NBA Free Agency 2013: Breaking Down the Best Big Men Available

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NBA Free Agency 2013: Breaking Down the Best Big Men Available
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It has been six years since a player listed at 6'9" or taller won the NBA MVP award. It has been eight years since a player who played primarily in the post has been called the game's most valuable.

Yet, basketball still is—and forever will be—a big man's game. That is why young bigs rise in the NBA draft and why teams overpay for size during free agency.

This season, the prized free agent is obviously a center. Dwight Howard is the man setting the pace for the market. Any team interested in his services is waiting to hear if he'll take his talents to its city.

Howard is just one of the coveted big men available. Here's a list of the best pivot players on the market and why each is coveted.

 

Dwight Howard

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Howard's appeal may seem obvious, but like many dominant big men, his production is sometimes taken for granted. Quite simply, he is the most effective big man in the NBA.

There are some who are technically more skilled, but no big impacts the game on both ends of the floor like Howard. Last year, in a down season by his lofty standards, Howard averaged 17 points (on only 10.7 shots per game), 12.4 rebounds (league leader) and 2.4 blocked shots per game for the Los Angeles Lakers.

He's won five of the past six rebounding titles, won three Defensive Player of the Year awards, made seven All-Star appearances, finished in the top five of the MVP voting four times and led his team to the NBA Finals.

Even with such a long list of accomplishments, Howard is still just 27 years old. Critics can call it a Dwightmare all they want, but the team that lands Howard will be realizing a dream.

 

Al Jefferson

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Because Al Jefferson played the past three seasons in Utah and the three prior in Minnesota, many don't realize how productive Big Al has been. Over the past six seasons, Jefferson has averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds and shot 49 percent from the field.

Few centers in the NBA can produce those types of numbers consistently.

One of the few who can is listed above this section. So if you're wondering why you haven't heard more about Jefferson's possible destinations during this free-agent period, it's because Howard is the first choice of every team in the market for a center.

Once Howard's intentions are known, expect to see Jefferson find a home shortly thereafter.

 

Josh Smith

USA TODAY Sports

Josh Smith isn't a traditional back-to-the-basket big man, but his versatility is unmatched. Take this stat line into consideration: 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.8 blocked shots per game in 2012-13.

No other player in the NBA averaged at least 17 points, eight boards, four assists and 1.8 blocks—not even LeBron James

Smith's shot selection is his biggest problem. He will certainly have a coaching staff and diehard fans pulling their hair out as he hoists his share of ill-advised three-point attempts. That said, this potential headache is a sacrifice most are willing to make for such an exceptional all-around talent.

 

Andrew Bynum

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Andrew Bynum is the only center in the NBA with the physical ability to duplicate Howard's production. But injuries and perplexing decisions on and off the court make him a risky signing for teams.

Here's Big Drew salsa dancing in Madrid after missing the entire season due to injuries to both knees.

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When he's on the floor, Bynum is a force. During the 2011-12 season, he averaged 18.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocked shots per game. That type of production—if sustained over time—can get a player into the Hall of Fame if there are a decent number of playoff appearances attached.

Bynum is still just 25 years old, so he certainly has time. However, teams are right to be concerned about his physical state and his maturity level. If Bynum ever gets both on track, he could actually be the best center in the NBA.

 

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