This summer’s free agency period is only a mere few hours away, so we have to make predictions right? The storyline for this free agency is that it is headlined by Kevin Durant, and is seen as the warmup for next year’s star studded offseason. However there are still many valuable pieces to be had, and with the salary cap escalating to new heights, almost all teams will be buyers in the market. Most of the major names will probably stay with their current clubs, while lower-level free agents will be looking to cash in on huge contracts, which could make for some very interest signings. From what rumours I have read, along with my own opinion on what would be the best fit, I’ll make a prediction/case on where I think each of the top 50 free agents will end up.
1) LeBron James (SF) – Player Option
- Finals MVP and Champion, will opt out and sign another 1 + 1 to remain the King of Cleveland.
2) Kevin Durant (SF) – Unrestricted
- Had the Thunder flamed out earlier in the playoffs, there could be a real chance of him leaving. But after their great showing, (even with the collapse to the Warriors), he too will sign a 1 + 1 to maximize potential earnings next summer. This will give the Thunder one more year to prove that they are the contenders we saw during this past postseason.
3) Andre Drummond (C) – Restricted
- Other teams will give him max-offer sheets, but they will be futile attempts. Drummond is the franchise piece on a rising Pistons squad. Expect to see him sign a 5-year deal very early.
4) Al Horford (C) – Unrestricted
- Horford is an interesting case. The Hawks are a well-coached team, a team that made the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago. However, now that they’ve traded Teague I don’t think they have enough talent to challenge the Cavs. I think Horford would be a great fit for Boston, they could finally have a number one option, one that would fit seamlessly into their system on both sides of the ball. Max deals will come at Horford from many teams, but a 4-year max from the Celtics would be his best option.
5) Hassan Whiteside (C) – Unrestricted
- Rumour is that Whiteside doesn’t want to wait around to see where other players end up, he wants to sign on July 1st; the first day of the free agency period. Because of this, I think he will leave South Beach. Pat Riley will want him to wait so he can make other moves, but with Whiteside finally getting an opportunity for major money it’s fair to see why he wants to sign fast. Expect the Mavs and the Hornets to be the frontrunners, and for Mark Cuban to finally get an athletic, defensive center on a 4-year max deal.
6)Mike Conley (PG) – Unrestricted
- The only high-tier point guard this offseason, Conley will be able to field many offers. It’ll be interesting to see if his supposed “promise”with Marc Gasol will be kept, or if he’ll consider greener pastures; possibly a team that can actually shoot 3’s. I think he’ll stay in Memphis and sign a max deal, but if he chooses to leave Dallas has to be the only option.
7) Dwayne Wade (SG) – Unrestricted
- Oh wouldn’t it be fun to see Wade team up with any of his banana boat buddies. Dream over, it won’t happen. Wade will take his sweet time, and then eventually return to Miami, probably on a short deal so he can get paid next summer if Riley can’t upgrade the roster.
8) DeMar DeRozan (SG) – Player Option
- Going into the season, I thought DeRozan was already gone to the Lakers. But after reaching the Conference Finals and further showing his bromance with Kyle Lowry to the media, I think he’ll sign a 5-year max with We The North.
9) Nicolas Batum (SG) – Unrestricted
- Batum is a very interesting player in this free agency period. Almost all teams would love to have his services after his strong showing in Charlotte as a top option, along with what he showed in Portland as a role player. Oddly enough, I think it would be great if he went back to Portland, but I see him getting maxed out by Michael Jordan and the Hornets.
10)Bradley Beal (SG) – Restricted
- Injury concerns continue to plague Beal, but he still has the talent to be a fringe All Star player and will command offers. I expect him to stick around in Washington though, he is the perfect backcourt mate for John Wall, and the Wizards have been loyal to him through these many injuries.
11) Dirk Nowitzki (PF) – Player Option
- The Warriors have been reported to be looking at Dirk. Yeah, not going to happen. Dirk is a Mav for life, expect him to take a pay cut once again so Mark Cuban can upgrade the roster. Could you imagine if Dirk did leave though? And not just leave, but went to Golden State? Watching Mark Cuban explode would be really entertaining.
12) Dwight Howard (C) – Player Option
- Oh Dwight. It’s starting to get difficult to remember the monster he was in Orlando, but luckily for him there’s so much money to go around this offseason that some team will offer him the max. And that team should be the Atlanta Hawks. If Al Horford leaves, (as I expect him to) bringing Howard into his hometown franchise would be a pretty good fit. Newly starting point guard Dennis Shröder is a pass first point who would excel in a pick-and-roll with Dwight. Not since the Orlando days has Howard played with a stretch-4, and pairing him up with Millsap would be a dream. Keeping Horford is option 1, but if that fails offering Dwight a max must be option 2.
13) Pau Gasol (C) – Player Option
- At age 35, Gasol will be looking to win another championship. And with the Bulls nowhere near contention, I see a Texas move coming. Can you think of a more Spurs-ian player than Pau Gasol? Whether Tim Duncan retires or not, Gasol teaming up with Aldridge will make for one of the best frontcourts in the league.
14) Chandler Parsons (SF) – Player Option
- Reports have said that Parsons wants nothing to do with Dallas, which is unfortunate because we won’t get to see any photos of him signing a contract in a nightclub. Philly will throw him a max offer, along with almost every other swingman type player like Parsons. If he wants to be “the man”, this will be the place to go. If not, Boston or Orlando would be good spots for him.
15) Evan Fournier (SG) – Restricted
- After trading Oladipo to OKC, Fournier will be brought back to Orlando. With Hezonja as the only other shooting guard option on the roster, Fournier will be looked to contribute significantly on offense.
16) Kent Bazemore (SG) – Unrestricted
- Bazemore may end up commanding more on the open market than the Hawks can afford, teams like Brooklyn, Utah, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and others who may not be able to attract the bigger names could offer him a large contract in order to hit the salary floor. My best fit for Bazemore would be Phoenix, one of their two point guards will probably be traded soon enough, Devin Booker is their young stud, but he is quite young, and P.J. Tucker may be slightly over the hill.
17) Harrison Barnes (SF) – Restricted
- Even after such a horrible Playoffs and Finals performance, Barnes will still receive max contract offers, plural. I think Minnesota would be a very interesting fit, dependant on if he would accept playing the 4 nearly full time. A fully spaced out system centered around Towns would be unbelievable within a few years. Philadelphia will almost certainly offer him a max deal, however if Golden State fails to coerce Durant into joining them, they won’t let Barnes walk away.
18) Jordan Clarkson (PG) – Restricted
- Teams needing a point guard will reach out with offers, such as Brooklyn, Detroit, and Sacramento, but expect the Lakers to match any offers. After the D’Angelo Russell snapchat debacle, Clarkson is a solid option for the future.
19) J.R. Smith (SG) – Player Option
- J.R. will opt out in the search of more money, teams will pursue other players before him, and he will eventually return back to Cleveland. I mean, after a summer of not wearing a shirt, won’t he want to experience that again?
20) Bismack Biyombo (C) – Player Option
- After Whiteside is gone, and with most seeing Howard as being over-the-hill, Biyombo will be the best available defensive anchor on the market. The Lakers, Trail Blazers, and Hornets will pursue him with near max, if not full max offers. If I were him, I would go to Portland, but the Lakers may offer him a shorter term max contract that could entice him more. He could get back into the market faster and earn even more.
21) Ryan Anderson (PF) – Unrestricted
- Sacramento, Houston, and Toronto are a few of the teams that will be looking for an upgrade at power forward, and on offense the spacing Anderson provides comes at a premium. The Raptors don’t have a ton of space, but if Anderson is looking to compete a move to Canada would be the best fit for him. If he’s looking to shoot at will and provide zero defense, going to Houston to team up with James Harden and Mike D’Antoni will be his choice.
22) Tim Duncan (PF) – Player Option
- Only two options here; take an incredibly cheap contract to return to San Antonio, or retire. I think the world would explode if he changed teams.
23) Marvin Williams (PF) – Unrestricted
- While he doesn’t offer the premier shooting and scoring that Ryan Anderson does, Williams can provide more on the defensive end. Expect the Raptors to pursue him hard if Anderson doesn’t work out, along with teams like Portland, Utah, Washington, and Sacramento. In Washington would be the best fit other than Toronto, he would fill the Jared Dudley stretch-4 position incredibly well. Charlotte will try to retain him, but the price tag may become too high.
24) Allen Crabbe (SG) – Restricted
- Crabbe will have plenty suitors, it will just depend on what kind of role he is looking for. If he wants to start, I think the Knicks could do much worse in finding a starting 2 guard. If he’s still willing to come off the bench, Utah or Washington would be good fits as well.
25) Jared Sullinger (PF) – Restricted
- The Celtics, like always, will try to swing for the fences for a major name in free agency. If they are successful, Sullinger will not be matched, however if they fail they will definitely consider bringing him back to bolster their frontline. Teams that could have interest would be the Lakers, Nets, or Mavericks, dependent on their other pursuits.
26) Evan Turner (SG) – Unrestricted
- Turner never lived up to expectations when selected 2nd overall by the 76ers, but playing for Boston has been the best situation for him. Reports are saying that he really wants to stick around and that would be the best option for him. The Celtics are a rising franchise, led by a great front office and head coach.
27) Ian Mahinmi (C) – Unrestricted
- If the Lakers haven’t snagged Whiteside or Biyombo, Mahinmi will be their man. The Wizards should give him a look as well with Gortat getting up there in age, the Bucks would also love to add a long defensive anchor to their lengthy squad.
28) Luol Deng (SF) – Unrestricted
- Deng is getting older but his corner 3 and strength at the power forward position is still worth quite a lot. His veteran presence would be great in situations like Toronto and Minnesota, both places where he could start at the 4 and play clutch minutes.
29) Jeremy Lin (PG) – Player Option
- Brooklyn and Sacramento will be looking for a point guard, and with Rondo being the only other one available I expect the Kings and their horrible organization to throw the kitchen sink at Lin. Sorry pal, the money will be great but get used to disfunction.
30) Festus Ezeli (C) – Restricted
- The Lakers are being linked to every center on the market not named Dwight Howard, so Festus very much so could end up there, who knows what the Lakers organization is thinking. But recent news says the Warriors are considering keeping Ezeli over Bogut, and it does make sense to do so. He’s much younger and still brimming with potential, so after the failed Durant sweepstakes they will have money to spend on matching any offer sheets.
31) Meyers Leonard (PF) – Restricted
- Had an off-season last year, plagued with injuries, but still has a sweet stroke for a big man. I like him staying in Portland as a part of their young nucleus, but could fit well on a team like Memphis who desperately needs shooting off the bench.
32) Dion Waiters (SG) – Restricted
- Before acquiring Oladipo, I would’ve expected to see Dion back in OKC after a strong playoff showing. But now, the outcome appears to be a bit murky. The two have a lot of comparable skills, and I can’t see them playing together off the bench. I see Dion’s hometown Philadelphia 76ers offering him a huge contract to come and start for them.
33) Mirza Teletovic (PF) – Unrestricted
- There should be many power forwards pursued first, but Teletovic does offer a lot of spacing off the bench. The Pelicans could look to him as a cheaper Ryan Anderson, or teams that need spacing such as Memphis or Sacramento.
34) Al Jefferson (C) – Unrestricted
- Tough to find a spot for Big Al, his skills don’t translate to the modern NBA but he would make for a great scoring big off the bench.
35) Jared Dudley (PF) – Unrestricted
- A do-it-all forward, Jared Dudley will be paid handsomely, both for his play and his locker room presence. I’d love to see him end up on the Pistons, a young up-and-coming team that needs backup help badly.
36) Rajon Rondo (PG) – Unrestricted
- Brooklyn Nets, 100%. I have no idea who will score in order for him to get 10+ assists a night, but Rondo will find a way. There is no better situation for him to improve his value, he will play as much as he wants and will control the ball.
37) Eric Gordon (SG) – Unrestricted
- He’s not the same player he was coming into the league, but if he stays healthy he is a great scoring option on the wing. Teams like Chicago and New York could use him, Memphis can always use 3-point shooting as well.
38) Joe Johnson (SG) – Unrestricted
- Go and chase rings Iso Joe. Many expected him to end up on Cleveland last year before spurning them for Miami. Take the veterans minimum and play with LeBron and co.
39) Tyler Johnson (PG) – Restricted
- Could command decent offers from teams that struck out earlier on better options, the Heat would love to keep him though as long as the price doesn’t get exponentially high.
40) Trevor Booker (PF) – Unrestricted
- Great energy guy off the bench, teams weak on the bench like Houston, Detroit, and New Orleans should take a look at him.
41) Boban Marjanovic (C) – Restricted
- First off, everybody loves Boban. He’s a bit old to command major money, but with the ridiculous amount of cap space the league has to offer, someone will swing for the fences by offering him a big contract. Atlanta could be a suitor, with Budenholzer coming from the Spurs system, Boban could fit in well as a bench contributor.
42) Deron Williams (PG) – Player Option
- Definitely not a starting calibre point guard in this league anymore, but more than capable as a backup point guard. Could get looks from Detroit if they strike out on other options, but would be interesting if Philadelphia was willing to pay him an excessive amount.
43) Aaron Afflalo (SG) – Restricted
- Not sure if he can find a starting job on a good team, but if he was willing to take a bench role the Clippers would be a great option for him. He could play the 2 or 3 off the pine, and possibly play in crunch time in small-ball lineups.
44) Matthew Dellavedova (PG) – Restricted
- Dellavedova is one of the dirtiest players in the league, and that was confirmed by the players vote. He should accept this role and join Detroit, start the Bad Boy Pistons version 2.
45) Maurice Harkless (SF) – Restricted
- Teams requiring wing depth; New Orleans, Memphis, L.A. Clippers, these would make for great fits for a young Harkless, a player who hasn’t been fully uncaged in this league yet.
46) Manu Ginobli (SG) – Player Option
- Same options as Tim Duncan; either take a minimum salary, or retire. I think Manu retiring is more likely than Tim.
47) Donatas Motiejunas (PF) – Restricted
- Wouldn’t it be funny if Stan Van Gundy lied about Motiejunas’s back problems in order to chase him in free agency without losing anything? Pistons make sense for him, he could allow them to play small and could play alongside Drummond when necessary.
48) Brandon Jennings (PG) – Unrestricted
- Should not be looked to start for any team, but would provide a solid 15-20 minutes off the bench for an upper class team. Indiana and Atlanta could look for bench scoring and playmaking.
49) Matt Barnes (SF) – Unrestricted
- Barnes is a veteran that hasn’t won anything in this league. However, with the cap spike, he could chase a long contract and financial security. It’ll be up to him, join a contender like San Antonio for cheap and a shot at a ring. Or go to Washington or another small-forward hungry team for a larger payday.
50) Joakim Noah (C) – Unrestricted
- A reunion with Derrick Rose seems inevitable at this point. Signing with New York would be the best option for Noah, and if he somehow can rewind the clock back a couple of years the partnership with him and Porzingis up front could be amazing.