo or Jose Calderon would be a nice backcourt addition.
The Jazz have nearly an entire payroll to play with, and they should recreate last year’s roster but with a twist.
If there is one team that is a big free-agent splash away from true title contention, it’s the Houston Rockets.
The Rockets aren’t entering the summer with a deep cap space, but with only seven contracts guaranteed heading into next season, they do have flexibility. The Rockets' obvious move is with the opt-out decision of Francisco Garcia's $6.4 million team option.
The core of James Harden, Omer Asik, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin gives the Rockets a head start toward contending as a young, talented team.
If the Rockets want to chase Dwight Howard, and they may be the favorites, then moving the salaries of Lin or even Asik through trade might be a necessity.
Kenny DeJohn does a nice job breaking down the Rocket's salary situation further.
Adding Howard to the mix with Harden would give the Rockets a dynamic guard-center combo to push them into contention. Other top-tier free agents include Josh Smith, who may be a nice complement of athleticism to the Rockets who can stretch the floor.
With the chance to get a top-tier talent and with contention around the corner, the Rockets can’t miss this summer’s opportunity.
The Milwaukee Bucks could be losing a backcourt and gaining plenty of salary space.
Monta Ellis has already opted to become an unrestricted free agent. Brandon Jennings will certainly be offered more than his qualifying offer of $4.3 million, and the Bucks will need to decide whether or not to return him at that price for what could be just one more season.
J.J. Redick is an unrestricted free agent, and he may opt to play for a contender rather than dwell in Milwaukee.
The loss of all three would open up big dollars but also take away the team’s entire backcourt. That puts Milwaukee in a must-pay offseason in search of talent to return. Returning Jennings should be a priority even if he bluffs to jet after one year. If Milwaukee lets Redick walk, Ellis remains a possibility to bring back.
But why keep it the same? Sticking with what resulted in a first-round sweep to the Miami Heat seems like a poor plan.
With options and money to play, the Bucks should move in a new direction.
Look to the Golden State Warriors’ free agents Jarrett Jack at guard and forward Carl Landry. Landry, who recently opted out of his Warriors contract, would be a nice veteran piece to help the Bucks' interior offense, and look what Jack did in replacing Ellis to bring winning results in Golden State.
The Bucks need to do something, and making splashes through free agency could bring immediate help.