NBA Free Agency Primer : 2017 UFAs

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There aren’t many teams with their 2016/17 season hopes still alive and therefore attention for many franchises (and their fanbases) has turned to the draft and free agency.

Sam and Joel have had you covered with the draft for a while now, with plenty of updates and a few more to come.

Xander and I cover the free agency side of things, where we assessed the 2016 class earlier this year and he has had you well and truly covered on the ’17 RFA’s; here and here.

As far as off-season activity goes, that only leaves one thing: the ’17 Unrestricted Free Agent Class. Below is a large chunk of the NBA players who are likely to be without a contract when July 1st hits.

I say ‘chunk’ because it is not every free agent in existence but most of those who played a meaningful role in 2016/17. I say ‘likely’ as there are a number of players listed below (marked with an asterisk) who have some sort of option to their current deal, that is more than likely going to be exercised for them to hit free agency. Also listed is the likely amount of cap space each of the 30 teams will have at their disposal, without needing any further maneuvering.

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From the Southeast Division, the Hawks and Heat are in the biggest danger of having unrestricted free agency shake up their rosters. Both teams have the room to retain players on larger deals, should they choose to. Charlotte and Washington will have little to spend and who knows what Orlando might do.

  • Millsap is almost certain to opt out of his deal with the Hawks.
  • As are Waiters and Reed for the Heat.
  • Ramon Sessions is an interesting proposition with the Hornets holding a $6mil option.
  • Jeff Green will no doubt move on from his short stay in Orlando, who wants him?

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The Central Division is going to have a lot of action this summer. The Pistons and Cavs look likely to sit out on the major action, unless they trade pieces away. The Bulls, Pacers and Bucks all look like buyers.

  • Wade and Rondo are 50/50 chances to be Bulls next season.
  • Baynes and Miles are likely to opt out of their current deals.
  • Monroe ($17mil) and Hawes ($6mil) hold player options for next year at close to their market value but they could still opt out for the security of another long term deal.

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As far as an even spread of wealth goes, the Atlantic Division is full of teams with money to burn. The Sixers, Nets and Celtics could all be in the market for max type players. The Raptors will likely see their cap space disappear quickly on retaining their own talent and then there’s the Knicks.

  • Boston is the only one of the three with a chance at the pointy end of the market of true star players.
  • Toronto has 4 key rotation players all off the books and probably can’t afford them all.
  • Brooklyn may avoid the RFA market this time around and spend big in UFA.
  • The Sixers will be an underdog chance on a lot of the middle to upper tier talent.

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Out West, the Northwest Division has an interesting balance of power when it comes to free agent spending. All 5 teams will see themselves as Playoff contenders next season and looking for the right piece to put them over the top.

  • The Thunder and Blazers look to be capped out unless they trade away some big salary.
  • The Jazz have several key decisions to make, including on UFA’s Hayward and Hill to add to the RFA of Joe Ingles.
  • Denver and Minnesota will likely be in the same marketplace, looking for veteran players to add to their exciting young rosters. Look for both to splash some cap space on at least one high-profile signing each.

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There is a whole lotta cap space in the Pacific.

  • The Warriors will likely be too busy dancing around the CBA rules to retain all their high profile free agents (Durant, Curry, Iggy & Livingston), rather than chasing anyone new.
  • Ditto, the Clippers (Paul, Blake & Redick). Although they could look to blow things up just a little or a whole lot, so keep an eye on at least JJ Redick.
  • The Lakers and Suns will have near max money to offer but would be smart to not use it, while the Kings will find it hard to spend their room on anyone meaningful, no matter how hard they try.

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Not a lot of high profile free agents in the Southwest, however still some interesting scenarios.

  • Devin Harris could find himself as a FA in Dallas.
  • Gasol, Lee and Dedmon have all played well enough to justify opting out in San Antonio. Add them to the possible departure of Mills and Ginobili, all of a sudden the Spurs look very different.
  • Memphis may also look very different next season, with some hard calls to make on 3 very serviceable veterans in Randolph, Allen and Carter.
  • Jrue Holiday will be a wanted man for the Pelicans and various other potential suitors.

Top 5’s & Wildcards:

Now that we have identified all the possible free agents, it’s time to assess the cream of the crop from every position and find out where the strength of this class lies. Listed below are the Top 5 guys (per position) looking for a new contract and possibly a new team, as well as one wildcard player who finds themselves in an interesting situation. While a few will have many max contract offers available to them, age will play a factor for others possibly looking for one last pay-day. Listed is an estimate on how likely they are to remain with their previous team, a team to watch out for if they decide to move and what their possible new NBA contract could look like.

Player (Age) – % To Stay –  Team To Watch – Estimated Contract $M / Years
*Notes contract if they remain with current team.

Point Guards:
1. Stephen Curry (29) – 95% – Hornets – $200M+ / 5*
2. Chris Paul (32)  – 80% – Spurs – $200M+ / 5*
3. Kyle Lowry (31) – 70% – Sixers – $150M+ / 5*
4. George Hill (31) – 70% – Pelicans – $60M / 4 (Player)
5. Jrue Holiday (26) – 50% – Knicks -$75M / 4
WC. Jeff Teague (28) – 60% – Magic – $70M / 4

The PG position is easily the most stacked when it comes to free agency this summer. Not only are there genuine superstars out of contract but the depth is also out of this world. It’s very hard to see Curry or Paul leaving their current teams but if they did, it would likely be for different reasons. They will get max money wherever they go but Curry could bolt for his hometown, where Paul might go for a better shot at a ‘ship. The likelihood is a little greater for Lowry, Hill and Holiday who could all go where the money sends them. Look out for Indiana to balk at re-signing Teague and a desperate team like the Magic making a large offer.

Shooting Guards:
1. Dwyane Wade (35) – 50% – Clippers – $50M / 3 (Team)
2. JJ Redick (32) – 30% – Timberwolves – $42M / 2
3. Dion Waiters (25) – 30% – Nets – $56M / 4
4. Patty Mills (28) – 50% – Sixers – $36M / 3
5. Kyle Korver (36) – 50% – Jazz – $12M / 2
WC. Nick Young (31) – 10% – Pelicans – $15M / 3

Shooting Guard is quite the opposite this summer, perhaps the second thinnest market of the 5 positions. Any time a 35 year old Wade headlines the options, things aren’t great. Could he opt out and join CP3 at the Clippers after a small shakeup? Redick may be the one to go if LAC do decide a shakeup is needed and the Wolves have cash and a need for 3pt shooting. Waiters could be 3rd time lucky for the Nets in their search for a SG, while Korver makes some sense on the Jazz. Mills sneaks in as a combo guard and he would likely play as a SG next to Simmons in Philly. The Pelicans will be desperate for shooting and Young looks poised to leave the Lakers.

Small Forwards:
1. Kevin Durant (28) – 95% – Clippers – $200M+ / 5*
2. Gordon Hayward (27) – 50% – Celtics – $130M+ / 4
3. Danilo Gallinari (28) – 40% – Heat – $54M / 3 (Team)
4. Andre Iguodala (33) – 60% – Lakers – $22M / 2
5. James Johnson (30) – 50% – Timberwolves – $40M / 3
WC. CJ Miles (30) / PJ Tucker (32) – 50% – Suns – $33M / 3

The 3 man position is the most interesting in free agency. Not quite as full on talent as the lead guards but with far greater chance for movement. Although Durant will opt out, it’s highly unlikely it’s for another team. I know, GSW didn’t lose to the Clippers so he won’t join them. That’s how it works right? But realistically, where else could he go? Hayward wants to win so maybe he joins his old coach in Boston if he can’t see that in Utah. Gallo is also likely to opt out but perhaps to leave, and Miami feels like a nice landing spot for both parties. Other questions: could Iggy be squeezed out by GSW and wooed by Walton? How nice does Johnson fit on the Wolves as a combo 3/4 man? And could CJ Miles or PJ Tucker be one of the Suns smaller buy options for veterans?

Power Forwards:
1. Paul Millsap (32) – 30% – Nuggets – $150M+ / 4
2. Blake Griffin (28) – 70% – Thunder – $150M+ / 5*
3. Serge Ibaka (27) – 70% – Bucks – $64M / 4
4. Amir Johnson (30) – 20% – Pistons – $20M / 2 (Team)
5. Zach Randolph (35) – 80% – Bulls – $25M / 2
WC. Taj Gibson (31) – 20% – Pacers – $22M / 2

The Power Forward position has 3 major names and is very thin passed single digits. Millsap is a dead certainty to opt out and perhaps just as certain to leave. Landing spots are hard to find for him but Denver could make a run and looks to have a better future than the Hawks. Like Paul, Blake is very likely to wind up back in a Clippers uniform but perhaps he considers the LA rival or even going home to OKC. Serge Ibaka could find himself on a fourth team in 12 months and the Bucks have no long term solution at PF, given Parker’s injury status. Amir Johnson feels like a SVG add and while it’s hard not to imagine ZBo in a Grizz uniform, the Bulls will have plenty of money and no plan. Wildcard, Taj Gibson, could literally land anywhere but the Pacers seem a good fit.

Centers:
1. Pau Gasol (36) – 20% – Raptors – $30M / 2
2. Greg Monroe (26) – 25% – Knicks – $38M / 3
3. Aron Baynes (30) – 10% – Sixers – $30M / 3
4. Dewayne Dedmon (27) – 80% – Blazers – $20M / 2
5. Nene (34) – 60% – Spurs – $15M / 2 (Team)
WC – Willie Reed (27) – 10% – Cavaliers – $20M / 4

True bigs are a limited resource in today’s NBA and 2017 free agency is certainly a microcosm of that. It’s hard to see the Spurs bringing back Pau Gasol and Dewayne Dedmon, so the Raptors may make a play for Pau (if he opts out) and Portland might like Dedmon as a C option. The Monroe player option is intriguing, while he may not demand more money per year he may opt out for more long-term security. The Knicks could pair him with Porzingis. Baynes would be a smart buy for Philly and Nene could benefit from a vacancy in San Antonio. Willie Reed is the real wildcard and David Griffin may be able to work some magic to make him a Cavalier, if he’s not already in Orlando.

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With a stacked unrestricted free agent class and some interesting restricted free agents too, the action come July 1st will be as good as it ever has been. Although the cap isn’t rising quite to the level it did last off-season, it is still jumping up roughly another $8 million. There is also a shorter July moratorium period this summer, which means players will now be able to officially sign just 5 days after first speaking on July 1.

That is all a recipe for fireworks and when you throw in the kind of A grade names this free agency period has, it will be fascinating viewing. All players are different but it will certainly be interesting to see which players take the money on offer at their previous team’s and which look to join up with more talent for a chance at the ultimate success.


We use Basketballinsiders.com plus the great Eric Pincus & Keith Smith for all our salary information.
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