2013 NBA Free Agent Predictions
NBA Free Agency is upon us and it is time to make my predictions on where the top free agents will be landing. This is one of my favorite times of the year, as the NBA offers up the best free agency period of the four major pro sports. Once midnight strikes on July 1st, millions of rumors start flying around, just like right now. Teams and players can verbally agree to deals whenever, but no deal can be official or finalized until July 10th. The time period between July 1st & 10th is absolutely chaotic and loads of fun. The two premiere free agents this summer are Clippers point guard Chris Paul & Lakers center Dwight Howard. We all pretty much know now where CP3 will wind up, but it’s totally up in the air on D12. This free agent class isn’t totally star-studded like 2010 was, but it’s pretty solid with second tier players, behind the two superstars headlining. So how about we get to the predictions, shall we?
1.Chris Paul, PG, Los Angeles Clippers: It’s a foregone conclusion that CP3 will return to the Clippers with the acquisition of head coach Doc Rivers. The Clippers climbed to a 56-26 record and home court in the first round (although they got beat in six games by Memphis). Many thought that CP3 would leave the Clips because of tension with ex head coach Vinny Del Negro and the team not improving from their previous playoff exit in 2012. Then came the rumors of the Clippers possibly trading for Doc Rivers and Kevin Garnett of the Celtics. Those rumors died down, until they revived again and a trade was agreed to, except only Rivers would be headed to LA. No matter what though, with the addition of a top five coach and an already very good supporting cast in Los Angeles, plus the fact that not many teams can afford to offer CP3 a max contract, it made it virtually a given that Chris Paul would return to the Clippers on a max deal. (Old Team: Los Angeles Clippers)
2.Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets: There are five main suitors for Howard’s services, the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Atlanta Hawks, and Golden State Warriors. I crossed the Hawks off because although it is Howard’s hometown, he will in no way win a title there and Atlanta doesn’t seem like his type of city. I then crossed off the Warriors because they have a tight cap situation, have Andrew Bogut at center, and I don’t know if they could trade Bogut with his injury history. Plus, I think the Warriors need to focus more on bringing back Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. When it comes to the Mavericks, although there have been plenty of rumors of how Dwight would love to have his own team, something he wouldn’t have in any of the other cities, I don’t see him winning a title their, plus Dallas will be running out rookie Shane Larkin out to the point, and Dirk is aging and declining quick. As much as Dallas may not sound so nice, I wouldn’t totally cross them off as a serious contender yet. Then it comes to the Lakers and Rockets. Dwight already has a very rocky relationship with the Lakers, the team is badly aging and injury plagued, and that goes for all three of Kobe Bryant (35 years old at the start of next season, torn Achilles), Steve Nash (39 years old, fractured leg in 2012-2013 and a season ending hamstring/hip injury), and Pau Gasol (33 years old at the start of next season, concussion and torn plantar fascia in his right foot in 2012-2013). I don’t see Dwight winning a title with that aging group, and eventually Kobe and Nash will retire real soon, and Gasol may be on a new team soon. That’s why I see Houston as Dwight’s best destination. The Rockets boast a very young team, a rising superstar in shooting guard James Harden, an okay point guard in Jeremy Lin, and a very solid role player in Chandler Parsons. The Rockets have the room to offer Howard a max deal and Texas has no state income tax. I believe Houston offers Dwight Howard the best situation to win a title and he’ll be paired up with a younger superstar and can make a lot of noise in the West. Lets not forget that the Rockets can then trade current center Omer Asik somewhere for more assets. And yet another thing, the Rockets have a very well-respected coach in Kevin McHale, who during his playing days with the Boston Celtics, was a very good big man like Dwight is now. I just see the Rockets as too good of a fit for Howard, and think their young nucleus will really entice Howard. (Old Team: Los Angeles Lakers)
3.Josh Smith, SF/PF, Detroit Pistons: Reportedly there are five-six serious suitors for Josh Smith, who is a big versatile forward who can score, rebound a little, and block shots. He is a bit of a headcase and doesn’t listen sometimes and makes really questionable decisions on the court, which might keep him from getting any max contract offers. Atlanta wouldn’t mind bring J-Smoove back, but Detroit and Boston are expected to chase Smith hard and the Pistons are reportedly going to offer big money when free agency opens, and I think the biggest offer will get Smith. I just don’t see the Celtics offering a boatload for Smith, who is a risk on a big money deal. Atlanta doesn’t seem keen on offering a lot of money and are more focused on Dwight Howard. I also don’t see anyone being as interested as Detroit obviously seems. Big money offer from Detroit gets J-Smoove.
4.David West, PF, Indiana Pacers: David West has remained healthy and played extremely well during his time with the Pacers and he loves this team. The Pacers exceeded all expectations and pushed the Miami Heat to seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals this year, and West had a big part in that. West will be Indiana’s biggest priority and I see a deal working out. Reportedly, most other teams like Memphis and the Clippers have interest in West, but they all already have set in stone power forwards, and I don’t see West going to a backup role after a very successful two years with Indiana. (Old Team: Indiana Pacers)
5.Brandon Jennings, PG, Milwaukee Bucks: Jennings doesn’t get talked about as much as the more premiere superstar point guards, but Jennings can hold his own and can light up the scoreboard on any given night. Jennings is a restricted free agent, so Milwaukee can match any offer they want. With Monta Ellis and J.J. Reddick most likely out-of-town, the Bucks need to keep one of their guards, and they believe in Jennings. Jennings will be a hot commodity, but Milwaukee can match. (Old Team: Milwaukee Bucks)
6.Andre Iguodola, SG/SF, Denver Nuggets: Although Iguodala opted out of the final year of his deal, Denver still really wants him back, plus he wants to win, and I believe Denver has what it takes to surprise us all and win the Western Conference with all their youth one of these years. Iguodala is reportedly Denver’s number one top priority and I wouldn’t bet against their management when wanting to lock up their own players. Plus, with opting out, Iggy allows himself to get a longer extension anyway, why else would he turn down $16 million? We all know he isn’t a $16 million player annually. (Old Team: Denver Nuggets)
7.Al Jefferson, C, Utah Jazz: The Jazz have a very tough decision to make on which free agent to retain: center Al Jefferson or power foward Paul Millsap? I think they go with the former, although they have Enes Kanter as their center of the future, I don’t feel he’s close to ready to being a starting center in the NBA, but the Jazz also have Derek Favors, whom they acquired in the Deron Williams trade with the Nets in 2011 to take over for Millsap at PF. I feel like Favors is better prepared to fill in for Millsap, then Kanter is for Jefferson. The Jazz could also let both walk and have a lot of cap room, but they will not be very good whatsoever next season, and Jefferson is one of the more underrated centers in the NBA. A handful of teams will pursue Jefferson, but I think Utah brings him back with the biggest contract offer. (Old Team: Utah Jazz)
8.Monta Ellis, SG, San Antonio Spurs: There will surely be solid interest for Ellis, but with how inconsistent he is and how much of a ball hog he is, some potential suitors will shy off. Ellis is very capable of being the second scorer on a good team, and that’s why he’s not staying in Milwaukee. Reportedly, the Knicks, Spurs, Nuggets, Suns, Mavericks, and Bulls have interest in Ellis, but a few of those teams won’t be able to afford him. The Spurs could add Ellis and let go Manu Ginobili, or have Ginobili take a pay-cut to come back and still try to sign Ellis. I believe Ellis under coach Greg Popovich would be perfect for him, because Pop would keep Ellis under control with his shooting and having the veterans on the team would help Ellis a lot. I definitely see a good fit here. (Old Team: Milwaukee Bucks)
Other free agents and teams I think they will sign with – Andrew Bynum (DAL), Tyreke Evans (SAC), Nikola Pekovic (MIN), J.R. Smith (NYK), O.J. Mayo (CHI), Paul Millsap (BOS), Tiago Splitter (SAS), Tony Allen (MEM), Kevin Martin (MIN), J.J. Reddick (POR), Jeff Teague (ATL).