This is a guest post by Andrew Zurchen with Connor Sports – the basketball gym flooring specialists. Andrew loves reading and writing about anything basketball related. As his friends keep telling him though, he writes better than he plays.
While there is still excitement in the air with the pending NBA championship game just around the corner, many faces are already turning towards July. There are some big players that are up as free agents come July 1, and there could be some major changes this offseason. Many teams have a lot of money to throw at free agents while others have the lure of a potential championship level team. Both of these aspects play a large role in the decision of where these free agents choose to settle. Here are the top seven unrestricted free agents that a nation of sports fans will be watching this offseason to decide where they decide to settle.
Chris Paul, Point Guard, Los Angeles Clippers
Positives: One of the biggest names in the NBA, Paul has been known to turn teams around. He is easily the best at his position in the league as an All-Star Game MVP and gold medal winner. He’s been a fan favorite and one of the most recognizable players in the league for several years now.
Negatives: Aging, it happens to everyone. Paul’s biggest struggle is going to be staying healthy in order to get that ever-elusive Championship ring.
Worth: While the Clippers can offer him a contract of approximately $108 million over five years, which is 28 million more than any other club, he may consider leaving the Clippers if there seems to be an opportunity of winning a championship elsewhere, even if it means a pay cut. There have also been reports that Chris Paul is currently upset with the Clippers organization because he has taken much of the blame for the firing of head coach Vinny Del Negro.
Dwight Howard, Center, Los Angeles Lakers
Positives: “Superman” still has the ability to throw down some powerful dunks and is of course a five-time rebounding champ title. He also boasts being a seven-time All-Star and three-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year making him one of the most dominant big guys in the NBA today.
Negatives: It’s no secret he’s awful when it comes to free throws and struggles at times to make decisions. There could also be concerns with his cohesion with other team players.
Worth: At max, he can expect a contract around $118 million over five years. The Rockets and Mavericks are the two teams expected to make the biggest push for Howard this offseason, but there are reports that Howard’s hometown Hawks could also be in the mix especially considering the Hawks could make room to sign both Howard and Chris Paul.
Josh Smith, Forward, Atlanta Hawks
Positives: When focused, Smith can be a major game-changer as he can make plays that few others can on any given night. He also has six straight playoff appearances that he helped the Hawks power through under his belt.
Negatives: The two biggest struggles here are shot selection and motor. These are important aspects if a team is looking for a consistent big scorer.
Worth: A realistic offer would be a five year contract at approximately $75 million to $85 million. Smith will reportedly demand a max contract, and the Rockets are expected to make a big push for Smith if they don’t land Dwight Howard. Smith’s athleticism and speed would actually be a great mix in the Rockets’ fast paced offence.
Al Jefferson, Center, Utah Jazz
Positives: Known as one of the best scorers in his position, he often requires double teaming from opposing teams, leaving more space for his teammates. It also helps that he is only 28 and most likely in the prime of his career.
Negatives: While his scoring is top notch, his reputation is not so strong at being an elite athlete in his position. He just doesn’t excel at getting up and down the floor, defending, and blocking shots which makes him attractive to only certain teams that have other players that can compensate for these factors down low.
Worth: Jefferson has been a solid contributor on every team he’s been on, and a new 5 year contract in the 70+ million range could certainly be expected. The Suns have shown a lot of interest in Jefferson as of late and other likely destinations include the Hawks, Rockets, Mavericks and Celtics.
Andrew Bynum, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
Positives: When healthy, he has shown moments of being a dominant big man, even winning a championship.
Negatives: One word: knees. Are they healthy or not? No one can be sure with the spotty decisions he’s made with them off the court.
Worth: Even after sitting out this last season with Philly, Bynum could still realistically expect a four year contract of $75 million, but it really comes down to if a team is willing to gamble on his knees.
David West, Forward, Indiana Pacers
Positives: Even being a two-time All-Star, West is still one of the most underrated players and leaders in the NBA. His presence in a locker room makes him a culture-changer, as seen in Indiana, and increases his value to a team.
Negatives: West has undoubtedly already hit his prime. He’s not going to get better than he is now, but considering the level he is now playing at, most teams would love the idea of just getting his current production and leadership on the court.
Worth: A good place to start in negotiations is a contract of $55 million to $60 million over five years. The deeper he leads the Pacers into the Championship, the more he is worth. Rumor has it that West is very happy with his new team, and with his young Pacers squad playing so well together this offseason, chances are that West will resign with the Pacers.
Manu Ginobili, Guard, San Antonio Spurs
Positives: It’s no secret this guy is a winner. He has won championships all over the earth and age has not stopped him.
Negatives: While age hasn’t stopped him to this point, it is still a factor that has to be considered. He is definitely a well-worn 35 year old with a lot of mileage under his belt, but with this mileage has also come a lot of poise and experience.
Worth: Taking in the age factor, Ginobili should expect a shorter contract of about three years making $28 million over that time. Ginobili seems to be loyal to the Spur’s organization, and there is little chance that he will leave the Spurs so long as they offer him a good solid extension.