With more teams than ever employing small-ball lineups this season, the lines between frontcourt positions are becoming increasingly blurred. Many of the players we have listed as this year's free agent power forwards could easily end up logging more minutes at the three or the five next season, depending on where they sign and how their respective teams are constructed.
Regardless of what position these bigs ultimately end up playing though, there's plenty of talent among this group, including a handful of the summer's top unrestricted free agents. Let's dive in and take a closer look at 2013's power forward market….
Unrestricted free agents
Dwight Howard and Chris Paul are probably this year's only locks to receive maximum-salary contract, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that Josh Smith lands one too. It would be an overpay, but Smith is still just 27 years old, and his versatility makes him a very valuable piece. He's probably the most talented all-around player in this group, but I'm not sure he can be the best player on a title contender.
After Smith, David West and Paul Millsap represent the other strong bets to earn eight-digit annual salaries. I expect the Pacers to do everything they can to keep West around, given what a great fit he's been in Indiana, but with Utah's offseason plans unclear, I don't think there's a clear frontrunner for Millsap at this point.
Those three are the big names, but there are plenty of intriguing options here, including young guys like J.J. Hickson and Brandan Wright, who are coming off breakout seasons. Antawn Jamison, Lamar Odom, Elton Brand, and Kenyon Martin are affordable veterans who should be able to contribute to contending teams. Jason Maxiell and Hakim Warrick could also be decent bench pieces in the right situations.
Three more free agent cases I'll be keeping an eye on, in this group: DeJuan Blair, who just turned 24 last month, and has always felt like he should be playing more than he did in San Antonio; Earl Clark, who showed flashes of promise in an otherwise disappointing year for the Lakers; and Andray Blatche, who returned to relevance in Brooklyn this year after a disappointing run in Washington.
Restricted free agents
The pickings are fairly slim when it comes to restricted power forwards, but there are a couple players who should draw some interest from teams besides their own. Chris Copeland played his way into the Knicks' rotation this year as a 28-year-old rookie, averaging an impressive 8.7 PPG in just 15.4 MPG. If he draws interest from rival suitors, the in-the-tax Knicks may be priced out of the bidding.
Tyler Hansbrough will also hit the restricted market this summer, assuming the Pacers extend him a $4.14MM qualifying offer, which isn't a given. Like West, I would think Hansbrough is a player the Pacers would like to bring back, but he's the kind of off-the-bench energy guy that any number of teams would love to add if the price is right.
Team and player options
There won't be any drama when it comes to Charlie Villanueva's option decision, as the Pistons forward isn't about to leave $8.58MM on the table. That doesn't mean Villanueva won't hit the market though, considering Detroit still has its amnesty provision in hand. Al Harrington is another Eastern Conference forward who may find himself on the market, since the Magic essentially have a team option on him — he has two years remaining on his deal, but both years are only 50% guaranteed, so Orlando could save more than $7MM by cutting him.
Villanueva and Harrington may not be huge contributors no matter where they end up, but there are some potential impact players in this group. Carl Landry's $4MM player option with the Warriors could go either way, but I'd lean toward him turning it down to secure a multiyear contract. The same might be true of Marreese Speights ($4.52MM), though I would guess his value on the open market will be a little lower than Landry's.
I don't expect an address change for Dante Cunningham, who has an affordable $2.18MM team option and had a good season for the Timberwolves. Boris Diaw ($4.7MM player option) and Matt Bonner (partially-guaranteed $3.95MM salary) are also good bets to be back with their current team, unless the Spurs' roster undergoes a bigger-than-anticipated shakeup this summer.