The 2013 NBA period of free agency is officially underway, thus leading to 30 franchises recklessly pursuing the players that could re-shape their organization for years to come.
While certain players have established themselves as the stars of the summer, others are more complex. With a fair blend of elite ability and distracting surrounding factors, countless top-tier free agents fall under the tag of "polarizing."
Due to the in-demand nature of stars throughout the NBA, it's quite likely that such players end up seeing their money. The question on everyone's mind, however, is who will be willing to pay top dollar for such risky business?
Let's find out.
Perhaps no free agent is quite as polarizing as 25-year-old center Andrew Bynum. While he may possess elite ability, dominating in ways that few, if any, centers can, Bynum has battled injuries throughout the duration of his career.
According to a report via Yahoo! Sports, Bynum will not work out for teams during the upcoming period of free agency.
[Bynum's agent David] Lee said there are a "half dozen teams" interested in Bynum and they will be given MRI and other needed medical reports. Bynum, however, will not work out for teams.
At this point, whichever team signs Bynum will be doing so with minimal knowledge of his NBA readiness.
According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas, one of the teams that may take that gamble is the Dallas Mavericks. Dallas, a team with a long history of pursuing the high-profile names, has been pursuing a superstar for years on end.
Now it appears as if they're the front-runners to land Bynum. But at this point, it'd be surprising to see any team offer a max contract with such uncertainty.
According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, former Milwaukee Bucks guard and current unrestricted free agent Monta Ellis is generating significant interest across the league. The teams reportedly interested include the Chicago Bulls, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs.
Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports that that the recent hiring of former Golden State Warriors assistant Mike Malone makes the Sacramento Kings a factor, as well.
Financial restrictions put each of these teams in a peculiar situation, as Ellis recently opted out of a deal that would have made him $11 million. With the Knicks recently adding yet another $10-plus million contract in Andrea Bargnani, that all but rules them out.
This leaves a race in which the Bulls and Suns are the most likely finalists.
The Nuggets and Spurs each have key players to re-sign with Andre Iguodala and Manu Ginobili. The Kings are mere days removed from the NBA draft, where they selected shooting guard Ben McLemore out of Kansas.
When it comes down to it, the Suns simply appear to be the more rational option than Chicago.
Phoenix drafted a center in Alex Len, thus maintaining the absence of a go-to scorer. Chicago, meanwhile, saw Jimmy Butler emerge as a high-quality two-way player during the 2012-13 NBA regular season.
The Suns may not give Ellis the best chance to win, but they'll likely offer the most money and the opportunity to be the man.
Until a contender with cap space emerges, Phoenix will remain the favorite.
In 2010, Sacramento Kings guard Tyreke Evans won the 2010 Rookie of the Year award. In the three years since, the Kings have placed him at three separate positions, altered their strategy to focus on his weakest areas of play and completely stunted the growth of a promising young player.
The New Orleans Pelicans believe they can right those wrongs.
As @ESPNSteinLine reported, Pelicans will meet with Tyreke Evans late tonight. Told they will have an offer sheet in hand--a big one.— David Aldridge (@daldridgetnt) July 1, 2013
Don't say the Pelicans aren't attempting to build a contender.
Bringing on Evans would be the next step in an active offseason for Dell Demps and the Pelicans, as they've already traded for All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday. While the Western Conference may be deep, the potential pairing of Holiday and Evans would be of a postseason caliber.
The question is, would New Orleans place Evans at the 3 with Eric Gordon starting at shooting guard? Or would they move their incumbent in order to accommodate the former Rookie of the Year?
Regardless of what they do, it's hardly surprising to see the Pelicans at the top of this list.
In terms of raw ability, Josh Smith has body, athleticism and skill set to not only be a perennial All-Star but an MVP candidate. The 27-year-old stands at 6'9", runs the floor like a guard and posts eye-popping numbers on both ends.
With head-scratching shot selection, however, the unthinkable has happened—Smith still doesn't have an All-Star appearance to his name.
Even still, there's no one that will tell you that J-Smoove is too risky to at least acknowledge. For all of the complaints, Smith posted averages of 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.2 steals per game in 2012-13.
In turn, numerous teams are looking to bring him on and help push their squad into title contention.
Josh Smith set to meet with the Rickets today after a "very good" meeting with the Pistons. Rockets aiming for Smith and Dwight Howard?— Sekou Smith (@SekouSmithNBA) July 1, 2013
Two teams with mountains of cap space and stars in place.
The Houston Rockets appear to be the more favorable destination, as they're a major market with James Harden already in place. Running an up-tempo offense, they fit into Smith's desire to get out in transition and throw down highlight-reel finishes.
Plus the Rockets lack a defensive presence—something Smith could be.
With that being said, the Detroit Pistons have enough room to pay Smith as much as they're allowed under the new CBA. Working alongside Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, the intrigue certainly exists.
At this point, however, it appears as if Houston is the more likely option, as they can provide J-Smoove with an opportunity to win right now.