The hectic NBA Free agency period is right around the corner for some players. This year’s class of free agents consists of some fairly big names and a good amount of depth.
The one common trait that most of the big-name free agents share is the fact that they weren’t traded at the deadline, when many pundits thought some of them were locks to be moved.
Let’s see where the top three free agents could land:
Chris Paul is not on this list because already stated that he wants to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers. Well, at least he’s almost 100 percent sure, as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that Paul said he was 99.5 percent sure he’ll remain a Clipper beyond this season.
Josh Smith: Houston Rockets
The Houston Rockets play at lightning-fast pace. In fact, by HoopData’s reckoning, they play at the fastest pace in the NBA, which makes sense. Jeremy Lin and James Harden fuel an offense that scores 106.3 points per game (second in the NBA) and adding Josh Smith would be a wise move, because he fits into their system.
Smith isn’t the most dynamic player when it comes to creating his own shots and ball-handling. And sometimes–perhaps more–he fires up questionable shots. In transition, however, Smith is one of the best players, if not the best, in the NBA.
Other than the fact that he can’t shoot, he would fit right into the Rockets’ system.
As for the money…
Smith will demand a max contract in free agency. That’s a given. And many teams will shy away from inking him to a deal with those guidelines and only a handful of teams have the resources to pay him. The Rockets are one of those teams, as they have only $51 million committed for the 2013-14 season and they also have the luxury of more revenue from their recently launched TV network, Comcast Sportsnet Houston.
Dwight Howard: Los Angeles Lakers
This upcoming offseason will surely consist of plenty of “Dwight drama.” He reportedly already has his mind made up, but that’s coming from Dwight Howard. So, it would be wise to take his comments with a grain of salt, for now at least.
Still, there’s a fairly good chance that he’ll remain with the Lakers because his list of suitors might be slimmer than originally expected. The Brooklyn Nets seem to have their sights set on Josh Smith and Howard might not be much of an upgrade Brook Lopez, anyway. The Rockets have Omer Asik and could look to upgrade, but they will likely look to spruce up other areas before chasing another center. Lastly, the Dallas Mavericks need a massive roster overhaul, not just a single addition.
While there will be a market for Howard, his best bet is to stay in Los Angeles, but he will have to be patient. The Lakers are still Kobe Bryant’s team, but once his contract expires after the 2013-14 season, Dwight will become their cornerstone piece if he’s still in Los Angeles. That incentive could be enough to lure him into sticking around.
There will be drama, but ultimately, Howard will re-sign with the Lakers.
Al Jefferson: Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks will engage in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. That’s all but sure given the fact that they only have roughly $23 million on the books for next year. And it looked likely that Atlanta would be Howard’s next team.
The original plan was to re-sign Josh Smith, therefore luring Howard to the Hawks. The former isn’t likely to happen, which may indirectly effect the latter part of the plan. That’s where a Plan B will come into effect and Jefferson is a good Plan B, perhaps better.
The Hawks’ center spot is currently occupied by Al Horford, who’s averaging 16.8 points and 10 rebounds. At 6’10″, however, he’s a shade undersized and would thrive at the power-forward spot, which is likely where he’ll go if Smith does indeed leave. Of course, Atlanta would also have to find someone to play center–Jefferson or someone internally.
Traditional centers, like Jefferson, are gradually becoming instinct, but not aren’t totally irrelevant. According to Synergy Sports, Jefferson is the 38th-best post-up player in the NBA, while the Hawks rank 21st out of 30 teams. Evidently, Jefferson would help them there and be a massive upgrade over someone like Zaza Pachulia. who doesn’t present much of a post-up game.
Rebounding is also an area where Jefferson could supply some help. The Hawks rank 18th in the NBA in opponents total rebound per game, which is on the wrong side of the mean. Jefferson is averaging just over nine rebounds per game.
If the Hawks swing and miss on Howard’s services, Jefferson will likely get a phone call next.