NBA free agency may have just opened on Monday, but a number of teams are hunting to improve their rosters—and fast.
Though players cannot be officially signed until July 10, some are already off the table. Chris Paul verbally committed to the Clippers for five years and $107 million, Ray Allen will return to the Heat, and all zero of the teams going after Kwame Brown are out of luck.
Three teams in particular need to sign players quickly, whether to compensate for a bad draft or leave more time to pursue a backup plan.
The Hawks are good enough to get into the playoffs, at least in the Eastern Conference, but they lack the talent to advance past the second round.
Smith is one of seven unrestricted free agents the Hawks must keep or replace, so the quicker he is taken care of, the more time Atlanta can spend on surrounding him with talent.
After missing out on the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-00 season, the Mavs want to give 35-year-old Dirk Nowitzki one more title shot.
Signing Howard soon is a necessity, because at least four or five other teams are interested in the center. If he walks, the Mavericks will hope Andrew Bynum is still on the market.
New Orleans Pelicans:
With a young core including Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Greivis Vasquez, Eric Gordon, Robin Lopez and the newly acquired Jrue Holliday, New Orleans is set up for success down the road.
The Pelicans could make a splash by landing someone at the 2 like Tyreke Evans, Andre Iguodala or Kevin Martin. As ESPN's Marc Stein said, the team is especially intent on Evans, though he may require a sign-and-trade with Gordon or Vasquez.
Pelicans will have a face to face with Tyreke Evans tonight after free agency commences at 12:01 AM ET, ESPN has learned— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) July 1, 2013
The difference between the Hawks, Mavericks and Pelicans is the worst-case scenario outlook. If Atlanta misses out on Smith and Ellis, they will finish below .500 and likely start rebuilding.
If Dallas can’t get Howard or Bynum, Mark Cuban will try to surround Nowitzki with a deep lineup devoid of stars. And if the Pelicans strike out on a shooting guard, they’ll just wait for next summer, then gear up to become a serious contender.