NBA News: How Chris Paul Deal Affects Free-Agent Market

Justin Onslow@@JustinOnslowNFLContributor IIJuly 2, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 20:  Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers smiles during a 112-91 win over the Memphis Grizzlies during Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on April 20, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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Even in a deep free-agent class, there’s Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and everyone else.

With Paul agreeing to return to the Los Angeles Clippers (and sounding pretty excited about it, as he suggested on Twitter), Howard is by far the biggest fish on the market, and teams hoping to package the two in a massive free-agent coup no longer have a leg to stand on.

As SportsCenter reported Sunday evening, the terms of the reported contract will include five years and $107 million:

Paul’s decision to return to Los Angeles is sure to have a widespread impact on free agency this year. As was reported by multiple sources leading up to the free-agent period, teams like the Atlanta Hawks were expected to make plays at both Paul and Howard, using the allure of playing together as incentive to sign, as noted by ESPN’s Chris Broussard:

Chris Paul and Dwight Howard have been in consistent contact recently about the possibility of becoming teammates next season, according to league sources.

Paul and Howard will be the biggest free agents on the market this summer, and their desire is to play together, the sources said.

The Atlanta Hawks could make it happen. Atlanta, which is Howard's hometown, has the cap room to sign both players to maximum-salaried contracts.

Howard is not particularly fond of the idea of returning to Atlanta, but he would do so to team up with Paul, the sources said.

Atlanta is just one team said to have been interested in making such a deal. Regardless of other potential suitors, it’s not going to happen at this point.

Paul’s decision to return to the Clippers not only takes that scenario off the table, but it also creates a trickle-down effect for teams simply hoping to sign elite guards this offseason.

Enter Tyreke Evans and Monta Ellis.

Both free-agent point guards have their shortcomings, but there’s no denying the effect Paul’s signing will have on their free-agent prospects. Teams like the New Orleans Pelicans, reported by Sam Amick of USA Today to be in the running for Evans, will be forced to push harder to obtain their top-rated targets or risk losing them to other point-guard-hungry teams.

Likewise, Ellis will almost certainly benefit from the absence of the class’s top perimeter scorer. After opting out of his $11 million deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, the combo guard is reportedly in contact with the Dallas Mavericks, who may be forced to overpay for his services, as noted by Mike Fisher of

Ellis is likely to get a massive—albeit probably undeserved—deal this summer, but Paul’s decision to re-sign only adds to the pressure for teams to overpay to obtain the top-ranked guards in this class.

Simply put, Paul changed the entire landscape of free agency, and he did it before the period ever began. For franchises looking to make major splashes, countless hours of planning went to waste as they explore additional plans for the summer.

Time will tell what Howard chooses to do with his messy situation, but as is often the case, the biggest dominoes have to be the first to fall.

The biggest one came tumbling down Sunday night.