NBA Free Agents 2013: Breaking Down Riskiest Players Who Will Command Top Dollar

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIApril 16, 2013

Oct 15, 2012; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Andrew Bynum (33) before the game against the Boston Celtics at the Wachovia Center. The Sixers defeated the Celtics 107-75. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports
Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 NBA free-agent pool is filled with big names that are likely to come at a steep long-term cost for those bold enough to invest in them. Several big men stand out, though, as the riskiest of all among those who will command a hefty price.

Frontcourt players tend to be more fragile given their stature and the amount of weight they carry around, but the concerns about some of these players go beyond injury.

Here is a breakdown of three talented but variously flawed bigs who should make some serious coin this summer.


Andrew Bynum

Since being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers, the 25-year-old Bynum has yet to hit the court as he tries to recover from knee injuries.

When Bynum is healthy, he is one of the elite centers in the game. That's the problem, though—he rarely is for a consistent amount of time. Having said that, he will still get one of the best deals of the summer as long as his medical evaluations go well.

But teams should tread with serious caution in taking the plunge. Bynum's effort and drive have been consistently questioned, although he has shown the ability to dominate when he's fully focused.

In a strange development, Bynum was absent from last week's team picture day. It somewhat makes sense due to his lack of presence on the court, but it's still the type of gesture that raises red flags.

After a career year in Los Angeles with the Lakers in which Bynum put up averages of 18.7 points and 11.8 rebounds, he looked to be the missing piece in Philadelphia's puzzle to make a legitimate run in the East.

Instead, it has been a season of disappointment for both Bynum and the Sixers.

Utilizing such a significant chunk of the salary cap on one player should make teams wary of going all in on Bynum despite how sensational he has looked at times.


Josh Smith

The Atlanta Hawks standout can even function as a 3 due to his unique athleticism and he is having a stellar contract year as the team's leading scorer while also averaging a career-high 4.3 assists.

Smith seems to have hit his ceiling, though, and whether that is worth a max contract is rather dubious. There is so much talent and upside with Smith, but it seems he has already fulfilled his potential.

That's what is making it hard on the Hawks, because general manager Danny Ferry definitely tried to trade him at the deadline to get at least something in return before Smith hit the open market. Smith has been loyal, though, and deserves a handsome contract if Atlanta can manage it.

Although his shot selection has improved and his effort is more consistent, production is still a bit sporadic for Smith. He posts solid numbers but has only the occasional flashes of brilliance that should garner a massively lucrative, long-term deal.

It's likely that Smith will get a max contract anyway, but he will have a hard time living up to it as a true face of a franchise.


Al Jefferson

After durability issues plagued the early part of his career, Big Al has emerged as one of the premier offensive big men in the entire league.

Utah Jazz radio personality David Locke did point out the history Jefferson made with a recent, magnificent outing against the Minnesota Timberwolves:

As dangerous as Jefferson is with his back to the basket and his myriad of moves on the low block, though, his defense has always been a concern. Unless he significantly steps up his game on that end of the court, whoever his new suitor is will be disappointed by giving him a max contract.

Jefferson's deficiencies can be masked depending on his supporting cast, yet his footwork is just not up to snuff. He isn't effective as either a 4 or 5 and doesn't protect the rim as well as he should.

The good news is that Jefferson is only 28 years old, but he does have more mileage on him than his counterparts of the same age.