NBA Free Agency officially begins tomorrow. While players can’t officially sign until July 10, they will start taking visits and start the decision making process tomorrow. There are some really big names on the board this year, but the biggest is already off of it. Chris Paul has already announced he will be resigning with the Los Angeles Clippers this off-season, a move that became a no brainer once the Clippers wrestled Doc Rivers away from Boston. The biggest name remaining is Dwight Howard, but there are some other really big ones remaining as well such as Andrew Bynum, Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith, who are all unrestricted free agents as of tomorrow. The question is, where will they land? Lucky for you, I’m going to save you a week and a half full of waiting and tell you right now.
Dwight Howard, C, Houston Rockets: When I looked at a list of every team’s available cap space this off-season about three months ago, I looked at it with Dwight Howard in mind. I came to one possible destination for Dwight. Houston. It makes perfect sense for Dwight to go to Houston, play alongside James Harden, and compete for a championship. It's clear that the whole Lakers thing isn’t going to work as long as Kobe Bryant is still in town, and without Kobe, the Lakers are nothing but a very depleted, untalented roster. The media favorite seems to be Dallas, but Dallas would be a very bad choice for Dwight. He shouldn’t want to be rebuilding right now, he should want to win. Even he isn’t that stupid. Dwight is going to Houston.
Andrew Bynum, C, Portland Trailblazers: This one is a little tougher to call, because Bynum is such a huge risk, even compared to Dwight Howard. Bynum is that superstar that doesn’t seem to care, and doesn’t seem to even want to be great. He’s that superstar that seems to just want his pay day, and be done with it. He also has injury concerns so guessing which team will take a risk on him is tough. There are rumors that Cleveland might be interested, which would be intriguing to say the least. As most have probably heard by now, the Cavs are counting down the minutes until next free agency, clearing cap space, and gearing up to make a run at LeBron James. The Cavs would still have enough money to sign James next summer if they signed Bynum, and a lineup featuring Kyrie Irving, Andrew Bynum, Dion Waiters, Anthony Bennett, and LeBron James has championship written all over it. That being said, Portland is a better fit for Bynum right now. There wouldn’t be sky level expectations, and it would quietly give Portland the best frontcourt in the NBA with Bynum and Lamarcus Aldridge. Byum is going to Portland.
Monta Ellis, G, Los Angeles Lakers: This is my surprise pick, but to me, it makes sense. The teams most talked about here seem to be Dallas and Atlanta, which also make sense because Ellis could finally be the focused superstar of a franchise in either city. The thing is, he could be that in L.A as well, it would just take a few more years and let's face it, once Dwight jumps ship, the Lakers management isn’t going to just sit content and start a rebuilding chapter during Kobe Bryant’s final years. They want to win now and in order to do so they have to sign someone significant if Dwight leaves, and Monta Ellis seems the most likely to me. In the shocker of the off-season, Monta Ellis will become a Laker.
Andre Iguodala, F, New Orleans Pelicans: Of all the free agents this year, Iguodala will be the most sought after. There will be tons of teams trying to meet with him and get in his ear. The team he will choose in the end is New Orleans. They just acquired Jrue Holiday from Philadelphia in a STEAL, and with Holiday, Iguodala and Anthony Davis, all of a sudden the Pelicans are looking like a playoff team, at the very least. The Pistons, Kings, and Warriors are three other options for Iguodala, as all have already expressed interest. In the end though, Andre Iguodala is going to New Orleans.
Josh Smith, F, Boston Celtics: In another surprise, the Celtics seem to be the only team interested that Smith would also have interest in. The Pistons seem to be the most interested, but according to multiple sources throughout the league, the Celtics have prepared a sign and trade offer for Smith, and will make a heavy run at him. One can only hope that the Celtics don’t ruin the future of their franchise and include Rajon Rondo in the trade, but we will see. I can’t see Smith signing with the Pistons, Mavericks, or back with the Hawks, so Boston or possibly Golden State seem to have the best chances.
JR Smith, G, New York Knicks: It doesn’t seem to look good right now, but JR Smith seemed too happy in New York last season for me to think he will leave. I think he’s playing the game, getting as much money as he can, only to happily return to the Knicks next season. Maybe I’m wrong but, wait.. No, I’m not wrong. Smith will be a Knick.
Manu Ginobili, G, San Antonio Spurs: Ginobili will be playing for the Spurs or watching from his million dollar couch next season. Spur or retirement.
There are plenty more NBA free agents who could make big impacts on a roster, but these are the biggest names. Others to watch for will be Kevin Martin, Paul Milsap, David West, Al Jefferson and Tony Allen. Also Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans are two big names who are restricted free agents, but more than likely will stay put as both teams will likely match anything they are offered by another franchise. Now that you know where all the key players are going, so you can officially begin preparing for next season.