The Finals are over and the NBA Draft is complete. That means the real offseason has finally arrived! Free Agency officially begins this Friday and we wanted to preview our thoughts on where the top players are going to land and where we truly want the top players to land (mostly Washington).
We left out restricted free agents such as Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, and Harrison Barnes. Beal and Drummond’s teams are almost 100% guaranteed to match any other team’s offer for their services. Barnes is trickier depending on what Golden State wants to do this offseason, but since we have been on the “Barnes-is-trash” bandwagon the last month (note: not everyone is on that bandwagon…), we kept him off of our top dozen free agents.
We also did not include players who almost assuredly will either resign with their teams or retire. This includes LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Tim Duncan. If Duncan left the Spurs for another team, Hell might just freeze over.
With that, here are our much debated top 12 free agents entering the Summer of 2016:
- Kevin Durant
Prediction from the Head: Durant will think long and hard about his options. He is loyal to OKC, but he is tired of finishing second. I just cannot see him signing with the Warriors or Spurs. If he leaves the Thunder, I think he heads to the East where the path to the Finals is much easier. The Miami Heat would be the most likely landing spot for him and Pat Riley knows how to whisper in a superstar’s ear during Free Agency. That being said, Durant will return to the Thunder next year.
Prediction from the Heart: #KD2DC. Please read here.
Prediction from the Head: It makes all the sense in the world for Durant to sign a one year deal with the Thunder for $26 million and change. By doing this he becomes eligible for a super max (35% of a team’s salary cap) by playing one more season in OKC. On paper it could be five year deal just to protect Durant in case he gets hurt, but the deal will have a player option for the 2017-18 season.
Prediction from the Heart: See Nick’s response above. #KD2DC.
- Al Horford
Prediction from the Head: I think Horford will weigh all of his options and stay in Atlanta. The team is already set up around his skillset and Coach Bud has a great rapport with the team. Atlanta also can offer him the most money, so it could be a win-win all around for Horford.
Prediction from the Heart: Horford would be great for the Wizards too. He would really shore up their front court holes and provide another offensive force. If Washington is out of the question, I would love to see him go to Boston to give Brad Stevens a real All-Star.
Prediction from the Head: Similar to Durant, Horford will be eligible for a supermax contract next summer if he plays one more season with Atlanta. I think even if the supermax did not exist he would still re sign with Atlanta given the chemistry with that team.
Prediction from the Heart: #AH2DC and yes this will be a theme.
- Mike Conley
Prediction from the Head: Like Marc Gasol last year, Conley will stay with the Grizzlies. That core has great kinship with each other and for someone reason they love to play in Memphis together. They could still have a few good years left in the tank to make another run in the West.
Prediction from the Heart: Go. Spurs. Go. Conley would be great as the heir-apparent to Tony Parker. He is an unselfish, tough point guard that would fit great into the Spurs system. He would also fill San Antonio’s biggest hole.
Prediction from the Head: Conley also benefits greatly by playing one more season with Memphis and becoming eligible for a super max deal next offseason. He signs a one year deal with Memphis then bolts for L.A. next off season for a boat load of cash.
Prediction from the Heart: With point guard being about the only thing the Wizards do not need, #MC2DC will not be necessary. I like several Memphis players individually, but am tired of watching them as a team. For the sake of my eyes I hope he goes elsewhere, preferably to the Mavs with Mark Cuban pulling off some recruiting magic that doesn’t get foiled like the DeAndre Jordan fiasco last off season.
- Hassan Whiteside
Prediction from the Head: This is a toss-up. Miami knows him better than anyone, so if they really want him and trust him, I think he will stay. That being said, Miami might also know that he is a ticking time bomb and let him walk. If they do, Mark Cuban will come calling and I think Whiteside heads to Dallas.
Prediction from the Heart: For some reason, I have been talking myself into Whiteside to the Wizards. We need big man help, we need a possible superstar, and we need to get younger as Gortat ages. Whiteside could check all of those boxes. I just shudder when I think about him and Markieff Morris in the same locker room.
Prediction from the Head: This is a tough one because the Heat can offer a fifth year to Whiteside that other teams cannot. However the Heat have other moving pieces with their cap (D Wade, Deng). I think Whiteside grows impatient early in the process and bolts for the Lakers.
Prediction from the Heart: #HW2DC. It would probably blow up in the Wizards’ face, but it should at least make games more entertaining for awhile.
- Demar DeRozan
Prediction from the Head: DeRozan stays in the 6. The Raptors are currently the second best team in the East and will utilize him to the best of his somewhat limited offensive abilities. It is the best basketball situation for him and of course can offer him the most cash.
Prediction from the Heart: I would not mind seeing him go the Lakers. He would probably stunt some of their young players growth and fill the Kobe role from last year. He is a good player in the right situation, but that is not this Lakers team. This would keep the hated Lakers from getting back to the playoffs.
Prediction from the Head: Very few people would say no to $150+ million over the next five years. DeRozan stays with the Raptors despite a hard push from the Lakers.
Prediction from the Heart: Would love to see DeRozan leave Toronto for almost anywhere as that would cripple Toronto and in theory benefit the Wizards. They would have to get really creative with cap, but I would love to see him on New Orleans and finally give The Brow some much needed help.
- Dwight Howard
Prediction from the Head: This is tough. I think Dwight has a few good years left in him, especially if a team uses him right. I could see him going to his hometown of Atlanta or New York (Knicks or Nets). If Howard wants to restore some of his legacy, he would go on a cheaper, short term deal to a contender that would get the most out of him. However, that is not how Dwight operates and he will sign long term with the Knicks or Nets, probably the Knicks.
Prediction from the Heart: Anywhere but DC! Dwight has to go the Knicks. It is just too perfect. That media market will eat him up and spit him back out. It is such a Knicks move. Poor Porzingis if that happens.
Prediction from the Head: After their draft night trade of two young assets for essentially one year of Serge Ibaka I am not convinced the Magic know what they are doing. That is why I can see them going crazy and offering Dwight a four year contract of over $125 million.
Prediction from the Heart: Like Nick, I would love to see the dumpster fire the Knicks would become if they signed Dwight. I also would love to see Dwight’s market turn out to be completely dry and see him end up stuck going to a Milwaukee or Charlotte, becoming miserable 15 games into the season and demanding a trade. How does a guy go from one of the most loveable players in the league to one of the most dislikeable players in the league so quickly?
- Nic Batum
Prediction from the Head: Batum will stay in Charlotte where he found a career renaissance after struggling in Portland for a few years. They will offer him the most money and will feature him in a starring role, while other suitors might make him more of a role player.
Prediction from the Heart: I would love to see the Warriors drop Harrison Barnes and replace him with Nic Batum. Batum is a better version of Harrison Barnes that hopefully won’t wilt under the playoff pressure.
Prediction from the Head: Charlotte has the second most cap space entering free agency, they have to spend that money on someone. Batum played really well for them last season and seem to be a perfect match.
Prediction from the Heart: He wouldn’t look bad in Washington red white and blue, but not good enough to inspire using a hashtag. My heart says he can stay in Buzz City.
- Dirk Nowitzki
Prediction from the Head: I think Dirk will stay in Dallas. I know he took a big discount a few years ago to help the team attract free agents, so he might want one last big paycheck. I cannot imagine someone else will offer significantly more money than Dallas. If Dirk wants another title and is not worried as much about the salary, then he will probably sign for cheap with Golden State or San Antonio.
Prediction from the Heart: Stay in Dallas Dirk! I hate it when great players who have played with one franchise leave teams in the twilight of their careers. Dirk needs to retire a Maverick.
Prediction from the Head: There is no way Dirk leaves the Mavs right? I guess I could see him going to Golden State and shooting 70% from the field for a season, but it still would not feel right. He stays in Dallas.
Prediction from the Heart: Dirk has to retire a Mav. There is just no other option I am okay with.
- Chandler Parsons
Prediction from the Head: Parsons could go to a lot of teams that need shooting. He will fetch big money if he chooses to, so this decision really falls onto his shoulders. I think the Lakers and Magic will both offer him the max and I think Chandler will take the Lakers offer to join their young nucleus.
Prediction from the Heart: Chandler heads to L.A.… and joins the Clippers. He gives them the spacing they need on offense and another shooter to compliment JJ Redick. He just seems destined to play in L.A. at some point.
Prediction from the Head: Parsons is interesting because he would fit with a lot of teams and I feel he is a bit underrated. I do not see Dallas being able to keep him and a Houston reunion would be difficult with their current cap situation (The Rockets currently have the second least amount of cap space). They would have to move some salaries around to fit Parsons projected contract in, but I think Boston makes a lot of sense.
Prediction from the Heart: You guessed it, #CP2DC (I promise I’ll stop now).
- Pau Gasol
Prediction from the Head: I think Gasol will reunite with Phil Jackson and sign with the Knicks. He is a worldly guy who would love to live in New York for a few years after spending time in LA and Chicago. He could also help develop and mentor Kristaps Porzingis.
Prediction from the Heart: Pau retires after Spain loses in the Olympic finals to the US team. Or he joins the Spurs.
Prediction from the Head: Pau is underrated year in and year out. Whoever he goes to next will be very pleased with the player they are getting. The Spurs make so much sense in so many ways.
Prediction from the Heart: As long as he goes to a playoff team my heart will be happy. This will never happen but Minnesota would be even more fun to watch with Pau on board.
- Bismack Biyombo
Prediction from the Head: The Raptors find a way to get Biyombo back in the fold, despite having Jonas Valanciunas and drafting Jakob Poeltl last week. The window for the Raptors is still open, and they would be wise to go for it while the East is still pretty weak at the top.
Prediction from the Heart: I do not really have strong feelings about Bismack. Love his name and his play in Games 3 and 4 of the Conference Finals last year, but otherwise he does not do much for me. I hope the Lakers overpay him and team him with Roy Hibbert in the post.
Prediction from the Head: How much can Biyombo really demand on the open market? And with Toronto not having his Bird rights how hard will they fight to keep him? Brooklyn has a lot of cap space and Biyombo seems in a prime spot to get overpaid.
Prediction from the Heart: After selecting Biyombo seventh overall in 2011, Charlotte let Biyombo walk without even picking up his fifth year option. MJ gives everyone a good laugh and overpays the guy he couldn’t wait to get rid of two summers ago.
- Rajon Rondo
Prediction from the Head: Rondo goes back to Sacramento, since they will probably pay him the most money and Boogie loves him.
Prediction from the Heart: Brooklyn brings in Rondo as another past their prime Celtic for their collection. Rondo would at least add some excitement for Nets fans while Celtics fans could watch him again to see if he can lose games to get them a better draft pick. And it gets him out of the black hole of Sacramento.
Prediction from the Heart: Sacramento is the only team that would pay a point guard who cannot shoot major money, and that’s exactly what they will do. Rondo continues to blatantly pad his assist totals on a 35 win team.
Prediction from the Heart: I agree with my partner on this one. The Nets are poised to overpay someone this summer, at least they have plenty of draft picks coming up. Oh wait that’s right…
Other notable free agents (NB: for the Wizards to overpay): Joakim Noah, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Luol Deng, Al Jefferson
-Nick Bair & Randy Haines
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