Free Agency Predictions
“Sources say” season is upon us already, and this year promises to be a wild one. With the cap spiking up to $94 million this year, almost every single team has money to throw at free agents, and you know what that means? Some awful, awful contracts are about to be offered by NBA franchises desperate to fill a need this offseason. Just to sum up what’s about to happen; Festus Ezeli and Harrison Barnes will be making significantly more money than Stephen Curry next season. That, in and of itself, would make for a crazy free agency, but it will most definitely not stop there. To predict what’s going to happen starting July 1st would be foolish, but I’m going to try anyways.
Kevin Durant– There has been plenty of speculation about KD’s possible destinations, including Washington, San Antonio, New York and Golden State. Durant says he wants to win and some will say the Warriors or Spurs are his best option, but his Thunder nearly beat Golden State in last year’s WCF and I don’t see him leaving a situation with the young core of Westbrook, Adams, Oladipo and himself. And regardless of where he lands, he will most likely sign a 1 year max deal with a player option for a 2nd, maximizing his earnings potential since the cap jumps yet again in 2017, and he reaches 10 years experience in the NBA, which will bump him into an even higher maximum salary.
Lebron– The King isn’t abandoning his land after a historic Finals victory, and I see him signing a deal similar as Durant, in order to keep his salary at its maximum possible level. The real stories for the Cavs this summer will be how much JR & Delly get paid, and if they hold onto Kevin Love. All signs point to GM LeBron sticking with this group for another go-around next season.
Andre Drummond (Restricted)- Under Stan Van Gundy the Pistons have been rebuilding on the fly, and they can’t let their defensive anchor get away. Detroit is going to match any offer that Drummond receives, which will almost certainly be a maximum deal.
Al Horford– Horford is the biggest question mark coming into this free agency; does he stay with the solid team Atlanta has put together, or does he leave for greener pastures? Atlanta may have the allure of offering more long term money, but ultimately I think Horford will end up in Boston next season. Danny Ainge struck out on draft day, and he needs to grab a quality veteran to alleviate some of the scoring load off of little Isaiah Thomas. It may be the first of many moves for the Celtics, who have set up nicely as a future destination for disgruntled DeMarcus Cousins. But look out for the Magic, who seem to be making an aggressive play for the playoffs this season.
Mike Conley– Mike Conley has been criminally underrated his entire career, but his next paycheck is about to make up for all of that. Conley will be offered max contracts from multiple franchises looking to upgrade at the most competitive position in the NBA. One of these potential suitors is the Dallas Mavericks, who are desperate need of a PG and will look to pry Conley away from Memphis. Mark Cuban had his free agency prize swept out from under him last summer, so I don’t see him losing this battle. I expect to see Conley playing alongside Dirk this upcoming season.
Hassan Whiteside– Whiteside has already said publicly that he’s looking to find the best situation for himself, and he isn’t concerned about loyalty, which I’m sure is wonderful news for Pat Riley to hear. Nonetheless, I believe he will be back with the Heat come next summer, considering that Riley always gets his guys, and Chris Bosh’s health scare may make Whiteside an even more essential component of this team. Watch out for the Lakers and Mavericks, though, they both can make him a huge offer, and the Heat’s cap situation is a bit stressed with Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Tyler Johnson also needing new contracts.
Dwight Howard– Any team that signs Dwight will no doubt be kicking themselves for overpaying an aging, injury prone center that hasn’t been incredibly popular amongst his teammates throughout his career. The Knicks will undoubtedly try to make a move, which would create a team eerily similar to the 2012 Lakers; an aging chucker, a point guard with health issues, and Dwight. But I have faith that all the acid Phil Jackson did in the 60’s hasn’t completed fried his brain, and that Dwight will sign with the Portland Trailblazers, setting him up in a low expectations environment that won’t damage his fragile psyche. Keep an eye out for Dallas if they strike out on Mike Conley, though.
Bradley Beal (Restricted)- The Wizards are not letting Beal go, especially since their pipe dream of acquiring hometown hero Kevin Durant has fallen by the wayside. Look for them to lock up their injury-prone SG to a 5 year max deal.
Nic Batum– Batum fit with the Hornets perfectly last year, and he played himself into a max contract this summer. Charlotte would look foolish to trade for him on a 1-year deal and not re-sign him, so I expect Batum will be back on the roster, boasting a $20+ million dollar salary. I’m very bullish on the Hornets this year, and if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist comes into this season with a serviceable jump shot, they have a shot at the 3 seed in the East.
Dwyane Wade– Flash has been generous to the Heat his past few contracts, giving up money to allow Pat Riley to work his magic, and it has been successful. I see Wade allowing Riley to have one more summer with some extra cap space, and a 1 year, $12 million dollar deal seems more than reasonable. But it remains to be seen what the Heat are going to do with this extra room.
DeMar Derozan– It would be a shame if the Kyle Lowry & DeMar Derozan bromance was broken up, but thankfully it seems unlikely that Derozan will bolt for the allure of Los Angeles. The Raptors will get a chance to run it back with the backcourt that carried Toronto to the best season in franchise history. Look for Derozan to sign a 5 year maximum deal.
Tim Duncan– Tim Duncan has accepted his offer to coach the Monstars and will be moving to Moron Mountain this fall. But actually, Tim is essentially playing basketball on one leg nowadays, and his productivity dropped off a cliff last season, but it looks as if he may give it another go next season. He’s going to sign another team-friendly deal, allowing the Spurs the flexibility to go after a free agent like Mike Conley or Pau Gasol.
Dirk Nowitzki– Unless Dirk pitched a shitty start-up company to Mark Cuban in the offseason, he will be back with the Mavs on a deal similar to Duncan’s. Dirk wants to win now, and foregoing his money will give Dallas a fighting chance in bringing a quality PG or C to the squad.
Chandler Parsons- Chandler’s numbers fell last year after coming off a microsurgery on his knee. In any other season that would probably mean less money, but almost every team has cap space this year, so I have no doubt that Parsons will be signing a max deal in a the next couple weeks. The Mavs have their priorities elsewhere, and as a result I believe Chandler will go to Memphis, giving them perimeter shooting that they haven’t seen since Mike Miller.
Pau Gasol– At the tail-end of his career, he’s looking for a contender, and San Antonio would seem to fit the bill, but his lack of speed would not be much help for a Spurs team lacking in athletic big men. The New York Knicks look to be a nice pairing for Pau, as he will come cheaper than Howard, and will be a quality mentor for Kristaps Porzingis as he transitions into the Knicks’ cornerstone.
Bismack Biyombo– Bismack has no offensive basketball skills whatsoever, but he what he lacks in skill he makes up for in defense and athleticism. He’s 23 (allegedly), and many teams will throw huge offers at him. The Lakers have more than enough cap room to do so and will still have flexibility going forward, so I think he ends up in Los Angeles, anchoring their defense.
Ian Mahinmi– Mahinmi had a career year this past season, and lucky for him he’s going to be paid handily for a job well done. Division rival Chicago will be looking for replacements at the center position, and he seems to be a great fit to protect the rim for a Bulls team that will be sorely lacking in perimeter defense. Chicago may offer him huge money on a short term deal to keep their long term flexibility, and set their sights on summer 2017 to make a huge splash.
Festus Ezeli & Harrison Barnes- The aforementioned Warriors duo is in line for some hefty raises come next season, and it doesn’t seem like Golden State is willing to pay up to keep both of them. The odd man out here is Ezeli, as the Warriors drafted what seems to be his replacement in fellow Vanderbilt center, Damien Jones. Barnes may have had a terrible Finals performance, but his normally good shooting and defensive versatility will be needed moving forward, especially if Iguodala begins to show signs of aging. Ezeli could end up with the Mavericks if they strike out on Mike Conley and Hassan Whiteside, or if Biyombo doesn’t head to LA, look for the Lakers to make Festus a lucrative offer.
JR Smith– It’s been the summer of JR in 2016 so far, and it won’t be stopping anytime soon. JR has the Cavs front office backed into a corner; they are way over the cap, and have to pay the man to have a quality SG on the roster. #teamswish
Joakim Noah– The beloved Bull has likely already seen his best days, but there will still be plenty of interest in Joakim. Derrick Rose has already stated publicity that he wants him, and Tom Thibodeau would love to have Jo’s tenacity on the court up in Minnesota. Can you imagine how intense that team would be? Kevin Garnett, Joakim Noah and Tom Thibodeau all on the same team will either destroy Karl Anthony Towns or create the greatest basketball player of all time.