NBA Free-Agent Rankings 2.0 by Espn Insider

NBA Free-Agent Rankings 2.0
An updated rank of the 30 FAs in 2013 by average annual value
Updated: June 25, 2013, 4:01 PM ET
By Amin Elhassan | ESPN Insider

Dwight Howard, Chris Paul and Josh Smith are the cream of the 2013 free-agent crop.
Back in April, I unveiled the first iteration of my free-agent big board. Now that the 2012-13 season is over and a champion has been crowned, our attention turns to the draft with free agency close behind. Teams are lining their ducks in a row, trying to project cap space while creating flexibility to put themselves in the best position to go "shopping" on July 1. They all have grocery lists: the top, realistically obtainable free agents on their big boards.

The following is my ranking of the top 30 free agents of 2013, sorted by the average annual value (AAV) of the new contracts I believe each player deserves under the rules of the CBA. To make my contract value estimates, I used many of the same factors that I used as a member of the Phoenix Suns' front office: age, injury history, value of recent comparable player contracts, irreplaceability of skill set, contribution to winning, history of production, fit with style and culture, marketability and current cap situation, among other things.

Please note that the 2013-14 AAVs listed below represent my estimation of the approximate value of each player, not a prediction of what the player will receive on the market this summer. (Values denoted in millions of dollars.)

UFA: Unrestricted free agent; RFA: Restricted free agent

1 Dwight Howard | C | UFA
2012-13 team: L.A. Lakers'12-13 AAV: $19.5'13-14 AAV: $23.6
AGE: 27PPG: 17.1RPG: 12.4BPG: 2.5

Nothing has changed with Howard's market value; he's still due to make the maximum allowable deal. But the definition of "maximum allowable" differs depending on where he wants to end up. There have been numerous media reports linking Howard to Houston, Atlanta and even across the Staples Center hallway to the Clippers. If Howard decides to sign with a team other than the Lakers, then his AAV drops to $21.85 million per year based on a four-year, $87.4 million deal.


2 Chris Paul | PG | UFA
2012-13 team: L.A. Clippers'12-13 AAV: $17.8'13-14 AAV: $21.5
AGE: 27PPG: 16.9APG: 9.7RPG: 3.7

Similar to Howard, Paul's value remains constant, but the amount he's eligible to make varies based on where he ends up. Both Dallas and Atlanta have been mentioned as destinations, but it's hard to imagine Paul ending up anywhere with the institutional control he wields with the Clippers. If he does choose to give that up, it will cost him: His AAV drops to $19.95 million per year based on a four-year, $79.8 million deal.


3 Josh Smith | SF/PF | UFA
2012-13 team: Atlanta Hawks'12-13 AAV: $13.2'13-14 AAV: $14.0
AGE: 27PPG: 17.5APG: 4.2RPG: 8.4

No movement for Smith, whose fate lies with the destinies of the two men listed above. If Atlanta decides to renounce Smith in order to clear his cap hold, it loses his Bird rights and he loses his right to 7.5 percent raises and a fifth year. I never thought he'd return to Atlanta, so his value remains constant at a four-year, $56 million deal with a player option on the fourth year.


4 Andrew Bynum | C | UFA
2012-13 team: Philadelphia'12-13 AAV: $16.9'13-14 AAV: $13.3

The shakeup in the Sixers organization does not bode well for Bynum's chances of staying in Philly. The man who pushed for his acquisition, Doug Collins, is no longer the head coach, and new president of basketball operations Sam Hinkie has already come out and labeled the deal a disaster. However, the NBA is a copycat league, and the strong performances by traditional big men this postseason will create a market for Bynum, who (when healthy) is an elite center. I'm sticking to my original AAV of $13.3 million, based on a three-year, $40 million deal with language that basically allows the team to exit the contract with minimal exposure if the player experiences serious injury to contractually specified body parts (in this case, knees).


5 Andre Iguodala | SF | UFA
2012-13 team: Denver'12-13 AAV: $15.0'13-14 AAV: $11.5
AGE: 29PPG: 13.0RPG: 5.3APG: 5.4

As I expected back in April, Iguodala exercised his early termination option and tore up the last year of his deal, which would have paid him $16.2 million. If you're wondering why he would turn down that much money, it's to strike while the iron is hot and secure another big payday of guaranteed dollars; even though his annual salary will drop, his total upcoming salary will increase. Unfortunately for him, the recent departures from Denver have left the franchise in a state of flux, with no guarantee that the present incarnation of the team will even have an opportunity to come back. Iguodala has a very particular skill set that benefits teams that have multiple scoring threats, which limits his free-agent options. This shrinking of alternatives results in a reduction in his AAV to $11.5 million, based on a four-year, $46 million deal.


6 David West | PF | UFA
2012-13 team: Indiana '12-13 AAV: $10.0'13-14 AAV: $11.1
AGE: 32PPG: 17.1RPG: 7.7BPG: 1.0

The playoffs all but cemented the Pacers' future being built around Paul George and Roy Hibbert, and everyone else on the roster represents a complementary piece to those two cornerstones. However, some pieces are more "complementary" than others, particularly if they bring an irreplaceable element to the table. West fits that bill, as a guy whose game fits perfectly as the counterpoint to Hibbert's, and even more importantly, as the enforcer of the team's culture. Soon Hibbert will take that mantle as well, but until then, West's contributions on and off the court are still needed. As such, his AAV -- based on a three-year, $33.3 million deal with partial guarantees in Years 2 and 3 -- remains the same.


7 Nikola Pekovic | C | RFA
2012-13 team: Minnesota'12-13 AAV: $4.8'13-14 AAV: $11.0
AGE: 27PPG: 16.3RPG: 8.8BPG: 0.8

Pekovic finished the season strong, solidifying his status as an excellent scorer on the interior and a force on the offensive glass. Some readers previously asked whether giving a five-year deal to Pekovic would cause Minnesota to use up its "designated player" assignment -- the provision that allows teams to offer only a five-year rookie extension to one player on the roster -- and the answer is that it wouldn't, as this represents an entirely new deal rather than an extension.


8 Al Jefferson | C | UFA
2012-13 team: Utah Jazz'12-13 AAV: $15.0'13-14 AAV: $10.0
AGE: 28PPG: 17.8RPG: 9.2BPG: 1.1

Jefferson is another victim of the whims of greater free agents, as where he lands is predicated greatly by where Paul and Howard end up. In that sense, Jefferson might serve as a consolation prize of sorts: He's not a defensive presence, but he can provide low-post scoring and defensive rebounding. I previously wrote about how he'd be a good fit with a team like San Antonio as a "bridge to the future" playing alongside Tim Duncan and Tony Parker.


9 Paul Millsap | PF | UFA
2012-13 team: Utah Jazz'12-13 AAV: $8.6'13-14 AAV: $8.0
AGE: 28PPG: 14.6RPG: 7.1BPG: 1.0

I think Millsap actually stands a better chance of being retained by Utah than Jefferson. For one, he's a lot more versatile, able to play alongside either of the Jazz's young bigs (Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors) or alongside both of them in a jumbo lineup. Also, much like West, Millsap has been one of the vocal leaders in the locker room, and defines much of Utah's blue-collar culture. Still, should he choose to relocate, he'll be coveted on the market as a skilled, versatile forward. His AAV drops slightly, but I'd give him a player option at the end of his deal to give him the opportunity to chase one more payday should he outplay his deal.


10 Tyreke Evans | SG | RFA
2012-13 team: Sacramento'12-13 AAV: $5.3'13-14 AAV: $7.75
AGE: 23PPG: 15.2APG: 3.5RPG: 4.4

The sale of the Kings and the subsequent house cleaning of the front office and coaching staff changes very little for Evans. He needs a fresh start, and to play around new people so that he can redefine who he is as a player and recapture some of that magic he had as a rookie. The trick is to get an offer sheet that Sacramento won't be inclined to match, without breaking the bank. I dropped his AAV slightly but added a fourth year to the deal, so that he can opt out but still retain full Bird rights.

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