The NBA Draft was only the appetizer. Starting at 12:01 AM EST on July 1, free agency officially gets underway. Let’s take a look where some of the top names could land.
The Obvious (No brainers to stay put)
LeBron James – LeBron has been a free agent twice, and left his team both times. If you think that’s happening this summer, you’re crazy.
Kawhi Leonard – The most important Spur. He’s restricted, so yeah, no chance.
Marc Gasol – Says he will only be meeting with Memphis. Not going anywhere.
Draymond Green – Says he will only be meeting with Golden State … despite being restricted. I think the Warriors made it pretty clear he’s not going anywhere.
Jimmy Butler – Wants a short-term deal, but like all the other young names on the list, he’s restricted. No matter what length deal he signs, it will be with/matched by Chicago.
Tim Duncan – Come on …
Brandon Knight – Reports that he’s already agreed to a 5 year/$70 million deal to stay put in Phoenix. A little pricey, but he’s improved and the television money is almost here.
The Mysteries (Will these guys be on the move or staying put? Along with each player’s most likely destination, a dark horse landing spot and a team that thinks they’re in it, but has no chance.)
LaMarcus Aldridge – Most Likely: Spurs Dark Horse: Hawks No Chance: Blazers
He’s leaving Portland (although the Blazers wont give up hope), but Aldridge has a ton of options. The most heralded free agent on the “mysteries” list is going to be on every team’s list, and it sounds like he’s going to take meetings with a lot of them. Someone out east like the Celtics, but more likely the Hawks, could make him a good pitch. The Spurs are the frontrunners, however. Kawhi is their priority, but San Antonio is crafty enough to get both deals done while retaining Timmy and Manu on the cheap. Watch out, NBA.
Kevin Love – Most Likely: Cavs Dark Horse: Rockets No Chance: Suns
When Love went to Cleveland, we assumed he would opt out this summer to be a free agent. He did, but it’s no longer a no brainer to sign long-term alongside LeBron and Kyrie. Thanks to his spotty play, and the emergence of Tristan Thompson (who will definitely be locked up by Cleveland), we have some questions now. We’ve all heard about the Lakers and Celtics, but being spotted poolside with LeBron is a giveaway as to his most likely option, though. Cleveland is the safe bet.
DeAndre Jordan – Most Likely: Clippers Dark Horse: Lakers No Chance: Knicks (yes, they somehow feel they have a chance)
The Clippers are going to try like hell to hang on to DJ, but Jordan is going to to explore. The biggest threat will be the Mavericks. They’re no dark horse, though. Mark Cuban’s offer will have Jordan strongly considering Dallas. I still can’t make them the favorites, but the Mavs are nearly equals with the Clippers at this point as a realistic landing spot. If the Lakers make some kind of splash early on, maybe their name gets involved. This feels like one of the biggest toss ups in free agency and it will come down to the Clips and Mavs.
Brook Lopez – Most Likely: Nets Dark Horse: Blazers No Chance: Everyone else
Lopez opted out of his deal in Brooklyn, but it’s anticipated the reason is simply to jump on long-term. The Nets don’t really have any options. They’re way over the cap, so the only way to sign good players is by re-signing their own. The Nets need Lopez much more than Lopez needs the Nets, which means he will still listen. He doesn’t like change, though. Most teams aren’t even wasting their time here. I tossed the Blazers in for fun. Maybe when Aldridge leaves, Portland makes a pitch to the Lopez twins to join forced again.
Dwyane Wade – Most Likely: Heat Dark Horse: Cavs No Chance: Lakers
Wade opted out of $16 million for next season with hopes of signing a three-year deal with at least the same annual salary. He’s going to get it, and Miami may even offer more than that. The Heat are in question, though. They just landed a nice piece to help rejuvenate their roster in Justise Winslow, but Goran Dragic opted out before Wade. IF he leaves, expect the Cavs and Bulls to be in the mix. Don’t ask me how, but those teams would find ways to acquire him if he wanted to play there. Lakers rumors are swirling, but the last thing they need is an old SG that keeps getting hurt.
Goran Dragic – Most Likely: Heat Dark Horse: Lakers No Chance: Knicks (again)
As I said with Wade, it feels like things are going to fall back into place in Miami. However, if they don’t retain that core, Dragic is still interested in the Lakers. The problem now, L.A. just drafted D’Angelo Russell. But if a DeMarcus Cousins trade were to happen, the Lakers could look to add Dragic as the third wheel behind Kobe and DMC.
Greg Monroe – Most Likely: Knicks Dark Horse: Celtics No Chance: Blazers
Monroe is out of Detroit (and he also isn’t going to consider replacing LMA in Portland, as some feel he may). The young big isn’t in the top tier of free agents, but he’s very talented, and is rumored to want to make a decision about his future on Day 1 of the process. The Knicks actually can find a way to make this happen, so they’re not as dead in the water as some may think. Is Monroe the savior? Nope, but if they get him on the right contract it’s a step in the right direction. The only problem is that Monroe is looking to make a quick decision, while the Knicks will be looking for better options. Expect the Celtics to make their pitch too. They desperately need bigs.
Paul Millsap – Most Likely: Hawks Dark Horse: Everyone No Chance: 76ers
Millsap is an awesome fit anywhere. The Hawks signed him to a fantastic 2-year/$19 million deal in 2013, so I favor them to keep their All-Star in Atlanta. Teams will be after him, though. Anybody from the Spurs using Millsap as a LaMarcus Aldridge safety plan, or a young team bringing him in for some immediate help makes sense. If not Atlanta, don’t rule anyone out, except for the Sixers, of course.
DeMarre Carroll – Most Likely: Raptors Dark Horse: Knicks No Chance: Hawks
Carroll needs to cash in, so he’s going to go where the money is. He hasn’t made much in his career, so this is his chance. He’ll make more next season that he has in his entire career thus far. Again, the Hawks have a good thing going down in ATL, so why not just keep Carroll and Millsap? Well, they may not be able to afford it, and Millsap is likely a priority. This means Carroll could be the odd man out. The Raptors have the most money to spend, and could use Carroll, which makes them a serious option. There’s mutual interest with the Knicks too. Like I said, he goes where the money is, and although everyone prefers he stay put, it might not be realistic.
Tobias Harris – Most Likely: Celtics Dark Horse: Pistons No Chance: Magic
Harris is restricted, so the Magic can match any offer. In most other cases, that would mean he’s staying put. The money projects to be too high for Orlando to get in the bidding, though. Harris is a combo forward, and the Magic just used the No. 4 pick in 2014 on PF Aaron Gordon and the No. 5 pick in 2015 on SF Mario Hezonja. The Celtics have money to spend, and need a scorer like Harris. Obviously, they have bigger plans in mind, but if they don’t work out, Harris could be in the cards. Maybe the Pistons swoop in and max Harris out to replace Monroe, though.
Tyson Chandler – Most Likely: Bucks Dark Horse: Clippers No Chance: None
Everyone has a chance when it comes to Chandler (besides Philly, of course). He’s shown that he has no problem bouncing around his entire career, yet, as a shot-blocking center, he’s always in demand. Don’t be surprised to see an offer from any team. One team that may surprise you is the Bucks, who have taken a huge interest in Chandler as their center. They’re a young team, but they feel they can win now. If Jordan leaves for the Mavs, I’d expect the Clippers to try and overpay Chandler to join them. This would require a probable sign-and-trade.
Paul Pierce – Most Likely: Clippers Dark Horse: Celtics No Chance: Wizards
Pierce is the hardest to predict. Money isn’t really an issue, but what does Pierce want most? He’s an old school guy, so opting out with the Wizards tells me that he doesn’t plan on returning. The Clippers have practically no money, so I have no idea why they’re my favorites. It probably gives him the best chance to win, so maybe they figure out a way to make it work. If they don’t, Pierce could return to Boston for a couple of reasons. They could make moves to lure him there and sell him on winning, or Boston may just need to spend money, and offer their hometown hero a big contract so they don’t get weighed down long-term.
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