Twenty-three of the Observer’s NBA Top 100 become free agents this summer – 15 as unrestricted free agents, two as player options and six restricted. The Bobcats can create considerable salary-cap room this summer – as much as $21 million – but that would require several steps starting with amnestying Tyrus Thomas. The Bobcats say they’ll pay the large salary required to snag a major free agent. But their challenge is finding someone who would agree to come to Charlotte, and who is young enough to lead the team in the future after it has more time to develop. Of this free agent group, Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap or J.J. Hickson could improve low-post scoring, an area of need. But Jefferson and Millsap, both with Utah last season, have logged considerable time already in the NBA. Restricted free agents tend to be hard to sign, since their former teams can match offers. A look at the unrestricteds and player options:
|Player||Current Team||Year drafted/pick||Comments|
|Tony Allen||Grizzlies||2004/25th||A defensive specialist at shooting guard; the Grizzlies want him back.|
|Andrew Bynum||76ers||2005/10th||Missed all last season with a knee injury that puts his market value in question.|
|Jose Calderon||Pistons||Not drafted||At 31, he’s too old to be of interest to the Bobcats, who are solid at point guard.|
|Jamal Crawford||Clippers||2000/8th||He’s played 14seasons. Makes no sense for him to be with a rebuilding team.|
|Monta Ellis||Bucks||2005/40th||A big-time scorer, but he doesn’t do much else to help; a defensive liability.|
|Manu Ginobili||Spurs||1999/57th||Seems to be running out of time as an impactful NBA player.|
|J.J. Hickson||T’ Blazers||2008/19th||A solid post-up scorer, he’d address a Bobcats weakness.|
|Andre Iguodala||Nuggets||2004/9th||A small forward whose season with Denver will put him in demand among contenders.|
|Jarrett Jack||Warriors||2005/22nd||Strong performance as Stephen Curry’s backup reignited his career.|
|Dwight Howard||Lakers||2004/1st||Not a chance he’d sign with rebuilding team like the Bobcats.|
|Al Jefferson||Jazz||2004/15th||A big man and a dependable scoring option. He’s nine seasons into his NBA career and would be expensive.|
|Paul Millsap||Jazz||2006/47th||Another inside scoring presence. Is seven seasons into his career.|
|Chris Paul||Clippers||2005/4th||The Clippers are doing plenty to make him happy out in Los Angeles.|
|Josh Smith||Hawks||2004/17th||Looks like his NBA career won’t continue in hometown Atlanta.|
|David West||Pacers||2003/18th||Had a big season for the Pacers, who want to find a way to re-sign him.|
Restricted free agents
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Tyreke Evans, Kings; Brandon Jennings, Bucks; Tyler Hansbrough, Pacers; Gerald Henderson, Bobcats; Nikola Pekovic, Timberwolves; Jeff Teague, Hawks.
Two intriguing unrestricteds outside the top 100:
J.J. Redick, Bucks and Martel Webster, Wizards. Redick could provide 3-point shooting the Bobcats lack. Webster could add scoring off the bench.
Possible free agents in 2014, 2015
The Bobcats don’t have to spend up their cap space in the summer of 2013 and likely won’t. Particularly with Ben Gordon’s contract expiring after the ’13-14 season, they should have the flexibility to shop. Here are some names that could be available in July of 2014:
Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins would be a restricted free agent, assuming he doesn’t sign an extension. Cousins has been very high-maintenance, but the Bobcats are often linked to chatter about trading for him. Former Duke small forward Luol Deng, who’s spent his career with the Chicago Bulls, would be an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. Would he still be young enough after 10 NBA seasons to make a difference in Charlotte? Point guard John Wall, who grew up in Raleigh, would be a restricted free agent. The Wizards have abundant incentive to retain Wall.
The free agent class in the summer of 2015 could include Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo and Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol, although it’s hard to imagine either of those teams allowing such key players to leave.