NBA Free Agency starts at 12:00 a.m. EST on Friday, and with the salary cap rising to over $90M, money is expected to be flying early and often in the process.
Here’s how it might shake out when all is said done*:
*Disclaimer, most of this is speculation and there’s a good chance I will be terribly wrong.
Kevin Durant — Thunder: Recent reports suggest Durant is expected to stay in Oklahoma City unless he is blown away by a pitch from another team. The only team that can make such a pitch is Golden State, but ultimately I think Durant stays in OKC, where, as long as he’s paired with Russell Westbrook, he’ll always be in the mix for a title. Not to mention the Thunder might have another move under their sleeve (more on that below).
Al Horford — Thunder: A report from ESPN says the Thunder are trying to clear cap space to make max room to sign Horford. With Serge Ibaka on his way to Orlando, Horford would be a huge addition to the team’s frontcourt. A Westbrook/Oladipo/Durant/Horford/Adams starting five could be the best in the league, and that certainly has to be appealing for both Horford and the Thunder to pursue.
Mike Conley — Grizzlies: Conley’s free agency has been quiet thus far, and given that most contending teams already have point guards in place, Conley’s return to Memphis makes sense for both sides. Grizzlies can give Conley more money than any other team, plus Conley will get to remain as a key part of a team that, when healthy, is one of the best in the league.
DeMar DeRozan — Raptors: There was a lot of “DeRozan to the Lakers” talk during the NBA Playoffs, but that’s not going to happen. All reports make it seem as though DeRozan re-signing in Toronto is imminent.
Nicolas Batum — Hornets: I think it’ll either be Dallas or Charlotte for Batum, though several other teams (and understandably so) are pursuing the forward. His ability to shoot, defend, and create makes him a valuable commodity, and I think the Hornets will pony up a five-year, max offer to Batum, keeping the Frenchman in Charlotte for the long haul.
Dwight Howard — Celtics: Apparently it’s Atlanta or Boston for Howard, and, as a cynical Laker fan, I would love to see Howard poison the Celtics franchise in a way that only he is capable of. On a serious note, the Celtics need a “star” and maybe Dwight can be that for them.
Pau Gasol — Spurs: Gasol’s passing ability will fit seamlessly in the Spurs’ system, but Pau will have to be willing to play off the bench in San Antonio. His career is coming to an end and if he wants a realistic chance to be a contributor on a championship-caliber team, the Spurs are his best option.
Chandler Parsons — Blazers: The Blazers were a surprise team in 2015, and have a dynamic backcourt of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Allen Crabbe is set to hit restricted free agency and will receive a lucrative offer sheet. Maybe Portland decides to bring him back, but if they want to take a high-risk with a chance or a high-reward, it’ll try to bring Parsons to the Pacific Northwest. Parsons would immediately fill a need for the Blazers.
Hassan Whiteside — Mavericks: According to Yahoo! Sports, the Mavericks are frontrunners for the big man and Miami has “lost ground”. Dallas just has to hope this isn’t a DeAndre Jordan 2.0 scenario.
Harrison Barnes — Sixers: The Sixers are trying to improve their team in the near future and their biggest need is shooting. Barnes will offer that and is young enough to where he can grow alongside Philadelphia’s young talent. Plus, money isn’t an issue for the Sixers, so they’ll be able to offer Barnes a max offer sheet.
Kent Bazemore — Hawks: I honestly have no feel for where Bazemore will end up, but with Horford seemingly on the way out of Atlanta and Jeff Teague being sent to Indiana, it clears up money for Atlanta to spend. It might as well use on a player they know fits well into its offensive system.
Festus Ezeli — Lakers: Ezeli, like Harrison Barnes, struggled at the end of the postseason, putting the two on the rough end of some Basketball Twitter jokes, but Ezeli makes sense for L.A. on multiple levels. First, his familiarity with Luke Walton will only help, and Ezeli fits the Lakers most dire need, which is a center that can protect the rim and score on pick-and-rolls. He’s not Whiteside or Horford, but he still would be a solid signing for the Lakers, nonetheless.
Bismack Biyombo — Blazers: Even after signing Parsons (as I predict), the Blazers will need a rim-protecting center and Biyombo is a quality option in that sense. The Heat (if Whiteside leaves) and Lakers could be in play here too. I don’t think the Raptors have enough resources to bring Biyombo back.
Joakim Noah — Knicks: This was reported to be a near certainty, so it’d be stupid for me to predict anything else.
Ryan Anderson — Wizards: I’m not sure if Anderson and Marcin Gortat would be effective enough defensively to make this signing worthwhile, but offensively, you have to like the spacing that Anderson could provide for John Wall and Bradley Beal. That could become one of the NBA’s best offenses.
Allen Crabbe — Nets: If Portland lands Parsons, Crabbe will likely be free to head elsewhere. The Nets are not a good team, but could offer Crabbe a lot of money and a starting role (hard-hitting analysis, I know).
Rajon Rondo — Nets: Rondo needs to find the right place to stat-pad next season, and a good team won’t be interested in him. That leaves the Nets, who are in desperate need for a point guard, as a logical fit. Rondo can provide the Nets with a “big name” while the team goes with a youth movement.
Marvin Williams — Lakers: The Lakers are looking to add veteran leadership, and Williams fits that bill. Not to mention that he’d also give the team defensive versatility and effective 3-point shooting (Williams hit over 40% of his 3s in Charlotte this past season). Oh yeah, Williams being a UNC Tar Heel can only help too, shoutout to Mitch Kupchak.
Eric Gordon — Knicks: Since New York needs a two-guard and is apparently trying to acquire a team that would be dominant in 2011, but not good in 2016, Gordon is an ideal fit. What can go wrong with so many injury-prone players?
Luol Deng — Grizzlies: Memphis’ frontcourt is set and Conley will likely be back as the team’s point guard, making the team’s depth on the wing the area in need of improvement the most. Deng will fit in with the Grizzlies defensive-minded style of play, plus he can hit the 3-ball at a respectable clip.