With the summer of 2016 so last year, teams that threw a Hail Mary pass and missed badly soothe themselves by looking forward to three weeks from now, particularly teams who didn’t make the playoffs and have to watch the Warriors eviscerate the NBA, over and over. On July 1, 2017, there will be more money via the salary cap. Role player free agents moving around like chess pieces continue the illusion and keep fans activated as they believe something important is happening, but as John Wooden noted, “don’t confuse activity with achievement.”
At the top of the free agent class is Steph Curry. His likelihood of leaving the Warriors is zero. The Warriors can pay him more money than anyone else, about $80 million more, dropping $200 mil Curry’s way via the super-max. The Warriors, barring catastrophe, will win the Finals and the following season the Warriors are moving to San Francisco. The money elite tech crowd romancing everything that used to be Oakland will line Curry’s pockets even more with influential endorsers. There is no NBA team that is better suited for Curry than the Warriors, regardless if the rumors are true he and Warriors owner Joe Lacob are in a deep freeze.
Kevin Durant has a player option and he will opt out to get his huge Warriors free agent paycheck too. And he should. He led the Warriors this season in rebounds, blocks and of course, scoring. In the early days of Durant on the shelf, the Warriors looked shell shocked before they got it together. Durant deserves whatever money is thrown his way as he’ll be Finals MVP.
Blake Griffin is an interesting free agent case. He won’t be eligible for the super max contract but Blake is an enigma. My bet is he stays a Clipper but will take meetings with other ballclubs. His recent injury history makes giving him the max questionable.
Chris Paul: The greatest point guard of his generation will be 32 years old in a league where every contender has an elite point guard. Paul is being targeted by the Spurs and Gregg Popovich. The Spurs are a better team than the Clippers but can’t pay him a max deal.
Derrick Rose: His future is up in the air in New York. Rose has had a good year in New York but he will never be the Rose of old and he shouldn’t be paid as that guy. $21 million doesn’t reflect what Rose can produce though he is a starting pg that can drive to the rim and finish in traffic. But he can’t make a three (21%), his defense is pretty awful and he was a meager assist generator (4.4) this season. His offensive rating was only 108 and his PER 17.0. But Rose will land somewhere, and probably be overpaid. Minnesota is on the case. If the Clips lose Chris Paul, he may be in L.A.
Gordon Hayward: Hayward has a player option. He will opt-out and take a lot of meetings. The Celtics think they have a good chance at landing Hayward and reuniting him with his college coach Brad Stevens. The Jazz are the favorites though. In what is a contract year Hayward had his best season. 21.9 points. 5.4 rebounds. 39% from three. Offensive rating of 118. PER: 22.2. Miami is suddenly in the mix.
Kyle Lowry: Has a player option. He will opt-out and his loyalty may be tested. Lowry wants a ring. He has great chemistry with DeMar DeRozan. When he opts out his deal, it will be to get more money and a title chance.
Paul Millsap: He has opted-out his deal. He is worth $21 mil to the Hawks who have been worthless when Millsap sits because of injury. But can Millsap make more than $21 million somewhere else? Is he that coveted? Millsap may be angling for a longer deal, three or four years, and not necessarily more money.
Dwyane Wade: Chicago wants Wade to opt-out so they can clear his $21 million salary off the books but Wade won’t get that kind of money from any other team in the league. How much does winning matter to Wade? The Bulls won’t be a contender next year despite the presence of Jimmy Butler. They are desperate for a young point guard and three point shooting. Will Wade just take the money and make do? Or, will he leave and try to win a fourth ring but at half the price he is getting now?
Jrue Holiday: I’m not a fan of Holiday. He gets numbers (15 points, 7 assists) but he doesn’t make a team or players around him better. His leadership at the position is average. But he’ll get a boost up in salary from his $12 million this year and may find himself in a big market like Los Angeles or New York despite the Pelicans wanting him back.
Otto Porter: The biggest mistake the Wizards made was not giving Otto Porter an extension. All he did was lead the league in three point shooting. Now the Wizards are going to have to walk the plank. Porter will be in high demand but restricted. Still, an offer sheet that prices the Wizards out since they already have two max players (Wall, Beal) is very likely for Porter who capitalized on this free agent year.
Serge Ibaka: Ibaka wasn’t the game changer in Orlando or Toronto that both clubs thought he was going to be. What Ibaka gets paid will not depend on his 2017 playoff performance, which was forgettable, but on his ability to fill a hole. Teams be wary. He is not I-Block-A of OKC. His numbers have downgraded each season and Ibaka is only 27. Teams acquiring him will get a 15 point, 7 rebound complimentary player.
Taj Gibson: Gibson is tough and a fighter and he defends. He isn’t overwhelmingly talented on the offensive end but he’s a strong defender and rebounder and a player who does things that don’t end up on the stat sheet. He’s one of those glue guys contenders need. Don’t expect him to land anywhere that isn’t a contender for the title.
Jeff Teague: He was a great head of the snake leader in Atlanta but going home was disappointing because the team was up and down, despite his individual effort. His 7.8 assists per game will get him interviews in New York and possibly Chicago. His defense was a four year low while his offensive rating was a career high.
George Hill: Rumors abound that Hill is heading back to San Antonio where he began his career until he was traded for Kawhi leonard. Now with Tony Parker broken Hlll will be in high demand for the Spurs if they can’t drag Chris Paul out of L.A. It’s been a year in which Hill proved his worth in Utah, except for the injuries. He had a career high in scoring and offensive rating while still being a quality defender.
photo via llananba