NBA Free Agents 2013: Latest Buzz Surrounding Dwight Howard and Other Big Names

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NBA Free Agents 2013: Latest Buzz Surrounding Dwight Howard and Other Big Names
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The NBA's free-agency period is in full swing and won't reach its pinnacle until Dwight Howard makes his much-anticipated decision.

Howard's list of potential suitors includes five teams, but each can offer something that the other cannot. Whether it's money, marketability, location or the opportunity to win championships, Howard will have to prioritize quickly and think long and hard before deciding his future.

But Howard isn't the only star up for grabs in 2013.

Here we'll run through the latest buzz surrounding Howard and some of the other NBA big names available this summer. 

 

Lakers Preparing for Superman's Departure?

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Howard is still deciding where he wants to play next season, but his current team, the L.A. Lakers are already bracing themselves for the worst, according to ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne:

It was a particularly uncomfortable holiday for the Los Angeles Lakers, sources told ESPN.com, as fears mount within the organization that Howard's current employers could have fallen to as low as fourth in his pecking order.

Stein and Shelburne add that the Lakers might be rethinking their stance on a sign-and-trade with Howard in order to bring back some assets in return if he opts to play elsewhere.

Howard's potential destinations include Atlanta, Dallas, Golden State and Houston in addition to L.A. The Rockets are believed to be the front-runners to land Howard, but the Mavericks and Warriors are right in the mix as well.

According to Stein and Brian Windhorst, sources close to the Warriors say the team is confident it can land Howard and is attempting to free up cap space in order to sign the dominant center.

 

Al Jefferson Agrees to Join Charlotte Bobcats

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Free-agent center Al Jefferson has agreed to a deal with the Charlotte Bobcats, according to sources via Marc Stein:

Sources told ESPN.com that the Utah Jazz center, after a two-day visit with the Bobcats, has verbally agreed to a three-year contract with Charlotte worth an estimated $41 million.

The deal reportedly gives Jefferson a player option following the second year, which will allow him the opportunity to test the free-agent market again at age 30 if he chooses. 

Surprisingly, Jefferson is just 11 months older than Howard, and averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds last season to lead the Utah Jazz in both categories.

Despite posting solid numbers year in and year out since his final season with the Boston Celtics, Jefferson has flown under the radar while playing on bad or mediocre teams in Minnesota and Utah. He's never been selected as an All-Star, but he has been incredibly consistent over the past seven seasons.

 

O.J. Mayo Free to Sign With Bucks?

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According to sources close to ESPN's Marc Stein, via Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com, there are no talks of a potential sign-and-trade deal between the Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks that would send shooting guard O.J. Mayo north in exchange for other pieces:

The sources said the Mavs are prepared to let Mayo leave and move on to other business. Mayo is close to agreeing to a multiyear deal with Milwaukee after averaging 15.3 points and 4.4 assists during his lone season in Dallas. 

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MacMahon adds that Dallas had spoken with other teams, including the L.A. Clippers about a sign-and-trade that would bring back assets in return, but that the Mavericks are prepared to move on and pursue other free agents.

Dallas is still in the mix to land Howard. Like Howard's other suitors, the Mavs are anxiously awaiting his decision. 

Free agent Monta Ellis is a player the Mavericks could target and look to sign this summer in order to replace Mayo's production on the perimeter. According to MacMahon, the team has "expressed interest" in signing Ellis, but talks have yet to become serious. 

 

Follow Bleacher Report Featured Columnist Patrick Clarke on Twitter. 

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