NBA Free Agency Guide 2017

NBA Free Agency Guide 2017

Originally published June 30th, 2017

Let’s go back in the Wayback Machine to the long, long ago, when there was only one version of the iPhone and people still respected the American presidency. The year is 2008, and the Lakers are having a decent to OK season, locked in a battle for the #4 seed. This success is undercut, however, by season-long drama involving Kobe Bryant’s demand that the organization make moves to improve or he be traded elsewhere. The Lakers dangled a facetious trade of Bryant in front of the Chicago Bulls, but eventually ended up crafting a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies that shook the league to its core. The Lakers “swindled” the Grizzlies and general manager Chris Wallace of their Spanish diadem, forward Pau Gasol, for Donald Trump hand cousin Kwame Brown, future inmate Javaris Crittenton, the draft rights to a picture of fat Marc Gasol and two 1st round draft picks. In retrospect, the deal is pretty much a straight up trade of Gasol-for-Gasol with some players thrown in to make the salaries work. Not knowing what Marc Gasol would become at the time, the rest of the league proceeded to lose it’s f*cking mind.

Gregg Poppovich said of the trade, “What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension. There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

Solid idea, Pop. Of course, they already kind of have that. It’s called the league office. And giving GMs on other teams control over trade approval is how the CP3 veto happened. I’m sure everyone would love to keep you from trading for every single international player and seemingly broken prospect on Earth, but they can’t, so they don’t.

Basketball is the sport where it’s easiest to see the individual contributions of a player have direct impact on almost every play. Getting a superstar, through the draft, free agency or trade, can immediately catapult you into championship contender status. Team’s championship windows open and close based on the stars they are able to acquire and hoard simultaneously. The length of that window is entirely dependent on how long they can keep that core together before free agency and the lure of more dollars lures a key player elsewhere. The new CBA was designed with exactly that in mind, adding new contract provisions that allow incumbent teams to offer obscene amounts of money to keep their superstars.

The league has spent the last three weeks having a “Pop” reaction to the “Age of the Warriors.” There’s a league wide adjustment, or course correction, happening that will shape the next decade of championships. The Celtics traded the #1 pick to the Sixers three days before the draft, a pick they had seemingly coveted the entire year up until they didn’t. Three time All-Star Jimmy Butler is on his way from Chicago to Minnesota in a draft night trade. General manager David Griffin won Cleveland it’s first championship in 50 years in 2016, and is out of a job at the same time this year. The Knicks just gave Phil Jackson $24M to spend the remainder of his contract in Montana instead of Manhattan. Chris Paul dad-d*cked the CBA and managed to somehow trade himself to Houston, where there are decidedly less lobs, but WAY more James Harden (Also, no state tax. Bonus.).

And then tonight, free agency opens.

Some of the league’s most popular stars – Blake Griffin, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Gordon Hayward (OK, maybe not that last one) – will be on the market and the rumor mill has been turning on high gear since March. The cap didn’t rise nearly as much as people anticipated – in fact it went down a little – so many teams will be presented with tough choices after last year’s spend-it-all. The line between playoffs and rebuild is as thin as a poison-pill offer sheet.

We’ll go through every free agent, their noted possible destinations and what makes the most sense. To me, at least. Any restricted free agents – meaning those whose incumbent team will have a chance to match any presented offers – will be denoted by a double-asterisk (**)

  • Tony Allen (8.2 PPG, 1.3 APG, 3.6 RPG)
    • Age: 35
    • Former team(s): Memphis Grizzlies
    • Possible destination(s): MEM, GSW, DEN, BOS
    • Suggested destination(s): MEMPHIS.
      • The “Grindfather” limped into the end of last season which is never a good look right before your contract expires. However, his track record speaks for itself. A near liability on offense, but a stalwart defensively, this is definitely the back end of Allen’s career. But he could be a valuable bench piece on a champion. Boston has the dime store version of Allen on their roster already (Marcus Smart). Golden State is unlikely to have the cap room unless they let both Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston walk for nothing. Denver is attractive, but is looking to build around center Nikola Jokic with shooters, which Tony Allen is NOT. If Memphis is going to their grave clinging to that Grit N Grind identity, and I think they are, they’ll resign Allen.
  • Michael Beasley (9.4 PPG, 0.9 APG, 3.4 RPG)
    • Age: 28
    • Former team(s): Milwaukee Bucks
    • Possible destination(s): MIL, TOR, WAS
    • Suggested destination(s): TORONTO.
      • Beasley’s got a well-earned reputation as a head case, a former #2 pick who has had stints on six different teams and two separate seasons playing in China. However, he re-invented himself in the position-less Valhalla that is Jason Kidd’s Milwaukee Bucks, experiencing a renaissance year as the team made the playoffs. The Bucks do not, however, have the cap space to retain Beasley at a competitive price. Washington has too much money aimed at retaining Otto Porter, a younger version of Beasley. Toronto would make sense both in offensive fit, and because Masai Ujiri, Serge Ibaka, Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker (!) all could potentially walk this summer.
  • Kentavious Caldwell-Pope** (13.8 PPG, 2.5 APG, 3.3 RPG)
    • Age: 24
    • Former team(s): Detroit Pistons
    • Possible destination(s): DET, BKN, SAC
    • Suggested destination(s): BROOKLYN.
      • The man with the best “Key and Peele” name in the league, KCP finally lived up to his NBA2K sharpshooter rating, and brought his shooting percentages up to 45%/35%/83% splits. Far from elite, but more than respectable. Detroit, however, is more than likely to balk at any offer sheet they consider outrageous and just drafted Duke’s Luke Kennard in the lottery (#12) as KCP’s ostensible replacement. Sacramento is abnormally high on Buddy Hield in this type of role at a much cheaper price, so Brooklyn makes the most sense. The Nets are low on assets and looking to get into the business of cultivating young talent. At only 24, KCP fits that bill perfect and would be a great off-ball complement to the newly acquired D’Angelo Russell.
  • Vince Carter (8.0 PPG, 1.8 APG, 3.1 RPG)
    • Age: 40
    • Former team(s): Memphis Grizzlies
    • Possible destination(s): MEM, GSW, SA, CLE
    • Suggested destination(s): RETIREMENT.
      • Why in the world are we talking about a 40 year old Vince Carter? The man was given a birthday party by the Memphis chapter of the AARP last season. No, I am NOT making that up. But he had his best season in years, and was a legitimate contributor on a playoff team. Any team would be wildly unwise to rely on Carter as a crunch-time or go-to scorer, pretty obviously, but he could do well as a 7th or 8th man on an established squad. Depending on how their negotiations go with other free agents, Vinsanity is probably not a priority for Memphis. San Antonio makes sense from an optics standpoint, but not much else. If they wanted a left-handed old guy to ride the bench, they’d just re-sign Manu. Cleveland just went through this with Deron Williams. Spoiler alert: it didn’t go well. He can still get up, he can still wow a crowd, and he still looks the exact same as when he got drafted, but it might be time for Half-Man/Half-Amazing to fully hang it up.
  • Stephen Curry (25.3 PPG, 6.6 APG, 4.5 RPG)
    • Age: 29
    • Former team(s): Golden State Warriors
    • Possible destination(s): GSW
    • Suggested destination(s): GOLDEN STATE
      • I’m not wasting my time here. Steph is going nowhere. He’ll sign a mega-extension with the Warriors and is the odds on favorite to be the one member of this super-team that retires there. Riley Curry will rule Oracle like a tiny Queen of Dragons until at least her 16th birthday.
  • Kevin Durant (25.1 PPG, 4.8 APG, 8.3 RPG)
    • Age: 28
    • Former team(s): Golden State Warriors
    • Possible destination(s): GSW
    • Suggested destination(s): GOLDEN STATE
      • Not only has he already talked about taking a pay cut to make sure the Warriors are flexible enough to fill out the roster, Durant just won a ring, and Finals MVP while barely breaking a sweat. If leaving OKC last year was surprising, leaving the Warriors this year would be legitimite psychopath behavior.
  • Danilo Gallinari (18.2 PPG, 2.1 APG, 5.2 RPG)
    • Age: 28
    • Former team(s): Denver Nuggets
    • Possible destination(s): DEN, DAL, BOS, NYK, SAC
    • Suggested destination(s): SACRAMENTO
      • Gallo’s destiny is white, Italian Al Jefferson. An OK player who will mostly be remembered as the centerpiece in a trade for somebody much better at their position (Garnett-Jefferson, Gallinari-Carmelo). HIs career somewhat derailed by chronic knee injuries – he has NEVER played a full 82 game season – Gallo is a perfect player for the new NBA when healthy. A 6’10” forward with career splits of 42/37/83, Il Gallo could be an excellent stretch four for a contender, but will be seeking a contract between $15-18 million. The Knicks are a dumpster fire, Houston already has Ryan Anderson at the same price, Boston would sooner re-sign Kelly Olynyk for less if they miss on bigger targets, and Dallas’ biggest concern is keeping Nerlens Noel. Denver can offer him the most money and is the most likely leader in the clubhouse. But Sacramento is dying to host playoff games in that terribly named Sleep Train Arena. With no DeMarcus Cousins on payroll, and renouncing Ben McLemore and Rudy Gay, they are Jean-Ralphio style flush with cash.
  • Pau Gasol (12.4 PPG, 1.1 BPG, 7.8 RPG)
    • Age: 37
    • Former team(s): San Antonio Spurs
    • Possible destination(s): SA, OKC, NYK, TOR
    • Suggested destination(s): SAN ANTONIO
      • I’ll start by saying that this is not 2008 Pau Gasol. His free agency decision isn’t going to be nearly as seismic as his nominal trade was nine years ago. Pau is still a solid contributor on a Spurs team chock full of them (what else is new?). At 37, he will not command much attention or dollars, but is the kind of low post presence that could make a good team into a great one. He’s an above-average rim protector and can comfortably shoot out to 18 feet. New York was a long shot before Phil left, and they already have an aging center on their roster at too prohibitive a price to be traded (Joakim Noah). Toronto would be wise to aim younger than Pau, regardless of what intel they’ve gotten on Serge Ibaka pulling a Danny Almonte. The same is true for Oklahoma City, who have eyes to keep Taj Gibson after a mid-season trade. At the end of the day, Gasol probably rides into the sunset of his career in the shadow of the Alamo.
  • Rudy Gay (18.7 PPG, 2.8 APG, 6.3 RPG)
    • Age: 30
    • Former team(s): Sacramento Kings
    • Possible destination(s): HOU, OKC, DET, MIA
    • Suggested destination(s): OKLAHOMA CITY
      • You’ll notice this is the first player where the incumbent team isn’t listed as a possible destination. Well, Rudy Gay told Sacramento he was opting-out of his contract in October. Which, in NBA terms, means “I’m leaving and I ain’t coming back”. Also worth noting that every team Rudy Gay leaves manages to improve in his absence (Memphis, Toronto). He’s a walking test of the Ewing Theory so expect Sacramento to make the playoffs. Houston doesn’t have the room for him anymore, so they’re out. Detroit is intriguing, but I fail to see how that makes them any better (Meaning they’ll offer him the max. You watch.) While I’d like to see him in Miami, they just re-upped Hassan Whiteside and Tyler Johnson with max deals last summer, and will need to do the same to keep suddenly-super Dion Waiters on the roster. Oklahoma City desperately needs a second shot creator to stagger against Russell Westbrook’s minutes. This certainly isn’t their first choice, but if they wait and play the market correctly, they could have Gay as a very cheap small forward/sixth man.
  • Taj Gibson (10.8 PPG, 0.8 BPG, 6.2 RPG)
    • Age: 32
    • Former team(s): Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Possible destination(s): OKC, DEN, GSW, MIA, MEM, LAL
    • Suggested destination(s): DENVER, MEMPHIS, LA LAKERS
      • No one was probably more surprised by his midseason trade from the Bulls than Taj Gibson. But given the moves that came afterward pointing towards total rebuild, it’s clear they would have probably let him walk this summer anyway. Which isn’t a knock on Taj. He’s still a viable performer with a reliable mid-range shot and excellent 1-on-1 post defense. Of the six teams listed above, staying in OKC makes the most sense. He performed well there as an Ibaka replacement, and is well suited to playing alongside Russell Westbrook (aka he’s a rim protector who doesn’t need the ball much). Problem is the Thunder don’t have much space, and they need flexibility for Russell Westbrook’s free agency next summer. The Lakers are probably wary to spend any big contract money on an over-30 forward, but have more cap space than anybody. Miami should and will be focused on retaining Dion Waiters, and Memphis has in-house decision to make before looking elsewhere. Though if the Grizzlies can get Taj on a cheap deal and let Zach Randolph walk, they should 100% do it. Denver could swoop in and offer Taj the max if they whiff on Paul Millsap. His market is robust, but also remarkably tenous and dependent.
  • Manu Ginobili (7.5 PPG, 2.7 APG, 2.3 RPG)
    • Age: 39
    • Former team(s): San Antonio Spurs
    • Possible destination(s): SA
    • Suggested destination(s): RETIREMENT
      • The playoffs were a fun little trip down memory lane for all of us. WE got to remember long hair Manu and how unbelievably devastating he could be. But those days are over. That luxurious mane has been replaced by a bald spot. The brilliance only comes in flashes. There’s not even a guarantee that if he decided to play, San Antonio would have the room (or need) for him at such an advanced age and reduced skill set. Best case scenario is he joins TNT and we get to hear Charles Barkley should “GINOBILIIIIIIIII” until the end of time.
  • JaMychal Green (8.9 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 0.4 BPG)
    • Age: 27
    • Former team(s): Memphis Grizzlies
    • Possible destination(s): MEM, BKN, DEN, SA
    • Suggested destination(s): MEMPHIS
      • They don’t fit into this age of basketball whatsoever, but I want this version of the Grizzlies to exist forever. Which is why they need to make sure they re-sign JaMychal Green. They’ve got Marc Gasol and Mike Conley locked up for at least the next three years, more than enough to build on, but Green is the type of transitional player they’ll need if they want to make real moves. A sort of Draymond Green-lite, JaMychal can guard all five positions, plays inside and out. His three point shooting needs work, just like everyone else on the Grizzlies’ roster not named Conley, but, that was the case with Draymond, too and will hopefully come with time. If Memphis isn’t careful, I wouldn’t be shocked to see San Antonio steal him. Memphis has to hope for a cool market with only $13M in cap space. The Spurs are more than ready to take full credit for the jump Green is bound to make next season, furthering their own “Fountain of Youth/Patriot Way”-esque mystique.
  • Blake Griffin (21.6 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 0.8 BPG)
    • Age: 28
    • Former team(s): Los Angeles Clippers
    • Possible destination(s): LA, OKC, WAS, BOS, PHX
    • Suggested destination(s): LA CLIPPERS
      • Two days ago, this would have been a much different blurb. Chris Paul is now a member of the Rockets, ending any hope for the resurrection of Lob City, may she rest in peace (2011 – 2017). Griffin has had a multitude of injuries over the past several years – both knees, his back, his foot, a broken hand, and a staph-infected elbow – which explains the Clippers’ reticence to offer him the full 5-year max for which he’s eligible. However, when healthy, he’s the ultimate point-forward. He’s improved his game every year since his rookie season, adding a solid midrange to three point game, full court handles, and improved court vision. Blake could stay and be the man in LA – he was here before CP3, after all – but it would restrict his ceiling. And who’s to say they don’t blow the whole thing up in a year when DeAndre Jordan is eligible to opt out of his deal. We all know how Doc Rivers feels about rebuilds (spoiler alert: he hates them). Joining Isiah Thomas, Al Horford and perhaps Gordon Hayward or Paul George in Boston to make a run at Cleveland and his first Finals makes the most sense. Going elsewhere means sacrificing millions for the legacy play, and Blake is a hard guy to read, so at this point, I can’t rule anything out. Washington would have to make a choice between Griffin and Otto Porter. Blake would certainly be an upgrade over Taj Gibson in OKC, but it’s difficult to know how Billy Donovan would utilize him in a Russ-centric offense.
  • Tim Hardaway Jr.** (14.5 PPG, 2.3 APG, 2.8 RPG)
    • Age: 25
    • Former team(s): Atlanta Hawks
    • Possible destination(s): ATL, HOU, LAL
    • Suggested destination(s): ATLANTA
      • Tim Hardaway Jr. found himself in the shadow of Stone Mountain, and posted career highs in every statistical category in the Hawks backcourt alongside Dennis Schroeder. With Dwight Howard gone, the spacing should revert back to what we saw from the 60-win Hawks team that flamed out against the Cavaliers. This gives Hardaway open shots and driving lanes that weren’t there a year ago, in addition to the opportunity to replace Howard’s production. Houston is out of the running with Chris Paul on their books (unless they can find a way to unload Ryan Anderson in the next 12 hours). The Lakers may be reticent to spend any newly acquired space on a young piece when they have a roster full of them, and having signed Jordan Clarkson, a similar player, to a discounted deal last offseason. The Hawks may be in for a rebuild with Paul Millsap liable to walk in free agency, and have designs on a new, state-of-the-art arena. They need exciting, young players like Hardaway to keep the team relevant until they find another star and matching his offer sheet will be key.
  • Gordon Hayward (21.9 PPG, 3.5 APG, 5.4 RPG)
    • Age: 27
    • Former team(s): Utah Jazz
    • Possible destination(s): Celtics, Heat, Jazz
    • Suggested destination(s): BOSTON
      • I’ve known Gordon Hayward was a bad man every since he almost beat Duke in the 2010 National Championship damn near by himself. Utah lost it’s biggest bargaining chip – an extra year, and more money – when Hayward was not voted All-NBA. And the race for his affection seems to vacillate between tight and wide-open from day-to-day. First, his wife puts his newborn in a Celtics romper. Then, Hayward goes on a podcast and says in the battle of Aaron Rodgers vs. Tom Brady, he’s Rodgers all day and he “hates Tom Brady”. Now, Danny Ainge’s son, running for Congress in Utah, is touting his states’ relaxed taxes on millionaires as reason for Hayward to stay. (Sidenote: The NBA is an absurd excuse for a business entity and I f*ckin’ love it.). You can’t count out the Miami Mafia, but Pat Riley would have to be a wizard to stay under the cap. The Jazz may have had a sentimental edge with the “we drafted you” angle, but Boston one-ups them with the Brad Stevens connection. Hayward in Boston makes me angry, which means it will happen. And if they can somehow still manage to trade for Paul George? Woo, buddy….
  • George Hill (16.9 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.4 RPG)
    • Age: 31
    • Former team(s): Utah Jazz
    • Possible destination(s): UTA, SA, DAL, MIL, DET
    • Suggested destination(s):
      • The point guard market is very odd this summer. It was robust, and then suddenly shrank. Knowing where one guy will go is very dependent on the others. If Jrue Holiday leaves the Pelicans, they’ll be desperate. Orlando seems like it will never admit that the Elfrid Payton experiment was a failure. The Knicks were interested in retaining Derrick Rose before firing Phil Jackson. Now, sans triangle, they are said to also have renewed interest in Jeff Teague. Utah is going to try hard to keep Hill. And keeping him may be key to keeping Hayward. But paying them both could get tricky, and would result in giving up on several young-but-injured players like Rodney Hood, and Dante Exum.
  • Jrue Holiday (15.4 PPG, 7.3 APG, 3.9 RPG)
    • Age: 27
    • Former team(s): New Orleans Pelicans
    • Possible destination(s): DAL, MIL, NOP, NYK, BKN, CHI
    • Suggested destination(s): NEW ORLEANS, MILWAUKEE
      • Jrue is a stronger man than most. The ordeal he went through with his wife – US soccer star Lauren Holiday’s – tumor removal and the birth of their unborn daughter is harrowing enough. The fact that he played 3/4 of the season after that is strength and courage on steroids. He’s grateful to the Pelicans for their support during that. It means a lot and counts for something. He’s sure to give whatever offer they proffer serious consideration. But he will command more elsewhere. Is the lure of playing with Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins enough, even with the poor results of a small sample size? Can they sell him on being the key to it all alone, and worry about the particulars later?
  • Serge Ibaka (14.8 PPG, 1.6 BPG, 6.8 RPG)
    • Age: 27
    • Former team(s): Orlando Magic, Toronto Raptors
    • Possible destination(s): TOR, BOS, POR, DEN, CHI, SAC
    • Suggested destination(s): TORONTO, CHICAGO
      • Ibaka went from being trapped in the basketball purgatory that is Orlando to a playoff run with the Raptors. He had his moments, but is still at best a 3rd or 4th guy on a playoff team. He strays out to the perimeter more than he should, but is still elite defensively (“I GUARD EVERYBODY….’CEPT LEBRON”). With his flexibility, he can perform well in short stretches at the three, or play the five in smaller lineups. Toronto will want to keep him, but their priority is Kyle Lowry. Portland has NO cap space. Sacramento and Denver will be willing to throw larger deals at him, but the majority of the market has settled around $20 million. Of course, he could always doing something REALLY crazy and sign with the Cavs for the vet minimum….
  • Andre Iguodala (7.6 PPG, 3.4 APG, 4.0 RPG)
    • Age: 33
    • Former team(s): Golden State Warriors
    • Possible destination(s): GSW, MIN, MEM, BOS, TOR
    • Suggested destination(s): MINNESOTA
      • It seems odd that the lynchpin of the Warriors future hangs on Andre Iguodala. But then again, he was the first big free agent they signed, AND won a Finals MVP. We’ve covered Steph getting the max, and we’ve covered Durant saying he’ll take a pay cut. I’d remind everybody that saying and doing are different things, and it’s also only a difference of $3-4 million. But it’s not the money that’s necessarily prohibitive, but how long they’ll be paying it Iguodala will want a three-year deal to likely ride into the twilight of his career. This would overlap with Year 3 of Curry and Durant’s mega-deals, and Year 1 of a Klay Thompson extension. The Warriors would be firmly in luxury tax territory with Draymond Green’s free agency looming the following summer. It could be, as Zach Lowe intimated, “an unprecedented tax burden”
  • Joe Ingles ** (7.1 PPG, 2.7 APG, 3.2 RPG)
    • Age: 29
    • Former team(s): Utah Jazz
    • Possible destination(s): ORL, UTA, WAS, CLE, BKN
    • Suggested destination(s): ORLANDO, UTAH, BROOKLYN
      • It’s weird that I included Ingles. I know. But he’s a prime candidate for one of two things: adding depth to a championship team or getting an outrageous deal from a terrible one. There is no in-between. His performance this year – and in the playoffs – was just good enough to prove his mettle, but not transcendent enough to make him a household name. Dumb GMs will overvalue it, and smart ones will understand it for what it was and try to convince him of his actual value. Orlando makes the most sense, having traded Serge Ibaka and wanting a stretch-4 replacement, to overpay for his services. Utah will want to keep him, but not at the cost of losing Hayward or George Hill. He would make Cleveland better, assuredly, but they don’t even have a new GM yet. For hilarity’s sake, I’d like to see Orlando offer him the max, but the realist in me says he stays in Utah and becomes the white-guy heir apparent to Jeff Hornacek.
  • Kyle Korver (10.1 PPG, 1.6 APG, 2.8 RPG)
    • Age: 36
    • Former team(s): Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers
    • Possible destination(s): CLE, GSW, LAC, HOU, CHI, UTA
    • Suggested destination(s): CHICAGO, UTAH
      • Ashton Kutcher in a basketball jersey didn’t end his Cavaliers tenure with much flare. Missing key shots in the Finals, and negating some of the great play from earlier rounds, Korver enters free agency looking at the likely last deal of his career. His stretch with Cleveland shows that he still has value as a deep threat for your second unit, but his days as a starter are over. Any number of contenders will take shots at him. The Clippers would have made the most sense, looking for a JJ Redick replacement, but just acquired Lou Williams to pair with Jamal Crawford. They’re all set in the “bench shooting” department. Portland’s intriguing, but has no cap room. And it’s a move I’d love to see Milwaukee make if that money was not tied in Matthew Delevedova. At the end of the day, seeing him back in Chicago or Utah to end his career on the vet minimum makes a LOT of sense.
  • Kyle Lowry (22.4 PPG, 7.0 APG, 4.8 RPG)
    • Age: 28
    • Former team(s): Toronto Raptors
    • Possible destination(s): TOR, PHI, SA
    • Suggested destination(s): TORONTO
      • The Raptors are what they are because Kyle Lowry showed up. He improved his game and brought a much needed toughness and steady hand to their haphazard offense. He knows that, Drake knows it, GM Masai Ujiri knows it and all of the Six knows it. That doesn’t mean Toronto wants to pay a 33-year old Lowry upwards of $25 million dollars. Especially when the team is no closer to beating Cleveland and needs cap flexibility to sign better complementary pieces (like Ibaka). Is Lowry up for taking a pay cut or sacrificing that fifth year? How much does DeRozan’s max deal play into this? They seem to be best friends, and it’s hard to imagine Lowry leaving DeMar behind. Philly has found it’s point guard, and San Antonio, out of the Chris Paul sweepstakes, isn’t likely to break the bank any more than Toronto is.
  • Patty Mills (9.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 1.8 RPG)
    • Age: 28
    • Former team(s): San Antonio Spurs
    • Possible destination(s): SA, NYK, WAS, MEM
    • Suggested destination(s): SAN ANTONIO
      • If I were a betting man, I’d say Patty Mills takes no other meetings and stays right in San Antonio for a super reasonable contract. Yes, the Knicks will throw a bunch of money at him. As will Washington if Porter’s offer sheet gets too high. But to pass up the chance to be the point guard on a team that will make the playoffs every year until the universe’s heat death is too good a deal to pass up.
  • Paul Millsap (18.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 0.9 BPG)
    • Age: 32
    • Former team(s): Atlanta Hawks
    • Possible destination(s): ATL, DEN, TOR, POR, SAC
    • Suggested destination(s): ATLANTA, DENVER, TORONTO
      • Millsap’s market is still strong, but may have cooled slightly from where it was a year ago through no fault of his own. He’s still a defensive stud who can give you 20-25 points per night. However, the cap smoothing may have teams wary of throwing a maximum contract at him. Denver and Sacramento are more than likely to do so, sacrificing any future flexibility for a star right now. Sacramento has seven – yes, seven – draft picks on their roster and is dying for any veteran to fill the Boogie-shaped void. Denver is more attractive roster wise with Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris, Jr., possibly Gallinari, Kenneth Faried and Emmanuel Mudiay. However, they ahve several extensions coming up next summer so the shelf life is limited. Toronto was rumored to have had a chance at Millsap before snatching Ibaka from the Magic, but it’s unclear if the interest was mutual. The fit would be incredible, with Millsap being one of the few humans on Earth who can “check” LeBron. Cleveland is willing to spend the money, are the Raptors?
  • Greg Monroe (11.7 PPG, 6.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG)
    • Age: 27
    • Former team(s): Milwaukee Bucks
    • Possible destination(s): MIL, ORL, BKN
    • Suggested destination(s): MILWAUKEE
      • Greg Monroe was the man in Milwaukee for all of one season before his world got Fresh Prince flipped upside down. Jason Kidd came in, installed Giannis as a point guard and unleashed the league’s lengthiest lineup. None of this suits the plodding Monroe, who left Detroit to be the man, but has been supplanted by the Greek Freak. Still, he serves a purpose in Milwaukee, with a potent scoring punch off the bench, and is insurance for what might be a long line of Jabari Parker injuries.
  • Nerlens Noel (8.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.0 BPG)
    • Age: 23
    • Former team(s): Philadelphia 76ers, Dallas Mavericks
    • Possible destination(s): DAL, MIN, TOR
    • Suggested destination(s): DALLAS
      • Noel was trapped in the big-man backlog of Philly before a mid-season trade brought him to Dallas. Noel is the shot-blocking, rim running big man Mark Cuban has coveted since he let Tyson Chandler walk in the summer of 2012. It’s the reason he threw the bank at DeAndre Jordan only to have it fall apart at the last minute in a hail of emojis. Dallas will give the world to Noel, and have the league’s most technologically advanced arena and practice facility. He’ll have other suitors, but being a starter with a young core of Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith, Jr., Seth Curry, Yogi Ferrel and Dwight Powell is enticing.
  • Kelly Olynyk (9.0 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 0.4 BPG)
    • Age: 26
    • Former team(s): Boston Celtics
    • Possible destination(s): BOS, DEN, DET, PHI
    • Suggested destination(s): DETROIT
      • Boston has pipe dreams of an IT4-Bradley-Hayward-PG13-Horford starting/finishing five to challenge Cleveland next year. It’s ambitious, but not altogether unrealistic. They have the assets – between their interminable amount of combo guards and draft picks – to make a run at PG13 and the cap space to make Hayward an attractive offer. A necessary cap casualty in that is Kelly Olynyk. He might be a hero in Boston for his Game 7 performance against Washington this year, but that doesn’t make him untouchable. It’s not so much that his price would be prohibitive as much as it wouldn’t be worth the tax penalty they would take, just to tout additional depth. They could find a veteran to fill his role fairly simply if they wait out the market into August. That leaves Olynyk looking elsewhere. Losing KCP’s shooting, and needing a way to clear Drummond’s clogged paint, Olynyk serves two purposes there.
  • Chris Paul (18.1 PPG, 9.2 APG, 5.0 RPG)
    • Age: 32
    • Former team(s): Los Angeles Clippers
    • Possible destination(s): LAC, HOU, SA, CLE, MIL
    • DEFINITE destination(s): HOUSTON
      • This would have been fun to do. Too bad Chris Paul knows the CBA better than any team, apparently, opted into the last year of his deal, and engineered a 7-for-1 trade to the Houston Rockets two days before free agency even opened. I REALLY hate this trade. So much so that I’m going to write ANOTHER Chris Paul trade piece. I know it’s going to end poorly. I just don’t know how yet. Read about this there.
  • Otto Porter (13.4 PPG, 1.5 APG, 6.4 RPG)
    • Age: 24
    • Former team(s): Washington Wizards
    • Possible destination(s): WAS, MIA, BKN, SAC, IND
    • Suggested destination(s): WASHINGTON
      • Otto Porter won the Shaqtin’ a Fool MVP his rookie year. As far as first impressions go, it wasn’t great. Wearing rec-specs like a black Kurt Rambis ALSO didn’t help. But two years later, Porter is a key piece of a team that came within one game of the conference finals. His 3P% has improved every year (19% – 33% – 36% – 43%), he averages almost 2 steals per game, and has morphed into an elite 3-and-D forward. I’m not gonna mince words – the Wizards HAVE to re-sign this guy if they’re serious about contending. Any of the teams listed above would be willing to have him – even at the max. If Washington can find a way to re-sign Porter and include Marcin Gortat’s $13 million contract in a trade for something worthwhile? Baby, you got a stew going.
  • Zach Randolph (14.1 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 0.1 BPG)
    • Age: 35
    • Former team(s): Memphis Grizzlies
    • Possible destination(s): MEM, GSW, CLE, OKC, WAS, CHI
    • Suggested destination(s): CHICAGO, MEMPHIS
      • Zach Randolph is his generation’s Charles Oakley. A consummate tough guy, respected by his peers league wide, and an all-time member of the “Don’t Want to See in Him a Dark Alley, But Would Want Him On My Side in a Fight” team. But his days as a viable member of this league may be over. A back to the basket bruiser disrupts the spacing of any offense or defense predicated on pace and space. Chicago will make a spirited run at him to fill out their roster with veterans. Memphis’ interest will depend on how their negotiations with Tony Allen and JaMychal Green go, assuming their priorities line up in the way I believe they do.
  • JJ Redick (15.0 PPG, 1.4 APG, 2.2 RPG)
    • Age: 33
    • Former team(s): Los Angeles Clippers
    • Possible destination(s): LAC, SA, CLE, BKN
    • Suggested destination(s): BROOKLYN
      • Redick’s reputation has been virtually unchanged since college. He’s a sharpshooter. The man shoots. He’s crafted himself into a more fulfilled player on both ends, but his chief talent remains the same. With Chris Paul’s departure, it becomes all but a certainty that Redick leaves the Clippers. He has spent a great deal of time training with Jeremy Lin in Brooklyn, and is exactly the kind of veteran player they want to add this summer. Redick will have offers from championship teams as a 6th or 7th man off the bench to provide instant offense and spread the D, but would have to take a massive pay cut to join either San Antonio or Cleveland. What Brooklyn can – and will – offer might be too much to deny.
  • Andre Roberson (6.6 PPG, 1.0 APG, 5.1 RPG)
    • Age: 25
    • Former team(s): Oklahoma City Thunder
    • Possible destination(s): OKC, ORL, MIN, PHX
    • Suggested destination(s): MINNESOTA
      • Roberson is a sort-of enigma in today’s game. He can’t shoot – from anywhere. Not from the free throw line (52%) and not from three (26%) – facts that became alarmingly apparent during OKC’s playoff games. Roberson was valuable because of his stellar on and off ball defense against the other teams chief ball-handler, leaving Russell Westbrook with more energy offensively. However, his dismal shooting is such a liability that Oklahoma City often can’t afford to have him on the floor. And in that case, what use is he? His value is high, but only in the context of very specific cases. It’s worth it to keep him around, but at what cost? And if Tom Thibodeau, a defensive coach/savant/enthusiast, offers him the house to essentially tutor Andrew Wiggins, is it even worth it?
  • Derrick Rose (18.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.9 RPG)
    • Age: 28
    • Former team(s): New York Kazoos (formerly known as the Knicks)
    • Possible destination(s): NYK, MIN, ORL, UTA, GSW
    • Suggested destination(s): NEW YORK
      • Penny Hardaway for a new generation, Derrick Rose’s story is one of either apathy or perseverance depending on who you ask. There was a game this season where he just didn’t show up. Tip off is happening and nobody can find Derrick. He proved that he’s still got something resembling a fastball, but is so ball dominant that it hinders the rest of his teammates, most notably Kristaps Porzingis. Between Melo and D-Rose, the Unicorn couldn’t get an entry pass if his life depended on it. The Knicks are said to have strong interest, but the point guard market has depleted with Chris Paul’s trade and the Sixers drafting Markelle Fultz #1. The first player signed – whether it be Jrue Holiday, Kyle Lowry, George Hill or Patty Mills – is likely to set the market and if Rose can’t get what he wants in New York (unlikely), he could easily go elsewhere.
  • Jeff Teague (15.3 PPG, 7.8 APG, 4.0 RPG)
    • Age: 29
    • Former team(s): Indiana Pacers
    • Possible destination(s): ATL, DAL, ORL, OKC, HOU
    • Suggested destination(s): ORLANDO
      • Indiana being in flux really messes with whatever plans Jeff Teague had for this offseason. They need the flexibility to take on new contracts from any Paul George trade, and re-signing a mid-level PG approaching 30 when they can Patty Mills for less seems….unwise. And Kevin Pritchard is no fool. Teague will likely be one of the later signings, after the initial brouhaha and dust has settled. Whoever is left begging at the PG position will inquire about his services, and he’ll be more available than an anime fan on prom night.
  • PJ Tucker (6.7 PPG, 1.2 APG, 5.8 RPG)
    • Age: 32
    • Former team(s): Phoenix Suns, Toronto Raptors
    • Possible destination(s): TOR, DEN, SA, ATL, CLE
    • Suggested destination(s): SAN ANTONIO
      • Fun fact: anyone who has ever garnered a nickname derived from the following formula – “best player in the world”-stopper – has never and will never live up to it. Andrew Toney could slow down Bird, couldn’t stop him. John Starks could slow down Michael, couldn’t stop him. Ditto Ruben Patterson and Kobe. PJ Tucker is the LeBron-stopper and his fate will be no different. We all know there is no stopping LeBron, but we like to believe we found the secret. The Raptors believed that with PJ. He’s certainly the prototype for the KIND of player that gives LeBron issues – big, long, strong and unafraid – but he wasn’t able to actually DO it. Even saying all that, it’s in Toronto’s best interest to bring him back. They have no one else that’s even remotely serviceable at the three or four for that job, and putting DeMar DeRozan on LeBron is a suicide mission. Which means they won’t do it, and San Antonio will grab him for nothing, using him as a nickel-slots version of Kawhi and we will all hate them for it. Mark my words.
  • Dion Waiters (15.8 PPG, 4.2 APG, 3.3 RPG)
    • Age: 25
    • Former team(s): Miami Heat
    • Possible destination(s): MIA, HOU, NYK, IND, ATL
    • Suggested destination(s): MIAMI
      • Bill Simmons likes to joke that he’s the only person in the world that still owns real estate on Waiters’ Island – ostensibly the only person who still believed Dion Waiters was an All-Star NBA player. Well, Simmons might as well be Richard Branson at this point because Waiters stock has never been higher. He either fully realized his potential or re-invented himself in Miami this season, leading the Heat on a miraculous 13 game win streak and almost all the way to the 8 seed in the East. Waiters has improved his outside shooting (35% to 40%), jumped up 6 PPG in his scoring average, and posted career highs in assists and rebounds. All under 27, having Dion, Tyler Johnson, Justise Winslow and Hassan Whiteside all under contract sets Miami up beautifully for the next four to five years, minimum. Pat Riley doesn’t miss opportunities like this. Except for that one, pretty obvious, glaring time.
  • Nick Young (13.2 PPG, 1.0 APG, 2.3 RPG)
    • Age: 32
    • Former team(s): LA Lakers
    • Possible destination(s): Literally, anybody with cap space
    • Suggested destination(s): Swaggy P does not adhere to suggestions. Swaggy P does what he wants. Swaggy P should defintely stop calling himself Swaggy P when he gets 4yrs/$54M from the Magic.

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