Thirty names. The best 30 names. The dramatic summer of 2010 crafted the landscape of the NBA, when LeBron James and Chris Bosh landed in Miami, Amar’e Stoudemire joined up with the Knicks and fans everywhere started burning jerseys at an alarming rate. The following two summers lacked the same drama, and honestly, it would be foolish to expect another 2010 summer anytime soon. Those two-to-three months were game-changing.
But we can say this: 2013′s potential free agent class has some real gems. Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Andrew Bynum, Josh Smith and James Harden could all be on the market. I spent the past few weeks going back and forth on some of these rankings. With so many young players hitting restricted free agency, it’s hard to determine who will eventually hit free agency and who will be locked up to extensions. For this list, we stayed away from guys – like John Wall, Kyrie Irving, DeMarcus Cousins, Paul Pierce, etc. – who could conceivably become free agents, but are more likely to randomly pack it up and move to Australia than they are to sign with another team.
With that, here it is: the top 30 free agents to look forward to in the summer of 2013.
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30. LAMAR ODOM (unrestricted)
2012-13 salary: $8.2 million
Now that he’s back in L.A., and back on a beach, there’s just no way Odom repeats his disastrous year in Dallas. At worst, Khloe is happy which means LO should be content. I truly believe playing next to Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups will reinvigorate him, even if he is about to turn 33 and is coming off a single-digit PER season. That’s never a good sign, yet Odom is a special case.
It wasn’t too long ago the man won the Sixth Man of the Year. That was in 2011 as he averaged 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds. I refuse to believe he simply gave up caring about basketball. Odom never reached his potential, but that had more to do with a desire to fit in than anything else. He gets the No. 30 spot strictly on potential, and if anyone can bring that back out of him, it’ll be Paul and Billups.
29. CHRIS KAMAN (unrestricted)
2012-13 salary: $8 million
Sometimes, it feels like Kaman doesn’t want to do anything other than diss Bill Simmons on Twitter and shoot off fireworks in his backyard. But now that he’s found a kindred spirit in Donnie Nelson, who says the 7-0 center is already hitting him up for hunting contacts, as well as a starting gig, I expect Kaman to have his best year since 2010.
Kaman’s long been a center who puts up solid numbers, but struggles in areas fans don’t always see – shooting garbage numbers for a center, and constantly turning the ball over. But he’s also a big man in the “prime” of his career who’ll probably be looking for a team to make a three-year commitment to him. Kaman bounced from the Clippers to New Orleans to now Dallas during the past three years. It’ll be interesting to see which teams step up to the plate next summer.
28. GERALD HENDERSON (restricted)
2012-13 salary: $3.1 million
I wanted to throw Mo Williams on this list just because I think he’s taken that patented swing from overrated to underrated. In Utah, he’ll get every opportunity to shoot his arms off. But still, what would you rather have: a 6-1, shoot-first point guard who’s about to turn 30 and also has a penchant for shrinking in the playoffs? Or a 24-year-old swingman who can defend, is a super athlete and is coming off the best season of his career? This shouldn’t even be a question.
Henderson will never be great. His ceiling is limited to “solid role player who can defend the other team’s top scorer, and will finish inside.” He can’t really shoot. He can’t really create, and is actually a pretty bad rebounder for someone with his size (6-10-plus wingspan) and his hops (very explosive). Surely some will say he only put up 15.1 points a night because he’s playing on one of the most pathetic teams we’ve ever seen. That’s true. But it shouldn’t outweight everything else.
27. J.J. REDICK (unrestricted)
2012-13 salary: $6.2 million
Amazingly, through six seasons in the NBA, Redick found a way to increase his production every year without making the proverbial “Leap.” Of course, given his physical limitations, and his weak skill set, I’m not sure anyone expects him to be averaging 16-plus points anytime soon. But with his work ethic and the consistency he displayed when given a chance, Redick should command a decent salary once he hits free agency.
Without Dwight Howard in the middle this year, his near 42 percent three-point shooting will probably take a dip. But still, the former Dukie is a shooter and will always be a shooter. One season in Hell won’t stop hopeful contenders from going after him in 2013.
26. EMEKA OKAFOR (early termination option)
2012-13 salary: $13.5 million
Would it be crazy for Okafor to opt out of a deal that will pay him $14.5 million in 2013-14? It depends on how you look at it. By the summer of 2014, he’ll be closing in on his 32nd birthday and based off his current projection (Okafor’s numbers are dropping steadily from his near 15/11 season in 2007), it’s highly unlikely he’d get another substantial multi-year contract.
While I do like Washington’s upgrades in the frontcourt, it’ll be interesting to see how Nene and Okafor fit together. I’m not comfortable with either one of the playing the four full-time (ESPECIALLY Okafor). I wouldn’t be surprised to see the former UConn big man hit the market next summer; I wouldn’t be mad at him if he took the guaranteed money either.