The first week of free agency is in the books, and the dust is starting to settle as the bigger free agents are coming off the market. We started with an early April list of the top 30 free agents, then updated that list after the end of the NBA Finals. Here's version 3.0, with updates for those free agents who have already verbally committed to teams (including the actual average annual value of their deals), although remember that nothing is official until July 10.
The following is my ranking of 2013's top 30 free agents, 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: UFA free agent; RFA: RFA free agent
Dwight Howard | C | UFA
2012-13 team: L.A. Lakers
'13-14 AAV: $19.5
'13-14 AAV: $22.0
Agreed to 4-year, $88 million deal with Houston Rockets.
By verbally agreeing to terms with the Rockets, Howard forgoes his right to a fifth year and gets 4.5 percent raises instead of 7.5 percent. In his words, he's making a "$30 million bet" on Houston. Howard was also able to negotiate an early termination option (ETO), which would allow him to tear up his deal after the third year and either re-sign with Houston with a full Bird rights max deal, or entertain us all with another fun-filled episode of "Dwightmare." It will be interesting to see the sort of adjustments Kevin McHale will make to the Rockets' offense, as the 2012-13 version looked more like Mike D'Antoni's playbook than the Lakers' offense did.