Most of the best free agents are still unsigned. Dwight Howard is obviously the cream of the crop and the entire basketball world is waiting to hear who he'll play for next season and beyond.
Many have opinions on who Howard and other top free agents should choose.
There are so many factors involved in the decision-making process, but if the decisions were based purely on basketball, here are the best fits for three of the top remaining free agents.
According to ESPN.com, Howard is mulling over offers from the Rockets, L.A. Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks and Golden State Warriors.
D12's basketball future would be brightest in Houston. The team has proven over the last two seasons that it will do whatever it takes to put a competitive team on the floor. Its consistent pursuit of a big man in the middle shows how important an interior presence is to the organization.
That can't be understated considering Howard's apparent desire to be the focal point of his next team.
Harden, Smith and Howard would make an interesting Big Three. The team still needs a point guard who can play off the ball, make spot-up three-point shots and take care of the ball.
Sorry, that isn't Jeremy Lin, but the nucleus is intact to contend now and in the immediate future.
Why Not the L.A. Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks or Golden State Warriors?
Kobe Bryant's refusal to defer to Howard may make sense to some fans, but it doesn't make logical sense considering the two players' age and potential position within the Lakers organization.
Bryant is near the end of his career, Howard is in the middle of his. That simple concept should be enough to influence Bryant to take a step back.
Instead, we're hearing things like this from ESPN's Chris Broussard:
The Mamba's presence seems destined to waste and potentially frustrate Howard for at least two more years in L.A. The team doesn't have a coach in place who can handle the egos, so 2013-14 would likely be another underachieving season in L.A.
Aside from Bryant's intimidating presence, the team doesn't have any exciting young talent to pair with Howard once Bryant retires.
Dallas and Atlanta will offer Howard the world, but those teams ultimately don't have a young star on their roster to play with Howard like Houston does.
Golden State is the only team that comes close to the Rockets in pure basketball appeal for Howard. The Warriors have Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two young players whose skill sets are seemingly perfect complements to Howard's interior banging.
The slight difference is the team's small market and potential reluctance to venture into the luxury tax to maintain Howard, Curry and Thompson long-term.
The Rockets have proven they'll spend to win, the Warriors haven't.
Smith is potentially a great second or even third star on a team with a proven scorer. His effectiveness could be even more augmented if he played alongside a dominant big man.
Some may wonder whether he already had with the Hawks while playing with Joe Johnson and Al Horford. The answer would be yes...to a degree.
However, Harden is a better scorer than Johnson and Howard is more of a dominant presence on both ends of the floor than Horford. If Howard doesn't sign with the Rockets, Houston still has Omer Asik and could possibly even go after Andrew Bynum.
Assuming the latter were healthy and motivated, he could provide a presence as close to Howard's impact as there is in the league.
In any case, the elements needed for Smith to play a key role for a contender would be in place.
Why Not Another Team?
Most serious contenders don't have the cap space to acquire Smith. If those teams found a way to move salary to make a run at him, it could drastically impact their current nucleus.
Consequently, this would bring the overall quality of the team down to the middle-of-the-road level the Hawks toiled at for the last five years.
For Smith, it seems he needs to land with the Rockets if he's going to be part of a team with a legitimate shot at making noise in the postseason.
The likelihood of this happening seems very slim, but from a pure basketball standpoint, it makes sense. Ellis is an explosive and versatile scoring guard.
He's a little undersized at 6'3", but his amazing athleticism allows him to be effective from anywhere on the court. He scored 19 points per game last season for the Milwaukee Bucks and his talents are a great fit for the Bulls.
According to Berger, the team did express interest in acquiring him when the free-agency period began on July 1, but it is unclear whether Chicago would still be willing to pay the price—or move the salary necessary to bring Ellis in.
Why Not the San Antonio Spurs or Denver Nuggets?
Berg mentions those teams having interest in Ellis as well, but they don't offer him as good of a chance to win an NBA championship. The Spurs' core is old while the Nuggets are extremely young and devoid of a true superstar.
If Ellis is looking for a team that gives him an opportunity to win big now, Chicago is the best option.
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