The NBA regular season is coming to a close, which makes the 2017 NBA Free Agency period that much closer. Free agency will have some big names that could change teams and change the landscape of the NBA altogether.
With the market being what it currently is in the NBA, many of these players will be requesting a lot of money, if not max contracts. It'll be interesting to see what teams with a ton of money will do — the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, and the Denver Nuggets could come to mind. You've also got teams with well-known names and marketability like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers — what could they be up to?
The NBA Draft will obviously have an effect on how teams go after players. Some teams may be more desperate to grab a big name, and some teams will play it more conservative and attempt to grab a player in this loaded draft instead of signing a player to a big free agent deal. This time, we shall be focusing on the top 20 free agents, and where they may end up this coming offseason.
The verdict of where these players will go is based off of speculation and rumors, and where the players would logically want to go to, among countless other reasons. This list will rank the twenty NBA free agents and where they will end up signing. Also, this list will not have the likes of Andre Iguodala, J.J. Redick, and Dirk Nowitzki because they just missed the top 20, or in Dirk's case, it looks as though retirement may be in the cards for him this offseason.
Note: Included in this list are NBAers who have a Player Option in their contracts.
20 Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose has said that his main priority is winning. While that is still to be seen how much his passion for winning outweighs his desire to get a big payday, the Oklahoma City Thunder could make him a great addition to their squad. Rose is not the MVP-caliber player he was before all the injuries piled up, but he can be a solid member of a championship roster. The mentality of Derrick Rose is that of a fearless guard that drives to the basket to get his points and has a killer instinct (even if all that has been watered down a bit over the last couple years). Who does that sound like? That sounds like Russell Westbrook, and with the Thunder not winning a ton, that may help Rose out as well as the Thunder would be more accepting in giving him more money than say, Cleveland, San Antonio or Golden State.
Verdict: Oklahoma City Thunder
19 Nerlens Noel
Nerlens Noel is an intriguing restricted free agent who was traded from the Process-loving Philadelphia 76ers to the Dallas Mavericks. Noel has potential; there’s no doubting that, but with injuries and not as much game time as most teams would want to see out of him, his stock could be lower than it should, or he could be a bust if a team decides to come in with a bag of cash.
With the Dallas Mavericks trading for Noel before the trade deadline, it would be difficult to see them letting him walk. The Mavericks have attempted to grab a center for the future for the last couple years through free agency or trade deadline, and it has always fallen through the cracks. Now they may have a future center, allowing them to focus on getting great wing players and guards to complement Noel in Dallas. There may be some teams that find the potential for Nerlens Noel tempting and offer him something nice, but getting Noel through trade makes it seem as though Mark Cuban has a vision of what he wants to do with the former 6th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft. They will match whatever offer comes Noel’s way.
Verdict: Dallas Mavericks
18 Greg Monroe
This decision comes down to if Greg Monroe wants to make money (and then likely be traded), or if he wants to go to a team of his choosing. If Monroe decides to opt into his contract, that will allow his salary for the 2017-2018 season be at $17.9 Million. However, the former Georgetown big man isn’t starting for the Milwaukee Bucks, and with the way that the NBA is moving to more of a small-ball style, Monroe could see a lot of teams become uninterested in his game going forward. The Houston Rockets could use a player like Greg Monroe as an upgrade to Nene and have him compete with Clint Capela as starting center for Houston. They can get Monroe on a decent deal, which could happen with the way they have been winning, and with possible MVP winner James Harden on the roster. If Monroe decides to take less, Houston could be a great fit.
Verdict: Houston Rockets
17 Pau Gasol
Pau Gasol should not move from right where he is. The San Antonio Spurs are in a position this season to possibly win the NBA Championship, and with Gregg Popovich as the coach, the Spurs are always in the title race. Though Gasol has had his minutes reduced, it’s for the betterment of his team and the betterment of himself. Playing about 25 minutes per game can keep Gasol’s career going for a couple more years while being on a competitive team with a mix of veterans like himself and Tony Parker as well as young stars like Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge. Gasol should elect to stay in San Antonio to finish out his career because this team easily offers the best situation for him to get a fair amount of minutes and have an opportunity for him to get his third NBA Championship.
Verdict: San Antonio Spurs
16 Dwyane Wade
Dwyane Wade is playing with his hometown Chicago Bulls after an ugly divorce from the Miami Heat organization that he won three championships with. Unfortunately for Wade, his run with the Chicago Bulls hasn’t been what everyone was dreaming about. Wade got to check off his bucket list, now that he's playing for the Bulls, but he currently is averaging a career low in assists, career low in field goal percentage and nearly a career low in points (only averaging less in his rookie season). Now it’s time for him to make a smart business decision and go to a winning team that can limit his minutes and use him effectively at his age. Rejoining his friend and former championship teammate LeBron James is the smartest move Dwyane Wade can make, he’ll have the opportunity to win a championship while adding some depth that the Cleveland Cavaliers need to continue to become a dynasty.
Verdict: Cleveland Cavaliers
15 Mason Plumlee
The Portland Trail Blazers decided to trade Mason Plumlee to the Denver Nuggets before the trade deadline. According to Nuggets GM Tim Connelly: “The deal was not done for today. It was done for the years going forward ... We looked at our free agent board, and he was a guy we circled early in the process and, quite frankly, we did not feel confident that we could get him without a move like this.”
Plumlee is having an excellent year and improving, so his new team will definitely want to keep him. Look for Denver to match any kind of deal that Plumlee gets offered, as it doesn’t seem like Plumlee will want much of a move. This relationship is very new, so it’ll be interesting to see how many years the contract will be, whether there will be a long commitment or a just a year or two as they continue the feeling-out process.
Verdict: Denver Nuggets
14 Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday will have a difficult decision in this year's offseason: does he want to stay in New Orleans and play with Anthony Davis and recently acquired DeMarcus Cousins or will he want to move on and ply his trade somewhere else? One of those places Holiday could go to and likely will decide to go to is the New York Knicks. His brother Justin Holiday is already on the team, and the New York Knicks will be desperate to obtain quality players. Furthermore, the Knicks may pay him handsomely to be the new starting floor general at Madison Square Garden. He could move back to Philly where he was drafted and play with Embiid and Okafor, but the marketing for himself in New York will be tough to pass up. Letting Holiday go may not be the worst choice for New Orleans as he is injured quite often. With the plethora of top PGs in the league currently, they may decide Holiday isn’t worth the money he’ll be asking for.
Verdict: New York Knicks
13 Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague has had an excellent season with his hometown Indiana Pacers. Now comes to the fact that Indiana relationship with Paul George may be over by the end of next season and if players know that they may find there isn’t enough installed in the Pacers to make them a desirable team to sign with. That will not happen with someone like Jeff Teague who is now 28 years old, can establish himself as a star for the Pacers in his last years of his prime and become a staple for his hometown team. Teague is currently with the right team at the right time, his play combined with the young Myles Turner at center could make it easier for Larry Bird to persuade future free agents to go to Indiana. This offseason is a crucial time for Teague to decide his future and staying right where he’s at is the smartest decision.
Verdict: Indiana Pacers
12 Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
The former eighth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft has started to shine in Detroit and will be seen as a valuable free agent because of his three-point shooting and defensive ability. Caldwell-Pope is a restricted free agent, and ultimately it will be the decision of the Detroit Pistons on whether they want to keep him or let him leave. After everything that has been said, it would seem that Detroit isn’t making sure they keep the University of Georgia alumni no matter what.
Unfortunately, Caldwell-Pope just got arrested for DUI, and that will make teams uncertain on whether they want to give him a big payday. Teams like the Sixers, Nets, and Lakers may try to lure Caldwell-Pope in, and with the Lakers being such a well-known team that just hired Magic Johnson to the front office, look for Los Angeles to be the new destination for Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
Verdict: Los Angeles Lakers
11 Chris Paul
The question of where this future Hall of Fame PG lands is fascinating, but for the moment it looks as though Paul will stay with the Clippers. This is based on rumors and speculation that Paul has “verbally agreed” to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers. If these rumors turn out false, then the likely outcome could be the Cleveland Cavaliers. A lot of this depends on what is Paul’s mindset at the end of the season; he could want to compete for a championship seriously and could link up with good friend LeBron James and maybe Dwyane Wade to get very close to LeBron’s dream of playing on the same team together.
While it doesn’t seem likely Carmelo Anthony would be able to join the Clippers unless there was a trade, look for Paul to wait. We could see that team one day, but it’s likely to happen in a few years and not just yet. Paul should cash in on his player option and remain a Clipper for just a little bit longer. LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and the crew will still be there competing for titles after next season, so Paul doesn’t have much to worry about.
Verdict: Los Angeles Clippers
10 Kevin Durant
Kevin Durant left Oklahoma City and teammate Russell Westbrook in the summer becoming the number one villain in all of the NBA. But doing that allows Durant to possible win multiple championships with one of the greatest teams that have ever formed with Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and others. Whether Kevin Durant wins the NBA Championship this year or not, there is no better place other than maybe Cleveland to win championships, and cement his legacy as one of the greatest players of all time, which he can be. There will be no leaving the Bay Area in Durant’s future, so you can look for KD to either sign a one or two-year deal or a long-term contract with Golden State. He’s already the villain; he’s on a possible dynasty team, so why would KD ever leave this situation? Don’t worry Warriors fans; the Cavs vs. Warriors saga will continue as Kyrie and LeBron are likely to face off against Curry and Durant once again.
Verdict: Golden State Warriors
9 Otto Porter Jr.
Finally, Otto Porter Jr. has looked somewhat worthy of that number three pick that he was taken at in the 2013 NBA Draft. Now the question is, how much is Porter worth? His improvement couldn’t have come at a better time for him than in this current NBA market; there is a real chance of for him to get a max deal. If the max deal is offered to Porter, then it would be smart to sign with whoever offers that. As a restricted free agent, Washington will be able to match any deal offered and they will. Porter has found his niche as a player and Washington are thankful he has as they can look to bolster their frontcourt as they already have John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr himself. Maybe a superb big man can allow the Wizards to contend for a title seriously.
Verdict: Washington Wizards
8 Gordon Hayward
Gordon Hayward is the player I see as being most likely to move. That's not to say I think that Hayward doesn’t like being in Utah or has problems with the Jazz. Instead, I just see the Celtics as too perfect of a match. Current Boston head coach Brad Stevens was the head coach at Butler when Hayward took them to the national championship and nearly defeated Duke for the title. Also, Hayward is an Indianapolis native, and it has been rumored that Paul George wants to align himself with Hayward. There is a small possibility that Hayward could go to the Pacers, but the Celtics are winners and have a shot to win a championship with Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Al Horford, potentially adding Gordon Hayward to that team with a coach that can use him to the best of his abilities. The Boston Celtics could be an extremely dangerous team coming out of the Eastern Conference.
Verdict: Boston Celtics
7 George Hill
George Hill’s season has been better than he could have dreamed of. In fact, Hill could be argued as the most impactful player on the Jazz’s season this year. Without George Hill, Utah ranks as 11th in offense and 3rd in defense, but 3rd in offense with him and 1st in defense with him. He’s an incredibly valued member of the Jazz, and even though Hill is now in his early-30s, Utah will not want to let him walk. With the chances of Gordon Hayward leaving in free agency, Utah will want to give the fans and the team someone to look to lead them and attempt to possibly bring in a good free agent. All that is very hard to accomplish without George Hill. Look for teams like the Sixers, Magic, Nuggets and the Knicks to throw a ton of money at Hill, but the smartest decision for Hill and the Jazz would be not to try to fix something that is working great.
Verdict: Utah Jazz
6 Serge Ibaka
Serge Ibaka's move from Orlando to Toronto was one that benefited both teams and Ibaka himself. Ibaka was not going to remain in Orlando after the end of this season, and they needed to get something out of him while Toronto needed a better big man in the frontcourt as they attempt to make a deep run in the playoffs. Still only 27 years old, Ibaka has a lot of game left in him and can be a beautiful, underrated piece on a good playoff team, which is exactly where Ibaka is at in Toronto. He can play defense, grab rebounds and still can put up a respectable amount of points. There certainly could be teams that throw big time money at Ibaka, and that could lure him away from Toronto, so this prediction is not a lock whatsoever. But staying with Lowry and DeRozan in Toronto is the smartest move for the power forward from Congo.
Verdict: Toronto Raptors
5 Danilo Gallinari
The Italian-born forward is underrated and one of the best foreign players of the last few years. He can shoot threes, he is lengthy and defends three positions. The Nuggets have an interesting offseason on their hands this season, they have Gallinari that could opt-in, they will likely be re-signing Mason Plumlee, plus there are a plethora of free agents they can go after. After six seasons with Denver, look for Gallinari to look for greener pastures and move in the offseason. The Los Angeles Clippers could use a lengthy forward and would have the cap space if they lose Blake Griffin to free agency as expected. The Clippers will also want to make a splash to keep Chris Paul on their team and bring others to the team before the Lakers, and Magic Johnson lure them to the other team in the Staples Center. A move to Los Angeles would also be great for Gallinari's marketability, and he'll earn more money than just the contract that he'll attract this offseason. The Houston Rockets could also be in the mix if both Gallinari and Mike D'Antoni wish to unite in Houston.
Verdict: Los Angeles Clippers
4 Paul Millsap
Paul Millsap is always underrated and underappreciated; maybe it was playing the first few years of his career with the Utah Jazz, a team that doesn't get much attention. It may be because he isn't a flashy player. However, Millsap is a great player, maybe not a superstar, but a great player nonetheless. Millsap's contract is currently at just above $20 million, and if he decides to opt into his contract for the 2017-2018 season, Millsap will make just under $21 and a half million. Millsap certainly is worth the deal in today's market but Millsap may want a longer deal and could opt out of the contract. However, it makes the most sense for Millsap to opt into his contract and look to get a longer deal done during the season with Atlanta. In the end, Paul Millsap and Atlanta will remain together.
Verdict: Atlanta Hawks
3 Kyle Lowry
Kyle Lowry is an all-star PG who makes his team better as a playmaker. Expect Kyle Lowry to have teams throw max contracts to him and attempt to make him feel like the bride during free agency. But don't expect Lowry to be leaving the Toronto Raptors anytime soon, he is having a career year yet again and continues to improve, even though he is one of the best guards in the entire league every season. Barring any odd or unexpected reasons, there isn’t a chance he doesn’t opt into his player option. The backcourt of the Toronto Raptors is elite with Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. Everything is clicking right now in Toronto with their top backcourt, and if their global ambassador Drake can help bring another star to the Raptors, they will be a team to fear for many years to come.
Verdict: Toronto Raptors
2 Blake Griffin
It looks like the relationship of Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers has soured, and both will be mutually departing from one another and move on. So what team makes sense for Blake Griffin to sign to? Well, first the team will have to have the money to pay Griffin who will be asking for a max contract and second, it is likely that Griffin will want to compete for a championship that has evaded the talented Clippers teams over the years. Also, Blake Griffin from Oklahoma City and went to the University of Oklahoma. The writing's on the wall, and Blake Griffin teaming up with the possible 2017 NBA MVP Russell Westbrook in his hometown to try to dismantle the villainous Golden State Warrior team where one of their stars left Oklahoma to win championships, it’s the perfect story, and it has to happen.
Verdict: Oklahoma City Thunder
1 Steph Curry
There is no way Steph Curry is leaving Golden State. I know there are some rumors that Curry may end up going to Charlotte because it’s his hometown team and it’s where his dad played, but there should be no worry for Warriors fans. Golden State has arguably the best chance to win the NBA Championship this year, as the “Babyface Assassin” will want to stay with a team that last year had the best record in NBA history and was one game away from winning the championship.
The Warriors' primary focus should be to keep their current team intact and they should. Maybe they could afford to lose Andre Iguodala for someone else in free agency, but they will keep the former MVP and one of the best players in the world in the Bay Area. It's not likely that Steph pulls a LeBron-type move and signs a one-year deal and opts out to get more money, so you can look for Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors to have a very long marriage.
Verdict: Golden State Warriors