Josh Howard (UFA), Wizards. Age: 30.
His season-ending injury has likely cost him a decent chunk of change this offseason as he may not be ready to play when the season begins. Still, any team looking for a swing man who can start or make an immediate impact off their bench should be targeting Howard. The former Maverick is a year removed from averaging 18 points and five boards on a talented Dallas team.
The Bulls have expressed interest despite already signing Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer this offseason. Chicago still has the cap space to make Howard a solid offer as do the Knicks and his most recent former team, the Wizards. Both of those teams could use some depth on the wing. Otherwise, he might have to settle for a mid-level exception. He seems to be available for a solid bargain at this point of the offseason. Boston is still a possibility though any deal would likely have to come via sign-and-trade since the Celtics used all of their mid-level exception money on Jermaine O'Neal.
Predicted Contract: 3 years, $18 million
Possible Destinations: CHI, WAS, CLE, NY
Richard Jefferson (UFA), Spurs. Age: 29.
I am still scratching my head at Jefferson's dumbfounded move of opting out of the final year of his deal that would have paid him $15.2 million next season. He must be regretting that decision worse than Ron Burgundy choosing to drink milk on a hot San Diego afternoon. Teams with a ton of cap space have moved in other directions meaning he will likely have to take a mid-level exception if the Spurs choose not to re-sign him.
At this point of his career, I would imagine Jefferson would rather take less money to play for a contender than join a re-building franchise. He will be lucky to sniff a $15 million-plus payday even if it is over 3-year deal. Over/under of one month until he fires his agent.
Predicted Contract: 3-years, $17 million deal
Possible Destinations: SA, CLE
Shaquille O'Neal (UFA), Cavaliers. Age: 38.
The options for the Diesel seem to be dwindling. Teams like Boston, San Antonio, Dallas and Miami that would have been possible destinations, have addressed their need for depth up front already while LeBron's exit from Cleveland sealed the deal that Shaq would not be returning to Cleveland.
Atlanta continues to be the most talked-about destination but there seems to be reluctancy on Shaq's part to play for the Hawks. I think Chicago makes a lot of sense since they could be losing Brad Miller and could use a big body to back up Joakim Noah. Plus, the Bulls figure to be one of the top four teams in the East meaning Shaq would be playing for a contender.
A return to the Lakers would also be an interesting match since they need a backup for the oft-injured Andrew Bynum, but that reconsiliation seems unlikely unlike Shaq is willing to suck up his pride and be a fifth wheel in hopes of landing another ring.
The final option which seems more and more like a possibility as the calender moves closer to August is for Shaq to remain a a free agent and see how the season plays out, possibly signing midway through for the league minimum with a contender or a team who loses a big man to injury. The final, FINAL option is retirement.
Predicted Contract: 1-year, $5 million deal
Possible Destinations: ATL, CHI, LAL
Tracy McGrady (UFA), Knicks. Age: 31.
No team seems willing to make Tracy McGrady a long-term offer, and with his recent injury history, you cannot blame them. He reportedly has a workout scheduled with the Clippers even though they have already signed Ryan Gomes and drafted Al-Farouq Aminu this offseason.
To me, Cleveland seems like a perfect match. They have a hole on the wing since that LeBron James guy left town (not sure if you heard about that) and still have about $8 million in cap space. McGrady would provide an instant offensive boost and could be a short-term transition as the Cavs move on to life post-LeBron.
Or maybe T-Mac sucks up his pride, signs for the league minimum in Miami, accepts his late-career destiny as a role player, and tries to win a ring. I mean, that's a better option than signing Penny Hardaway, right?
Predicted Contract: 1 year, $5 million
Possible Destinations: LAC, CHI, CLE, MIA, NY
Matt Barnes (UFA), Magic. Age: 30.
It has been a frustrating offseason for Barnes. After starting 58 games, and averaging 8.8 and 5.5 boards a game last season, Barnes chose to opt out of the final year of his deal in hopes of cashing in this offseason. Instead, the Magic turned their attention elsewhere and Barnes has been waiting for the right offer. He tweeted that an announcement would made on Friday but that decision was pushed back a couple of days.
Teams like the Celtics and Heat can only offer the league minimum to Barnes, but other interested parties like the Cavs can give him a lucrative multi-year deal since they are under the cap. He is now expected to make his plans known in the next couple of days.
Predicted Contract: 1 year, league minimum OR 3-years, $10.8 million deal
Possible Destinations: MIA, BOS, CLE, CHI, LAL
Shannon Brown (UFA), Lakers. Age: 24.
With Raja Bell turning down a meeting with the Lakers and instead signing with the Jazz, that pretty much put the stamp on Brown returning to the Lake Show. Even though they re-signed Derek Fisher and added Steve Blake, Brown brings athleticism and a defensive prowess off the Lakers bench.
I would not be shocked however, if the Bulls made a late pitch for the Chicago native and lured him back to his hometown as they need a backup for Derrick Rose and depth in their backcourt. In all likeliness, a deal gets done in L.A. in the next couple of days.
Predicted Contract: 3-years, $11 million
Possible Destinations: LAL, CHI
Will Bynum (RFA), Pistons. Age: 27.
The Pistons are definitely in a power position with their restricted free agent. They do not have to sign Bynum to a new deal unless their hand is forced, kind of like what Houston had to do in matching Kyle Lowry's offer sheet. Detroit can wait it out and see if Bynum receives a multi-year deal from another team. If he doesn't, they can take their time in trying to sign Bynum long term and hope the price goes down in negotiations.
There are only a few teams out there that would possibly show interest in Bynum and I cannot imagine any of them throwing out a contract offer too pricey for the Pistons to match, meaning he will likely be back in the Motor City next season.
Predicted Contract: 4-years, $14 million
Possible Destinations: DET, MIL, CLE, CHI, IND, SAC
Rasual Butler (UFA), Clippers. Age: 31.
You will notice a running theme that the same teams are in need of a veteran player to add to their wing depth. Butler ranks lower on that list and could come with a cheaper price tag as well. If a team is looking for a solid scorer to add to their second unit, Butler might be the guy. He might have to wait though to see what Josh Howard, Richard Jefferson, and Tracy McGrady do before he inks a deal. That waiting may cost him some money as he might have to settle for the league minimum which would be a tremendous value for any team.
Predicted Contract: 3 years, $9 million
Possible Destinations: CHI, CLE, MIA, BOS
Kurt Thomas (UFA), Bucks. Age: 37.
With Brad Miller off the board and Shaq being very picky about his destination, Thomas is the next best veteran big man who can still make an impact. The 37-year-old saw quality minutes for the playoff Bucks this past season and is also a terrific locker room guy. This late in his career, I imagine Thomas would be willing to take the veteran minimum for a chance at winning a title. However, a team like the Bulls has the cap space to buy his services by making it a multi-year deal.
Predicted Contract: 2 years, $5 million
Possible Destinations: CHI, LAL, ATL
James Jones (UFA), Heat. Age: 29.
Jones was a victim of the Heat cap space clearing as his team option was not picked up this upcoming season. He struggled to find his niche in South Beach but is still a valuable asset this late in the game due to his outside shooting. The Spurs seem to have the most interest but there are a few teams that could use a shooter off the bench at a cheap rate like Jones will likely require.
Come on Walt. You have the Vikings drafting for need. They did a fairly good job if FA filling needs. I could see the RB in the second because thats value. The only needs they have are at dt and safety. I hope they pick highest rated player.