NBA free agency is just around the corner and while the market is not overflowing with superstars this year there are two franchise-type players. The two franchise players are Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.
There are will be more than 150 players on the free-agent market come July 1. This article will look at the top-five potential free agents and which team is their best suitors.
Check back soon for the top free agents 6-10.
1. Dwight Howard, Los Angeles Lakers – Unrestricted
The 27-year old is in the number one spot because he is still one of the top post players (both offensively and defensively) in the NBA despite having a rough go at it the last couple of seasons.
Despite playing with a torn labrium, Howard ranked in the top-10 among centers in several categories last season: He was fourth in scoring (17.0 ppg), tied for second in field goal percentage (57.8 percent), first in total rebounds (12.4) and first in defensive rebounds (9.1) as well as second in offensive rebounds (3.3). He was also third in blocked shots (2.45).
This summer, Howard is going to rest his injuries, which also includes back problems, which is a better alternative than surgery.
Suitors: Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Atlanta Hawks and Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers can offer Howard the most money (five-years, $120 million) but there is still question whether he is a good fit in LA-LA land and if he can handle the pressure that comes with playing for the Lakers. Houston has made it known they desperately want Howard and are looking to unload last year’s number five overall pick, Thomas Robinson, among others in order to get more cap room. Dallas, like Houston, has $90 million to give Howard and they have seven potential unrestricted free agents (including starting center Chris Kaman and backup power forward Elton Brand). Atlanta is in the mix because they have a need and Atlanta is Howard’s hometown.
The Rockets, according to a CBS Sports report on June 9, are also targeting Chris Paul.
2. Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers –unrestricted
The 28-year old solidified his spot as the top point guard in the NBA with an outstanding 2012-13 season. Paul led the Clippers to their first ever division crown and improved his scoring average to 22 points a game during the playoffs, which was up from 16.9 during the regular season.
Paul is expected to remain with the Clips but he recently indicated that he wasn’t happy with the team because he was being blamed for coach Vinny Del Negro getting fired.
Suitors: Every team except Brooklyn and San Antonio due to them having Deron Williams and Tony Parker, respectively.
After hearing that Paul was unhappy about getting blamed for Del Negro’s firing, the Clippers made a public statement that the decision to fire Del Negro was theirs. Not sure if this will have any influence on Paul’s decision to stay in Los Angeles but there are some other factors that play in the Clippers favor. The Clippers can offer far more money than any other team, five years for $108 million compared to four years for $79.9 million for other teams. The other major factor is that the Clips are Paul’s team and they have a good group of young players – Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe.
Update: Houston has recently indicated they will pursue Paul. Also, Brian Shaw interviewed for the Clippers’ head coaching vacancy on June 10. Lionel Hollins (June 11), Byron Scott (June 12) and Nate McMillen (June 13) are also scheduled to interview with the team.
3. Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks – unrestricted
The 27-year old might be the most exciting of all the free agents. Smith can play either the three or four and will get a team 17-to-20 points a game and grab 8-to-10 rebounds. He is also a very good defender and has improved his playmaking ability.
Smith averaged 17.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game last season. Smith, who posted 29 double-doubles, blocked 1.8 shots a game and finished with a PER of 17.82.
Smith does take bad shots, on occasion, and that is his down fall. Smith also has a bad habit of falling in love with the three-point shot and is a poor free throw shooter. He is a career28.3 percent shooter beyond arc and has made only 65.4 percent of his free throws throughout his career, including career low 51.7 percent in 2012-13.
Suitors: Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Memphis, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Atlanta is the likely favorite, especially if Smith wants a max contract. The Lakers are only viable option if they don’t resign Howard. Boston may make a pitch for Smith if they amnesty Paul Pierce.
Houston plans on pursuing Smith if they can’t land Howard or Paul.
4. Al Jefferson, Utah Jazz – Unrestricted
While the 28-year old may not be quite the dominant player as he was two-to –three years ago, Jefferson is still one of the best power forward/centers in the game. Jefferson nearly averaged a double-double posting 17.8 points and grabbing 9.2 rebounds a game (both are higher than his career average) last season. Jefferson also posted a solid 20.99 PER.
Jefferson has a huge powerful frame with long arms which helps him to control the paint on both ends of the floor. He is also very mobile around the rim and possesses very good hands.
Jefferson is some-what injury prone and does not look to pass often once he gets the ball on the low-block. He also needs to improve his free throw shooting (71.7 percent for his career).
Suitors: Utah, Atlanta, Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Milwaukee, San Antonio and Dallas.
Utah has a decision to make whether they want Jefferson or Paul Millsap (both are unrestricted free agents) because they have two youngsters, Enes Kantner and Derrick Favors, in the wings. Millsap and Jefferson are similar players though Millsap has the edge in athleticism.
If Utah doesn’t re-sign Jefferson, Dallas and San Antonio may be the best options.
5. Andre Iguodala, Denver-Early Termination Option
The 29-year old didn’t have a spectacular season — averaged just 13.0 points a game and 5.3 boards though he dished out 5.4 assists – he did pick it up in the postseason. Iguodala averaged 20.0 points, 7.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists a game in six contests versus Golden State, He also shot 50 percent (36-72) from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc during the playoffs.
Iguodala has the ability to opt-out of a contract that will pay him in excess of $16 million next year. It would be crazy for him not to though there is no way he will get a $16 million-a year in his next contract.
Suitors: Denver, Los Angeles Clippers, Washington, Philadelphia and Detroit
According to Mark Kisla’s June 10, article in the Denver Post is that Iguodala’s contract is the most pressing issue for the Nuggets. It seems clear that Denver wants Iguodala back but at what cost?
Iguodala is a top-notch defender and is a excellent teammate but he is not what is called a number one guy on a team. He just doesn’t score enough.
If Denver doesn’t re-sign Iguodala, he would fit in nicely with the Clippers or the Pistons.