NBA Free Agents 2013: Re-Evaluating Each Team's Top Target After the Draft
The NBA draft tends to change the needs of some teams in free agency. Many times, a player selected in the draft ends up being better than any free agent a team could have picked up later on.
The 2013 draft featured many surprises, ranging from Anthony Bennett going No. 1 to a blockbuster trade that will change the landscape of the NBA next season.
No matter what happens, though, free agency will soon be upon us and big names like Dwight Howard and Josh Smith could be on the move.
Did any ballclubs' priorities change during this draft? Well, not the ones pursuing Howard. That's for sure.
Atlanta Hawks: Dwight Howard
ESPN.com's Chris Broussard has reported that Dwight Howard is "unlikely" to re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Enter the Atlanta Hawks, a team that will have ample cap space to spend on free agents this summer.
The Hawks ranked 23rd in rebounding during the 2012-13 season, so obviously, adding Howard would be absolutely huge. It would give Atlanta one of the best frontcourts in the game, as Howard would team up with Al Horford down low. Imagine how physical that front line would be?
There is no question that Howard will be the No. 1 target for the Hawks this summer. The question is whether or not Howard would want to go there.
GM Danny Ferry does have the luxury of being able to turn the many other productive bigs on the market if Howard spurns Atlanta.
Boston Celtics: Al Jefferson
An incredible era of Boston Celtics basketball appears to have come to an end.
The Celtics and Brooklyn Nets agreed in principle to a trade that would send Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. The trade cannot become official until July 10, but barring any unforeseen circumstances, the landscape of basketball has been changed.
Boston will need a whole lot of things, but right now, its most glaring hole is in the frontcourt. They traded up to get a big-time question mark in Kelly Olynyk at No. 13, and Jared Sullinger is returning from back surgery. Who knows how that will play out next year and down the line?
Also, Reggie Evans and Kris Humphries—the two players the Celtics are reportedly getting back in the Nets' deal—are not exactly what I would call building blocks.
Logic dictates that the C's will take a look at Al Jefferson if they have the cap room. Obviously, we don't know the exact parameters of this trade yet and what effect it will have on the Celtics financially, but if they can clear enough space, Jefferson will be the first big man that Boston examines.
Wouldn't it be fitting for Jefferson to replace KG, the man whom the Celtics traded him for back in 2007?
Unlike the Celtics, the Brooklyn Nets are in win-now mode. They will now boast a starting lineup that consists of Brook Lopez, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams.
Not too shabby.
What the Nets will look to do now is beef up their bench. They are set to acquire Jason Terry in the Boston trade, so that's one piece. Next, they have to somehow hope they can re-sign Andray Blatche at a discount.
If Brooklyn can manage to keep Blatche in all of this, it is going to have a deadly frontcourt rotation.
Other than the possibility of retaining Blatche, there really won't be much else the Nets can do to add to their pine, as they just don't have the available money to make that happen.
Hopefully, for Brooklyn, Blatche sees the opportunity to stay with a title contender and re-ups.
Charlotte Bobcats: Earl Clark
Even with their selection of Cody Zeller at No. 4, the Charlotte Bobcats need frontcourt scoring.
The problem with the Bobcats is that they don't have too much cap space, and it's not like free agents are going to be flocking to Charlotte either. Someone like Earl Clark, however, could be a realistic option.
Clark, 25, had sort of a breakthrough season in 2012-13, averaging 7.3 points on 44 percent shooting as well as 5.5 rebounds. While those numbers do not exactly jump off the page, it's going to be difficult for the Bobcats to find much better in the free-agent market, and Clark is still young enough where you can say he has room to improve.
Look for Charlotte to pursue players like Clark this summer.
Chicago Bulls: Marco Belinelli
With Derrick Rose returning for the 2013-14 season, the Chicago Bulls are already getting an acquisition of sorts, and with the Bulls having limited cap space as it is, perhaps the best they can hope for is re-signing Marco Belinelli.
Belinelli came up huge for Chicago in Rose's absence this past season. If the Bulls are able to retain him, they will have the luxury of bringing a solid shooter off the bench.
If Chicago truly wants to make any big moves this summer, it is going to have to be through trades. It just doesn't have the money to sign any impact free agents.
All of that said, the Bulls did a nice job with selecting Tony Snell at No. 20.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Marreese Speights
The Cleveland Cavaliers surprised many when they took Anthony Bennett with their first overall selection, but it was a good pick.
The question is whether he will play small forward or the 4, and with Anderson Varejao and Tristan Thompson up front, the former is probably more likely.
The Cavaliers then proceeded to take wings Sergey Karasev and Carrick Felix, eliminating the need for any more perimeter help.
Look at Varejao's injury history and that will bring you to the conclusion that Cleveland could always use some more depth at the center position. That's why they need to make sure they re-sign Marreese Speights if he decides to opt out. Speights is a very underrated big, representing a versatile center who can stretch the floor.
If the Cavs are able to hold on to Speights, you're looking at an incredibly deep frontcourt.
No matter what, you're looking at a franchise with a ridiculously bright future.
Dallas Mavericks: Dwight Howard
With 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki entering the final year of his contract, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban needs to get to work.
Fortunately for Cuban, there appears to be a solid chance for the Mavericks, as Broussard's report specifically named them as one of the top two favorites in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes.
With Chris Paul likely out of the picture now that he has gotten the coach he wanted in Doc Rivers for the Los Angeles Clippers, the Mavericks will turn all of their attention to Howard.
The Mavs were also able to make a draft night trade, according to ESPN.com, for point guard Shane Larkin, a position where they desperately needed some help.
If the Mavericks are able to ink Howard to a deal, let's just say Nowitzki will be a happy man.
Denver Nuggets: Carl Landry
The Denver Nuggets need low-post offense, and Carl Landry is one of the more underrated low-post scorers in the business.
The Nuggets love to run, but when it comes to generating half-court offense consistently, they struggle. That's a problem Landry could help solve.
Can Denver afford him, though? Well, it can always use the Mid-level Exception to lure the forward, but whether that will be enough is debatable.
Regardless, the Nuggets need to do all they can to improve their offense on the interior. As talented as JaVale McGee is, he relies on his athleticism more than anything else. He has displayed flashes of a post game, but he doesn't do it enough.
Detroit Pistons: Andray Blatche
The Detroit Pistons made a great pick at No. 8 with Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They needed wings, and they went out and got one in the first round.
Now, the Pistons may want to add some depth to their front line. Jason Maxiell is a free agent, leaving very little behind Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. They have Charlie Villanueva, but we all know how that signing turned out for Detroit.
Andray Blatche demonstrated significant growth in 2012-13 with the Brooklyn Nets, and now, he has the chance to cash in.
Blatche posted a career-high .153 win shares per 48 minutes this past season, averaging 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per 36. The Pistons could definitely use that type of production off their pine.
Detroit is not that far off from being a legitimate playoff team in the Eastern Conference.
Golden State Warriors: Carl Landry
To no one's surprise, Carl Landry has opted out of his contract with the Golden State Warriors, and he will now test the free-agent market. Still, this does not mean the Warriors will be unable to retain him.
Of course, Golden State also has Jarrett Jack's free-agent status to worry about, but Landry seems to fill more of a need in low-post scoring. While the Warriors have a very good starting frontcourt in Andrew Bogut and David Lee, neither of them are guys you can count on to score the ball in the post. Landry, however, is just that.
In a market that is full of talented big men, Landry may not be all that expensive. He played a significant role in getting Golden State to the second round of the playoffs this past year, and the Dubs would be wise to bring him back because of it.
There is certainly a possibility that the Warriors will be able to re-sign Landry with the MLE, and if Landry enjoyed his time in Golden State, perhaps that will be enough to lure him back.
Houston Rockets: Dwight Howard
It's pretty clear that the Houston Rockets are prepared to go all in for Dwight Howard, and if the most recent report by Chris Broussard of ESPN.com of Howard being unlikely to remain with the Los Angeles Lakers is true, then they have to like their chances.
The Rockets are a solid team as is, but adding a player of Howard's caliber into the mix could potentially elevate them to title contender status. They already have the outstanding wing in James Harden; they just don't have the threat to score in the paint. That isn't to say Houston doesn't have a solid frontcourt, because they certainly do, but they just don't have any reliable offensive players down low.
The Rockets are also fortunate enough to have enough cap space where they can easily turn to someone like Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap if they can't reel in Dwight.
Regardless of what happens, you have to think that Houston will be able to nab a good big man somewhere this summer.
Indiana Pacers: David West
This one is simple. The Indiana Pacers need to re-sign David West. That's it.
Fortunately for the Pacers, West has stated that he wants to stay, according to foxsportsflorida.com, so that could mean he will be willing to take a hometown discount.
Indiana is closer than any other Eastern Conference team in terms of challenging the Miami Heat, and keeping West is key to maintaining that status. The Pacers could also use a better point guard and more bench scoring, but right now, Indy needs to focus on bringing West back.
After that, we can talk about that Danny Granger-for-Brandon Jennings rumor that is floating about, as reported by Evan Sidery of indycornrows.com.
Los Angeles Clippers: Marreese Speights
The Los Angeles Clippers need some frontcourt scoring, and Marreese Speights could be someone they look to on the free-agent market.
Speights has the ability to stretch the floor, and he boasts a lifetime average of 17 points per 36 minutes. Not bad at all.
As talented as Blake Griffin is, he just does not have the ability to be a dominant scorer down low. Not at the moment, anyway. That's why the Clippers could definitely afford to add some more offense on the interior, and Speights is a great candidate. He is young, cheap and has been consistently solid throughout his career, averaging .112 win shares per 48 minutes.
Also, the Reggie Bullock selection at No. 25 was a good one. L.A. needed another shooter.
Los Angeles Lakers: Dwight Howard
Obviously, Dwight Howard is going to be a pretty hot commodity for the second consecutive summer.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned report from Chris Broussard about Howard likely leaving Los Angeles, the Lakers still hold the benefit of being able to offer him $30 million more than any other team, and in the end, that may be what ultimately sways Howard's final decision.
Say what you want about Dwight, but there is absolutely no question that L.A. needs him on board. He is the best big man in the league when right, and he is fully capable of taking over games. Is he a No. 1 option? Probably not, but that does not at all diminish his value.
All of that being said, there is a bright side for the Lakers if Howard leaves: They will have plenty of cap space to pursue other free agents next year.
Memphis Grizzlies: Tony Allen
The Memphis Grizzlies desperately need a perimeter scorer, but going out and getting one would probably mean losing Tony Allen. So, what should the Grizzlies do?
Well, the thought here is that they have to keep Allen. He is arguably the best perimeter defender in the game and has helped change the culture in Memphis. He has also improved his repertoire offensively.
The Grizzlies are just a player away from being a legitimate title contender, but they unfortunately do not have the salary cap room to go out and add that guy. What they can do, however, is keep their current ballclub intact and possibly hope to make a trade somewhere (not that they have many trade assets).
Don't be surprised if Memphis puts Zach Randolph on the trading block this summer. It would stink, but we know how the Grizzlies operate by now.
Miami Heat: Samuel Dalembert
As long as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh reside in Miami, the Heat aren't going to have much cap space. However, what they can hope for is that solid role players choose to take less money to play with the Heat.
Miami should hope that Samuel Dalembert is one of those guys, because he would patch up Miami's biggest hole: size.
The Heat ranked last in rebounding this past season, but Dalembert could quickly rectify that. He also represents a great rim-protector, something that Bosh is not.
There is only so long that Miami can last without having some bulk in its frontcourt. It has gotten away with it the past two years, but sooner or later, it will catch up to them. That's where someone like Dalembert comes into play.
Milwaukee Bucks: Brandon Jennings
The Milwaukee Bucks will have to choose between Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings this summer, and if they are smart, they will go with the younger Jennings.
Ellis has already reached his ceiling, but Jennings is only 23 and has an opportunity to improve. Even taking all of that into consideration, ESPN.com's Marc Stein offers that the Bucks are actually leaning toward keeping Ellis instead, which is very odd.
However, it's still early, and there is plenty of time for Milwaukee to come to its senses. The belief here is that it will.
The Bucks are actually not a bad young team, having ample talent up front and a very underrated perimeter defender in Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (not to mention their No. 15 overall pick Giannis Adetokunbo).
If they sign Jennings back, you are undoubtedly looking at a playoff contender for 2013-14, and if he augments his level of play as time goes on, possibly more down the line.
Do the smart thing, Milwaukee. Keep Jennings.
Minnesota Timberwolves: O.J. Mayo
First of all, the Minnesota Timberwolves made a great draft day deal in trading the rights to Trey Burke for the 14th and 21st picks.
With those two selections, the Timberwolves took Shabazz Muhammad and Gorgui Dieng. Nice, although the choice of Dieng could be a sign that Minnesota is preparing in case it loses Nikola Pekovic this summer.
Even with drafting Muhammad, the Wolves need to add more wings, and O.J. Mayo could be the answer there. There has already been talk on 1500ESPN.com that they are interested in bringing Mayo aboard, and they could use the mid-level exception to do so.
A backcourt of Mayo and Ricky Rubio looks awfully nice, not to mention Kevin Love up front.
Could 2014 be the year the Timberwolves end their playoff drought? Signing someone like Mayo could go a long way to doing just that.
New Orleans Pelicans: Mike Dunleavy
The New Orleans Pelicans made a nice splash in the draft, acquiring Jrue Holiday from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the rights to Nerlens Noel. The Pelicans will also send a 2014 first-round pick the 76ers' way.
That being said, the Pelicans still need a small forward who can put the ball in the basket, and Mike Dunleavy would fit in very nicely.
New Orleans already has a couple of deadly three-point shooters in Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, so why not add another one in Dunleavy, someone who shot the triple at a 42.8 percent clip in 2012-13? Having the three of them on the floor with Holiday would give opponents headaches, as they would have to account for each and every one of them on the perimeter.
The future definitely seems bright for the Pelicans. Of course, a lot of this depends on Gordon staying healthy.
New York Knicks: J.R. Smith
The New York Knicks need more scoring, but the problem is, they don't have the cap space to go out and add to what they already have. Their best bet is to bring back J.R. Smith with a new deal and hope he gets his head on straight.
The Knicks made a great pick with Tim Hardaway Jr., so maybe the rookie can step in next season and provide New York with the extra scorer that it needs. However, relying on a first-year player is never a good thing, so Smith needs to raise his game in 2013-14.
Mike Woodson's crew can also hold out hope that Amar'e Stoudemire stays healthy, but we all know that probably will not happen.
New York doesn't have any trade assets, so all it can do is re-sign Smith and cross its fingers.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Martin
The Oklahoma City Thunder made a smart pick at No. 12, selecting Steven Adams to try and improve their frontcourt. Hopefully for the Thunder, he continues to improve offensively, as they desperately need some scoring in the post.
Now, you have to think Oklahoma City will turn its attention to Kevin Martin. Will it retain him or will it search elsewhere for a scorer?
Many want the Thunder to pursue O.J. Mayo instead of bringing back Martin, but would Mayo be happy accepting a bench role? He didn't like it in Memphis, and it's doubtful he'd like it in OKC.
That's why the Thunder may be better served signing Martin back. There really aren't any better alternatives on the free-agent market.
Orlando Magic: Brandan Wright
The Orlando Magic took care of their wing depth by selection Victor Oladipo at No. 2. Now, they can add to their front line.
They can definitely use a shot-blocker down low, and Brandan Wright would give them that (he has averaged 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes over the course of his career).
Over the past two seasons, Wright has recorded .215 and .172 win shares per 48 minutes, respectively. He is also only 25 years old and will probably come cheap.
With players such as Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Glen Davis, Moe Harkless, Arron Afflalo, Andrew Nicholson and now Oladipo, the Magic are definitely building a solid foundation for the future.
They are recovering very nicely after dealing away Dwight Howard, and you can't help but be happy for them.
Philadelphia 76ers: O.J. Mayo
The Philadelphia 76ers pulled off a shocker on draft night, dealing Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans for the rights to Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first-round pick. It's understandable that the 76ers want to start fresh, but why would you send away your 23-year-old All-Star point guard in doing so? Puzzling, to say the least.
Nevertheless, Philadelphia acquiring Noel is certainly a sign that it is leaning toward not re-signing Andrew Bynum, but isn't it ironic that Noel also has knee problems? Regardless, not throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Bynum is probably a good idea.
The Sixers took Michael Carter-Williams at No. 11 to replace Holiday so they won't be pursuing a point guard in free agency.
What Philly now needs is a shooter.
With the departure of Holiday, Jason Richardson (and potentially second-round draftee Nate Wolters) is now the only reliable three-point shooter on the 76ers' roster, so you have to assume they will address that over the summer. O.J. Mayo would give them that and more, as the 25-year-old shot 40.7 percent from beyond the arc in 2012-13.
Assuming Philadelphia does let Bynum walk, it will certainly have the cap room to bring in Mayo.
Phoenix Suns: Josh Smith
The Phoenix Suns got great value with the No. 5 overall selection, taking a big man in Alex Len that some expected to go No. 1.
Next, the Suns need to address the small forward position, as Michael Beasley has not worked out and P.J. Tucker is a reserve, not a starter.
Being that Phoenix is a team that loves to push the ball up and down the floor, Josh Smith would be an outstanding fit. The Suns could also use some defense, and Smith would definitely help them there as well.
Phoenix is one of those ballclubs that has the cap room to go out and make a major signing, and the Suns have expressed interest in Smith during the past, according to Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld.com.
Should Phoenix fail to land Smith, it can turn to cheaper alternatives such as Corey Brewer.
Portland Trail Blazers: Samuel Dalembert
The C.J. McCollum pick was a bit puzzling seeing as how the Portland Trail Blazers already have Damian Lillard, but McCollum has the potential to be an absolute stud, so you can't hate on it all that much.
Now, it's time for the Blazers to address their frontcourt.
Portland ranked last in points in the paint against during the 2012-13 season, so it obviously needs to shore up its interior defense. As good as free-agent-to-be J.J. Hickson is on the glass, he is not a good defender, so the Blazers would be wise not to pay him what he asks. Samuel Dalembert, on the other hand, would be a good pickup.
Dalembert has always been one of the more underappreciated players in the league, and in a summer where frontcourt players rule, Dalembert may be available on the cheap. Portland has a nice amount of cap room anyway, so it should be able to afford Daly regardless. The 6'11" center boasts a career average of 1.8 blocks per game, and that is exactly what the Blazers need.
If Portland ends up trading LaMarcus Aldridge, all of this changes, but for now, Aldridge is still a Blazer.
Sacramento Kings: Josh Smith
If the Sacramento Kings amnesty John Salmons they should have enough cap room to haul in a max free agent. The Kings need a small forward, too, so why not pursue Josh Smith?
Sacramento's selection of Ben McLemore could very well mean that Tyreke Evans is on his way out, so it is definitely going to need more wings. Smith will be the best wing available.
Now, the thing with Smith is that he may not exactly be the greatest influence on DeMarcus Cousins, and that could certainly play a factor in whether or not the Kings go after him. That being said, Smith is someone who can man either forward position and play excellent defense, something Sacramento desperately needs.
Put Smith on the Kings and you're looking at a squad consisting of Smith, Cousins, McLemore, and Isaiah Thomas (possibly Evans, too). Not bad. Not bad at all.
All things considered, Smith is probably a long shot and Sacramento will most likely end up resorting to someone like Corey Brewer or Mike Dunleavy.
San Antonio Spurs: Samuel Dalembert
Samuel Dalembert may end up being a hot commodity this offseason.
The San Antonio Spurs could have a nice sum of cap space this summer and Dalembert could be one of the players that they pursue. We saw in the Finals that Tim Duncan could use some help in the frontcourt, as Tiago Splitter (who will be a free agent) was simply awful.
Dalembert would comprise an outstanding defensive duo with Duncan and he would also give the Spurs some much-needed rebounding.
Wouldn't it be funny if it comes down to the Heat and Spurs for Dalembert's services?
Dalembert is easily one of the more underrated players on the upcoming free-agent market. San Antonio would be wise to check in with him.
Toronto Raptors: Andray Blatche
The Toronto Raptors did not have a draft pick and are very limited in terms of what they can do in free agency, thanks to not having much cap space, so don't expect the Raptors to be all that active on the open market.
They can use the MLE, however, and Andray Blatche is probably the best candidate to use it on.
The Raptors need help up front, and Blatche would give them some offense and a rebounding presence inside. Whether or not Blatche would want to go to Toronto is another story, but it certainly wouldn't hurt the Raptors to get on the phone with his agent.
Toronto is probably more likely to get a big man through a trade. The Raptors have a surplus of young wings, and with Terrence Ross on the rise, perhaps DeMar DeRozan will be available this summer. Toronto should dangle DeRozan for a big man.
It would allow the Raptors to insert Ross into the starting lineup and could finally give them the front-line assistance they need.
Utah Jazz: Paul Millsap
You've gotta love what the Utah Jazz were able to do in the draft, trading up to get Trey Burke to fill their massive hole at point guard.
Now the Jazz have decisions to make with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. Do they attempt to re-sign both (doubtful)? Do they keep one? Do they let both walk?
Since Utah has its point guard of the future, why not re-sign Millsap? If you lose both him and Jefferson, you are suddenly very thin up front in terms of depth, as the Jazz would have only Rudy Gobert (whom they acquired in a draft night trade) behind Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors. Millsap is also only 28 years old so he can be a part of the nice foundation that they are building.
Millsap will certainly be cheaper than Jefferson, so that's why he should be the big Utah aims to keep.
With Burke, Gordon Hayward, Favors, Kanter and Alec Burks, the Jazz are loaded with young talent. How about retaining Millsap to lead that group?
Washington Wizards: Marco Belinelli
The Washington Wizards made a wise selection with the No. 3 pick in the draft, going with Otto Porter to man the small forward spot. Now they need some depth behind Bradley Beal at 2-guard.
The Wizards don't have much cap room to work with, but they do have the MLE and there are a nice chunk of inexpensive shooting guards on the open market who can step in and get the job done. Marco Belinelli is one of them.
Belinelli wasn't exactly efficient in 2012-13, shooting only 39.5 percent from the floor, but he demonstrated that he isn't afraid of the moment and knocked down countless clutch shots throughout the year. Having him as a threat from deep off the bench would be nice for Washington.
The Wizards will contend for a playoff spot next season and adding someone like Belinelli off the bench will help them get there. Other options are Randy Foye, Anthony Morrow and bringing back Martell Webster.