With the July 1st start of Free Agency around the corner, here are five FA signings that would most alter the landscape of the NBA. These aren’t the best FAs in the class, but these signings may determine the 2013 NBA Champion and matter most to the respective teams.
1. D-Will/Dwight to the Dallas Mavericks: This is the big one. Mark Cuban rolled the dice after the Mavs’ championship run in 2011 by electing to not re-sign Tyson Chandler and J. J. Barea. With a highly punitive and arm-tying luxury tax cap looming on the horizon, Cuban decided to hit the snooze button on the 2011-12 regular season for a mega trade/signing in the off-season. Come July 1st, the Mavs (and Cuban) will be on the clock. Mavs fans found it hard to swallow the dismantling of a championship team and Cuban is likely under pressure to land the big fish. Anything short of superstars D-Will or Dwight is a (BIG) bust for the Mavs. Adding either would make the Mavs a contender in 2013 (likely a top 4 seed) and the NBA’s next hot-coals-under-feet team (previous: Miami Heat in 2010-11, LA Clippers in 2011-12). Dwight and a good supporting cast would almost guarantee a Mavs-OKC conference finals. And come on, who doesn’t want to see that? P.S: Dwight to the Mavs might not happen till next year. If D-Will signs elsewhere, this forecast is deferred to the 2013-14 season.
2. Steve Nash to Miami/Indiana/Memphis/Dallas/LA Lakers: What could a two time MVP, future HOF-er do for a playoff team? A transcendent point guard, the finest playmaker of his generation? A guy who, at age 38, averaged 12.5 ppg and 10.7 apg? Any playoff team Nash signs with is a lock for the Conference Finals. Indiana might need him the most, while the Heat would become the most exciting team in NBA history (they’re currently 2nd, after the Showtime Lakers) and overwhelming favourites for a repeat title. OKC might need to pray that the Grizz don’t scoop him up (can you even begin to imagine the kind of havoc Gasol-ZBo-Gay would wreak with Nash running the point?). The Mavs and the Pacers can offer him the most money, while the Heat and Memphis can only offer the mid-level exception. And Nash to the Lakers? WOW.
3. Ray Allen to Miami/LA (both teams)/Memphis/San Antonio: The Celtics will almost certainly not re-sign Ray Allen due to salary cap restrictions. Despite his struggles in the 2012 playoffs, Allen is still arguably the greatest shooter in NBA history and still a 15 ppg scorer with a quick-trigger release and capable of single handedly turning games with dagger three-pointers. Here are two more reasons he’s this high – He’s got the championship bling (which counts for a lot) and he’s the 2nd likeliest player (after Nash) to be willing to settle for the mid-level. He might be the only top class FA willing to settle for a one year deal for the mid-level even. This makes him among the most coveted FAs, especially for contenders looking to add great value without hurting future fiscal scenarios. RA to the Heat would mean a significantly increased chance that the Heat repeat as Champions (and that’s saying a lot, because they’re already favored to repeat). I think the Clippers go after RA the hardest and move heaven and earth to sign him. The Grizzlies are a longshot, though RA’s desire to win might be greater than the average athlete’s aversion to taking less money to play in Memphis…you never know.
4. Anderson/Dragic/Ilyasova to New Orleans: In many ways, the Hornets are the team best positioned for the future among all lottery teams. After resigning Eric Gordon, they can still afford to add one max player/ two semi max players (in the $10 million ballpark) thanks to the recent salary dump trade that sent Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to the Wizards for Rashard Lewis (who will be waived soon). A core of Gordon-Anthony Davis-#10 pick (Lillard?) would be as attractive a young core as any for FAs. Expect the Hornets to go after Ryan Anderson (16.6ppg, 7.1 rpg, 21 PER, Restricted FA), Goran Dragic (18 ppg, 8.4 apg in 28 games as a starter for the Rockets last season) and Ersan Ilyasova (13 ppg on 50% shooting, 8.8 rpg), all of whom are young prospects looking for big contracts. If the Hornets get two of these three, expect to see them in the playoffs next season (!).
5. Jason Terry/Lamar Odom to any playoff team: The reason I’ve got Terry this low is because I don’t believe he’ll settle for the mid-level, which means he might have priced himself out of the range of contending teams. As for Odom, there’s a lot to prove before anybody’s offering him a significant contract after last season’s fiasco in Dallas. Entering the season as the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, LO proceeded to have a pathetic, shameful season, averaging 6.6 ppg and 4.2 rpg while, according to popular opinion, quitting on his team. LO might just be the best one year rental for any playoff team, if he gets back to his 2010-11 self.