Now, the real fun begins.
Dwight Howard, easily the second-best free agent of the summer behind Chris Paul—who signed back with the Clippers—decided to take his talents to Houston, as he said the following on Twitter:
I’ve decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets. I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I’m looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best.
In-house NBA guru Josh Martin took a look at how Howard signing with the Rockets shakes up free agency, but we’re here today to analyze the best players yet to be inked for the 2013-14 season and beyond.
Howard landing with Houston is far from the end of free agency. There are still several impact players who will be getting lucrative contracts in the coming days and weeks. Some may be joining Howard with the Rockets and others will be looking to go to a team where they can spoil the next superpower’s title hopes.
Now that Howard is off the market, here are the top remaining free agents of the summer, with notes on their 2012-13 campaigns and rumors as to the teams interested in signing them.
3. Andrew Bynum, Center
Andrew Bynum was widely considered the backup option for the teams that couldn’t land Howard this summer. Now that Howard is off the market, Bynum’s price tag should definitely increase. He won’t be able to command too much money, though, as he missed the entire 2012-13 due to injury.
It appears that the Mavericks are one of the favorites to land the injury-plagued center. Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas reports that the Mavericks talked to Bynum’s agent earlier in the week and have expressed interest in him. In that scenario, Bynum would likely take the spot of Chris Kaman, an unrestricted free agent.
It wouldn’t be completely crazy if Los Angeles were to pursue Bynum either, as he played for the franchise from 2005-06 through the 2011-12 season before the Lakers traded him to the 76ers. In 392 career games with the Lakers, Bynum averaged 11.7 points and 7.8 rebounds in 26 minutes per night.
Yannis Koutroupis of USA Today reports that the Lakers are one of several teams interested in Bynum. The Hawks, Mavericks, Warriors, Lakers, Cavaliers, Blazers and Rockets—who probably aren’t interested anymore—all are potential suitors for the big man, per Koutroupis. It’ll be very interesting to see where Bynum ends up.
2. Monta Ellis, Guard
Monta Ellis isn’t really affected much by the Howard deal, but other deals definitely had large implications as to where he’ll end up next season. The Nuggets now have some cash to throw at a free agent, as Andre Iguodala decided to leave Denver and sign with the Warriors, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
The Nuggets could go with Evan Fournier at shooting guard for next season, but Denver has to be able to do better than that. Fournier didn’t see much playing time a year ago, averaging 11.3 minutes per night in 38 games. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports that Ellis could land with the Nuggets.
Iguodala was a large part of the Denver offense—albeit he only scored 13 points per night, but those are numbers that might not be easy to replace right away. Ellis is a pure scorer who could become the Nuggets’ go-to guy next season. Last year, he averaged 19.2 points per game. No one on Denver averaged at least 17 points per game in 2012-13.
Signing Ellis would give Denver quite the backcourt, as he’d be the regular shooting guard and Ty Lawson would continue to run the point. The duo would be Denver’s top two scoring options, but they’re also both great at moving the ball. Each averaged at least six assists last season. Ellis-to-Denver would be a good move for both parties.
1. Josh Smith, Forward
The Rockets landed one of the top stars on the market, but it appears that Houston isn’t quite satisfied with the talent on the roster, even with Howard. Chris Broussard of ESPN reports that the Rockets are working to bring Josh Smith to Houston in a sign-and-trade that would likely include Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin:
That would certainly give the Rockets enough stars to win a title in the near future. If that proposed trade were to go down, one would assume the starting lineup would include Howard, Smith, James Harden and then potentially Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverly. The first three are locks; the final two are up in the air.
But the Hawks might not agree to that proposed sign-and-trade. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports that Houston has had talks with Smith, but there hasn’t been much traction between the two organizations. Houston has to find a way where Atlanta is willing to make the deal work.
If the Rockets can’t, Smith likely won’t be coming to Houston. It really isn’t a bad deal for the Hawks, though. They’ll be getting a huge center in Asik, who averaged a double-double this past season, and Lin, who is a solid all-around player. Atlanta may want Smith back, but if it can’t, getting those two is good consolation.