With the summer of 2016 so last year, teams that threw a Hail Mary pass and missed badly soothe themselves by looking forward to a few months from now, particularly teams who don’t make the playoffs. On July 1, 2017, there will be more money via the salary cap. Role players moving around like chess pieces keep NBA writers busy, and make fans believe something important is happening, but as John Wooden noted, “don’t confuse activity with achievement.”
At the top of the 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. The Warriors are still the favorites in the West, 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. Keep dreaming 29 NBA teams.
Kevin Durant has a player option and he will opt out to get his huge Warriors payday too. And he should. He led the Warriors this season in rebounds, blocks and of course, scoring. With Durant on the shelf, the Warriors looked shell shocked before they got it together. Durant deserves whatever money is thrown his way.
Blake Griffin is an interesting case. He too is eligible for the super max contract but Blake is an enigma. There is a 10% chance he leaves the Clippers for the Lakers keeping him in Los Angeles, a city he does not want to leave. My bet is he stays a Clipper but will take the meeting with Magic. Magic will sell him on two things: he can be the face of the franchise and he can restore the lore. A lot of Magic’s effectiveness depends on the Lakers landing Lonzo Ball in the lottery.
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. The often talked about Kyrie for Chris Paul trade would be a stupid Cavs mistake. Paul orchestrates the show. LeBron orchestrates the show. Paul stays in L.A.
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 is only 107 and his PER is 16.6. But Rose will land somewhere, and probably be overpaid.
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 is having his best season. 21.8 points. 5.5 rebounds. 39% from three. Offensive rating of 118. PER: 22.1
Kyle Lowry: Has a player option. He will opt-out but he is going nowhere. He’s loyal and the face of the team. If he gave the Raptors a discount when he was a first round loser, then he’ll do it now. He has great chemistry with DeMar DeRozan. When he opts out his deal, it will be to get more money from Masai Ujiri.
Paul Millsap: He has a player option. If he opts-in he will make $21 million. He is worth that to the Hawks who have been worthless without him, losers of seven in a row. But can Millsap make more than $21 million somewhere else? Is he that coveted? I say no. However, Millsap may be angling for a longer deal, three or four years which will make the opt-out necessary, even if that deal is with the Hawks.
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 (16 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.
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 depend on his playoff performance. But 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. It’s been a year in which Hill proved his worth in Utah, except for the injuries. He had a career high in scoring, field goal percentage, offensive rating while still being a quality defender.
photo via llananba