The NBA has steadily been on the rise in popularity for almost a decade now, and much of the reason for this trend is parity in the league. The NBA has a lot of player movement every offseason, which enables many different teams to get better fast. This summer is shaping up to be a very interesting one for free agents and teams trying to attract big names to their city.
The NBA is set to begin a new television deal next season. This new TV deal will bump the NBA salary cap up by at least $20 million, and some are estimating it could increase the cap up to over $100 million, from the $63 million it was at this past season. With this enormous influx of money, teams will be more likely to overpay many players during the free agency period. Most NBA players who have a player option in their contract are planning on opting out of their current deal and signing a new, more lucrative contract over the summer.
With this knowledge of the new TV deal, and the inevitable increase in players' salaries, some superstar players have been signing one- or two-year deals with player options. This allows them to become free agents every single season, and be paid as much as possible. What the one- and two-year contracts also do is create an incredibly deep and talented free agent pool every offseason. This summer could be the greatest free agent class ever seen in the NBA. As we get closer to the July 1 date, when teams are officially allowed to negotiate with players, we will hear a lot of rumors of potential landing spots for the free agents on this list, but today we will simply unveil the 15 best players who could be on a different team next season.
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15 Jeff Teague
The Atlanta Hawks point guard is highly regarded around the league. Most scouts and executives in the NBA rank Teague in the top 7-10 point guards in the NBA. At 27 years old, Teague is just entering his prime years, and many teams are looking to make the Hawks an offer for the young guard. The Hawks are willing to part ways with Teague as well, which makes it likely he will be on the move this summer. With the emergence of Dennis Schroder this season, the Hawks feel comfortable letting Teague go if they can get adequate compensation for him.
14 Harrison Barnes
The Golden State Warriors have been making history for two seasons. They are the deepest team in the NBA and Harrison Barnes is a big part of that depth. Barnes is a restricted free agent this summer, which means teams are allowed to offer him a contract and if the Warriors choose to, they can match the offer and keep him. It is widely believed that Barnes will be offered a max contract this offseason, and the chances of the Warriors matching such a lofty contract for, what they view as a role player, would be highly unlikely.
13 Jimmy Butler
The Chicago Bulls are at an odd place right now. They are not sure if they want to go for a title, or if they should try to rebuild. Butler is seen as an up-and-coming superstar and his trade value is high right now. If the Bulls do decide to rebuild, Jimmy Butler would be a major chip in helping them acquire young talent. The Celtics have already expressed interest in trading some of their young talent and draft picks in exchange for Butler.
12 Dwight Howard
Dwight Howard has bounced around the league quite a bit already in his career, so it should shock nobody to see no.12 in a new uniform next season. Howard has a player option this summer, and he will more than likely exercise that option and go into free agency again. Howard is an extremely talented 7 footer with a bit of an attitude problem, but his talent will unquestionably earn him something at least close to a max contract this offseason. It's highly unlikely it will be with the Houston Rockets.
11 Al Horford
Big Al is entering unrestricted free agency this summer, and he will likely be courted by many teams who have money to spend. Horford has been the best and most consistent player on a solid Atlanta Hawks team for the past few seasons. He will most likely get himself a max contract somewhere other than with the frugal Atlanta Hawks. Rumors have already begun about Horford moving to the Lakers and marketing himself and his personality.
10 Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose has not seemed to be able to bounce back from his knee injuries just yet. We have seen flashes of the old D-Rose, but the consistency is just not there yet. He has a very large contract at this point in time, but the Bulls are in that weird phase in which they have to decide whether they want to be contenders or rebuild. Rose, much like Jimmy Butler, would be a valuable trade asset, as long as the Bulls would be willing to eat some of the contract. There is definitely a market out there for Rose though.
9 Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk is a first ballot Hall of Famer, and the face of the Dallas Mavericks, but he is also getting up there in age and wants one more shot at a championship. The chances of the Mavericks winning another title before Dirk retires are very slim. Nowitzki has a player option, and has already said he will use it and become a free agent this summer. There are many teams out there that could use a veteran leader with some gas left in the tank, so expect to see Dirk receiving many offers this offseason.
8 Dwyane Wade
The mayor of Wade County and the face of the Miami Heat is, and always will be, Dwyane Wade. However, Wade is an unrestricted free agent this season and will likely have plenty of options. Wade signed a one-year deal with Miami last season, and he did so reluctantly. Wade wanted a longer, more guaranteed contract from the Heat, but they only would give him the one-year deal. Expect Wade to look around this summer if the Heat don't offer him what he thinks he deserves.
7 Carmelo Anthony
Melo is still under contract with the Knicks and the only way he would be leaving is if he accepts a trade, as he also has a no-trade clause in his contract. The idea of a super team with him, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Paul could be a reason for Melo to accept a trade. The Knicks are also in a rebuilding process, so trading Melo for a bunch of good young pieces could be a real scenario in the Big Apple.
6 DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan has spent his entire professional career north of the border in Toronto. He is a stellar talent who often gets overlooked due to the lack of exposure he receives in Canada. DeRozan has a player option this summer and he has made it pretty clear that he plans on using it. The Raptors have said they want to keep DeRozan, but the problem for the Raptors is that there are many other teams that want to sign DeRozan too.
5 DeMarcus Cousins
The Kings big man is often involved in speculative trade talks. He is regarded as one of the top 2 or 3 big men in the game, and still getting better. The Sacramento Kings have been a joke of a franchise since the early 2000s and there is no reason to believe it will get better soon, so Cousins would be right in requesting a trade, if he were to do so. Also, the Kings have been looking to acquire good young talent, and with the maturity issues shown by Cousins, it is definitely a decision whether or not the Kings should trade him.
4 Blake Griffin
The Clippers have yet to make the Conference Finals with the big three: Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. There is much speculation about trading one of the big three, and Blake Griffin makes the most sense. He is still very young, and he has the biggest upside among the big three in L.A. Injuries have become an issue for Blake, who also had a physical altercation with a training staffer for the Clippers, so maybe it is time for Blake to get a fresh start somewhere else.
3 Paul George
After one of the most gruesome injuries in sports history, Paul George is back, and as good as ever. George is one of the best up-and-coming players in the NBA right now, but the Pacers are not sure how to navigate their future with him. The interest around the league is through the roof of PG-13, and if the Pacers are interested in listening, they could likely get a king's ransom for the blossoming superstar. George also has expressed interest in playing with some of his friends later in his career, so it could be a good time for Indiana to get something in return, before George walks out on his own.
2 Kevin Durant
KD is one of the three or four best players in the game of basketball. He has a player option this summer, and plans on exercising it. The day after the Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs, there were rumors about 26 NBA teams going after him this summer. I want to know what teams decided they didn't want to go after him. Durant will likely sign another one or two-year deal with a player option again so he can get more money as the salary cap increases each year. The question is, will he chase the money or will he chase championships?
1 LeBron James
Still "The King," LeBron is the most coveted player in the NBA. James has a player option at the end of the season, and all indications are that he will be opting out and reevaluating his future. The Cavaliers will have an advantage when it comes to signing James, as they are his hometown team, and as he put it, "the city that raised him." But as we all know, LeBron James is not afraid to take his talents elsewhere if he doesn't like what is going on in his current location.
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