Another wild NBA free agency is just a few days away. The major story is where KD will decide to hunt championships, but there are a lot of other good players that will potentially be changing uniforms.
Here’s the top-10 free agents in this class (but really the top-12 because Durant and LeBron are too obvious).
1. Kevin Durant
As you know by now, Durant is one of the most sought after free agents off all-time, and is about to make a major decision. Returning to OKC for one season and then re-evaluating next summer seems like the most likely option. However, Durant is set to meet with the Clippers, Heat, Celtics, Spurs and Warriors too. Although Golden State is the favorite if KD does leave the only franchise he’s known, USA teammate Carmelo Anthony will be in his ear all week talking up the Knicks.
2. LeBron James
Nothing to see here. There was some talk that if LeBron came though on his promise, he could leave Cleveland. That’s not the case. At least not this summer. There is talk that LeBron does still want to reunite with Dwayne Wade somewhere down the line with buddies Chris Paul and ‘Melo. I guess we’ll wait and see if it ever comes together.
3. Andre Drummond
Drummond is the next best name on the board, but don’t get too excited unless you’re a Pistons fan. Detroit is already planning on offering Drummond a max contract (which he’s worth), and since he’s restricted, Drummond couldn’t even leave if he wanted to. Drummond may never be the best scorer, but everything else he brings to the table is so valuable.
4. Hassan Whiteside
Whiteside is such an intriguing name this summer. He’s been an elite center at times, but he’s only been in the spotlight briefly after taking years to work his way back into the NBA. But make no mistake, he’s going to have his choice of plenty of max offers to select from. Dallas has made it clear Whiteside is its top option. Miami desperately wants to bring him back. And the Lakers will be lurking in Hollywood. Expect another 5-10 teams to even jump into the mix and make this a pretty wild chase.
5. Al Horford
Horford is on the wrong side of 30 now, but he’s still going to get tons of interest on the open market. Atlanta figures to be in the mix, but will Horford even want to return after the Jeff Teague trade? Horford can still bring a lot to a team as a versatile player on both ends of the floor. Expect teams like Miami, Boston, Portland, San Antonio, Houston and even Golden State (if Durant doesn’t come) to show interest.
6. Mike Conley
Widely considered the most underrated PG in the league, Conley has a tough decision to make. The Grizzlies are the only teams he’s ever known, and the roster has the skill to compete. But after Memphis fell apart physically last season, leaving may be the better option. The Mavericks aren’t being shy about Conley being a top target along with Whiteside, but other teams will come out of the woodwork with interest as the other pieces begin to fall.
7. Nicolas Batum
Batum probably isn’t a max player (although all it takes is one desperate team), but he’s really good on both ends of the floor as a number two or three option. The Hornets are going to try and keep Batum, but he’ll definitely have some options out there. The Wizards might be losing key player (see below) and could use Batum. He could even be a Harrison Barnes replacement/upgrade for the Warriors if they don’t sign a bigger name. The Magic have been rumored to be interested as well in the wake of trading away Victor Oladipo.
8. DeMar DeRozan
It’s been long thought that DeRozan was bolting for his hometown Lakers once free agency arrived, but the script has changed. DeRozan’s said that it’s his priority to return to the Raptors and keep trying to get them over the top. Wherever DeMar lands, he’ll be getting a max deal, and it feels like it will be Toronto. If that’s the case, they’re going to need some additional help to contend in the East.
9. Dwyane Wade
It’s pretty tough to see Wade leaving Miami. Had Chris Bosh been healthy in the playoffs (and Whiteside not been injured in the Toronto series) Miami almost certainly would’ve faced off with Cleveland in the ECF. No matter what shakes down on South Beach in free agency, a way to retain Wade at a fair price seems like a given. Maybe something crazy catches Wade’s eye, though.
10. Dwight Howard
Howard is a shell of himself, but is still a very good center in his own right. If he could find the right situation and not squander it, there’s potential for an opportunity to win out there. Howard probably won’t sign a long-term deal, as that would scare away any team in a position to win. The Knicks are the sexy rumor, but not the best fit. Dwight’s landing spot might wind up being a big surprise.
11. Bradley Beal
Beal is a great talent, but the most important talent is the ability to stay on the floor — something he’s struggled with in recent seasons. That said, he’s still going to get a monster contract because he’s a 23-year old elite shooter. If a team feels it can keep him healthy and squeeze out all the potential, he’s worth every bit of the risk. The question is, if he doesn’t re-sign in D.C., then where? Which leads to the final question, do the Wizards match?
12. Dirk Nowitzki
Dirk isn’t going to leave the Mavs. The plan is to keep adding pieces around him and try and contend in the West (Conley and Whiteside). The Warriors rumors are out there, and it would be fun to watch, but it’s highly doubtful Nowitzki leaves Dallas at this point.
Find me on Twitter @julianedlow