It’s been a while since I’ve written anything NBA related. I didn’t do a mock draft this year (first year in a long time), so what better time to bring me out of my cave (wink wink LeBron) than NBA free agency. We know that the big fish are LeBron and Paul George, but there are plenty other intriguing options to be had. Here, like last year, I’ll predict where the top free agents at each position will go. Lets have at it!
1. Chris Paul – Houston Rockets (UFA)
Last year CP3 shocked the basketball world and opted into his deal to facilitate a trade to Houston. This year should be short and sweet as I expect him to sign a big long term deal fairly quickly. Especially now that it seems that the Rockets are out of the LeBron sweepstakes. PREDICTION: Paul re-signs with the Rockets on a 4 year max deal.
UPDATE: Chris Paul has agreed to a 4 year, $160M max deal with the Houston Rockets
2. Isaiah Thomas – Los Angeles Lakers (UFA)
Thomas really has been on a rollercoaster in the last year and a half. From looking like a possible max salary guy (A contract which I would personally never give him, even at his heights) to a guy probably looking for a 1 year prove it deal. PREDICTION: Thomas takes a 1 year, $8M deal with the Memphis Grizzlies and tries to prove his worth as a 6th man scorer.
UPDATE: Isaiah Thomas signs a veterans minimum deal with the Denver Nuggets.
3. Marcus Smart – Boston Celtics (RFA)
Smart turned down an extension to test free agency, but this market could be tough. Although he brings many winning qualities, is a team going to offer Smart $12M a year in this tight cap? Not sure. PREDICTION: Smart accepts the $6M qualifying offer, and tests free agency next summer as an unrestricted free agent.
UPDATE: Smart agrees to re-sign with the Celtics on a 4 year, $52M deal.
4. Fred VanVleet – Toronto Raptors (RFA)
VanVleet came out of nowhere last year to become an anchor of one of the best benches in the NBA and a candidate for Sixth Man of the Year. Toronto can match any offer sheet he signs, but a team could pry him away if they are creative with the yearly money. PREDICTION: Toronto matches a 3 year, $24M offer sheet.
UPDATE: VanVleet re-signs with the Raptors on a 2 year, $18M deal.
5. Rajon Rondo – New Orleans Pelicans (UFA)
Rondo has always been a boom or bust option in free agency ever since he left Boston. He can put up numbers but can be trouble in the locker room. I think he’s back in New Orleans on a short deal when it’s all said and done. PREDICTION: Rondo returns to the Pelicans on a 2 year, $12M deal.
UPDATE: Rondo signs a 1 year, $9M deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.
1. Tyreke Evans – Memphis Grizzlies (UFA)
Evans had a resurgence last year with the Grizzlies, putting up impressive numbers off the bench. The Grizzlies had a chance to trade him at the deadline and passed, risking the chance of him leaving for nothing. It’ll be really interesting to see his market. PREDICTION: Evans returns to the Grizzlies on a 2 year, $16M deal.
2. Will Barton – Denver Nuggets (UFA)
Barton turned down a 4 year $42M deal with the Nuggets earlier this season so he could test free agency. It’s almost impossible to see him back in a Nuggets uniform due to the cap hell they’re about to be in after extending Jokic and the new extension kicking in for Gary Harris. PREDICTION: Barton signs with the Indiana Pacers on a 3 year $45M deal.
UPDATE: Will Barton agrees to a 4 year, $54M deal to return to the Denver Nuggets
3. Zach Lavine – Chicago Bulls (RFA)
Lavine came off an ACL injury this season, and seeing as how he was the main return for Jimmy Butler, it’s hard to imagine the Bulls won’t give him a long term deal and make him a part of their core going forward. PREDICTION: The Bulls re-sign Lavine to a 4 year $60M deal.
UPDATE: The Bulls match the Kings offer sheet of a 4 year, $80M deal.
4. Avery Bradley – Los Angeles Clippers (UFA)
A very good 3 and D wing player, Bradley should be on a lot of teams radars, and could be one of the steals of free agency. However, his injury history might bring down his price a tad. PREDICTION: Bradley re-signs with the Clippers on a 3 year, $30M deal.
5. JJ Redick – Philadelphia 76ers (UFA)
Redick surprisingly signed a 1 year $20M deal with the Sixers last year and he proved to be very good for them. If the Sixers miss out on LeBron, I expect them to quickly wrap up a new Redick deal. PREDICTION: Redick goes back to Philly on a 3 year, $40M deal.
1. LeBron James – Cleveland Cavaliers (UFA)
LeBron James, without a doubt, has the league by the balls midnight ET July 1st. I don’t know if it will be a quick decision like Brian Windhorst expects it to be, but I do expect him to be in a different uniform next season. PREDICTION: LeBron James signs with the Los Angeles Lakers on a 1 year, $35M deal with a player option for the 2nd year.
2. Kevin Durant – Golden State Warriors (UFA)
Don’t think there’s anything to see here, he’ll return to the Warriors. But this time, he won’t take a discount and it will start the clock on the Warriors luxury tax worries. PREDICTION: Durant re-signs with the Warriors on a 5 year $210M deal
UPDATE: Kevin Durant to re-sign with the Warriors on a 2 year, $61.5M deal, with the 2nd year being a player option.
3. Paul George – Oklahoma City Thunder (UFA)
OKC traded for Paul George last year hoping that they’d be able to convince him to stay. His hometown Lakers will no doubt come calling, and unless they get Kawhi beforehand, I expect him to accept that call. PREDICTION: George joins LeBron in LA on a 4 year, $140M deal.
UPDATE: Paul George agrees to a 4 year, $137M max deal with the OKC Thunder.
4. Trevor Ariza – Houston Rockets (UFA)
Ariza was one of the unsung heroes of the Rockets success last year. Like other teams, Houston is expected to miss out on LeBron, and I think they’ll bring back Ariza if it’s even close to reasonable. PREDICTION: Ariza returns to Houston on a 3 year, $36M deal
UPDATE: Ariza to leave Houston, agrees to a 1 year, $15M deal with the Phoenix Suns
5. Rudy Gay – San Antonio Spurs (UFA)
Gay opted out of the final year of his deal where he was expected to make $8M. He had a decent year last year, although I really doubt he’ll get more anywhere else. PREDICTION: Rudy Gay returns to the Spurs on a 1 year, $10M deal.
UPDATE: Rudy Gay to re-sign with the Spurs on a 1 year, $10M deal.
1. Julius Randle – Los Angeles Lakers (RFA)
Randle won’t be in a Lakers jersey next year if they end up getting 2 max players. So that might mean a young team with cap room can get him on a decent number. PREDICTION: Randle signs with the Atlanta Hawks on a 4 year, $65M deal.
2. Aaron Gordon – Orlando Magic (RFA)
Rumors are that the Pacers are interested in Gordon, but that will be an interesting play after Thad Young opted into the final year of his deal. It’ll also be interesting to see if the Magic bring him back as well considering their glut at the forward position. PREDICTION: The Magic re-sign Gordon on a 5 year, $100M deal.
3. Derrick Favors – Utah Jazz (UFA)
Favors will have an interesting market. Teams are moving a way from his style of play, but he is a very serviceable forward. PREDICTION: Favors returns to the Jazz on a 3 year, $36M deal.
4. Jabari Parker – Milwaukee Bucks (RFA)
Parker has had a rough start to his career with Milwaukee, and with 2 ACL injuries it’s unclear what kind of market he’ll have. I think he’ll still get a good deal from a team that still believes in his potential. PREDICTION: Parker signs a 3 year, $55M offer sheet with the Brooklyn Nets, Bucks do not match.
5. Montrezl Harrell – Los Angeles Clippers (RFA)
Harrell comes up 5th on the list because players like Thad Young opted in, and Dirk is a surefire bet to return to the Mavs. Harrell had a great year for the Clippers last year, and by all reports they love him and want to bring him back. I don’t think they wait on a team to sign him to an offer sheet and try to bring him back ASAP. PREDICTION: Clippers re-sign Harrell to a 3 year, $24M deal.
1. DeMarcus Cousins – New Orleans Pelicans (UFA)
It’s expected that Cousins will go into free agency wanting a max contract. That will be a tough sell considering his attitude issues and the achilles injury he’s coming off of. However, he is arguably the best center in basketball, and I fully expect him to still get a big deal. PREDICTION: Cousins re-signs with the Pelicans 3 year, $80M deal.
2. Clint Capela – Houston Rockets (RFA)
Although he’s a restricted free agent, he could be pried away at the right price. I fully expect him to be back in a Rockets uniform though as he’s way too important to that roster. PREDICTION: Rockets re-sign Capela to a 5 year, $110M max deal.
3. DeAndre Jordan – Los Angeles Clippers (UFA)
DeAndre opted out of his contract to become a UFA instead of opting in for a potential trade. Everyone and their mother is reporting that he’ll end up signing with the Dallas Mavericks and actually stay this time. I happen to agree. PREDICTION: Jordan signs with the Dallas Mavericks 3 years, $60M
UPDATE: DeAndre Jordan agrees to a 1 year, $24M deal with the Dallas Mavericks
4. Dwight Howard – Brooklyn Nets (UFA)
Howard had a good statistical year for the Hornets last season. But once again rumblings of locker room troubles followed him. He was sent to Brooklyn in what was effectively a salary dump (even though they took on salary in Mozgov’s deal, which is strange to say the least), and was subsequently bought out by the Nets. I think Howard will end up finding a while to find an eventual home. PREDICTION: Howard joins the champion Warriors on a 1 year, $5M deal.
5. Jusuf Nurkic – Portland Trailblazers (RFA)
Nurkic was another player that reportedly turned down a decent extension in order to test free agency. And like those other players, he’ll likely find out quickly that the market isn’t as big as they all expected. PREDICTION: Nurkic reluctantly accepts the $4.6M qualifying offer and takes his chances next year.