For months now, we’ve been talking about how crazy the NBA’s free agency period will be this summer. With the cap rising to a record $94 million from the current $70 million figure, teams all across the NBA will have plenty of money to spend. Players will be earning huge contracts since there’s so much money that will be available.
Teams have been positioning themselves to have as much cap space as possible with the hope of adding some top-level players. Beginning at 12:01 a.m. ET Friday morning, teams will officially be allowed to start courting free agents and then will be able to officially sign those free agents on July 7, when the moratorium period will officially be lifted.
Kevin Durant is expected to be one of the most sought-after free agents of this class. Although he’ll be highly coveted, it remains to be seen just what Durant will ultimately do. He’ll meet with some teams and hear their sales pitch, but we’ve seen prior free agents meet with teams only to ultimately return and re-sign with their original teams. With the cap drastically rising again next summer, Durant even has some incentive to sign a one-year deal and then ink a long-term contract next offseason (like LeBron James has done in recent years) – although it remains to be seen if Durant wants to go through another year with free agency looming over him.
With free agency set to open for business on Friday, there are some realistic players on the market whom teams to pursue and have a legitimate chance of signing. These players could be looking for a huge payday or could be looking for a change of scenery. Who are some possible free agents that could be had? Here are several names to keep an eye on that could be on the move (in no particular order):
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks:
After Durant, Horford is arguably the top player who could be had. Horford is a guy that has been with the Hawks organization for his entire nine-year career, so leaving the only team that he’s known could turn out to be harder than expected – as we saw DeAndre Jordan struggle with that decision last summer (which our Joel Brigham recounted in this article earlier today).
If it’s money that Horford is after, the Hawks would be the best option for him, but it remains to be seen what his mindset is heading into free agency. If it’s a championship he is after, his best chance for that could be elsewhere. The Hawks have made the playoffs in nine-straight years, but they only advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals once. Horford could sense this roster has gone as far as it’ll go and could opt for a fresh start elsewhere.
Hassan Whiteside, Miami HEAT:
It seems as though Whiteside could be the most likely name on this list to leave. Both sides have said the right things in recent weeks, but it remains to be seen if the HEAT will be able to retain him. The HEAT’s salary cap situation this summer is very complex, so it could prove to be harder than expected to re-sign Whiteside, Dwyane Wade and possibly add other players as well. Miami must re-sign Whiteside using their cap space (and can’t offer an extra year), since they don’t have his full Bird rights.
The fact remains that Whiteside will likely be looking to sign for as much money as he can this summer. This is a player who has bounced around between the D-League, overseas and the NBA since being drafted in 2010 and has made less than $4 million in his NBA career. With so much money available to teams this summer, it’s highly likely that a team will offer him a max-deal in the neighborhood of around $20 million a season.
Chandler Parsons, Dallas Mavericks:
Parsons will reportedly explore all of his options when it comes to free agency this summer. Given the recent development that the Mavericks are not interested in offering Parsons a max-contract, he’ll seek his options elsewhere and could be had for the right price. While Parsons and his camp are seeking a max-contract, it remains to be seen if he’ll receive max-offers considering that he’s coming off of two consecutive season-ending knee injuries.
Although his most recent knee surgery wasn’t as significant as his first injury, it still could be a red flag for potential teams. If Parsons can show that he’ll return at 100 percent, he still remains one of the best options available at small forward. His return to full strength last season took a bit longer than expected, but he began to play well toward the end of the campaign when he averaged 18.8 points, five rebounds and 2.7 assists per game during the month of February.
Bismack Biyombo, Toronto Raptors:
Biyombo played his way to a huge payday with a big showing for the Raptors during the playoffs. He averaged just 5.5 points, eight rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game during the regular season, but elevated those numbers to 6.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game in the postseason. Biyombo has proven to be a great player on the defensive end, and should receive plenty of offers from teams in July. The fact that he’s 23 years old should help him as well, as he likely still has untapped potential.
He’s previously said he would be open to giving the Raptors a hometown discount, but it remains to be seen if that will ultimately happen. Unless the Raptors elect to trade away several players, they likely won’t have enough cap space to re-sign DeMar DeRozan and Biyombo. Bringing back DeRozan seems like a formality at this point, but Biyombo could be on the move, especially if the price tag starts at around $14-$16 million as has been previously reported.
Kent Bazemore, Atlanta Hawks:
Bazemore turned in his best season to date and is set to earn a significant raise this summer. He earned just $2 million this past season, while averaging 11.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game. Bazemore has established himself as an excellent perimeter defender and should receive no shortage of offers in free agency.
Depending on how things play out with Al Horford, Bazemore could be on the move this summer. If the Hawks are able to re-sign Horford, they likely won’t have enough cap space to re-sign Bazemore. The Hawks could also have a difficult time re-signing Bazemore because they don’t have his full Bird Rights, meaning they won’t be able to offer him an extra year and more guaranteed money (like Miami with Whiteside).
Ryan Anderson, New Orleans Pelicans:
Anderson is another player who appears to be on his way out. Our own Alex Kennedy reported back in March that Anderson is prepared to hear sales pitches this summer from potential teams. Anderson is said to want a fresh start elsewhere and may not be back next season with the Pelicans.
Anderson earned $8.5 million last season, and it seems as though he could earn double that this summer in free agency. He should be a hot commodity on the market since he can stretch the floor as a power forward as he’s shot 38 percent from three-point range in eight seasons in the NBA.
Joakim Noah and Pau Gasol, Chicago Bulls:
It seems as though both Noah and Gasol could be leaving Chicago this offseason. The Bulls appear to be restarting their roster a bit based off of their recent trade of Derrick Rose and could be looking to move on from Noah and Gasol. Noah reportedly doesn’t trust the Bulls’ front office and is looking to sign for a max-contract this summer.
Gasol also appears to be on the way out as well. Rumors of Gasol having one foot out of the door started surfacing in the middle of last season. At this point of Gasol’s career, he could be looking to join a contender and it doesn’t look like the Bulls will be able to seriously compete next season. Gasol held a $7,769,520 player option for next season, but reportedly informed the Bulls today that he’ll be declining that option, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Evan Turner, Boston Celtics:
Turner appears to be in for a hefty payday. He earned just $3,425,510 this past season with the Celtics and is set to hit unrestricted free agency. The Celtics could potentially have as much as $55 million in cap space, and may be inclined to spend that on trying to entice some of the top free agents.
We’ve seen the Celtics try to make some splashy trades on draft night, so it remains to be seen if they’d like to retain Turner. Our own Alex Kennedy also reported that there appears to be mutual interest between Turner and the New York Knicks. If the Knicks are serious about adding Turner, they could make him an offer that he can’t refuse to pry him away from the Celtics.
Timofey Mozgov, Cleveland Cavaliers:
It should be no surprise that Mozgov is likely out in Cleveland. He averaged just 17.4 minutes per game for the Cavaliers during the regular season and appeared in mostly only garbage time during the postseason. He’ll likely receive some offers as he can still provide some depth in the frontcourt for a new team.
He earned just under $5 million last year and seems to be in line for an increase this summer with so much money available. Given that the Cavaliers just won the championship last week, acquiring Mozgov for two future first-round draft picks likely won’t be scrutinized all that much, but it seems like a lot to give up for a player who didn’t play a huge role with the team this season.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets:
Howard officially opted out of the final year of his contract with the Rockets and will become an unrestricted free agent. The odds of Howard re-signing in Houston are virtually non-existent after the team hired Mike D’Antoni as head coach. The relationship between Howard and D’Antoni became strained during their time with the L.A. Lakers.
Despite taking a hit to his reputation over the past couple of years, it seems as though Howard can still be a valuable asset to a team. Howard averaged 13.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game last season and still showed signs that he can make an impact. The Knicks are said to have interest in the big man, and the Milwaukee Bucks and Charlotte Hornets have been linked to him as well.
Rajon Rondo, Sacramento Kings:
It seems as though Rondo’s time with the Kings is up. He signed a one-year deal with Sacramento last season worth $9.5 million in an effort to show teams that he could still play at a relatively high level. Rondo proved exactly that as he averaged 11.9 points, 11.7 assists, six rebounds and two steals per game. With point guard one of the weakest positions in this year’s free agency class, Rondo will likely be a guy highly coveted by teams in needs of point guard help.
With less than a week to go until the start of free agency, these are some of the players who could be on the move. This free agency period is shaping up to be one of the most memorable in recent years and should be very interesting to see play out.
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