When the 2016-17 NBA season comes to an end somewhere around the middle of June and either the Golden State Warriors or the Cleveland Cavaliers win the rubber match of the past two champions, two events will happen that will potentially change the landscape of the league for the next few years. The first takes place on June 22 when the NBA welcomes a fresh new crop of rookies, led by one of the better selection of guards that we have seen in a while (not to mention Mr. Ball). The second takes place at 11:59:59 on June 30. That's when management will finish dialing the phone number or ring the door bell of their preferred free agent hopeful and willingly hand over a boat load of cash to some deserving (and some not so deserving) players they feel will get them over the hump.
Players such as Kevin Durant, Steph Curry and Gordon Hayward are all but guaranteed to be wearing the same uniform again next season, but for others, including some of the notables listed below, a return to their current team isn't as much of a lock. Aside from KD moving to Golden State last summer, Al Horford left Atlanta for Boston, Dwyane Wade went back home to Chicago and Pau Gasol headed to Texas to join the Spurs, all of which were contracts and signings that made sense. On the other hand, the Grizzlies offering Chandler Parsons $98.5 million was a waste, same can be said for the Magic handing over $72 mil to Bismack Biyombo and lets not get started on the Knicks throwing $18 million a year at Joakim Noah until 2020.
As with any free agent group, there's going to be some worthwhile signings that will help teams take the next step up the ladder of success and others that will once again make many of us shake our heads wondering how and why. Some may be small names that make the biggest splash, while others may be big names that make an even bigger flop.
15 Thrive: Jrue Holiday (Current Team - New Orleans)
They have a front court that only few teams could dream of in terms of talent with Brow and Boogie, but in order to run the show, the Pelicans need to bring back their starting point guard. At 26 years old, Holiday is still young enough to keep up with the new generation of talent, but old enough to have gone through the ropes of being a professional basketball player, especially at the point guard spot.
Able to play both sides of the court, Holiday not only gives the Pels a scoring option, but also a distributor that can get the most out of his big men. Coming off of a four year, $41 million contract, chances are Holiday will get a big payday offer from the Pelicans, but as one of the smaller players on roster, he'll make one of the biggest impacts in the team moving forward next season.
14 Flop: Blake Griffin (Current Team - LA Clippers)
There are a number of teams that believe Blake Griffin still has something left in the tank and chances are he does, just not a full season worth. Chances are the Clippers need a few more pieces to sniff a championship, but is Griffin one of them?
On and off court issues have hampered Griffin grabbing that brass ring and maintaining that level of Superstar that he was once on a path to. Maybe a fresh start is in need for BG. Boston? OKC? Denver? Miami? But at the cost of a max contract, hitching your wagon to Griffin hasn't proved to be the best option if he's expected to be your go to player. Ask yourself this, at five years, $94 million, was Griffin worth the money to the Clippers and will he be worth it to your team at an even steeper cost?
13 Thrive: P.J. Tucker (Current Team - Toronto)
During this season's trade deadline, the Raptors basically brought in Tucker to do what Demarre Carroll did not and at a fraction of the cost. After returning to his original NBA club in a trade that brought him over from the Phoenix Suns. Tucker's blue collar, hard nosed, workhorse approach to the game not only made him valuable to Coach Casey, but also a fan favorite. While he doesn't have the resume that Carroll or Serge Ibaka have, the grit and grind that comes with Tucker more than makes up for less of the sexy stats.
While the Raps are apparently at a bit of a crossroads with their current roster, bringing Tucker back seems to be an easy answer. After finishing out a three year, $16.5 million contract, Tucker may not get Carroll type money, but rest assured his play this season will warrant a pay increase somewhere.
12 Flop: Derrick Rose (Current Team - New York)
Man, some team is going to look at DRose and think that he'll be worth the money, possibly even max money, with hopes that he will once again return to his early Chicago years. However those days are long passed, even if they were just five years ago. Completing a 5year, $94 million contract, Rose believes that he's worth more than he should actually be paid.
Not since 2010-11 has Rose played over 80 games and it won't happen again any time soon. At best you should expect to get about 60-65 games from the Chicago native. Now sure he posted decent numbers for the horrible Knicks this season, but are 16 PPG and 4.4 APG for a team that went 31-51 worth breaking the bank for? Highly unlikely. Could a team like the Spurs be willing to take a chance on the talented, yet troubled point guard considering the decline of Tony Parker?
11 Thrive: James Johnson (Current Team - Miami)
The Heat are in search of a big name talent after watching James, Wade and Bosh depart from South Beach over the last couple of years, ending the team's powerhouse run that last for many years. After signing a one year, $4 million contract with Miami after two years in Toronto, where he was stuck playing random minutes off the bench, Johnson found a niche with the Heat's second unit, playing the most minutes of his career and averaging the best stats of his eight year career.
While the Heat had a revolving door of power forwards in the starting lineup, including a small ball roster, Johnson's improved numbers will certainly be rewarded with a hefty raise, be it in Miami or elsewhere.
10 Flop: Rajon Rondo (Current Team - Chicago)
The experiment on paper looked promising even despite the mileage. Adding Rondo and Dwyane Wade to Jimmy Butler appeared to give the Bulls one of the best back-court trios in the East, at least on paper. Then there was the season of locker room and on-court drama that resulted in a roller coaster regular season and a first round playoff knockout.
While the Bulls do hold a team option on Rondo for next season at just over $13 mil, they may just let him walk for a fraction of the cost and hope to pick up an equal talent but less of a drama case. On the flip side, you know there is a veteran team (Spurs, Cavs) out there that would find a way to work Rondo into their lineup.
9 Thrive: Deron Williams (Current Team - Cleveland)
He's far from the elite player that he once was, but Williams still has the ability to provide a steady hand at the point guard position, especially for a veteran team. Grabbing Williams off of the waiver wire late this season, the Cavs bring in a suitable back up for Kyrie Irving, one capable of still impacting a game here and there.
At 32 years old, Williams still has a few years left in the tank, but with a history of injuries on his record, playing a reserve role is more of his status these days. If the Cavaliers are able to walk away from the playoffs with another ring on their fingers, chances are Williams may have played himself into a second contract with LeBron's club, considering how vocal James was on needing a back-up point guard this season.
8 Flop: Rudy Gay (Current Team - Sacramento)
Not yet the upper echelon of players, Gay has always been that second or third tier type star that teams hope will elevate his game another notch and help catapult them to the next level. Unfortunately such has not been the case during Gay's career. Currently holding a $14.3 million player option for next season with the Kings, Gay saw his 2016-17 season cut short with an Achilles injury just thirty games into the season.
After averaging nearly 20 PPG and 6 RPG, Gay had the athletic ability to be an offensive threat from various aspects, but has often been viewed as a one dimensional black hole. If Gay was able to play a Robin to someone's Batman or even a third Musketeer, the hefty contract that he'll probably be asking for may be warranted...assuming he returns to full health.
7 Thrive: J.J. Redick (Current Team - LA Clippers)
The window that was the Clippers opportunity to claim their first championship is nearly closed. At first it was all fun and games down in Lob City with fans and players excited about the Clippers taking over the city spotlight from the struggling Lakers, but at the end of the day, both franchises have walked away each season failing to measure up to expectations.
As for Redick, he may not partake in any of the ally or oops that are part of the Clips offense, but rather his contributions are found outside the three point line. At the end of his 4 year, $27 million contract, Redick is bound to receive a big payday from some team that cherishes his long range offense. In today's game of run and gun, pace and space, there should be more than one knock on his door come the end of June.
6 Flop: Tyreke Evans (Current Team - Sacramento)
After spending his first four years with the Kings and earning Rookie Of The Year honors, big things were expected from the combo guard in Sacramento. Then they traded him to the New Orleans Pelicans. So much for gratitude and considering what the Kings got in return for Evans, he wasn't valued that much.
Three and a half seasons later, the Kings apparently felt bad or something because they brought Evans back in during the shocking deal for Boogie Cousins. Following a four year, $44 million deal, chances of a team putting out a long term offer for Evans is minimal, but regardless he'll still have his suitors based on his name alone. Don't be surprised if a team like Miami or Portland take a flyer on the former Memphis Tiger.
5 Thrive: Greg Monroe (Current Team - Milwaukee)
Depending on how Monroe decides to play this, he could either return to the Bucks under his $17.8 million player option or give up the cash and decide to test the waters for a better situation than what he faced all year in Milwaukee. After being a starter for most of his NBA career, including the majority of his games played last season with the Bucks, Monroe found himself coming off the bench for coach Kidd for all of his 81 games during the regular season and the six game playoff run.
Considering that the Bucks want a run and gun lineup, chances are Moose won't be inserted into the starting rotation any time soon. At 26 years of age and capable of providing a team with a double double presence in the paint, adding Monroe to a starting five may help push teams like Atlanta, Charlotte, or New York to the next level (whatever that might be).
4 Flop: Kyle Lowry (Current Team - Toronto)
Unfortunately for the Raptors, the Cleveland Cavaliers finished second in the Eastern Conference regular season standings. This meant an early playoff match-up that saw Toronto quickly dismissed from any chance at a deep post season run, despite having one of their best rosters in history. Add to that the loss of their All-Star point guard to an ankle injury and there was little chance that the Raptors could match last seasons success.
With a player option season worth $12 million on his current four year, $48 million contract remaining, Lowry has decided to test the free agent waters. Although Lowry didn't elevate his game until he was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Raptors in the summer of 2012, he has only once played all 82 games and has had some nagging injuries over the past few seasons. A number of suitors are pining for Lowry's services but at 30 years old and potentially being deemed as damaged goods, throwing the bank at the Philadelphia native might not be the best idea.
3 Thrive: JaVale McGee (Current Team - Golden State)
He was (and probably forever will be) once the star of Shaqtin' a Fool, but now, McGee is taking over the big man role for the Warriors, despite coming off the bench. While Zaza Pachulia gets the starting nod, McGee has given the Warriors a better, more athletic option at the five spot.
Currently on his fifth team in his nine year NBA career, JaVale is making the most of his one year, $1.4 million deal and undoubtedly will turn it into a long term deal next season, presumably with GSW. While it goes without question that McGee isn't a big man that you can build your franchise around, if put with the right combination of players and offensive set, easy transition hoops, rebounds and blocked shots are well within his means.
2 Flop: Dwyane Wade (Current Team - Chicago)
Like his teammate Rondo, Wade gave the Bulls fans high levels of hope for a return to prominence this season as the homegrown guard returned to the Windy City. Sure Wade is 35 years old and sure there were moments in which he was the flash of old, but considering that he has a player option for nearly $24 million for next season, that kind of money shouldn't be used for a player on the decline.
The Bulls are once again at a crossroads as to either rebuild or continue to try and tread water in the East around Jimmy Butler and Wade. Chances are, Wade may still want one last kick at the can as he sees one of his best friends (LBJ) compete for yet another ring. Most think that Wade won't walk away from such a large bucket of cash, but with nearly $180 million in his pocket from the last fourteen years, another ring may take precedence. Odds are no other team will offer him that kind of money, but could the Miami Heat be willing to throw a bone to the greatest player in team history for a farewell tour? Or could the Spurs entice Wade to come West and compete for one last title? Either way, better options exist.
1 Thrive: Andre Iguodala (Current Team - Golden State)
Iggy has about 45 days left on his current four year, $48 million deal with the Warriors before he heads into what is likely his last contract of his career. At 33 years old and thirteen years into his tenure, AI Jr. has become more of a component to the machine rather than the main cog that he was expected to be during his spotlight time in Philadelphia.
Coming off the bench for the Warriors, Iguodala has the skillset to spell either Curry, Thompson or Durant and still not miss much of a beat. Now more of a facilitator and defender than scorer, Iguodala is their third oldest member of the team and fourth longest in terms of playing years. Chances are high that number 9 will finish out his career in San Francisco rather than anywhere else in the NBA.