NBA Rumors: Latest News on Courting of Top Free Agents

Brian Mazique@@UniqueMaziqueCorrespondent IIIJuly 2, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 17:  Dwight Howard #12 of the Los Angeles Lakers looks on from the  bench during the game with the Houston Rockets at Staples Center on April 17, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 99-95 in overtime.   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 Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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Beginning with Chris Paul of the L.A. Clippers, a few noteworthy free agents have already made their destinations known for the 2013-14 season and beyond. The All-Star point guard simply tweeted this to indicate he would re-sign with the Clippers:

ESPN's Ramona Shelburne had more details, indicating Paul had verbally agreed to a five-year, $107 million contract.

Mike Dunleavy Jr. also verbally committed to the Chicago Bulls, per ESPN's Marc Stein, and Eric Maynor has agreed to sign with the Washington Wizards, per Michael Lee of the Washington Post.

With those potentially impacting free agents locked in, the majority of the significant free agents are still being courted by suitors. Here's the latest information on three of the top players available.


Dwight Howard Will Have His Pick

When it comes to this offseason, Howard is the man whose decision will set the tone for the summer. Per Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld, Howard has already met with more than half of his serious suitors.

A decision is seemingly coming soon, and we should see agreements coming in rapidly after Howard makes his choice. Teams have if/then scenarios centered around him accepting or rejecting their offers.

Each team's offer has interesting elements, but for pure basketball reasons, the Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors are still the best choices. The Rockets' James Harden and the Warriors' Stephen Curry represent the youngest stars Howard could potentially be teamed with.

If this is about rings, those two teams give him the best shot at winning now and in the future.


Josh Smith Seeing Some Love Around the League

Smith is a player who could potentially be part of team's contingency plans if they miss out on Howard. Per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports, the Rockets have told Smith they will make him a contract offer if they don't sign D12.

Smith may not want to wait that long, and he may not have to. Spears also reports Smith has already been in "lengthy" contract talks with the Detroit Pistons.

The versatile and underrated forward has spent his entire nine-year career with the Atlanta Hawks. Last season, Smith was the only player in the NBA to average 17 points, four assists, eight rebounds and a block per game.

It is easy to see why he's attracting so much attention.

Unless he's going to play small forward with the Pistons, it seems like an odd match. The team already has Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, so the bigs positions are seemingly filled.

Playing in Houston alongside Omer Asik and Harden would be the most sensible spot. But who says these things have to make sense?


Sacramento Still Loves Tyreke Evans, but Pelicans Are in Serious Pursuit

After seeing his per-game averages in points, rebounds and assists dip every year since he won Rookie of the Year in 2010, one might think Tyreke Evans would no longer be wanted in Sacramento.

That clearly isn't the case. USA Today's Sam Amick reports ownership, management and head coach wined and dined the 23-year-old in hopes of retaining his services.

The Kings may be hoping for some loyalty from Evans, but the New Orleans Pelicans have certainly made Evans' decision a tough one.

Amick reports the Pelicans have made Evans a four-year, $44 million offer to join their young and impressive nucleus. Evans is a restricted free agent, so the Kings could match the offer.

The dinner meeting might imply the Kings would like Evans to stay in Sactown for less money. The Pelicans seem to be headed in a better direction as a team, but with their acquisition of Jrue Holiday, Evans probably won't get a chance to play point guard, the position at which he excelled as a rookie.

Eric Gordon is already there—for now—and he would seemingly be the shooting guard for the present and immediate future. Evans could play small forward, but his role in New Orleans seems a bit cloudy.

In Sacramento, he could possibly return to the point guard role under Malone, and he'd have a potentially dynamic rookie shooting guard in Ben McLemore to feed. It's a conundrum for sure, but depending on how much he believes in the Kings' new direction, staying put could be his best option.


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