Biggest Questions and Answers Heading into 2013 NBA Free Agency

Bryant KnoxFeatured ColumnistJuly 2, 2013

Biggest Questions and Answers Heading into 2013 NBA Free Agency

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    The 2013 NBA offseason is in full swing, but while free agency has already begun, we still have questions that need answering.

    It’s no secret that the biggest question is where Dwight Howard will land. He is the domino that has yet to fall, and once he makes his decision, it will open the floodgates for all of the teams that ultimately strike out.

    But while Howard continues to dominate headlines, there are a number of players and teams quietly making news of their own. Nobody can officially be moved until July 10, but it’s never too early to predict how things will shake out when the moratorium officially comes to an end.

What Will the Utah Jazz Do with Their Frontcourt?

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    The big question in Utah has been obvious for a while: What will the Jazz do with that frontcourt?

    Currently, Utah has four solid players occupying two positions. The power forward spot consists of Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors, while center includes Al Jefferson and Enes Kanter.

    Depth in the frontcourt can hardly be called a bad thing, but it has created an imbalance within the roster, and it has possibly hindered the growth of the two youngsters off the bench.

    With Millsap and Jefferson both able to test the market as unrestricted free agents, Utah has a big decision to make on how it wants to handle this situation.

     

    Answer: Re-sign Millsap; let Jefferson walk

    According to Yahoo! Sports, the Jazz would like to retain both big men during the offseason. But like one of the greatest bands in the history of music told us, you can’t always get what you want.

    Jefferson is going to command more money than the Jazz are willing to shell out. Early reports from Ken Berger of CBS Sports have the Charlotte Bobcats as a potential suitor for the big man.

    Millsap’s contract should prove to be within reason, so don’t be surprised if he’s the only one of the two bigs to return to Utah during this important offseason.

What Will Happen to Milwaukee's Backcourt?

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    When the Golden State Warriors traded Monta Ellis to the Milwaukee Bucks, fans had visions of one of the most dynamic backcourts in the NBA torching defenses night in and night out.

    Now, a season-and-a-half later, the duo may have seen its last game together.

    Both Ellis and Brandon Jennings have a chance to test their value in free agency during the summer. As a kicker, J.J. Redick could also choose to do the same.

     

    Answer: Re-sign Brandon Jennings; let Monta Ellis and J.J. Redick walk

    Despite chatter in the past that Jennings wants to play for a bigger market, fans in Milwaukee should be encouraged by his recent comments. ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that Jennings may have had a change of heart. He apparently wants to “do more for the city and the franchise.”

    In the case of Ellis, there’s already talk that the New York Knicks might be interested in his services, according to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger. In the same report, Berger states that Redick has been involved in sign-and-trade scenarios and that “no discussions about staying in Milwaukee” have taken place.

    Once upon a time, Jennings seemed the most likely candidate to leave the Bucks’ organization. But with free agency under way, his two backcourt mates may be the ones switching jerseys. 

Who Will Take a Chance on Andrew Bynum?

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    Andrew Bynum entered the 2012-13 season as the consensus No. 2 center in the league, even No. 1 in the eyes of some of his biggest fans. He had taken a giant leap into superstardom the year prior, and the Philadelphia 76ers felt that they had the biggest chance to improve with him on their side.

    Now, one year later, the big man is an unrestricted free agent, as his season was lost to a knee injury before it ever began.

    The good thing for Bynum is that he’s still young. That’s what happens when you were once the youngest player in NBA history, and at just 25 years old, there’s going to be a team out there willing to shell out some serious cash to get him on its side.

     

    Answer: The Dallas Mavericks

    The city of Dallas is holding its collective breath right now waiting for Dwight Howard to make his decision. Unfortunately, the team may end up without its man, which means Bynum becomes a more-than-reasonable Plan B.

    According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Mavs made a call to Bynum’s agent near the beginning of the league’s moratorium period. MacMahon notes in the report that “several other teams” have interest in the center, but Mark Cuban should be expected to pursue this one hard if Howard spurns the Mavericks.

    The Mavs' training staff also helped rejuvenate Tyson Chandler's career, which could be a major selling point in this case.

    Despite his injuries, Bynum has also been linked to the Portland Trail Blazers and Cleveland Cavaliers, per Yannis Koutroupis of Hoopsworld. However, reports from Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com appear to eliminate the Blazers as a possible suitor.

    That leaves Cleveland as the next option, but with the Mavs coming off of a strange year full of one-year contracts and no postseason appearance, expect them to do what’s necessary to convince Bynum that Dallas is where he needs to be.

Who Will Take a Chance on Greg Oden?

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    Speaking of often-injured big men, Greg Oden is looking to make his comeback.

    Jeff Goodman of ESPN has reported that the former No. 1 pick has five teams considering him this offseason. Those teams are the San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics and Memphis Grizzlies.

    Of those five teams, the first three seem like the best fits. The Spurs have a good training staff and a solid frontcourt, the Heat need a big man but don’t need him to be great and the Cavs can offer the most money with the most playing time.

    These three teams would all benefit from taking a chance on Oden, but the question comes down to what the big man wants for the second chapter of his career.

     

    Answer: The Miami Heat

    If Oden still has hopes of living up to his prior expectations, the Cavs will make sense. They can offer him money and playing time, and the fans who rooted for him at Ohio State will be there to cheer him on every step of the way.

    That said, Pat Riley can be very convincing during free-agent times, and according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentential, he’s already shown interest in Oden.

    Aside from where Oden will sign, the question becomes: When will he sign? Quite frankly, I wouldn’t expect it to be right away. He needs to prove he is in good shape, and the initial hype from Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum needs to settle.

    Goodman’s report says that Oden is “optimistic” about playing in 2013-14, but even if he can’t, the Heat lose very little by signing the 25-year-old to a minimum contract.

Will Josh Smith Get a Max Contract?

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    Aside from where Josh Smith will land as an unrestricted free agent, the biggest question is how much teams are willing to pay him.

    Smith has made it clear that he believes he is a max-contract player, and according to a January report from Jeff Schultz of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he wants to be paid like the league’s top superstars.

    His numbers have always been impressive, but his inconsistency has been a problem for too long. His shot selection has always been concerning, but that’s one flaw in a very special player.

     

    Answer: Yes, Smith will receive a max contract

    The CBA negotiations that forced a lockout in 2011 were supposed to prevent owners from overspending on player salaries. In some instances it has worked, but for others, the checkbooks are open to acquire any level of talent.

    It can be argued that Smith is not a max-level player. That kind of money is reserved for the game’s top superstars—a level Smith is unlikely to ever reach with his inconsistency.

    That said, he is a very good player who is extremely versatile, and some team out there will cut the check when it comes to landing its man.

    One scenario where this becomes less likely is if Smith takes a pay cut to play alongside someone like Dwight Howard. But unless that happens, don’t expect Smith to take less money if he’s going to be looked at as a No. 1 option. 

What Is the Best Fit for Andre Iguodala?

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    Andrew Iguodala may not be making headlines the way others have during free agency, but this question is one of the more intriguing ones of the offseason.

    Where Dwight Howard goes will impact Josh Smith. Where Smith goes will likely influence who covets Iguodala.

    The Atlanta Hawks are going to have options if Howard signs elsewhere and Smith departs, making them suitors. The Denver Nuggets are a viable option, as they hold Iggy’s Bird rights and relieved him of the pressure of being a primary scorer just this past season.

    Even the Houston Rockets are an option if Howard signs with them—assuming, of course, that Iguodala would take less money to play alongside two superstars.

    Iguodala’s future is up in the air, but as soon as the dominoes begin to fall, we should hear his decision in no time.

     

    Answer: The Denver Nuggets

    Iguodala is going to have plenty of teams to choose from. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports has reported that the 29-year-old will meet with the Nuggets, Hawks, Detroit Pistons, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors.

    Iguodala is the kind of player who could slide into most systems and succeed, but at this point in his career, the Nuggets simply make sense.

    The team finished 2012-13 with the third-best record out West, and while the playoffs ended relatively quickly, a new head coach gives them hope for postseason success.

    Don’t forget, either, that they can offer him one more year on his deal, which is a massive selling point to someone looking to sign his final big-time contract.

Will the Boston Celtics Finally Trade Rajon Rondo?

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    Rajon Rondo has been on and off the trading block for years, and with the Boston Celtics officially in rebuilding mode, now seems like the time to clean house and send the point guard packing.

    According to Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe, the Dallas Mavericks are interested in acquiring the star floor general. He’s an excellent defender and a magnificent facilitator, and if you believe he’ll recover from his season-ending ACL tear, he’s a good investment on most NBA rosters.

    The question, of course, is: Will the Celtics actually pull the trigger during free agency?

    Rondo's status is a hot topic following the moves that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets, and you have to wonder if Danny Ainge has it in him to blow up the roster even more than he already has.

     

    Answer: The C’s will keep Rondo—for now

    It’s no secret that the Celtics are aiming at the 2014 draft. The recent moves made were not designed to make the team competitive in 2014, but saving a piece to aid in the supposed rebuild appears to be the option of choice.

    According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, Ainge is listening to calls but has “no intentions” of trading Rondo.

    To further contradict the original report of the guard to the Mavs, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald has cited a league source as asking, “What in the world does Dallas have to offer for Rondo?”

    The 27-year-old has a decent contract for his skill set, but if Ainge is truly set on building around him, he won’t be going anywhere before the next big move is attempted in Beantown.

Where Will Dwight Howard Sign?

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    This is, hands down, the biggest question of the entire offseason.

    Ever since Dwight Howard suited up for the Los Angeles Lakers, people have wanted to know where he was going to sign long-term. The Lakers are, of course, in the running, but a tumultuous year in L.A. and a lack of commitment from the big man have made it unclear where he’ll actually play in 2014.

    Among the suitors for Howard’s services are the Lakers, the Houston Rockets, the Dallas Mavericks, the Golden State Warriors and the Atlanta Hawks. All of them have something to offer, but one has the edge.  

     

    Answer: The Houston Rockets

    According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets are the front-runners to land Howard. They earned the first meeting with the big man on July 1, and they have a number of selling points that create a compelling argument.

    Houston can give Howard a championship-caliber roster with a coach who understands the center position. The superstar can also make more money by being in a state that has no income tax.

    ESPN’s Chris Broussard has stated the Lakers’ chances of retaining Howard are “very little.” Given that and the other rumors floating around, nobody should be shocked if Howard lands in Houston long-term.