2013 NBA Free Agents: Grading the Top Available Talent

Brian MaziqueCorrespondent IIIJune 30, 2013

January 4, 2013;  Los Angeles, CA, USA;  Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard (12) guards Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) as he gets set to pass to power forward Blake Griffin (32) during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. Clippers won 107-102. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

When NBA teams are officially allowed an opportunity to negotiate with free agents on July 1, there are no secrets which players will garner the most interest.

Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are considered No. 1 and possibly 1A amongst the players free to sign with just about any team they please.

Though we know those two players will be elite contributors for any team they play for, there are questions surrounding other top free agents. Rumors are flying about each player's potential landing spot, but how good are each of these highly coveted stars?

If you were to compile an all-free-agent team consisting of one player from each position, the guys listed below would make up this very talented squad.

In addition to naming the best unsigned talents, there is also an overall grade, an assessment of their skills and an assessment of their level of worthiness to receive a max-level deal.


Center - Dwight Howard

Critics can blast D12 for his indecisiveness, his perceived immaturity and other things, but he's clearly the most productive center in the NBA.

In a down season by his standards, Howard averaged 17 points (on only 10.7 shots per game), 12.4 rebounds (league leader) and 2.4 blocked shots per game for the L.A. Lakers.

Howard is the game's best center, and he's still only 27 years old. Like him or not, he deserves a max contract more than any other current free agent.


Grade - A


Point Guard - Chris Paul

Chris Paul is still the most complete point guard in the NBA. The Oklahoma City Thunder's Russell Westbrook and Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose are more explosive, and San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker is a great penetrator and passer, but Paul encompasses all of what teams look for in a lead guard.

Last season he was second in the NBA, averaging 9.7 assists per game, and he tied for the league lead in steals with 2.4 steals per game.

His three-point shooting was down at just under 33 percent, but in the clutch, Paul is still a major threat. Per 82games.com, which defines clutch as, "4th quarter or overtime, less than 5 minutes left, neither team ahead by more than 5 points," Paul was the third-most productive player in the NBA.

Clutch point guards who understand when to score and when to create—and are capable of both—are rare. Paul is definitely worth a maximum contract.


Grade - A


Power Forward - Josh Smith

Smith's shot selection isn't always great, but he plays hard, he's athletic, and he is one of the more impacting defensive presences in the NBA.

Because he's only 27 years old, Smith still has at least five years left to play at a very high level. Last season Smith averaged 17.5 points, 4.2 assists, 8.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game.

In his nine-year career, he's never blocked less than 1.6 shots per game. During the 2012-13 season, Smith was the only player in the NBA to average 17 points, four assists, eight rebounds and a block per game.

He's not perfect, but he's one of the most versatile talents in the NBA. But his shot selection still prevents me from calling him a player worthy of a maximum contract.


Grade - B


Shooting Guard - Monta Ellis

Though he's undersized for the 2-guard position at 6'3", Ellis' best role is still as a scorer. The Bucks played him at the point some this past season, and Ellis was controlled and productive.

In order for a team to get the most out of Ellis, he needs to play the wing with the freedom to attack and score. He averaged 19 points and dished six assists per game for the Milwaukee Bucks this past season.

It is easy to forget that the 27-year-old has already averaged over 20 points per game in four of his eight years in the NBA. Over the past three seasons, he's shown his ability to create for others. That balance should make him even more attractive to prospective teams.

Ellis is a tweener, and it is difficult to justify giving a player like that a maximum deal.


Grade - B


Small Forwards - Andre Iguodala

Iggy is a glue guy. He's a stellar perimeter defender, good ball-handler and decent scorer. While he may not be the type of player who can take over games with his scoring, he can lock down on an opponent's top perimeter option.

At 6'7" with elite-level athleticism, Iguodala possesses the ideal size, speed and leaping ability to defend point guards and small forwards.

For all his qualities, Iggy isn't a top dog. On a good team, he'll be the most important role player, but maximum deals are for stars.

Iguodala isn't on that level.


Grade B-


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