This could be the most chaotic free agency period in the history of the league. Primarily, due to the raising of the cap $24 million from last year where role players could be making $20-$25 million next year.
Just a heads up, everyone is going to get overpaid. All you had to do was glance at the Wizards potential offer to Joakim Noah, and that will tell you how crazy the money will be flying this summer.
Every team has cap room, and with 10 teams looking at Al Horford and Hassan Whiteside, no one is off limits.
As I said last year, free agency only causes chaos and endless speculation leaving fans and players on the edge of their seats or pacing all over their room trying to figure out the best way to keep or bring in a key player.
This year’s free agency class is spectacular, and Kevin Durant is just the start. Some appetizing free agents that teams will be looking to eat up their salary with such as Dwayne Wade, Al Jefferson, and Dirk Nowitzki will not even get mentioned, but 10 guys I chose to predict have proved their worth the past couple of years.
1. Kevin Durant/ Age: 27 / Status: Unrestricted / Most Likely Destination: Thunder
Durant is definitely the most appealing name on the list this year that has been talked about for the last two years when it seemed the Rockets were going to try and bring Durant to Houston to reunite him with Harden. However, Durant already shortened his list to the Thunder, Spurs, Warriors, Clippers, Celtics, Knicks, and possibly the Heat.
Durant proved he could play alongside Westbrook and compete with the two best teams in the west. However will Westbrook come back next year when he becomes a free agent or leave? If the Spurs and the Warriors want KD, they are going to have to cut off two essential rotational players such as Festus Ezeli or Danny Green just to consider him.
Durant is leaving OKC but not this year. I expect Durant to sign a two year deal with a player option after the first year and leave with Russell Westbrook next year.
2. Al Horford / Age: 30 / Status: Unrestricted / Most Likely Destination: Heat
Horford is the hardest to predict with an ample amount of teams expressing interest in him. His ability to stretch the floor and protect the rim is the most wanted piece by NBA teams.
The only problem he brings to teams is injury issues. He’s already 30, he wants a max, and is most likely incapable to stay healthy for 70 games.
With Whiteside on the move, that opens up space to grab Horford and go back to the NBA Playoffs with possibly two stretch fives and a tremendous defense.
3. DeMar DeRozan / Age: 26 / Status: Player Option, opted out / Most Likely Destination: Raptors
DeRozan is an almost completely different player than Harford with much worse shooting, a slasher-esque scorer, and perimeter defender.
He prides himself on driving to score rather than shooting, and his lack of ability to shoot drives away many teams from giving him big money.
Nothing to fear, he wants back in Toronto but for an extremely high price. His return is key to keeping this dominant team intact, but it limits them on bringing in more rotational players to catapult them into the NBA Finals.
4. Hassan Whiteside / Age: 26 / Status: Player Option, opted out / Most Likely Destination: Mavericks
Honestly, there is little chance Whiteside stays in Miami especially after his comments on how loyalty is not a factor in his decision. He’s arguably the best defensive center in the NBA, but his antics on and off the court hurt his minutes late in the season as Amare Stoudamire was getting the start over him. No reason for the Heat to give a max contract to a bench player.
The Mavericks have wanted an athletic center for awhile after strong attempts with Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan in the previous draft classes. Even though, Parsons seems to be out the door, Matthews, Nowitzki, Whiteside, and Conley will definitely be dangerous in the West.
5. Dwight Howard / Age: 30 / Status: Player Option, opted out / Most Likely Destination: Knicks
Last year was the utter of collapse of the Rockets and Dwight Howard. Howard and Harden could never seem to get on the right page on offense, and Howard’s knee problems soaked up his defensive abilities making him a huge liability. His knees and age are his only problems as he can still be a dangerous pick-and-roll threat and rim protector.
However, the only team interested in paying a high contract for a past-prime center would be the New York Knicks. The Knicks are desperate to get back into the playoffs in the Melo Era, and a combination of Rose, Melo, Porzingis, and Howard should earn them a low playoff seed in the East.
6. Mike Conley / Age: 29 / Status: Unrestricted / Most Likely Destination: Mavericks
Even though the Grizzlies are going to make a bulldozing push to keep Conley in Memphis, it seems like he is out the door. I still think there is a decent chance he stays with Gasol coming back from injury and enough cap room left to sign some solid role players. With all those injuries, they were still able to make it to the playoffs; however, they were swept by the Spurs pretty handily.
If Conley decides to leave Memphis, he will end up in Dallas. The Mavericks have been making a giant push to upgrade their roster with Nowitzki hitting the end of his career. Daron Williams is not the ideal point guard for a championship worthy team, but Mike Conley sure as hell is.
7. Bradley Beal / Age: 23 / Status: Restricted / Most Likely Destination: Wizards
With Beal’s injury woes last year, the Wizards season took a turn for the worse as well. They finished outside of the playoffs after being one of the most dominating teams in the East the previous year. Without their best scorer, the offense struggled, but now the Wizards have the opportunity to keep Beal or find someone else.
With his youth and high potential, he could become a popular bargaining chip for the Wizards to swing to find some solid role players and draft picks, but the Wizards are going to keep him. Wall and Beal think they are the best guard combo in the NBA, and I doubt the Wizards try to break that up for role players.
8. Pau Gasol / Age: 35 / Status: Player Option, opted out / Most Likely Destination: Spurs
The whole point of Gasol going to the Bulls was to join a championship contender team, and after such a catastrophic season, he is going to look for a different location to end his career with the idea of getting another ring. Last year, when Butler was hurt, he proved to be the Bulls’ best player rather than just an important role player on a championship worthy team.
His best option would be the San Antonio Spurs adding himself into the fold with Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard, the best power forward in the game, LaMarcus Aldridge, and the best coach in the NBA, Gregg Popovich. It fits Gasol’s type of scenery of sacrificing for the guy next to him and playing smart basketball to get it done. The Spurs made it a priority to get Gasol hence expect him signing there this July.
9. Chandler Parsons / Age: 27 / Status: Player Option, opted out / Most Likely Destination: Magic
After Parson’s second knee surgery, the Mavericks are not interested in giving him a max contract. Nonetheless, before his injury, he displayed his tremendous scoring abilities off of screens, and that he was able to defend any small forward in the league.
His skills are not what is up for question, but his health is a concern. If the Mavericks are going to sign Conley and Whiteside and bring back Nowitzki, there is not enough money to give Parsons a max contract. The Magic are the only team that have shown interest in giving him that type of money. With Ibaka getting a bigger role in the offense in Orlando, Parsons is going to expect the same and to bring a poor roster to the playoffs.
10. Joakim Noah / Age: 31 / Status: Unrestricted / Most Likely Destination: Wizards
Noah struggled last year with an incredible amount of injuries problem that left the Bulls hopeless on both sides of the ball. Even though he does not score a lot, he is a magnificent passer in the paint and has the ability to guard any big man on the court.
The Wizards have been reported preparing a 4yr- $130 million deal for Noah, and if he gets it or anything close to it, he will be off to Washington. If he can stay healthy he could prove to be the worth the cash, but as of right now, that offer shows how erratic this free agency year will be.