While the 2013 NBA draft was written off as one of the worst in recent memory by many observers, the same can't be said for the pending free agent class. This year's crop is easily the best since 2010, when the Miami Heat signed LeBron James and Chris Bosh. Because of that, teams have an opportunity to get better in a hurry.
With so many stars on the open market, it is possible that the NBA's balance of power will shift noticeably in the month of July. Games are obviously won and lost on the court, but the offseason can make a big difference. The Los Angeles Lakers proved last year that being a paper lion means little; however, it seems to work more often than not.
Here is a complete breakdown of the top free agents in this year's class, as well as some analysis regarding where they might ultimately end up next season.
1. Chris Paul
Point guard is the most dynamic position in the NBA right now, and it can be argued that there is no better point guard in the league than Chris Paul. He has been one of the most consistent contributors in the game over the past several seasons, and any team would love to have him. Paul averaged 17 points and nearly 10 assists per game this past season for the Los Angeles Clippers, and even though their season ended in disappointment with a first-round loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in the playoffs, Paul showed incredible leadership.
The Clippers could be in huge trouble if they are unable to retain Paul, though. Clippers management has already gone to great lengths in order to convince him to stay, as Los Angeles traded for former Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers. The prevailing thought is that Paul wanted Rivers, so perhaps, this move will compel him to stay. According to Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles, it is unlikely that Paul is going elsewhere at this point.
Even though the Clippers definitely appear to be in the lead, nothing is certain until Paul signs on the dotted line. He had many opportunities to do so in the past, but he decided not to, so it's possible that he might see greener pastures somewhere else. Even though teams like the Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks would probably love to get their hands on Paul, the Clippers likely did enough to appease CP3 and keep him in the fold.
To say that the past couple seasons have been tumultuous for center Dwight Howard would be an understatement. After negotiating his way out of Orlando via a trade to the Los Angeles Lakers last offseason, many believed that the Lakers were among the top contenders to win the NBA title. That didn't come to fruition, though, as the Lakers struggled with injuries and inconsistent play all season long, barely made the playoffs as the No. 7 seed and were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the first round.
Howard didn't have a terrible season by any means, as he averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game, but he was criticized often. His scoring average was his worst since 2005-06, and his 49.2 percent success rate at the free-throw line was a big issue as well. Howard also dealt with a partial labrum tear for part of the season, and that limited his effectiveness. Rather than wanting to go back to L.A. and make things right, though, Howard appears ready to move on, according to ESPN's Chris Broussard.
It's difficult to believe anything when it comes to Howard, as he is notorious for changing his mind, but it wouldn't be a big surprise to see him leave the Lakers. He didn't seem happy, and he clearly isn't a great fit for Mike D'Antoni's scheme. Houston wouldn't suit him particularly well either, as the Rockets like to run the floor. With that in mind, the Mavericks are probably at the top of his list right now, as he and Dirk Nowitzki could form a highly effective combination in the post.
3. Andre Iguodala
Paul and Howard are clearly head and shoulders above the rest in this free agent market, but there are plenty of other All-Star-caliber players to be had as well. One of them is former Denver Nuggets shooting guard Andre Iguodala. Although Iguodala's scoring has decreased noticeably in recent years, he has developed into a fantastic all-around player. He is the type of guy who fills up the stat sheet, and he is a spectacular perimeter defender to boot.
The Nuggets played without a defined superstar last season, but Iguodala was the closest thing to it. He was a big reason for Denver's success last year, and even though the Nuggets were upset in the first round, it was a successful campaign. In addition to averaging 13 points per game, Iguodala pitched in more than five rebounds and five assists along with nearly two steals per contest. Despite his strong year in Denver, Iguodala decided to opt out of his contract, according to Kurt Helin of Pro Basketball Talk.
With that in mind, it's hard to imagine Iguodala re-signing with the Nuggets. There haven't been a ton of rumors circulating regarding Iguodala's status, but according to Sam Amico of FOX Sports, the Detroit Pistons have serious interest.
The Pistons obviously haven't been very good over the past few years, but with young talent like Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in place, Iguodala could be the missing piece. As long as the Pistons are willing to ante up, look for Iguodala to sign in Detroit and make the Pistons a potential playoff team.
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