Back in April, I unveiled the first iteration of my free-agent big board. Now that the 2012-13 season is over and a champion has been crowned, our attention turns to the draft with free agency close behind. Teams are lining their ducks in a row, trying to project cap space while creating flexibility to put themselves in the best position to go "shopping" on July 1. They all have grocery lists: the top, realistically obtainable free agents on their big boards.
The following is my ranking of the top 30 free agents of 2013, sorted by the average annual value (AAV) of the new contracts I believe each player deserves under the rules of the CBA. To make my contract value estimates, I used many of the same factors that I used as a member of the Phoenix Suns' front office: age, injury history, value of recent comparable player contracts, irreplaceability of skill set, contribution to winning, history of production, fit with style and culture, marketability and current cap situation, among other things.
Please note that the 2013-14 AAVs listed below represent my estimation of the approximate value of each player, not a prediction of what the player will receive on the market this summer. (Values denoted in millions of dollars.)
UFA: Unrestricted free agent; RFA: Restricted free agent
Dwight Howard | C | UFA
2012-13 team: L.A. Lakers
'12-13 AAV: $19.5
'13-14 AAV: $23.6
Nothing has changed with Howard's market value; he's still due to make the maximum allowable deal. But the definition of "maximum allowable" differs depending on where he wants to end up. There have been numerous media reports linking Howard to Houston, Atlanta and even across the Staples Center hallway to the Clippers. If Howard decides to sign with a team other than the Lakers, then his AAV drops to $21.85 million per year based on a four-year, $87.4 million deal.