Now that the dust has pretty much settled on the 2012 NBA free agency period, we can look ahead to next summer when big names like Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are slated to hit the open market. Here is a look at the top-10 unrestricted free agents for the 2013 offseason.
Dwight Howard, Magic.
As overdone as all the Howard trade talk has been this offseason, it could be even worse next summer if he doesn't end up signing an extension somewhere during the season. Oh joy. Let's hope for all of our sanities, something happens during the season so we can save ourselves from another summer of Howard rumors being shoved down our throat.
Chris Paul, Clippers.
Paul helped transform the Clippers last summer, and there should be enough interest and promise moving forward for him to re-sign in L.A assuming Donald Sterling gets something done early like he did with Blake Griffin's deal. There will several other teams able to make serious runs for Paul' services (Dallas, Atlanta), so he could test the market.
Andrew Bynum, Lakers.
If Bynum is not included in a Howard deal by the trade deadline, all indications suggest that he will hit the free agent market next summer as a hot commodity. There aren't many big men in the NBA with Bynum's size and skill, so he will certainly cash in on max money from some team.
Andre Iguodala (PO), 76ers.
Since Iguodala probably has one big contract left in him, there is a really good chance he will opt out of the final year of his contract which would pay him almost $16 million and look for a long-term extension. Iguodala may also be enticed to sign elsewhere in hopes of competing for a NBA Championship; something he has not done in Philly, and probably something the Sixers won't be doing anytime soon. The 76ers could also look to move him during the season if they are struggling and decide to blow things up a bit.
Josh Smith, Hawks.
Did you realize he is only 26 years old? Anyway, I'm not a huge Josh Smith fan, because he seems like a bit of a headcase and not a great teammate. However, there is no doubting his ability to impact the game. Smith and Howard have been tight friends since their AAU days and could be a package deal. If not, Smith will probably get a massive contract even though he is better suited as a complementary player as opposed to being the go-to option.
Al Jefferson, Jazz.
The Jazz will face an interesting decision next summer with both Jefferson and Paul Millsap becoming free agents. Utah has a pair of high lottery picks in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors waiting in the wings, so the team could elect to save some money and let Big Al walk. He is never going to be the star player on a title contender, but he will draw a lot of interest due to his ability to score down low.
Manu Ginobli, Spurs.
Like Tim Duncan this summer, I can't see Ginobli leaving San Antonio unless the Spurs decide to go with a more youthful look the following season. The team does a great job of limiting its veterans' playing time to keep their legs fresh, and Ginobli would probably sign for a bit of a hometown discount. That all makes his return to San Antonio very likely.
Monta Ellis (PO), Bucks.
Ellis has an $11 million player-option for the 2013-2014 season and, assuming he doesn't want to stay in Milwaukee for another year, figures to opt out. Ellis is a gifted scorer, but the fact that he is an undersized two-guard hurts his value. Plus, he has never really played for a contending team.
Nikola Pekovic, TImberwolves.
Pekovic really blossomed in his second year in the league, becoming an effective frontcourt mate for Kevin Love in Minnesota. Pekovic is slated to make around $4.6 million next season and will be due for a hefty pay raise at this time next year. Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert each received max contracts and JaVale McGee got $44 million over four years; Pekovic could easily get around 10 million per year in his next contract.
David West, Pacers.
West only signed a 2-year deal with the Pacers last summer, so he will once again be a free agent in 2013. West returned from an ACL injury and was productive for Indiana, but he certainly didn't play at the level he did in New Orleans.
West's experience and ability to knock down mid-range jump shots will still earn him a nice contract from a team looking for a solid role player in its starting lineup. However, a down season next year could hurt his value heading into the summer.
Other unrestricted free agents of note: Kevin Martin, Paul Millsap, Chris Kaman, Lamar Odom, Nick Young, Mo Williams, Ben Gordon (PO), Devin Harris, Jose Calderon, Stephen Jackson, Tony Allen, Elton Brand, J.J. Redick