While the contenders are still in the midst of the NBA Playoffs, most franchises have already turned their attention to the NBA Draft Lottery, the NBA Draft, and pending NBA Free Agency. Teams are looking to find the missing piece to assure they will be one of the teams still playing in late May and into June. On the other hand, the teams that are already on that level are looking to reload and add another piece that will continue the success that has been built through these three avenues.

It is evident that fans and teams are waiting on that big splash in the free agency market. We all had our eyes on Kevin Durant last year, and of course the LeBron James decision from 2010. While those two moves have paid off for their respective players and franchises, there is still a chance that big move is not going to live up to the hype. You’ll have to look at the 76ers adding Elton Brand in 2008 for five years and $80 million (a lot back then). Ben Wallace to the Bulls? Rashard Lewis to the Magic? The big play can make or break a franchise.

Not every offseason move is going to blow up in the media. Teams still need to add those role players to benefit their stars. Sometimes these moves prove to be more valuable than a team trying to land the big name. In 2013, the Warriors signed Andre Iguodala for four years. Good NBA player, but a year later he was holding the NBA Finals MVP trophy. With free agency looming, lets take a look at who can wind up in these 2 categories.

15. Greg Monroe Finds New Home As A Starter Again – Pays Off

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Greg Monroe showed glimpses of All-Star potential while with the Detroit Pistons, enough for the Milwaukee Bucks to give him three years and $51 million in 2015. He is now faced with a player option for the upcoming season. After some experiments between himself and Jabari Parker failed to create necessary spacing, Monroe found himself in a reserve role. And there he has actually embraced it and thrived. Monroe has become a Sixth Man of the Year contender. But now the question arises, does he want to continue in that role? Monroe is still just 26 years old and could likely land a starting role elsewhere. He will, and it isn’t farfetched Monroe can become an All-Star caliber center. How about the Celtics?

14. Blake Griffin Moves On – Flops

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

First and foremost, Blake Griffin is a terrific NBA player. Where he goes, he will most likely put together another All-Star caliber regular season, and find himself back in the playoffs. Let’s say he signs with the Boston Celtics. Why should we believe Blake will make it through the season healthy, and furthermore be in the lineup when it matters most during playoff time? It is a tough reason to believe the signing of Blake Griffin will be a flop, but it’s what we know. Griffin appeared in seven of the Clippers’ 13 playoff games in the last two seasons. If he does leave LA, it may still be more of the same for Griffin.

13. Shaun Livingston Stays in Golden State – Pays Off

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors have won the NBA Championship with the Big 3 of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green. And they are currently chasing after another with the addition of Kevin Durant, but the role players they have been able to surround the stars with have a lot to do with their success, none more so than Shaun Livingston. Livingston was able to resurrect his career in Golden State after a gruesome knee injury in his early days. At 6-foot-7, Livingston offers length, as well as another ball handler. At 15-20 minutes per game, he is ideal for the Warriors lineup where he can guard multiple positions. Expect the Warriors to re-sign the guard.

12. Nerlens Noel Gets The Max – Flops

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

When the 76ers decided to trade Nerlens Noel, it was because they saw this upcoming payday looming. Noel is a solid NBA center with athletic ability around the rim. His offensive game has yet to develop, despite an attempt at a midrange jumper. The thing is the center market is not huge this year, and at 23 years old, Noel still could learn to broaden his game. This is why the Dallas Mavericks traded for him. Noel is a restricted free agent, which means the Mavericks will have a chance to match any offer, and that offer may be huge. Noel will likely receive offer sheets approaching max deals, and the Mavericks will then decide to match or not. They will, and unless a switch clicks rather quickly, they will be dealing with an average NBA center at elite money.

11. 76ers Exercise Option On Robert Covington – Pays Off

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The 76ers hold a team option with Robert Covington. The price tag is just over $1.5 million for the 2017-2018 season. The thing is they may go beyond just exercising the option and locking up Covington with a longer-term contract. Covington has proved his worth as an elite defender in the NBA. He struggles with shooting percentage, but if the 76ers ever get their core out on the NBA floor, it would no longer be Covington’s responsibility to provide scoring. A prototypical 3 and D player, Covington has the chance to become a perennial All-Defensive performer alongside budding superstars of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Dario Saric. Easy decision for Philadelphia. Easy payoff as well.

10. Dion Waiters Gets A Big Contract – Flops

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Dion Waiters is such a curious case of a basketball player. He developed a reputation for having a bad shot selection, and for being hard to play with. He played just 33 games more in Cleveland upon LeBron James’ arrival, and stuck in most NBA fans’ heads is the sight of Kevin Durant continuously yelling at him to pass him the ball.

This year, Waiters ended up on the Miami Heat on a small contract in which he made $2.9 million in 2016-2017. He now has the option to opt out of the second year, and after putting together his best season as a pro, that should be just what he does. Unfortunately, he will get overpaid. Will it be by Pat Riley and the Miami Heat? Probably. He earned his spot, and then became a fan favorite. Too bad that just isn’t a role he can sustain long-term.

9. Sixers Add Veterans – Pays Off

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe in 2017-2018 we can actually see the Sam Hinkie plan play out. Philadelphia fans have watched their top picks on the sidelines more than they have seen them on the court. Joel Embiid has played 31 games in 3 years, Ben Simmons missed an entire year, Jahlil Okafor has missed substantial time while becoming a disappointment, Nerlens Noel sat out a whole year and has since moved on, and Dario Saric took a few years to finally come over from overseas. That all looks to change next year, and finally the fans may see a NBA roster. This will become fulfilled with adding veterans as they did with Sergio Rodriguez, Jerryd Bayless, and Gerald Henderson last year. While Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday would be bigger additions, simply adding a Kyle Korver, PJ Tucker, CJ Miles or Anthony Morrow could help the core develop.

8. Derrick Rose Gets A Big Contract – Flops

Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

As fans, we really got robbed of seeing a generational talent when Derrick Rose repeatedly went down with injuries. Although it didn’t happen until later in the year, again Rose went down with a season-ending injury as a member of the New York Knicks. Still, it is likely Rose sees another big pay day in the upcoming free agency. His future could really go a couple ways. He could join a contender on a favorable veteran contract, or someone will end up overpaying the former NBA MVP. Although he has expressed interest in staying in New York, Phil Jackson and company have to see that the Knicks need a rebuild. Rose will likely get overpaid by someone like the Nuggets or Bucks, and unfortunately for those teams, they will need to regroup when the move does not work out.

7. Nene Stays In Houston – Pays Off

Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Currently enjoying his 15th season as a NBA player, and 10th NBA postseason, Nene is on the ladder part of his career. Nene will become an unrestricted free agent upon the end of the Rockets’ playoff run. The Rockets need to keep Nene in Houston. Nene looks more fit now that he did in his younger days in Denver, and he has stepped it up in a big way during their current playoff run. Nene has adapted to the reserve role, providing 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 17.9 minutes during the regular season. During the current playoff run, he has upped those averages to 12.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 20.4 minutes per game. It won’t be flashy but Nene helps bring a toughness to the James Harden-led Rockets.

6. Danilo Gallinari Gets Paid  – Flops

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Danilo Gallinari will go down best-known for being the main piece that brought Carmelo Anthony to the New York Knicks. Sadly, the Knicks may have been better off or at least in the same boat had they not made the move. Regardless, Gallinari has a player option for the 2017-2018 season in which he would be fit to make $16.1 million. Gallinari has not eclipsed more than 71 games played since joining Denver, and his 63 in 2016-2017 was his most in four years. He’s a talented player, sure, but a team will be taking a big risk if they are willing to give Gallinari more than the $16 mill he was set to earn this year. The Raptors, Clippers, and Celtics showed interest at the trade deadline. Maybe they will be one of the teams to take the risk in free agency.

5. Ersan Ilyasova Signs With Contender – Pays Off

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Ersan Ilyasova frustrates opposing players and gets his own teammates to love him. His annoying approach at defense involves flopping and getting under the opponents skin, but can still be effective. Add in his smooth stroke, Ilyasova becomes a decent 3 and D player while being able to guard the front court. Ilyasova isn’t going to make the big splash in the media, but if a contending team can scoop up the 29 year old Turkish power forward, they will add another vital piece to their team. Not saying the Warriors or Spurs need to take a look at Ersan, but if a Jazz, Wizards, Blazers, or Rockets can add him, perhaps he brings the veteran leadership needed to get through the ladder rounds of the playoffs.

4. Miami Heat Dish Out Large Contracts – Flops

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The days of the Big 3 of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh are long gone. Bosh is actually under contract until 2019, but his health has held him out of basketball since the 2015-2016 season. The Miami Heat are poised to throw some money around again for the second straight offseason. Hassan Whiteside got paid last season, and now it is time for the Heat to bring some sidekicks in to help him. As we discussed earlier, Dion Waiters may garner a big contract for the team he played the best basketball of his career for. A Dwyane Wade reunion has been mentioned, and a few players on our list such as Danilo Gallinari and Blake Griffin have been rumored to contemplate Miami as a future destination. The Heat are going to overpay to get some names in with Whiteside.

3. Nikola Mirotic Leaves Chicago – Pays Off

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bulls were publicly shopping Nikola Mirotic, among others, during the 2016-2017 season’s trade deadline. So as Mirotic enters the offseason as a restricted free agent, it should hang in favor that the Bulls will not match any high-end offers that may come his way. The destination rumored the most was the Los Angeles Clippers. With a cloud of uncertainty hanging over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin entering free agency, the Clippers have many decisions to make. But the addition of Mirotic will not be one to alter that decision one way or another. If the Clippers stay together, they could add Mirotic to help take them to the next level. If Griffin leaves, Mirotic may have a chance to prove himself.

2. Chris Paul Gets The Max – Flops

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest storyline of the NBA offseason is if the Los Angeles Clippers will dismantle. That decision hangs heavily on whether their point guard will decide to leave or not. Chris Paul is regarded as one of the league’s best players, but the truth is his team has never made it to the Western Conference Finals. Despite being a team loaded with talent at the All-Star level as well as in their role players, something is not clicking in Los Angeles. Still, it looks like Paul will warrant a max contract even if some fans and teams feel he does not deserve it. The Spurs, Knicks, and Pelicans all have popped up as possible destinations for the point guard. The Spurs probably would not offer him a max deal, and the possibility of him teaming up with friend LeBron James falls under the same category. If Paul does get a max, it will be with a team that he will likely find the same playoff failures with.

1. George Hill Stays In Utah – Pays Off

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

He is not Chris Paul, but George Hill has been a vital piece on getting the Utah Jazz back in the playoff picture. He has been a vital compliment to All-Star Gordon Hayward, and if Hayward decides to stay, he will likely want Hill right there beside him. He will not be pursuing max money ,although a nice payday should still be expected. The Jazz will have the ability to keep the duo together, as it looks like Derrick Favors will not be extended following the 2017-2018 season. Favors will likely become a trade piece as the Jazz look to the future. Expect George Hill and Gordon Hayward to remain in Salt Lake City as the Jazz continue their move forward.

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