July 2 was a pretty busy day in NBA free agency. July 5 will be an even busier day — if that is when Dwight Hoard makes his “Dwecision.”
Amongst other things, the Oklahoma City Thunder have now pretty much lost James Harden for nothing after Kevin Martin agreed to sign with the Minnesota Timberwolves for four years and $28 million. In order to clear the space, the T-Wolves may have to renounce Andrei Kirilenko, making our No. 18 a virtual certainty to switch teams.
David West became the second member of the top five (Chris Paul was the first) to take himself off the market. West agreed to re-sign with the Indiana Pacers for a number that we believe is quite reasonable for West. Check the out the details below, and know that the Pacers also rescinded the qualifying offer they extended to Tyler Hanbrough. As a result, he is now an unrestricted free agent.
And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers finally got their sitdown with Howard. They did not bring Magic Johnson or any other Lakers legends with them, but they did give Dwight an iPad featuring images of him donning the purple and gold.
Great meetings with @DwightHoward . Group Going 2 get some Mountain air to clear the mind and make some decisions.
— Happy Walters (@Happywalters) July 3, 2013
So, we continue to wait on The Dwecision and which mountain Dwight will ascend, but there were plenty of other moves made on Tuesday. And once Howard’s decision is made—which some reports say may come as early as July 5—we can expect some of the other big dominoes to fall.
Meanwhile, Doc Rivers and Los Angeles’ “other” team made a huge splash by dealing Eric Bledsoe and Caron Butler away in a three-team trade with the Phoenix Suns and the Milwaukee Bucks. Bledsoe and teammate Caron Butler are now members of the Phoenix Suns while the Clippers have acquired sign-and-traded J.J. Redick and swingman Jared Dudley. For their troubles, the Bucks get two second-round draft picks and, perhaps, some encouragement to re-sign Brandon Jennings.
Amongst other things (and there are many, so read on), Rudy Gay has found himself in trade conversations again, as freshly minted Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri ponders dealing Gay to the Detroit Pistons for Charlie Villanueva and Rodney Stuckey, or, in other words, a salary dump, a worse team, and improved odds of landing Andrew Wiggins—the early favorite to be selected as the first overall pick in the 2014 draft. Wiggins, by the way, is Canadian. It would be the North of the Border version of the Cleveland Cavaliers landing LeBron James back in 2007.
Like we told you before, this is about prudent cap management, though the San Antonio Spurs seemingly forgot that by agreeing to terms with Tiago Splitter (who did not make our Top 50) on a four-year, $36 million deal. But in the coming days, do not be surprised if there are more sign-and-trade deals and/or angling for next year’s draft and free agent class.
Now, on the the (updated) rankings.
1. Dwight Howard (Center, LA Lakers)
Still just 27, we are willing to overlook the disappointing 2012-13 campaign since D12 was playing hobbled for most of it. Fair questions persist as to whether he can lead a team to the promised land, but we know that any team would be willing to roll the dice to find out. If you called any GM and offered Howard in exchange for his starting center, all (except Orlando) would say yes. That’s why he’s still numero uno. JULY 3 UPDATE — Howard met with the Lakers and Dallas Mavericks on Tuesday and has decided to take his talents away from Los Angeles to ponder his decision. The Rockets are said to be the favorite to land him at this point, but the Lakers meeting went “very well.” A decision is expected shortly after the July 4 holiday, perhaps as early as Friday.
2. Chris Paul (Point Guard, LA Clippers)
After leading the Clippers to their best season in franchise history and first division title, Paul has gotten over the fact that Donald Sterling outed him as the reason for Vinny Del Negro’s departure. Sterling needed to bring in Doc Rivers to make peace with CP3, and acquiring the coach from Boston was a move that assured Paul is staying. JULY 2 UPDATE — Paul has agreed to re-sign with the Clippers on a five-year, $107 million max. deal.
3. Al Jefferson (Center, Utah Jazz)
One thing we know: A big man who has proven that he can score with his back to the basket is a very valuable commodity. Jefferson is arguably a better all-around offensive weapon than Howard. He is still relatively young at 28 and has been a consistent force in the paint for the Jazz. The bum knee that limited him to 50 games in 2008-09 is now a distant memory. A max player, for sure. JULY 2 UPDATE — Jazz offering 80 percent discount on his jersey (and Paul Millsap’s). Will meet with Bobcats Wednesday.
4. David West (Power Forward, Indiana Pacers)
A run to the conference finals could not have come at a better time for West, who had made it known (as had the Pacers) that his preference is to remain in Indianapolis, where he is perfectly cast as a third scorer and is depended on mostly for his sweet mid-range touch and tenacity in the paint. Paul George hits the market next summer, and returning president Larry Bird says West is No. 1 priority but Pacers will not pay luxury tax under any circumstances. JULY 3 UPDATE — David West has agreed to re-sign with the Indiana Pacers on a three-year, $36 million deal.
5. Josh Smith (Power Forward, Atlanta Hawks)
J-Smoove made headlines this past season when he made it known he would be seeking a four-year max deal worth upwards of $15 million per year. It is difficult to justify paying that kind of money to a player who has not made a single All-Star team in nine years. Still, Smith is one of the most effective defensive players in the league and an explosive finisher in the paint. But which GM will risk his reputation on Smith? That’s a big question. JULY 1 UPDATE — Met with Pistons president Joe Dumars, who is unwilling to make a max offer. Then met with Rockets, who would try to add him in a sign-and-trade with Atlanta if Howard picks Houston.
6. Nikola Pekovic [R] (Center, Minnesota Timberwolves)
Guaranteed to be this year’s recipient of a fat, risky poison pill contract. Although significantly older than Omer Asik, Big Pek has a higher upside and more polished offensive game. When it comes to big men, general managers roll the dice quite often. We will see it with Andrew Bynum and we will see it with Pekovic. But the thinking here is that Pekovic will get more money — unless he gets hurt bowling. JULY 2 UPDATE — Quiet on this front, although the Cavs are reportedly interested. Have cap flexibility to offer backloaded contract. He is waiting on Dwight to make his Dwecision.
7. Andre Iguodala (Small Forward, Denver Nuggets)
Interesting question: Who is worth more to you? Iggy? Or Monta Ellis? If you answer Ellis, it probably means you overvalue a volume scorer who cannot elevate his teammates. If you answer Iggy, though, it means that you properly recognize and appreciate his ability to affect every single facet of any game he plays, even if he is not shooting or scoring particularly well. A great defender — and GMs value that nowadays more than they used to. JULY 2 UPDATE — Has met with Nuggets, Kings Pistons. Hawks, Pelicans, Warriors among teams that will speak with him next. JULY 3 UPDATE — Kings offered a four-year, $52 million deal, but pulled it after not being given an immediate “Yes.” He is still in high demand.
8. Monta Ellis (Shooting Guard, Milwaukee Bucks)
The secret is out: Ellis is a volume scorer who is probably best served as a sixth man who’s only responsibility is to light it up off the bench. Only problem? He turned down a two-year, $24 million extension from the Bucks that we think was more than fair. If Ellis is looking for more on the open market, it shows that he has a false sense of his value. A very talented player, he should draw interest from a team that has cap space and a dearth of options as to whom to spend it on. JULY 1 UPDATE — Knicks are interested, but can only offer $3.2 million. Nobody takes a $9 million haircut. JULY 3 UPDATE — The Bucks have reportedly made an offer to Kyle Korver and were rumored to be in the mix for J.R. Smith and, now, O.J. Mayo. What that means for Ellis is that he is all but certain to end up elsewhere.
9. Tyreke Evans [R] (Point Guard/Small Forward, Sacramento Kings)
One of this generation’s enigmas, Evans is still searching for the touch that enabled him to become one of the few rookies in history to average 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Still just 23, NBA GMs will think a new coach and system can re-tap that potential, and potential gets you paid. The Kings will have a new coach and a new system, so they should have a “should we match?” question on their hands come July 10. JULY 2 UPDATE — Pelicans have made a four year offer for between $40-$48 million. See how Reggie Miller reacted. JULY 3 UPDATE — Though it does not hold much weight, Evans has reportedly let it be known that he wants a change of scenery and hopes to end up with the Pelicans.
10. Jeff Teague [R] (Point Guard, Atlanta Hawks)
Perhaps the most intriguing young point guard on the market, his value has been established at about $8-$9 million thanks to the extensions doled out to Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson. He probably stays in Atlanta, though in-demand restricted free agents sometimes get overpaid. (Ask Landry Fields.) Much depends on what GM Danny Ferry pulls off with all his cap space. For a team with only five players under contract (not counting draftees), he is somewhat expendable given that Lou Williams is one of those five. JULY 1 UPDATE — Where does Teague rank among point guards? Read this. JULY 3 UPDATE — Bucks coach Larry Drew likes him and would like Milwaukee to pursue.