Free agency starts in just 11 days, and some of the bigger names in the NBA could be on the move. There are some players that may or may not be free agents depending on if their player/team options are exercised. I’ll update this if a major player unexpectedly becomes a free agent, such as Roy Hibbert or Monta Ellis.
Anyway, here’s my attempt at predicting where the top free agents in the NBA will sign.
Marc Gasol: Grizzlies – I’d really like to see Marc Gasol go East to help with the balance of talent level between the two conferences, but all signs point to Gasol re-upping with Grizzlies. Spurs, Knicks, and Lakers could be options for him too, though you could rule out the Lakers if they select Jahlil Okafor with the second overall pick.
LaMarcus Aldridge: Spurs – The rich get richer. Aldridge and Duncan would create a monstrous front court, plus they have that Kawhi guy, and Tony Parker. Like I wrote above, I hope a player of LMA’s caliber decides to go to an Eastern Conference team, but since he’s a Texas-native, the Spurs are contenders and he fits beautifully with Duncan, this seems like a solid match.
Lakers already have Randle, and Aldridge will be 30 before the seasons starts, so that’s not an ideal match.
Goran Dragic: Heat – The Heat gave up two first-round picks to acquire Dragic, and I doubt they’ll be hesitant to offer him a lucrative deal. Because of the rising cap in 2016, Goran is one of those players that in past years would not have garnered a max contract, but will get a max deal this offseason.
Dragic just turned 29 and theoretically could play alongside both Kobe and Clarkson, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lakers nab him. Still, the Heat can offer a fifth year, and the Heat have a better supporting cast than the Lakers.
Kevin Love: Cavaliers – I honestly don’t think he’s even going to hit the free agent market this year. I think he’ll opt-in for another year in Cleveland, and then test the waters when the cap increases in 2016.
Rajon Rondo: Kings – The Kings seem like an ideal fit with Rondo because he’s crazy and the Kings are crazy. He’s not better than Darren Collison, but the name-value and recognizability he brings along with him may entice the Kings to take a stab at him. He and DeMarcus Cousins might fight each other and that’d be fun to watch. The Rockets could be an option here since it’s known they want another perimeter player that can create, but he can’t shoot and that goes against the Rockets’ three-or-layup offense. But anyway, PLEASE KEEP HIM AWAY FROM THE LAKERS.
Dwyane Wade: Heat – All this chatter of him joining the Cavs is interesting, but I think the Heat will give in and offer Wade a reasonable deal. Wade with the Heat is comparable to Kobe with the Lakers, and it’s a lose-lose for both sides if Wade leaves because he wasn’t offered a fair deal. Now I don’t think Wade will get the “Kobe contract”, but they’ll find a way to keep him around.
Tobias Harris (RFA): Magic – This one is tough to predict for me. Obviously since Tobias is an RFA, the Magic will be able to retain him no matter what another team offers. He’ll get a 25% max contract, which isn’t really overpaying him because of the new salary cap. Just watch what the Magic do in the draft. If they pick a wing like Justise Winslow or Stanley Johnson, they might just decide to let him walk. Not to mention that Harris and new coach Scott Skiles had known issues with each other while both were in Milwaukee.
If the Magic do let Harris go and the Lakers take Russell or Okafor as expected, he’d fit in at the 3 nicely. He’s continually improved, he shot a career high 36% from three this past year, and is ONLY 22. Young enough to grow with Randle, Clarkson, and whoever the Lakers decide to pick at #2 for the next decade.
Khris Middleton (RFA): Bucks – Multiple reports say that the Bucks will be bringing him back at all costs, and I believe them. He’s a perfect complementary wing in the modern NBA. Terrific shooter, and is an adequate defender. Capable of creating his own shot too. The Bucks don’t really have any major contracts, and after trading Ersan Ilyasova to Detroit, they freed up even more money to spend. Middleton will command a 25% max, and the Bucks should gladly pay up.
He’s my favorite target for the Lakers, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like he’ll be an option.
Jimmy Butler (RFA): Bulls – Bulls will match any offer. He’s easily a 25% max player.
DeAndre Jordan: Clippers – I think it’s either Dallas or the Clippers for Jordan, but that extra year the Clippers can give Jordan might be the difference here. Plus, he’s best friends with the Blake Griffin and the Clippers aren’t too far from contending.
Drafting Russell and signing DeAndre would be a dream scenario for the Lakers, but it’s asking a lot to expect a free agent to sign with a rebuilding team in the same city as his current team which is already a contender. Though he may not want to have to wear those hideous new Clippers jerseys for 82+ games.
Greg Monroe: Knicks – With the acquisition of Ilyasova in Detroit, the writing on the wall is there for Monroe’s departure. A big that can shoot from mid-range, score from the post, and pass is a nice fit for the Knicks’ triangle offense. Unfortunately, defense matters too and unless the Knicks draft Cauley-Stein, their defense will suffer majorly with Monroe and Melo comprising their front line.
Draymond Green (RFA): Warriors – The Warriors would be foolish to let a key part of their championship team walk, and they’re not foolish. Draymond will stay in Golden State, though it will be at David Lee’s expense.
Wes Matthews: Lakers – To me, Wes Matthews was the toughest player to predict. If he didn’t tear his Achilles, he’d be a highly sought after free agent. He still will be, but you’d have to think it will cause some hesitation from prospective teams. That being said, a healthy Wes Matthews is an incredible fit for the Lakers. He’s a career 39% three point shooter and has become quite a reliable defender. It’ll be interesting to see what type of contract he’ll get. I think he’ll probably get something worth somewhere between $8-14M annually, though teams may be reluctant to offer him anything longer than 2-3 years.
Tyson Chandler: Mavericks – I have DeAndre spurning the Mavs to return to the Clippers, so after losing out on Jordan, Dallas will probably scramble to bring their much-needed rim-protecter back. I could see Milwaukee make a run at him too.
Danny Green: Knicks – I have the Knicks signing Greg Monroe, so cap-wise it could be tough for them to sign both he and Danny Green since they have only $22M in cap space. Monroe could get anywhere from $14-16M and that might price them out of the Danny Green sweepstakes. If they cap make the money work, this makes sense for both sides. Green is a NY-native, and fills a need as a 3-and-D guy alongside Carmelo Anthony. Green can play both the 2 and the 3, which needless to say is important since Melo can play both the 3 and 4. Detroit could be an option here too.
DeMarre Carroll: Hawks – This is another tough one to predict. Carroll is a perfect wing for the modern NBA. Great perimeter defender, and he’s shot the ball well from behind the arc for two straight seasons after being basically a non-shooter early in his career. Since he’s the type of player that fits with every team, there will be substantial interest. Lakers will definitely inquire on him, and I think they’ll have a solid shot at landing him. Carroll will command at least $10M per season, but if he plays the way he has the past two years, he’s worth it with the new cap.
The Hawks don’t really have an immediate replacement for Carroll unless they draft someone like Sam Dekker or Justin Anderson, and should try to keep him around. Though if it comes down to Carroll or Millsap, the Hawks should choose the latter. Atlanta doesn’t have any bad contracts on the books, and they should take advantage of that by opening their checkbooks for Carroll to keep their core intact.
Paul Millsap: Hawks – The Hawks keep their starting five together. Mike Scott could be an option to replace Millsap, but he really fizzled out at the end of the season, and probably isn’t ready to take over. Millsap made just $9.5M this year, and he’s in for a huge pay raise. It may be tough for Atlanta to keep both Carroll and Millsap, and if they have to choose between the two, they should go with Millsap. That being said, I think they’ll realize that they shouldn’t take being a contender for granted and they’ll try to keep their starting five together.
LeBron James: Cavaliers – Not happening, Laker fans.