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NBA Free Agent Season is Now Open!

By Andrew Goodman

So the NBA season is officially over, but the offseason is just getting started. After an NBA Draft that was full of surprises, teams are still picking out the pieces that will lead them to a successful 2013-2014 season. Some players are already relocating; Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce are heading to Brooklyn, Jrue Holiday is leaving the city of brotherly love and heading to New Orleans, and Andrea Bargnani has his bags packed and is awaiting confirmation of a trade to New York. However, there is still plenty of talent available, as some of the biggest names in the NBA remain free agents.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul is the biggest (figuratively speaking of course) free agent on the market this offseason.  He is easily the best point guard in the league. Last season he averaged about 17 points, 10 assists and two and a half steals per game. He led the league in steals per game and was second in assists per game, behind only Rajon Rondo. Combined with Blake Griffin, Paul showed the NBA that the Clippers are the best team in LA, leading the team into the playoffs (only to be upset in the first round). With the Clippers recently acquiring coach Doc Rivers from the Celtics, Paul will most likely resign with the Clippers. While nothing is definite, Paul himself has said that he plans to sign with the Clippers, and that other teams should not try and reach him regarding signing. Paul seems to want to win a championship in LA. Now, with Rivers at the helm, that dream may become a reality sooner rather than later.

Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard is arguably the best center in the NBA. He is a three-time defensive player of the year and led the NBA in rebounds five out of the last six years (he was second behind Kevin Love during the 2010-2011 season). He was also second in the league in field goal percentage, behind only DeAndre Jordan. Last season he also averaged 17 points and two and a half blocks per game, on a struggling Lakers team. Tension between Howard and Kobe Bryant was evident in LA, as the two struggled to coexist. Now, Howard is a free agent and a hot commodity around the NBA. The team that has shown the most interest in Howard is the Houston Rockets. The Rockets met with Howard late last night, and brought along several key decision-makers. Along with video messages from ex-Rockets Dikembe Mutombo, Yao Ming and Clyde Drexler, the Rockets proposed a whole marketing plan to Howard, including relocation and how popular of a team the Rockets are (especially in China). The Rockets also stressed their team's youth. As the youngest team in the NBA, players like Harden and Parson will only continue to get better. Adding Howard into that mix could make the Rockets into one of the best teams in the NBA.

Monta Ellis

Monta Ellis is one of the best finishers in the NBA. The former Most Improved Player of the Year was fourth in the league last year in steals per game with just over two, and averaged about 19 points, six assists and four rebounds per game. He led the Bucks in scoring and also shot over 40 percent from behind the three-point line. However, it doesn't seem like Ellis will be returning to Milwaukee. The Bulls, Spurs, Nuggets and Suns have all shown interest in talented guard, but the frontrunners in the Monta Ellis sweepstakes as of today seem to be the New York Knicks. Although the Knicks don't have a lot of cap space, Ellis has been known to take a pay cut if it means being on a contending team. With players like Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler and Amar'e Stoudemire, plus the soon-to-be addition of Andrea Bargnani, the Knicks are definitely going to be contenders next year, so Madison Square Garden may be the best home for Ellis next season.

Andrew Bynum

This year's free agent pool is full of big men. Andrew Bynum is one of those big men. Bynum missed the 2012-2013 season due to injury, and has been nagged by knee injuries throughout his career. However, when he is healthy, his presence can be felt on the court. In the 2011-2012 season, Bynum averaged 19 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks per game, which are great numbers for a center. He has shot above 50 percent from the field every year since entering the league (besides his rookie year) and is better than most centers from the free throw line. While signing Bynum may be risky due to his tendency to get injured, it may be a necessary risk for some teams, due to the lack of dominant centers in the NBA. So where will Bynum wind up? I think the best fit for him is to return to LA. With Howard almost definitely leaving the Lakers, Bynum can return to the city that he started his career in and be a star. Any team with Kobe Bryant on it has to be considered a contender, so this may be Bynum's best bet.

Josh Smith

Josh Smith is a young, talented player with a bright future. Last season he averaged 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and just over four assists per game. He also averaged over one steal and just fewer than two blocks per game. These numbers show that Smith is an amazing all-around player and can put up numbers in all five major stat categories. His only problem is shooting from deep. Smith is determined to be a shooter, but shot only 30 percent from deep last year. Despite his poor shooting from three-point range, Smith is still an amazing all-around player. The team who seems to be leading the race when it comes to signing Smith is the Boston Celtics. With plenty of cap room following the departure of Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics are eager to sign Smith, who played on the same team as current Celtic Rajon Rondo, back in high school. They need a forward who can play all-around good basketball and Smith can definitely fill that role. The Pistons are also after Smith, but Boston seems like a better fit.

Andre Iguodala

To make things plain and simple, Andre Iguodala is an offensive machine. He has done things with a basketball that I can't even dream of. Nobody else in the NBA can finish like Iggy, as he is one of the best dunkers in the NBA. Last season, Iguodala averaged 13 points, 5.4 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. However, these numbers don't show Iguodala's true talent. He was on the Nuggets team that led the NBA in scoring and averaged 104 points per game. He had to share the ball with the likes of Ty Laweson, Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried and JaVale McGee. Spreading the ball around equally to those five players is no easy task. However, if you put Iguodala on a team where he is the star, you better be ready to see him shine. The two teams most interested in Iguodala are the Nuggets and the Pistons. Iguodala left $15.9 million on the table when he opted out of the final year of his max deal with the Nuggets, claiming that he needed time to think after the firing of George Karl. However, after bringing in assistant coach Brian Shaw as the team's new head coach, Iguodala says that he had heard "nothing but good things" about Shaw. However, if Iguodala signs with a team like the Pistons, he will easily be the star of the team. A former Olympian like Iguodala needs space to display his talent, which he doesn't get in Denver, because of the amount of talent on the court there. However, in Detroit, Iguodala can step up and become a team leader. The Pistons also have significant cap space and a huge hole at their small forward position. I definitely think Iguodala should sign with the Pistons. It would allow him to get his hands on the ball more and really control a team. He can be one of the best players in the NBA, but he needs the chance to show that, which he won't have in Denver.

Manu Ginobili

Manu has no reason to leave the Spurs. He has won several titles with them, and has been with the team his entire career. He and Coach Pop get along well, and he is loved throughout San Antonio. However, if he does decide to leave San Antonio, I can't think of a team who wouldn't go after him. Ginobili is an all-around great player who can hit clutch shots with the game on the line. His ability to come in of the bench and ignite an offense makes him a coveted player, unlike many others in the NBA. While I would imagine the likely future Hall-of-Famer will stay in San Antonio, anything can happen in the offseason.

J.R. Smith

Smith last year was the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year. When he came in off the bench for the Knicks, the momentum of the game just seemed to shift into their favor. His ability to drive to the hoop as well as shoot threes makes him a unique and highly desirable player. However, his performance in the playoffs was absolutely awful, and his questionable shot selection makes offering him a big contract difficult. The Knicks have shown interest in resigning Smith, and Smith has shown interest in resigning with the Knicks. However, if the money isn't right, or the Knicks make a deal with somebody else first, Smith may be heading out of New York. The Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. which many took as a sign that they had no intention of resigning Smith. The Milwaukee Bucks have shown interest in Smith, so if he does leave New York there are teams whose doors are open to him. The Bucks two leading scorers (Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings) are both free agents, and aren't likely to resign with the team, so if Smith does leave New York, the Bucks may need him to add some fire to their offense.

O.J. Mayo

Last year, Mayo was in the same position he is now. He was an unrestricted free agent, but didn't like the deals he was offered, so he signed a one year deal with the Mavericks to show off his talent. Mayo did exactly that and now will have his choice of long term contracts from several teams. Mayo averaged about 15 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists and one steal per game last year. He shot above 40% from deep and also started all 82 games for the Mavericks. Several teams have already shown interest in Mayo, including the Bucks, Timberwolves and Clippers. If Mayo wants to win a title, he should head to LA and play alongside CP3 and Blake Griffin. A trifecta of Paul, Griffin and Mayo will make the Clippers into an even more dominant team than they were last year, and with new head coach Doc Rivers at the helm, this team would have the potential to go deep into the playoffs and even win a championship.

As you can see, there are plenty of options for NBA teams to choose from. Aside from these free agents, there are other great players available such as Brandon Jennings, Tony Allen, Nate Robinson, Kevin Martin, J.J. Reddick, David West, Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson, just to name a few. The NBA may see a major face-lift by the time the season starts. All I know is that I can't wait for the 2013-2014 season to get underway!

Where do you think these players will fit best? Who is the best free agent available. Share your thoughts! Comment below.