NBA free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, subjecting the market's top (and even middle-tier) names to a heavy financial courtship.
Plenty of teams have money to blow, and with a better-than-expected class dabbling in free agency this season, they should have plenty of reason to spend it.
Especially at the top, there seems to be a blue-chip solution for every team's problems. Acquiring some of those players is more likely than others, but each position technically has a player of franchise-altering caliber on the market.
Here's the top free agent at every spot on the floor, followed by a primer on where they might play next season:
PG: Chris Paul
Potential Destinations: Clippers
Chris Paul doesn't seem to be a threat to leave Lob City, and why would he? He and Blake Griffin have a good thing going out in Tinseltown (even if they've only won one playoff series), and the
subtraction of Vinny Del Negro addition of Doc Rivers makes them a genuine title threat in 2014.
Those beliefs were further confirmed early Sunday morning, when reports from Clippers camp have the team telling potential suitors "not to even bother pursuing the point guard when free agency begins at 12:01 a.m. ET Monday," according to Chris Broussard of ESPN.
SG: Monta Ellis
Potential Destinations: Hawks, Mavericks, Lakers, Grizzlies
Ellis was sent to Milwaukee against his will, and he never really seemed to jibe there. Both with the team and the city, Ellis was an outsider and, despite making the playoffs last season, his performance suffered because of it.
With a fresh start, though, Ellis—who is still just 27 years old—could recapture some of the magic from his days in Golden State. And, according to ESPN.com's Broussard, the Hawks, Mavericks and Lakers are all interested in his services.
Should all three of those teams lose out on Dwight Howard (more to come), Ellis would quickly become a top priority.
According to Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times, Ellis is interested in playing for the Memphis Grizzlies. It's hard to say whether that interest is mutual, though, given the team-oriented/defensive-minded way Memphis plays, so it remains a long shot in Ellis' pursuit.
SF: Andre Iguodala
Potential Destinations: Nuggets
Iggy exercised his early termination option, and technically—technically—opted out his deal in Denver. But don't expect that to last long.
Though he's put his name on the open market, Iguodala is good bet to stay where he was last season. After some early growing pains, he enjoyed a ton of success with the Nuggets. And if not for some injury problems down the stretch, that team stood poised to do real damage in the postseason.
According to NBA.com, new Nuggets GM Tim Connelly put Denver's chances of re-signing Iguodala at "One-hundred percent." That might be a tad audacious—chances are at least one team takes a serious look at him—but for now it seems to be close to the actual valuation.
PF: Josh Smith
Potential Destinations: Celtics, Rockets, Lakers, Sixers, Hawks
After the Hawks were eliminated from the 2013 NBA playoffs, Smith sure sounded like he was ready to leave Atlanta, saying he wants to "experience free agency," via Jeff Schultz of Atlanta Journal-Constitution (subscription required).
So far he's been linked, briefly, with the Boston Celtics, as reported by Sean Deveney of Sporting News—though matters might be complicated in the wake of Thursday's blockbuster trade. Peter Vecsey says the Rockets will pursue Smith should they miss out on Dwight Howard and also reports of Philadelphia's interest in the forward.
The dormant sleeper might be the Los Angeles Lakers, who would definitely have the ammo if Dwight Howard walks. Smith appears to be a perfect fit for Mike D'Antoni's system and could take the scoring burden (at least partially) off Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant.
C: Dwight Howard
Potential Destinations: Rockets, Mavericks, Lakers, Warriors, Hawks
Dwightmare 2: Howard's Return is the summer's most asinine blockbuster (save that other movie about a "Superman"), coming just one year removed from his original courtship by the Lakers. Broussard reported that Dwight was "unlikely" to return to the Lakers, whose fans he allegedly hates, but given the financial advantage they have, it would be unwise to count them out this early.
Still, Howard's most likely destinations both appear to be in Texas. The absence of a state tax is a fiscal boon for the Rockets and Mavericks, both of whom have long been interested in Howard's services, and both of whom appear committed to bringing him in this summer.
Dallas has already done its job in shedding salary, as it is committed to just $36.8 million next season—and $9.0 million less if it can find a way to shed Shawn Marion's deal, (h/t Spotrac). Houston appears willing to trade away some assets to bring in Howard, whom it sees as a perfect long-term complement to James Harden on pick-and-rolls.
Golden State and Atlanta are interested in Howard as well, but Howard has long been tepid in joining either club, so they both remain relative long shots.
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