NBA Free Agency: Each Team's Best Possible Signing and Draft Pick
We're only 10 days into June and the rumors and gossip surrounding the NBA free agent circle is just warming up.
People are linking LeBron James with the Bulls because of his ties to World Wide Wes, and Wesley's ties with new Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau.
Chris Bosh is showing up at Laker games, so a trade to L.A. for Andrew Bynum could possibly be in the works...apparently.
Carlos Boozer is talking about how he's better David Lee...and while it was taken out of context a bit, it's got the Internet buzzing.
With over three weeks to go, the talk is only going to get more nonsensical.
Still, it's always fun to speculate. That said, let's jump right into today's topic: the best possible free agent signings and potential draft picks for all 30 teams. That's right, a free agent prediction and mock draft rolled into one!
I wrote something similar to this a few weeks ago, but that was more of a prediction as to where players will land. This is slightly different in the sense that we're only talking about the single best move one team can make. If they have the opportunity to sign LeBron, Wade, or Bosh...who do they choose?
Of course, almost every team's ideal signing would be LeBron or Wade, with the draft pick going to Wall or Turner. So let's put a limit on this: one team for each player, and that's it.
And this isn't a prediction of where players will land; it's what the best fit for each team would be once the dominoes start falling.
In alphabetical order...
Best Possible Signing: Shannon Brown
Shannon Brown has a player option for $2.2 million next year, and it's somewhat likely that he'll test the free agent waters.
If he does, he could find a suitor in a team like Atlanta. If Joe Johnson doesn't return, the Hawks will need productivity at the shooting guard spot.
With him and Jamal Crawford, they'll have a tandem backcourt that can change positions—either one can play point guard or shooting guard.
It's not an ideal scenario. Maybe Atlanta would be wise to eat their cap space for awhile until the right player presents itself.
Until then, they have to sign some players for next year. One might as well be Brown...for the right price, of course.
Best Possible Draft Pick: James Anderson
In their ideal scenario, James Anderson slides past teams like Boston and San Antonio down to No. 24 in the draft.
Anderson is 6'6" and gives them much needed size on the perimeter with the departure of Johnson. He's an explosive scorer who can get shots off quickly on the perimeter with a smooth, high release on his jumper.
Without Johnson, the Hawks don't have many legit one-on-one scorers outside of Crawford. As an added bonus, they won't have to wait a few years for him to develop—Anderson is ready to step in and contribute quality minutes right now.
Best Possible Signing: Ray Allen
I'm tentative about this because, as I'm typing this, Ray Allen is 1-for-19 through one-and-a-half games in Boston during the NBA Finals.
But Boston's lack of cap space really limits their options in free agency. The big three of Allen-Paul Pierce-Kevin Garnett is aging, and it'll be interesting to see what direction the Celtics go in: Do they keep this trio together, or go younger to build around the blossoming Rajon Rondo?
After his three-point barrage in Game Two and the success the Celtics have enjoyed in the postseason, it's tough to imagine Allen in another uniform next year.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Jordan Crawford
I've seen Crawford anywhere from a late-first to early-second round pick, but I think he could be a great fit in Boston...even if Ray Allen is back.
Boston's current roster for next year looks like their same starting five along with Rasheed Wallace and Glen Davis. Tony Allen isn't exactly a scoring spark plug off the bench, but he was another body the Celts can throw out there.
In Crawford, they're getting a dynamic scorer who can light it up from anywhere on the floor. Plus, he'll get to play behind Ray Allen for a few years, meaning he can learn all the subtle nuances and movements from one of the best pure shooting guards to ever play.
And in 2014, a Rondo-Crawford backcourt will most likely be one of the premier guard combos in the league.
Best Possible Signing: Tyrus Thomas
Thomas is a restricted free agent, and unless the demand for him gets out of control (which it won't), it's more than likely he'll return to Charlotte.
He fit in well for Larry Brown last year, thriving in a reserve role and providing a real spark off the bench.
The Bobcats are lacking in quality bigs, and while Thomas isn't the ideal scorer they're looking for, his energy and shot-blocking make him an asset for an undersized team.
With a lack of cap space, there's not much room for Charlotte to improve. Hanging on to a quality piece from last year's team is a start.
Best Possible Draft Pick: No one
The Bobcats have no selections in the upcoming draft.
Best Possible Signing: LeBron James
As a Cavs fan, I don't really want to think about this scenario. But it haunts me more and more each day, and even though I would contest that Cleveland is his best fit, we're going with a "best possible signing" argument, and that's Chicago.
They the best chance of any team outside of Cleveland of snagging James; better than New York, Miami, anywhere else.
In landing James, Chicago instantly becomes one of the top three teams in the East, alongside Boston and Orlando...and they might even be the No. 1 team with a few crafty draft picks and free agent signings.
If there's anything that Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah proved in the playoffs, it's that they are more than capable of being the No. 2 and No. 3 guys on championship teams. They fought hard every game, gave the Cavs everything they could possibly handle...they were just young, inexperienced, and didn't have the required to win.
James has really never played with an elite point guard or big man (the '09 version of Shaquille O'Neal and the corpse of Antawn Jamison in the playoffs do not count). All of a sudden, he has both.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Luke Babbitt
The Bulls would need another big man probably, but they can still address that in free agency.
If Babbitt slides to the late teens, the Bulls would get a steal, especially considering they would probably bring him off the bench (something tells me he might not start over No. 23).
An explosive scorer, Babbitt is one of the best pure offensive players in the draft. As part of the second unit, he could really provide a spark to Chicago's already soon-to-be high scoring offense.
Best Possible Signing: Larry Hughes
Honestly Cavs fans, if there's no LBJ next year, does it really matter what they do? There's no sense in throwing money at any free agent...especially since not many people will want to step in and try to fill LeBron's shoes.
Sadly, if LeBron does the unthinkable and signs elsewhere, the future does not bode well.
Best Possible Draft Pick: No one
The Cavaliers have no selections in the upcoming draft. Just another reason to hope LeBron stays.
Best Possible Signing: Dirk Nowitzki
It's fun to think of Dirk reuniting with Steve Nash out in the desert. Then again, they're both in their 30s, so maybe it's just fun for nostalgic purposes.
The Dallas fans and organization love Dirk, and the feeling seems mutual. It's unlikely that Nowitzki would be looking for a short-term deal; he'd probably want a contract that will last into his mid 30s, and the Mavs would more than likely be happy to oblige.
There also has to be a sense of unfinished business for Nowitzki in Dallas. They've made the playoffs 10 straight seasons but have just one Finals appearance and zero titles to show for it.
This Maverick team could be close. They got a tough draw this year with San Antonio in the first round. If they continue to develop Roddy Beaubois and add one more piece, maybe, just maybe, they can make their Finals run next year.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Brian Zoubek
The Mavs have the attractive option of using Erick Dampier's contract as trade bait before the season begins, so they can still bring in a viable big man underneath in that regard.
They also wish to re-sign Brendan Haywood. If they do, Zoubek could be a quality backup. While he's not a dominating offensive player by any means, he does protect the rim nicely and rebounds well.
Let's be honest, whatever the Mavs do here, it's not going to be a player with a huge impact. But that doesn't mean they can find a good fourth or fifth guy off the bench.
Best Possible Signing: Tony Allen
Denver's on the books for over $74 million next year—its not getting anything substantial via free agency.
However, Tony Allen could be an intriguing option. The defensive energy he's shown in the playoffs this year has been magnificent, especially what he's done on Kobe Bryant. Kobe has struggled in the second half of Games Three and Four in the Finals, and credit Allen, who is constantly hounding him.
Denver has a similar player in Arron Afflalo, but they could use a quality bench player that not only gives meaningful minutes, but is a good locker room guy as well.
Playing on a winning team for the last three years, Allen can bring some stability and maturity to a locker room that desperately needs it.
Best Possible Draft Pick: No one
The Nuggets have no selections in the upcoming draft.
Best Possible Signing: Nate Robinson
Like so many other teams, the Pistons are strapped for cash in free agency and can't really afford to make a splash. I hate to bring up the same tired point (oh who am I kidding, I love it) but this is what happens when you shell out ridiculous contracts for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva!!!
The Pistons need another guard to play behind Rodney Stuckey, and while Robinson might mimic the Will Bynum experience, the amount of effort, heart, and intensity he's shown when given minutes in the playoffs means he deserves an opportunity somewhere.
Maybe he could get starters minutes elsewhere, but there will be plenty of playing time in Detroit.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Cole Aldrich
Tough to project what the Pistons are going to do in the draft.
They could go with Greg Monroe, a crafty and skilled passing power forward. Or they could try their chances with someone Al-Farouq Aminu and see if he progresses.
But I think they need toughness inside, and Aldrich probably has the best physical presence of any big in this year's class.
He won't be outworked in the paint and is an adept rebounder. A solid finisher and underrated passer, he's also the most NBA-ready power forward prospect.
His long arms and well-built frame fits Detroit's needs inside (only Jason Maxiell and Chris Wilcox return).
Golden State Warriors
Best Possible Signing: Eddie House
Golden State had to deal with a plethora of injuries. They used the most different starting lineups in the NBA last season, but on paper, they have a good amount of talent returning.
They have their fantastic guard duo of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis.
Inside, they have strong rebounding and shot-blocking with Andris Biedrins, Anthony Randolph, and Ronny Turiaf.
On the wing, they have the physical Corey Maggette, the streak-shooting Anthony Morrow, and Kelenna Azubuike, who had a great 2008-09 campaign before going down with a left patella injury early last year.
Doesn't Eddie House seem like a perfect fit off the bench? A guy that can run the floor, get to open spots, and knock down three-pointers all day.
Plus he'll come at a bargain, and the Warriors won't eat much into the near $20 million they'll have in cap space next summer.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Al-Farouq Aminu
Again, it's difficult to gauge what Golden State will do in the draft, since the question of what direction the franchise will go ominously looms.
Do they find a player for the Nellie-ball system? Do they pick for immediate impact or someone for two or three years down the line?
Wes Johnson was born to play in the Golden State system, but I don't see Minnesota or Sacramento passing him up. Plus, if the Warriors decide to change systems after Don Nelson retires, he might not be as great of a fit as originally projected.
With Aminu, they get a player that's full of potential (can we just make that the word of the month?). He's athletic, versatile, and an aggressive rebounder.
He's not great at creating his own shot, and Curry is the only perimeter player that really gets scoring opportunities for the Golden State post players. He'll have to do a lot of his damage on offensive rebounds and layups while he develops a more effective offensive game.
Best Possible Signing: Luis Scola
In a similar article I wrote a few weeks back, I projected Scola going to the Thunder. But I made the miscalculated error of assuming Scola was an unrestricted free agent.
Since he's restricted and so highly prized by GM Daryl Morey, the odds that he leaves Houston are slim to none.
Scola is a tenacious, relentless, constantly moving power forward. For me, he is similar to Anderson Varejao, only a bit more consistent on the offensive end and especially with his mid-range game.
If the Rockets get a healthy Yao Ming for next season, Scola can wreak havoc by attacking the glass on the weak side when Yao steps out, or vice-versa when Yao is on the block.
His hustle and intangible play make him a strong asset for Houston.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Hassan Whiteside
I really like a lot of the pieces Houston has—they by far were the best non-playoff team this year.
They've got an explosive backcourt with Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin. They've got a plethora of athletic swingman that are hands down the best defensive trio in the league: Shane Battier, Trevor Ariza, and Jared Jeffries.
That said, they can get away with drafting a project and giving him time to naturally feel out his game.
Whiteside is the guy: a 7'0" defense presence that can harness his offensive skills. He can defend the rim and is one of the best shot blockers in this year's crop.
And if Yao decides to play elsewhere in 2011, they have a young big they can throw into the fire.
Best Possible Signing: Raymond Felton
The Pacers definitely need a point guard; T.J. Ford and A.J. Price are the only ones on roster at this point.
They won't be able to outright sign Felton, but maybe they can nab him in a sign-and-trade and ship off someone like Mike Dunleavy for him and Alexis Ajinca or Nazr Muhammad (cap filler).
Felton was anything but spectacular in the playoffs, but playing with Danny Granger and Troy Murphy (two somewhat similar players to Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace) should facilitate his transition to Indiana's offense.
The Pacers won't have to commit too much to the future either; something in the three-year, $20 million range would be acceptable. In turn, they'd still have around $30 million in cap space next summer and a Felton-Granger-Roy Hibbert combo to build around.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Patrick Patterson
With the point guard need addressed in the offseason, Indiana can draft solely on best available talent.
Even though he's undersized, Patterson has the tenacity of a power forward. He loves operating out of the post and has a decent offensive repertoire.
It's unlikely that Troy Murphy will be apart of future plans past this year, so the Pacers have options if they either trade him during the season or let him go when his contract expires. Patterson isn't as good of a rebounder, but is hard-working, tough, and can connect from mid-range.
Los Angeles Clippers
Best Possible Signing: David Geffen
The best thing that can happen to the Clippers this offseason has nothing to do with a player; it's with the owner.
Rumors are that David Geffen is adamant about trying to buy enough of the Clippers to make him the majority shareholder. From there, he's convinced that he can bring LeBron James to L.A.
While that's probably a stretch, finally getting owner Donald Sterling to part with control of the team would be a blessing for Clips fans. It's no coincidence that the team has made the playoffs just four times since they moved to L.A. from San Diego and haven't advanced past the second round...all since Sterling has been in charge.
Sadly, Sterling will almost definitely not give up his stake in the Clippers. But best-case scenario, he does. And Clippers fans can rejoice.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Ekpe Udoh
Udoh is an active rebounder, averaging 3.5 offensive boards per game as a junior at Baylor, and his terrific footwork and athletic ability make it arduous for opposing defenders to stay in front of him.
He's a strong one-on-one defender and holds his own against guys that are multi-faceted offensively.
He prefers to play off the block, meaning he'll create space for Chris Kaman to operate in the post. He's a great insurance policy in case anything goes wrong with Blake Griffin.
And even if Griffin is ready to go, Udoh can be a game-changer off the bench. It's a win-win situation for the Clips.
Los Angeles Lakers
Best Possible Signing: Derek Fisher
Maybe L.A. would be better served to go with a younger point guard to get a majority of the minutes in the regular season.
But the free agent crop at point guard is nothing to boast—after Fisher, the next best choice might be Raymond Felton.
As Fisher has shown in this year's postseason, he still plays well when it matters. And you get the feeling that the Lakers might be a playoff team for the next couple of years, right?
So it only makes sense to maybe give more regular season minutes to Jordan Farmar and Shannon Brown while prepping Fish for the postseason. Because as he's done this year and in year's past, he'll most likely deliver.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Greivis Vasquez
In the mid-second round, the Lakers can still find a quality piece or two.
With Shannon Brown having a player option for next year and Jordan Farmar being a restricted free agent, L.A. could be in a situation where they need some new, fresh blood in the backcourt.
Vasquez plays with great intensity and emotion, and having a coach like Phil Jackson that could harness those strengths would make him a complete player.
He has the ability to score off the dribble, in transition, and get into the paint almost at will. While he's not much of a playmaker for others, he's still someone that can change the pace coming off the bench.
Playing behind a veteran like Fisher and for a legend like Phil would only help assist in his development.
Best Possible Signing: Al Harrington
Much of what happens in the Grizzlies offseason depends on two things.
The first is the decision of Rudy Gay. The Grizz would like to re-sign him, but if someone offers him a lucrative long-term deal, it seems unlikely the Grizz would pony up a large sum of cash to keep him around.
The second is Zach Randolph. Nothing I've read suggests that Memphis would cut ties with him after his recent drug connection, but I wouldn't rule anything out. And they might be less willing to ink him to an extension like they were adamant about early in the offseason.
Harrington could be an intriguing fit. Similar to Randolph, he can stretch the floor with his shooting, only he's more capable of getting out to the three-point line to further expand the opposing defense.
While he's not as strong of a rebounder or defender, he can fill a gap in the scoring that would be left by Gay. He'd be a relative bargain if he got around $8 million a year; couple that with three first-round picks and the Grizz can quietly reload without spending a lot of money.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Ed Davis
Again, this goes back to the Zach Randolph situation. But even with Randolph, Memphis needs depth inside.
Davis is full of potential, but missed nearly half of his sophomore year with a broken wrist. He displayed what most college kids often do: brilliance at times, inconsistency at others.
It's a good situation for him to develop—a solid young team where he'll get playing time, but not a surplus of talent where he'll get lost in the shuffle and lose confidence.
Best Possible Signing: Dwyane Wade
Pretty much a no-brainer here.
Miami's best option this offseason is signing Wade along with another marquee free agent (Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Amar'e Stoudemire, something to that effect).
But they won't get anywhere without inking No. 3 first. That's numero uno on the priority list; the rest of the pieces will fall accordingly.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Gordon Hayward
I love Hayward here for Miami if they add another free agent along with Wade—someone like Bosh, Stoudemire, or Boozer.
If Hayward is the fourth option on offense, you probably have a solid team. A lineup of Chalmers/Farmar-Wade-Hayward-Bosh-Free Agent X would immediately become a top-four team in the East.
He can stretch the floor with his outside shooting and is surprisingly effective as a rebounder, especially on the offensive glass.
More important, he's got the intangibles; he does the little things that it takes to win. He's well-schooled and well-coached, meaning he's ready to step in right away.
On the right team, he can be a real difference maker.
Best Possible Signing: John Salmons
Milwuakee's record after acquiring Salmons: 23-7.
Notable wins during that stretch: Miami, Cleveland, Boston (twice), Utah, Denver, Atlanta, Phoenix, Chicago.
With Salmons, Brandon Jennings, and Andrew Bogut, the Bucks have a legitimate top-three. Jennings will only get better, and he showed in the playoffs that he gets better when the stakes rise—something that few players in the league can boast.
Bogut is easily the second-best center in the East after Dwight Howard. Depending on who you want to argue is a center or not (i.e. Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol), he might be second-best in the league.
Salmons brings it all together. He scores in multiple fashions and takes pressure off of the other two. Like Jennings, he's capable of taking games over, and having two closers down the stretch is a real luxury.
Add in a healthy Mike Redd and pieces like Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova, and Luc Mbah a Moute, and the Bucks are a top-five team in the East next year.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Avery Bradley
Luke Ridnour is a free agent, so the Bucks will need alternatives if he signs elsewhere.
While Bradley is more of a shooting guard, he can still fill the role of primary ball-handler in spurts.
And what he might lack on offense, he can make up for on defense—he's a fundamental on-the-ball guard that is quick enough to keep up with opposing PGs.
Best Possible Signing
Josh Howard might be the most forgotten free agent in this year's class.
He was injured before he was shipped off to Washington (where, before John Wall, was one of the most excruciatingly painful destinations in the league). His comments about smoking ganja and the accusation of him being hungover for games didn't help either.
Finally, the torn ACL he suffered immediately following the trade was the straw that broke the camel's back. Now, his future is cloudy and no one has the slightest idea where he might end up.
Why not Minnesota? Granted, it might not be the ideal place for a guy that spent most of his career on a playoff team.
But they do need athleticism on the perimeter. They need a guy who can score in bunches, either with the ball or moving without it.
The T'Wolves have plenty of cap room, a top draft pick, and a young nucleus to offer.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Wesley Johnson
With Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, and the No. 23 pick, the T'Wolves are probably set inside.
At the point guard spot, they have Jonny Flynn, Ramon Sessions, and (presumably) Ricky Rubio when he arrives.
The only thing they're missing is a strong perimeter scorer, and if things work out as they should, Wes Johnson and Josh Howard will fill that spot.
Most of Johnson's offensive game comes from his jump shot. He's not great at creating off the dribble, but hopefully he won't have to resort to that too much in Minnesota's offense.
With Jefferson commanding double-teams in the post and Flynn creating off the dribble, Johnson should get plenty of open looks from outside. He shot 41.5 percent from behind the three-point line at Syracuse and has a solid mid-range game as well.
Along with being a strong offensive rebounder and defender, Johnson has the potential to be a great role player for the T'Wolves. Maybe not want you want with the No. 4 pick, but effective nonetheless.
New Jersey Nets
Best Possible Signing: Joe Johnson
New Jersey and Los Angeles are the two best scenes for Johnson on paper. They both offer a quality point guard, a young, dominant big, and a chance to be the piece that puts each respective team over the top.
Why the Nets? For one, it's a lot easier to win in the East.
Second, with a top-three pick, they have a chance to add another dynamic piece.
Couple that in with quality bench players like Courtney Lee and Chris Douglas-Roberts and moderate expectations (unlike Atlanta, where he was presumed to be the one who would lead the Hawks to the same level as the Celtics, Magic, and Cavs), and New Jersey is the place to be...on paper, that is.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Derrick Favors
Favors is the premiere fit for New Jersey.
He's an aggressive rebounder, a good finisher near the rim, and someone who will a lot of the unsung dirty work inside—an ideal complement to play with a stretch 7'0" center like Brook Lopez.
His offensive game is anything but polished, and that will hurt him initially. At the same time, expectations shouldn't be too high for New Jersey, so Favors will get plenty of time to develop a go-to move and mid-range game.
While DeMarcus Cousins could have more of an immediate impact, think long-term with Favors. I love the comparison to Al Horford—the same type of tenacity and activity underneath with a bit of intangibles sprinkled in.
Playing alongside one of the best centers in the league won't hurt either. And would a Devin Harris-Johnson-Terrence Williams-Favors-Lopez starting five be playoff caliber? Quite possibly...
New Orleans Hornets
Best Possible Signing: Mike Miller
The Hornets are woefully over the cap and are stuck with some bad contracts. Peja Stojakovic is making over $15 million this season.
Emeka Okafor is making over $50 million in the next four years.
Morris Peterson and James Posey will be making over $13 million next year.
So the only way they could pull of a deal for someone like Mike Miller is through a sign-and-trade. Maybe get Washington to take on the last year of Mo Pete's expiring deal or something.
He'd be a good fit (a capable shooter than can spread the floor for Chris Paul and David West), but it's not likely to happen. At all.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Xavier Henry
Here's something that is likely to occur.
New Orleans needs new blood in the backcourt and while they also could use another body up front to back up West, Henry is the guy that fits the bill.
A 6'6" pure shooter with terrific range, Henry is ready to step in and start for New Orleans. His size gives him versatility to play either shooting guard or small forward, and he's displayed enough enthusiasm to be an effective on-the-ball defender at the next level.
New York Knicks
Best Possible Signing: Chris Bosh
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are off the board, so the ideal free agent for New York would have to be Bosh.
The only drawback to this is that it will be difficult to ink Bosh without one of the other two. But maybe Bosh doesn't want to play second fiddle to James or Wade; maybe he still wants to be the premiere player, just in a new location.
What better place than New York for that?
And it's not like he's the only player the Knicks would bring in. If they got Bosh, they almost assuredly would have the inside track on another free agent...or maybe for Carmelo Anthony in '11.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Jarvis Varnado
One of the best shot-blocking power forwards in this year's draft, Varnado is a raw offensive talent, but no one will match his work ethic and tenacity in the lane.
He fights to get good position, rebounds effectively, and plays help side defense.
In short, he's a consummate role player, maybe one that comes off the bench. But in Mike D'Antoni's system, you need one player like him.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Best Possible Signing: Brendan Haywood
OKC needs a legit big man, someone with a good combination of size and athleticism.
Enter Brendan Haywood.
As he's shown in Washington and in Dallas for the second-half of last year, he's a legit center that can protect the rim and clean up the boards.
While he's not a one-on-one scorer, he fits OKC's needs nicely. He doesn't take the power forward spot away from Jeff Green, and pretty much allows the offense to continue to flow through Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
How probable is this scenario? Not likely.
How effective would it be? Extremely.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Quincy Pondexter
Even if the Thunder can't land another quality big man (either in the draft or free agency), they still will have money next year.
Right now, they have a solid point guard (Eric Maynor), shooting guard (James Harden), and power forward (Serge Ibaka) off the bench. What they're lacking is a scorer that can give Kevin Durant a breather every now and then.
Pondexter is a four-year senior and ready to step in right away. He's athletic, has a strong work ethic, gets in the paint for rebounds, and is an all-around gamer—he makes plays to help his team win.
Guys like him seemingly fall into good situations, and it's not a coincidence. Sam Presti has done a masterful job plucking pieces up left and right through the draft, and Pondexter would be another great addition to the league's most exciting young team.
Best Possible Signing: J.J. Redick
Most of the nucleus is back for a 59-win team, so don't expect major changes from Orlando.
Still, their top priority this offseason needs to be re-signing J.J. Redick, who was one of their best players this postseason.
A dead-eye shooter who has proven he can be an offensive facilitator, relatively good attacker off the dribble, and solid defender, Redick was involved in a lot of clutch situations for the Magic.
With Vince Carter getting older, Redick will only become more and more valuable. Thus it's imperative for Orlando to retain his services.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Eric Bledsoe
Again, there's not a pressing need for Orlando; they have solid depth at pretty much every position.
They could use a little help at point guard, though, and it's not unreasonable to think that Bledsoe could slip to the bottom of the first round.
While he's more of a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body, he has great skills in the open court and can shoot relatively well from the perimeter, despite going through a horrific slump in the NCAA Tournament.
We saw how Jason Williams kind of changed the tempo for Orlando when he entered the game this year; Bledsoe can do the same.
Best Possible Signing: Amir Johnson
With no cap space (and not too much roster space either), the Sixers don't have many free agent options.
They might want to beef up inside with someone like Amir Johnson. He's lengthy, athletic, and provided a nice spark off the bench for Toronto last year.
He could do the same for Philly, and do so at a bargain price. Plus, it gives them flexibility should they trade Samuel Dalembert, who has an attractive expiring contract.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Evan Turner
Crazy enough, I've actually seen mock drafts where the Sixers pass up on Turner.
Don't overthink yourself—Turner is far and away the best fit for Philadelphia, and might turn out to be the best overall player in this year's draft.
His athleticism, creativity off the dribble, court vision, versatility, and mid-range game are all assets that the Sixers need. He can take some of the play-making responsibilities and scoring pressure off of Andre Iguodala.
Putting a small lineup of Jrue Holiday-Turner-Iguodala-Thaddeus Young-Elton Brand on the floor would make Philly an exciting team at the very least...something that can't be said for them this year at least.
Best Possible Signing: Amar'e Stoudemire
I went back and forth on this one forever.
Amar'e can choose anywhere he wants to go: New York, Miami, Chicago, New Jersey, Phoenix, wherever. At the same time, despite his overall solid play in this year's playoffs, I think he cemented the fact that he'll never be the go-to guy on a championship team.
And with Steve Nash not getting any younger, it pretty much puts Stoudemire in that role.
But the Suns seem determined not to let him walk, and the developing inside game of Robin Lopez can mask two of Stoudemire's deficiencies: defense and rebounding.
Add in the fact that Nash and Stoudemire are still the best two-man offensive duo in the league, and Goran Dragic's coming out party in the postseason, and it seems like an Amar're return to Phoenix isn't nearly as far-fetched as it was at the trade deadline.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Lance Stephenson
The Suns have one of the league's deepest benches, as evidenced by their performance in this year's playoffs. That said, they have a lot of options and don't really have a specific need.
If they land Stephenson, they get a player with a similar skill-set to Jason Richardson: same size, same physicality, same aggressive nature, and same combination of speed and power.
He doesn't always make the best decisions on the court. However, I'm a firm believer that if you put a player like that on a team that's focused and genuinely likes one another, the attitude of the team will prevail. Guys like Nash and Hill won't allow Stephenson's "attitude" to interfere, and as a result, he'll be a better play from their positive influence.
Portland Trail Blazers
Best Possible Signing: Flip Murray
The Blazers don't need too much. They have versatility in the backcourt with Andre Miller and Brandon Roy as starters and Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez coming off the bench.
Up front, they boast LaMarcus Aldridge and Marcus Camby, with Greg Oden and Joel Pryzbilla on the pine. They've also got reasonable talent at the small forward spot with Martell Webster and Nicolas Batum.
They've only got a few million in cap space, so a big signing is probably out of the question.
Flip Murray provides a scoring spark off the bench. While he's not much more consistent than what they already have, he can score in bunches, and can do it quickly as well.
Still, it's tough to predict what will unfold for the Blazers. They've just got to stay healthy.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Elliot Williams
A left-handed shooting guard, Williams is a prolific scorer who can attack off the bounce or spot up mid-range.
He's better in transition and would fit well with Portland's second unit, who is much more likely to push the ball upcourt to get easier shots.
And maybe more importantly, he's a strong on-the-ball defender who anticipates passes very well. He'd fit well in Nate McMillan's system.
Best Possible Signing: Rudy Gay
Remember, best-case scenario for the Kings, not for Rudy...nor it's not the most likely scenario.
Sacto has plenty of cap space and could use another playmaker on the wing. Gay provides athleticism, scoring, and thrives in transition, meaning he should thrive in the Kings' up-tempo system.
A PG-SG-SF combo of Tyreke Evans-Omri Casspi-Rudy Gay? A frightening image for the slower, methodical teams of the Western Conference.
Best Possible Draft Pick: DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins could easily become the most talented big man in this year's class and make New Jersey and Minnesota feel extremely foolish for passing him up.
He also could be a colossal bust that puts him on par with guys like Michael Sweetney, Eddy Curry, or Kwame Brown.
Any time a player's work ethic or mentality is questioned, it's not a good sign.
Still, it's the dominant flashes that Cousins displayed at Kentucky this past year that has scouts frothing (I had to think of some other word besides drooling, I hate that cliche).
In the pros, he'll need either a tough coach that can bring out his best or some veteran players surrounding him to keep him in check. Sacto pretty much has neither...but that doesn't mean this can't work.
Playing with Evans, who has somewhat of an old man's game (I mean that in the most complimentary manner), he'll get plenty of open looks underneath. He just needs to harness that intensity he saved for certain games and unleash it appropriately.
If he attacks the glass, brings a physical, hard-nosed presence to the paint, and the Kings continue to improve, it could be a match made in heaven.
A starting five of Evans-Casspi-Gay-Carl Landry-Cousins, with Donte Greene, Beno Udrih, and Jason Thompson off the bench, and an estimated $5-$7 million still remaining in cap space...am I crazy, or is that actually a playoff contender?
San Antonio Spurs
Best Possible Signing: Kyle Korver
The Spurs need two things: a post-presence opposite of Tim Duncan and more reliable outside shooting.
The Spurs are already at $65 million next year, and Korver is sure to draw some interest around the league from any team that's in need of a three-point specialist.
San Antonio lacked that this year with the disappearance of Roger Mason and the inconsistency of Matt Bonner (Bonner's cool and all, but let's face it, he should never be constantly relied on...even on a Popovich team).
Korver can come in off the bench, stretch the defense and open up driving lanes for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. His role will be to shoot, shoot, and shoot...and hey, that's essentially what he's good for!
He might draw a bigger contract somewhere else. But in an ideal world for San Antonio, this is their sneaky efficient pick-up.
Best Possible Draft Pick: Paul George
George is an athletic and fairly versatile small forward with a great shooting range.
While he only put up a 35.3 three-point percentage this year, he was at 44.7 percent as a freshman, showing his capability of knocking it down from long range; as mentioned above, the Spurs could definitely use another shooter.
He's not great at creating his own shot, but playing with Parker and Ginobili (who are highly effective off the dribble attacking the paint) and Duncan (often still commands a double-team), he'll get his fair share of looks.
And he'll more than likely just be a spark off the bench, which is exactly what San Antonio needs.
Best Possible Signing: David Lee
If Bosh goes to the Knicks, then it's nearly a given that Lee will end up in Toronto. The Raptors won't want to give up Bosh for nothing and landing Lee is one of the more attractive options that will be available.
He gives the Raptors a serious rebounding edge inside and the ability to stretch the floor with a mid-range game. With him, Andrea Bargnani, and Hedo Turkoglu, they have a frontcourt that is an offensive threat from 15-feet and out at every position.
The only problem is they don't improve defensively at all, and they were already the worst team in the East in that category. Until they make their pick at No. 13...
Best Possible Draft Pick: Larry Sanders
Without Bosh, the Raptors are a poor rebounding team and even worse overall defensively. Naturally, they should select a big man that excels in those two categories...right?
Because Bargnani is a perimeter-oriented center that floats around the outside and doesn't really bang bodies underneath, Sanders is the perfect complement to him.
Sanders has freakishly long arms (7'4" wingspan), quick feet (one of his biggest strengths is pick-and-roll defense), and plays terrific help defense from the weak-side.
He can come in off the bench and give quality minutes while he develops on offense. With Sanders, Lee, and Bargnani, the Raps have some really versatile bigs that can play either power forward or center and enforce their will on almost any front-line in the league.
Best Possible Signing: Carlos Boozer
Remember, this isn't an article about the most realistic scenarios or the ones what make the most sense—it's a best-case scenario for each team.
I think that Boozer is going to be a tweener in this year's free agent class. I see Wade teaming up with either Bosh or Stoudemire in Miami, and I don't think New York or New Jersey will throw a max deal at him in desperation.
His best financial option could be returning to Utah, where him and Deron Williams make a lethal combination.
A healthy Jazz lineup (Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur) is one of the four best in the West. With Boozer, the No. 9 pick, and maybe one more piece (basically a dead-eye shooter...Ray Allen, anyone?), who knows...
Best Possible Draft Pick: Greg Monroe
The most versatile big man in the draft, Monroe would be a tremendous fit on an already winning team.
He fits Utah's needs perfectly: a well-versed power forward with a dangerous face-up game, strong passing skills, and an effective rebounder. Think Lamar Odom, only with a little less athleticism.
Put him in a system with an established coach that gets the best out of his young players and one of the best point guards in the league, and good things will happen.
Best Possible Signing: Brad Miller
Normally when the words "best signing" and "Brad Miller" are in the same sentence, a fan base should be running like hell in the opposite direction.
But take this signing for what it is: the acquisition of a veteran big that can give you a few quality bench minutes a game while basically providing relief for young guys like Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee. Nothing more, nothing less.
There's no need for Washington to tie up their cap space long-term. With two first-round picks, they have a good thing brewing. Why not sit on that cap space and see what happens?
Best Possible Draft Pick: John Wall
I thought hard about going with Jarvis Varnado here, but ultimately decided Wall was the guy (note the sarcasm).
We all know the scouting report inside and out with Wall, so there's no point in going over it again.
Landing the sweepstakes breathed new life into the Wizards organization. Now they have a franchise player to build around, an elite scorer on the perimeter, a young power forward that blossomed exponentially in the second half of the season last year, and an abundance of cap space.
Good news for D.C. faithful.