After rolling through the NBA regular season with a record-setting 73 wins, the Golden State Warriors finished just five points short of hoisting their second straight championship trophy. There’s no reason why the Warriors, who have the majority of their core group under contract, shouldn’t be considered favorites to emerge out of the Western Conference for the third straight season in 2017.
Heading into free agency, reports are running rampant that the Warriors will be focused on luring former league MVP Kevin Durant to town. In fact, the Warriors are reportedly on the short list of six teams that Durant will listen to pitches from once free agency begins.
While the potential to add a player of Durant’s caliber is intriguing, the Warriors aren’t a team full of weaknesses or in desperate need of adding the high-scoring small forward.
According to sources, the Warriors will make a strong play at Durant; if that falls through, the franchise will redirect their efforts to signing former Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah.
The Warriors’ interest in Noah makes sense given the team’s struggles in the latter half of this year’s NBA Finals when starting center Andrew Bogut suffered a leg injury and reserves Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao were largely ineffective.
Ezeli and Varejao are headed to free agency this summer, while Bogut has just one year remaining on his current deal with the franchise.
There is a bit of risk with Noah, who’s a two-time All-Star that has missed 68 games over the past two seasons. But the nine-year veteran has developed into one of the better passing big men in the game and brings a level of defensive intensity on the interior that the club covets.
The Warriors’ supposed pursuit of Durant this summer will capture mainstream headlines and interest from casual fans, but with the former MVP set to command a 2017 salary upwards of $25 million, Golden State will have to maneuver to make it truly work the way their salary cap picture stands today.
After Chicago traded guard Derrick Rose to New York last week, receiving center Robin Lopez in return, reports began surfacing the relationship between Noah and the Bulls effectively came to an end.
The Knicks are also reportedly in high pursuit of Noah (and are also trying to earn a visit with Durant).
The Chicago Sun Times reported earlier this week that the lure of a major payday isn’t the motivating factor for Noah this summer in free agency. The Warriors can offer Noah the immediate opportunity to compete for a championship, a decent payday and a solid amount of playing time (while Bogut started last season, he averaged just 21 minutes per night).
Noah, 31, may not be on the A-list of free agents this summer, but make no mistake the veteran will be in high demand once the bigger names start coming off the board.
Dwight Howard Set to Visit Atlanta and Boston
The Atlanta Hawks and Boston Celtics finished the 2015-16 campaign with identical 48-34 records, met in the first round of the playoffs and battled for six games before Atlanta emerged victorious.
Now, according to reports, the two teams will do battle once again this summer: this time in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. According to an ESPN report, the Celtics and Hawks are the first two teams to secure face-to-face meetings with the former Defensive Player of the Year.
Atlanta’s interest in Howard goes back years, but the free agent big man was always a bit cold to the idea of returning to his hometown in years past. Boston has been looking to stockpile veteran talent since the season ended and are also one of the few teams that has a meeting with Kevin Durant already secured.
Howard declined a $23 million player option with Houston for next season and opted to try his hand in free agency. The Rockets hired head coach Mike D’Antoni earlier in the offseason. Howard and D’Antoni never fully clicked during their time together with the Los Angeles Lakers. To many, D’Antoni’s hiring signaled the end of Howard’s tenure in Houston.
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