June is for the Finals and the Draft. July, on the other hand, is time for free agency. Don’t expect to see the fireworks we did in 2016, but there should still be enough movement to affect the balance of power in the league a little bit, if not really upset it.
The quality of this summer’s list will depend greatly on who decides to opt-out. Kyle Lowry already did (see below), but four other stars currently hold the cards in their larger than average hands. Don’t expect more than one to actually opt-out.
4. Blake Griffin
As amazing as Griffin is, let’s be real, the dude is neither clutch nor healthy. He would be better off leaving LA and taking control of his own narrative, but we’ve heard he REALLY likes living here. Expect him to stay.
3. Gordon Hayward
Hayward is the best bet on this list to actually opt-out. The Jazz had a good year, but will he be able to turn down a reunion with Brad Stevens in Boston?
2. Chris Paul
CP3 may not be what he once was, he’s still one of the best, and we would be shocked to see him leave LA.
1. Kevin Durant
For the second year in a row, he will have to decide whether or not to post up with the team he’s on now or fly the coop again. One thing’s for sure, Russell Westbrook won’t be getting a heads up call.
Unrestricted Free Agents
10. Zach Randolph
The Memphis Grizzlies locked up their floor general last year with a monstrous, and deservedly so, contract to Mike Conley. Now comes the time when they must decide whether Zach Randolph and their bruising style of play is still in their best interest. Randolph, 35, becomes an unrestricted free agent this year and is a shell of the player he used to be. With diminishing skills, Randolph should only be considered as a fourth or fifth option to complement a smaller, more perimeter-oriented core. Anything higher and he becomes a liability. We bet he stays in Memphis.
9. Patty Mills
The San Antonio Spurs have been at the forefront when it comes to keeping their core of all-stars together, but with Tony Parker, 34, on the back-nine of his career and recovering from a ruptured quadricep, the spotlight turns to Patty Mills. Does this three-point wonder from down-under have what it takes to be a starter? Or is he serving a life sentence as a backup? Once that’s decided, the Spurs will choose their route. Mills has never averaged over 22 minutes a game in eight seasons, but somehow always seems to be on the court. Wherever he ends up, it’s a safe bet no one uses him as well as Popovich did.
8. Andre Iguodala
The Golden State Warriors feature three of the league’s most prolific scorers and possibly its best defender, yet all of them wouldn’t have the success they’ve had without Andre Iguodala steering the ship (and defending LeBron in the 2015 Finals). The Warriors are talented, but Iggy brings something to the table that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet: leadership. The 2015 Finals MVP is no longer the piece you build around, but he’s still that key foothold that gets your team over the hump.
7. J.J Redick
J.J Redick is one of the deadliest shooters in the league and a pain in the ass to guard because he hardly ever stands still. This sharpshooter shot just under 43 percent from behind the arc and will provide an outside threat to the right bidder. His natural defensive skills aren’t up to the same standard despite a high level of effort, but with the current emphasis on shooting in the NBA, more than a few three point-deficient teams should be able to overlook those shortcomings.
6. Jeff Teague
Jeff Teague introduced himself to the NBA during the 2014 NBA Playoffs with the Atlanta Hawks when he showed that he was comfortable on the big stage. Teague is at his best when he has the freedom to improvise and go downhill. He has averaged six or more assists in four of the past five seasons by attacking the rim and drawing in the defense to set up his teammates for wide open threes. He isn’t a player who’ll put a team on his back, but he is a guy making big plays in crucial parts of a game. The current Pacer could be a nice fit for a team looking for a solid point guard to complement the rest of the roster.
5. Serge Ibaka
Toronto acquired Serge Ibaka from the Orlando Magic this season hoping he could be the final puzzle piece to get past the Cavaliers (stupid at the time and in retrospect). While his point total has increased since he added the three-point shot to his arsenal, his other skills, like being a dominant rim protector and rebounder, have diminished over the years. With that said, he can still be an important piece to the right team looking for an experienced stretch four. The problem most teams will run into is his asking price: likely to be the max or something close to it. Still, that may not be disqualifying for most teams (Houston comes to mind).
4. George Hill
Gregg Popovich cried when he had to trade George Hill. Well maybe not actually tears, but still. Hill was traded from San Antonio to Indiana for the draft rights to Kawhi Leonard, and then sent to Utah, where he’s been a solid floor general. He had his highest career scoring average this season with the Jazz (in addition to playing borderline lockdown D) and will be looking for a payday. At 6’3, 188 lbs, teams in need of a point guard as a viable second or third option should seriously consider inking Hill. If Pop loved him, then he must be worth it. Right?
3. Jrue Holiday
Jrue Holiday is a player who’s better than his numbers suggest (although, since coming over to New Orleans from Philly he has yet to crack the 70-game mark). Is he talented? Yes. Can he attack the basket and be a game changer? Yes. His main problem has been staying on the floor. For him to be successful he needs to be in the right system, one that spaces the floor and encourages players to get out in transition. Teams that love to get up and down the floor with money to spend should fight over Holiday like siblings fighting for control of the TV remote. New Orleans probably doesn’t count as one of those teams, but since they have literally no one else worth a damn under 6’10, expect them to be competitive and potentially overpay for him.
2. Kyle Lowry
Those in desperate need of a strong point guard who can score 20+ points a game shouldn’t even think twice about ponying up the dough for Lowry. Just because he opted out of his Toronto deal doesn’t mean he will definitely leave, but he’s definitely open to offers. One scenario that may be intriguing is a return to his hometown of Philly to join a loaded young squad that may soon be one veteran playmaker/shooter away from playoff contention. We know Brett Brown is extremely eager to play Ben Simmons at point guard, but those plans could change quickly should Lowry come calling.
1. Steph Curry
Steph Curry is the most lucrative free agent on the market this season. However, no one truly believes they have a shot at landing him. The two-time NBA MVP will get paid this summer, and the Warriors will be the ones cutting the check. They can offer him more money than any other team due to the new bargaining agreement, and Curry deserves to be the highest paid player in the league, especially since he’s currently only the fourth highest paid player on the team. Expect him to sign for five years at max money.