8 NBA Free Agents Facing Critical Decisions

Daniel O'Brien@@DanielO_BRFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2013

8 NBA Free Agents Facing Critical Decisions

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    The 2013 NBA free-agency period is in full force with a handful of key players with critical decisions to make.

    While it's a mix of NBA stars and reserves, they all must decide whether to stay or go—and thereby change the complexion of the league in the process.

    For those NBA players named Andre, Andrew or Andrei, they have some pivotal choices to make in the coming months. The Pacific Division also has several stars and role players who could shift the balance of power in the Western Conference.

    How will the dust settle after these free agents make up their minds? Let's take a look.

Jarrett Jack, Unrestricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Jack

    Throughout this past regular season and especially in the 2013 playoffs, Jarrett Jack proved how valuable he is on the court.

    Now, he's trying to translate that value into a sizable contract and a more prominent role.

    According to Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports, Jack has been contacted by the Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets and Dallas Mavericks. He will likely command $7 million or more.

    What He Means to Suitors

    For teams interested in him, Jack is an investment. Teams shouldn't want to pay more than $7 million for a backup point guard, but if they can get him in that range, it could end up paying dividends in the postseason.

    Jack gave the Warriors a 48-minute threat in 2012-13 by delivering as a facilitator and a scoring weapon when Stephen Curry was on the bench or playing off the ball.

    Jack would be a huge upgrade for the Mavs as a secondary point guard, while he would be a significant age improvement for the Nuggets, and a superb returnee for the Dubs. His decision heavily influences the landscape of point-guard depth in the West.

Dwight Howard, Unrestricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Howard

    In addition to the personal monetary and legacy differences that hinge on Dwight Howard's decision this offseason, teams' performance and production will look different depending on where he goes as well.

    As a Dallas Maverick, Howard would carry a heavy load and quickly become the highest-scoring and most important player on the team. With the Houston Rockets, he wouldn't necessarily be the highest scorer or the most essential player, even if he becomes highly effective alongside James Harden.

    If Howard remains with the Los Angeles Lakers, he's not going to be "the man" until Kobe Bryant is gone, although his numbers in 2013-14 and beyond will be better than his 2012-13 stats. Nevertheless, Howard won't be featured as much as long as Bryant and Pau Gasol are in town, which is something that will undoubtedly factor into his decision. 

    What He Means to Suitors

    Despite his frustrating 2012-13 campaign, Howard represents one of Los Angeles' best hopes to climb the NBA ladder during the final years of Bryant and Gasol.

    Retaining Howard would give Bryant an elite two-way center to work with and give the Lakers a star during their transition out of the Kobe era. Losing Howard would make the reloading process much trickier in Los Angeles and hamper its championship quest.

    Howard's arrival in Dallas would mark a return to playoff-caliber basketball for the Mavs, although it's unclear as to how far he could take them in his first couple of years there.

    The Houston Rockets would be an elite club, talent-wise, if Howard suits up for them. If they could incorporate him well into their game plan, title contention wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility in Houston.

Andre Iguodala, Unrestricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Iguodala

    Entering his 10th NBA season, Andre Iguodala's next contract will likely be his last substantial one.

    Because he's a defensive-minded player who's not a first-option scorer, he's not looking for the destination that will make him the biggest star or the most marketable person. He's looking for money and championships.

    While clubs like the Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks have plenty of cap room, winning isn't a certainty with them.

    However, with a move to the Dallas Mavericks or a return to the Denver Nuggets, Iguodala is assured of a winning culture, even if the Western Conference is ruthless.

    What He Means to Suitors

    He can fill a need on both ends of the floor for several teams. Some squads need a small forward, while others need a shooting guard. Iguodala can do both and guard both positions as a stopper.

    Iguodala is going to be pricey in relation to the amount of offense he generates, but his versatility is worth it, especially if he makes a team like Detroit or Cleveland competitive in the Central Division again.

    A return to the Nuggets would give the club some stability and continuity at the swingman spot. It would also give it a much better shot at earning a No. 3 seed again.

Brandon Jennings, Restricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Jennings

    A lot of money if an outside suitor places a high bid via an offer sheet.

    The Bucks are willing to spend money on Brandon Jennings, but there's a limit to their generosity, especially for a wild card like him.

    If he leaves Milwaukee, the new chapter in his career could take a turn for the better or worse. If he stays, it's all about taking the Bucks deeper into the playoffs than they have gone in recent years.

    What He Means to Suitors

    The Bucks would like to keep Jennings because he's one of the better dual-threat point guards in the league, and he's actually open to returning, according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard.

    As for outside competition, the unsurprisingly aggressive Dallas Mavericks are one of Jennings' most interested suitors. His arrival in Texas would give the Mavs' backcourt a higher-performance ceiling, but it would also be accompanied by efficiency risks that can damage playoff hopes.

    Whoever gets Jennings knows that he will average 17-to-20 points per night, but he also might shoot below 40 percent for the season.

Al Jefferson, Unrestricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Jefferson

    Like many of the other marquee free agents on the market, Al Jefferson is pursuing what could be his last big-money contract.

    Other than the dough and a featured role, Jefferson's decision could determine how he will ultimately be remembered.

    If he can find the right fit on a struggling team, Jefferson could drastically improve it and be known as a team-enhancing post player. If he can gel with a team that is currently successful and help it contend for a title, he'll be known as a legitimate winner.

    What He Means to Suitors

    The bottom line here for Jefferson is his low-post offense. There are several teams that should be interested in him because it's rare to find a highly skilled offensive center in today's league.

    He'll cost an arm and a leg, but he will noticeably improve the scoring production of whatever team he's on. Jefferson has averaged at least 16 points for the last seven seasons.

    If a team like the Charlotte Bobcats grabs him, it could be enough for the Bobcats to emerge from the cellar.

Andrew Bynum, Unrestricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Bynum

    There's more at stake for Andrew Bynum personally than there is for those teams pursuing him because Bynum and his knee have to prove they're worthy of consideration.

    Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports said that Bynum will not be working out for teams, which might be a smart decision for him, but it isn't exactly a convincing move as he heads into free agency

    Bynum could cash in or lose out on a bunch of money depending on how negotiations go. More importantly, his decision is critical because his destination will be the place where he actually makes his long-anticipated comeback. He can't afford to screw that up.

    What He Means to Suitors

    If Bynum somehow decides to re-sign with the Philadelphia 76ers, he can show them that trading for him wasn't pointless after all.

    Meanwhile, potential non-Philly suitors such as Dallas and Cleveland must do their homework thoroughly before committing to Bynum. It's the difference between him being a potential All-Star center and a constantly injured bust.

Andrei Kirilenko, Unrestricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Kirilenko

    Playing for a winning team or a mediocre team.

    The Minnesota Timberwolves will probably make a decent effort to re-sign Andrei Kirilenko long term, which means he would fill a significant role on a middle-tier team. A playoff spot, however, is no guarantee for the Wolves.

    According to ESPN.com's Marc Stein, the San Antonio Spurs are interested in Kirilenko, and that would be an exciting destination for him. They present a much better chance of making the playoffs and making a deep run. 

    What He Means to Suitors

    Clubs that are keen on adding Kirilenko know that he offers defense and versatility.

    In addition to his elite defensive talents, Kirilenko can shoot from deep, work in transition and pass effectively as a small forward. He broke his career high in field-goal percentage in 2012-13, and he had his best scoring numbers since 2005-06.

    He's still just 32, so whoever signs him will get consistent, quality effort on both ends of the floor for several years. There's no question that he's a playoff-worthy starting small forward.

Earl Clark, Unrestricted FA

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    What's at Stake for Clark

    Even though Earl Clark isn't close to being one of the best free agents available, his decision is a critical one because it revolves around the length of his contract and total money.

    It also will affect the bench of the team he signs with and the teams that lose out on him.

    Lakers blogger Darius Soriano breaks down the situation from Clark's perspective:

    I've said this to some people, but it wouldn't surprise me if Earl Clark departs in free agency. Think he'll get a more lucrative offer with more years.

    But Los Angeles is where he had something of a breakthrough with a career year, and he'll keep that in the back of his mind when he gauges how influential he can be elsewhere.

    What He Means to Suitors

    Clark's size, length, shooting skills and instincts are attractive to most teams.

    His height allows him to get off most of his attempts, although he can also create opportunities off the bounce.

    If a small-market team like the Cleveland Cavaliers successfully recruits him, he could be the key component that makes the bench complete and gives them the tools to be a playoff contender.

    What if L.A. keeps him in purple and gold? It'll seek to build on his 2012-13 success (7.3 points, 5.5 rebounds) and gradually make him a double-digit contributor. It would go a long way toward bolstering the Lakers lineup.