With the 2017 NBA Draft now in our rear-view mirror, it’s time for the NBA’s 24hr cycle to move on to the next great offseason tradition; Free Agency!
We have looked at Restricted Free Agents here and here and Unrestricted Free Agents, with more to come shortly from David. But with the Draft now done it’s time to see how the new crop of players entering the League will affect the existing group wanting to get that next payday.
Since the last look at the upcoming group of Free Agents, the Salary Cap has dropped to $99 million, as well as the big trades of D’Angelo Russell to Brooklyn and Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. Due to the number of Free Agents, they have been grouped into different categories to give an indication on the likelihood of them being retained by their teams, getting a big deal, or potentially being on the outside of the League when Season 2018 tips off.
Without further ado, the FA class of 2017.
|Kevin Durant – UFA||Dirk Nowitzki – UFA|
Durant is a Champion, but he didn’t move to Golden State to just win once. And to show that, he will have to take less than market value, which it sounds like he will. The rich get richer, whether it’s from dollars in the bank account or saving room to retain your roster and win more Championships. Meanwhile, Dirk is the gift that just keeps on giving to Cubes. Opting out to renegotiate a new deal means there is the potential to reduce his cap hit, giving Dallas more flexibility to pursue talent. Obviously, it means more Dirk too. Everyone wins.
IF YOUR NAME ISN’T MAX, DON’T BOTHER
|Blake Griffin – UFA||Gordon Hayward – UFA||Stephen Curry – UFA|
|Kyle Lowry – UFA||K. Caldwell-Pope – RFA||Otto Porter – RFA|
This grouping is a no brainer. Despite the cap falling, all of the above players should receive the Max offer if that is what they desire. Whilst there might be circumstances where they chose to take less – Chris Paul was a candidate for that before being traded – the likelihood is these names all cash in on their opportunities.
KCP and Porter are the real winners here. The rising cap and dearth of quality young two-way wings means they will earn more than Jimmy Butler this coming season. Washington and Detroit have no real way to replace them if they aren’t a fan of the asking price. Lowry and Griffin are the wildcards; both could stay at home with lucrative long-term deals, but if their home clubs start fiddling with dollars or years, there is a real chance they could bolt.
YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO LOSE ME
|Nerlens Noel – RFA||Serge Ibaka – UFA||Jrue Holiday – UFA||Taj Gibson – UFA|
|James Johnson – UFA||Ron Baker – RFA||JaMychal Green – RFA||Tony Snell – RFA|
This grouping is a mixture of skill levels and age. However, the importance of each player to each team is clear. The upper echelon – Noel, Holiday, Ibaka – should all receive over $20 mil per each. Dallas traded for Noel to be their foundation in the paint, Toronto moved a pick and a young Ross to get their hands on Ibaka. The investment to acquire them points to the strong need to retain.
Even the lesser known names such as Ron Baker have importance. Players like Snell were a great fit in their team system, and when you peruse the list of other available 3-D wings, you realise there isn’t much else out there on the open market. The Grizzlies can’t really afford to lose any young talent, which Green should be able to take advantage of.
EXPENSIVE 6TH MEN
|Andre Iguodala – UFA||Mason Plumlee – RFA||Pau Gasol – UFA||JJ Redick – UFA|
|Dion Waiters – UFA||CJ Miles – UFA||Bojan Bogdanovic – RFA|
These are your $10-$20 Million men. The piece you can’t afford to not have if you want to win. There are already reports of teams lining up out the door for Iguodala, as well as proven scorers like Redick. Miles might be a sneaky low-cost pick up for Minnesota or New Orleans, both teams that desperately need shooting. Washington gave up a first to get Bogdanovic, so it would be unlikely they let him walk unless the price goes close to Allen Crabbe money, which seems unlikely.
Plumlee and Waiters will be the really interesting players here. Words can’t really convey how thoroughly Portland won the trade that sent Nurkic and a 1st to the Blazers for Plumdog, and it would be compounding the error to let Plumlee go in RFA, despite questions around fit with the Joker. Waiters, meanwhile, became a legitimate basketball player and not just a meme, but small sample size might make some teams skittish to pony up the big bucks. If Philly come calling though, will he be able to say no?
YOU PROBABLY CAN’T AFFORD TO KEEP ME
|Jonathan Simmons – RFA||Danilo Gallinari – UFA||Patty Mills – UFA||Patrick Patterson – UFA|
|JaVale McGee – UFA||Dewayne Dedmon – UFA||Kelly Olynyk – RFA||Alan Williams – RFA|
Let’s clarify what “you can’t afford me” means. In a vacuum, all of these players could be retained by their incumbents. But at what cost to cap space, and production vs development opportunity for other players on the roster? Simmons, Mills and Dedmon are all valuable to the Spurs, but at the cost of not signing a top tier FA? Can the Raptors keep Ibaka, Lowry and Patterson? Do the Celtics chew up potential future cap space by keeping Game 7 hero Kelly Olynyk? How does Gallo fit in the new world the Nuggets are trying to create if he is offered $80 mil over 4 years? Do Phoenix pay to keep Williams and Len with Chandler still on the books? There is no doubt that all the players in this group will have earned their raise, but the odds of them all staying with the team they developed with is slim to none.
CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBRE GLUE GUYS
|Joe Ingles – RFA||Aron Baynes – UFA||Shaun Livingston – UFA||Nene – UFA|
|Zach Randolph – UFA||Vince Carter – UFA||Manu Ginobili – UFA|
These are the players that don’t always wow you, but prove essential to winning. We already looked extensively at Jingles and how he is set to cash in on his steady play. Livingston, Baynes and Ginobli are all proven champions and will be great value bench players for anything under $10 mil per year. Nene had a monster bounce back campaign in Houston, as did Carter in Memphis. Vince is interesting as he wants to ring chase but not at the expense of playing time. He showed he can still compete in the series against San Antonio, and has a history with Pappa Curry. ‘Grandpa Grind’ Randolph is unlikely to leave the Grizz voluntarily, but would be a great pick up as an offensive hub for a bench unit in OKC or even New York.
MY TEAM IS REBUILDING AND I MIGHT NO LONGER FIT IN THEIR PLANS
|Paul Millsap – UFA||Jeff Teague – UFA|
|Tim Hardaway Jr – RFA||Rajon Rondo – UFA (if waived)|
|Alex Len – RFA||Nick Young – UFA|
|Rodney Stuckey – UFA||Jordan Hill – UFA|
|Tiago Splitter – UFA||Kris Humphries – UFA|
The big catch is clearly Thrillsap. Paul chose to opt out again for the chance to jump off the rebuilding Hawks and stick on a contender, or someone who wants to bring the Brinks Truck. Millsap will have no shortage of suitors, but it is less clear for the rest of the group. Swaggy Young opted out and probably hopes to land on a contender and continue his JR Smith resurrection tour. Teague might be a man without a home given a world flush with Point Guards and an Indiana team needing a tear down. Keep an eye on Denver as a potential low-cost option.
Rondo is another in a state of limbo, it makes no sense for Chicago to carry Payne, Dunn, Grant and Rondo into next season. Len and Hardaway will likely have to wait out the market for a deal to materialise similar to Mo Harkless last year, but whether they are retained by their clubs or not remains to be seen (obviously). Hardaway strikes as a sign and trade option, maybe to New Orleans or Philly.
PLEASE GIVE ME ONE LAST PAYDAY
|Derrick Rose – UFA||Jeff Green – UFA||George Hill – UFA|
|Jared Sullinger – UFA||Arron Afflalo – UFA||Ty Lawson – UFA|
|Tyreke Evans – UFA||Deron Williams – UFA||Derrick Williams – UFA|
|Mike Scott – UFA||Matt Barnes – UFA|
It’s not easy being on the downside of your career as an athlete. Watching new players come in and being the answer to the franchise’s ‘problems’ (more often than not problems created by your contract or performance) is a real ego hit. Time is short, and there is only so much money to go around. Players like Rose, Sullinger and Evans have seen their value decrease due to injury and a changing NBA. Afflalo and Green have never been able to get past ‘decent’. Lawson, Scott and Barnes have all had issues with Johnny Law.
The safest bet here is probably George Hill, a key piece to the Jazz this past season. His injury history will worry some, but he is a safe option for a team not wanting to splurge on the other available PGs. Keep an eye on New Orleans here if talks fall through with Jrue Holiday.
DID MY TEAM JUST DRAFT MY REPLACEMENT?
|Nikola Mirotic – RFA||PJ Tucker – UFA|
|Willie Reed – UFA||Michael Beasley – UFA|
|Festus Ezeli – UFA (once waived)||Michael Carter-Williams – UFA|
|Darren Collison – UFA||Sergio Rodriguez – UFA|
|Jonas Jerebko – UFA||Ramon Sessions – UFA|
The Draft means 60 new players. The Draft means salvation in the new. The Draft means someone is going to be out of a job. Out with the old, in with the new. While this might not apply to all – Willie Reed is sure to be picked up and Chicago sound like they want to keep Mirotic despite drafting Markkanen – many names in this grouping will be feeling the pressure to secure another contract or just a decent role. Collison looks to have lost his starting spot to Fox, Carter-Williams has been dropped in favour of Kris Dunn, Ezeli was told months ago he would be waived and Tucker may be forced to train his replacement in Anunoby if he resigns in T Dot.
|Andre Roberson – RFA||Luc MBah A Moute – UFA||Thabo Sefolosha – UFA|
|Tony Allen – UFA||Brandon Rush – UFA||Gerald Henderson – UFA (if waived)|
Specialists that can’t shoot are fine for the regular season, but paying big money to players that are unplayable in the postseason is trouble. Roberson is a jump shot away from being a Max player, but as it stands he might not even return to OKC unless Russ forces the issue. Sefolosha, MBah A Moute and Allen are dogged defenders, but getting long in the tooth. Henderson might not even be a free agent depending on what Philly do with his option, and he’s not exactly lock down.
The best value might be Rush, who enjoyed a reawakening with Golden State, then Minnesota once LaVine went down. He can defend and make the open 3. If Milwaukee lose Snell, don’t be surprised if they reach for Rush as a replacement.
LOCKER ROOM VET YOU NEED
|Nick Collison – UFA||Jason Terry – UFA||Jose Calderon – UFA|
|Udonis Haslem – UFA||Randy Foye – UFA||Leandro Barbosa – UFA|
|James Jones – UFA||Devin Harris – UFA||Mike Miller – UFA|
Your ring chasers, your locker room presence, your minimum and bi-annual exception contracts. All would be expected to provide guidance, leadership and intangibles to either their existing teams or a new roster before looking at the importance of their production. Philly made the mistake of having all babies with no parent to raise them, and corrected their error with Elton Brand.
Collison and Haslem are institutions at their respective ball clubs. It would be a shock if “Champ” were to leave LeBron’s side. Foye and Barbosa could be kept on to mentor the plethora of young guards in Brooklyn and Phoenix. All of these players should be signed for the 2018 season.
LOW COST BIG
|Andrew Bogut – UFA||David West – UFA||Amir Johnson – UFA|
|Zaza Pachulia – UFA||David Lee – UFA||Roy Hibbert – UFA|
|Brandon Bass – UFA||Jeff Withey – UFA||Boris Diaw – UFA|
|James McAdoo – RFA||Mo Speights – UFA|
With the 2017 Draft just completed, one thing that springs to mind is how many bigs were picked up. From Zach Collins to Jordan Bell and everywhere in between. This influx in talented, cheap youngsters could cause problems for the vet class. The likelihood that the bigs wouldn’t be in the League next year is very low, but the chance at getting anything above the tax mid level seems remote. There is real value here, but not a lot of money to be made. Keep an eye out for something like Withey to Golden State or San Antonio as a McGee/Dedmon replacement (if needed) and watch the rest of the League marvel at how they always find that player.
THIRD STRING POINT GUARD
|Raymond Felton – UFA||Shelvin Mack – UFA||Beno Udrih – UFA|
|Langston Galloway – UFA||Aaron Brooks – UFA||Mario Chalmers – UFA|
Meh. These are known commodities, players you like knowing you have in your back pocket but secretly hope you don’t have to rely upon. Felton was decent last year, as was Mack, and one would expect them to be the 2 most likely to be snatched up. Outside of maybe Mack, all would likely jump if offered the bi-annual exception. Look for Rio to jump on a contender and try to earn back some credibility, he was playing well before injuring his Achilles tendon.
LOW COST SHOOTER
|Kyle Korver – UFA||Ersan Ilysaova – UFA|
|Ian Clark – UFA||Jodie Meeks – UFA|
|Gerald Green – UFA||Anthony Morrow – UFA|
|Luke Babbitt – UFA||Jordan McRae – UFA|
|Anthony Tolliver – UFA||Justin Holiday – UFA|
Shooters almost always have a job. Just ask Meeks, who has been injured basically since he stepped onto an NBA floor. Just ask Luke Babbit, who somehow has hung in there despite not being able to do anything other than hit from range. Don’t sleep on someone like Ian Clark getting snapped up for $6 Million by Houston or NOLA (the Pels really need shooting), or Orlando taking a flyer on a young scorer like McRae. Just don’t bank all 10 players being on a roster come opening night.
I MIGHT BE ABLE TO GET MORE OUT OF YOU THAN THE PREVIOUS TEAM DID
|Shabazz Muhammad – RFA||Terrence Jones – UFA||Mike Muscala – UFA|
|Ben McLemore – RFA||Brandon Jennings – UFA||Joffrey Lauvergne – UFA|
|Thomas Robinson – UFA||Tyler Ennis – UFA||Reggie Bullock – RFA|
|Donatas Motiejūnas – UFA||James Young – UFA||Cristiano Felicio – RFA|
|Aaron Harison – UFA|
This is where opportunistic franchises search for some glimmer of a usable skill and a way to harness it. All of these players should expect to be retained, but the teams that they finished with will quite likely not be the ones doing the signing. You just know the Spurs are going to sign McLemore and then he will turn into an All Star, while Terrence Jones will head to Toronto to try and stick one last time. Sleeper pick up is Muscala, who has toiled in anonymity with the Hawks but is going to be a steal for whoever signs him at 2 Years, $6 Mil.
IT WILL BE A MIRACLE IF I’M STILL IN THE LEAGUE
|Trey Burke – UFA||Arinze Onuaku – UFA||Sasha Vujacic – UFA|
|Adreian Payne – UFA||Alan Anderson – UFA||Brian Roberts – UFA|
|Damjan Rudez – UFA||Chris Anderson – UFA||Joel Anthony – UFA|
|Luis Scola – UFA||Ronnie Price – UFA||Metta World Peace – UFA|
|Nicolas Laprovittola – UFA||CJ Wilcox – UFA||Marcelo Huertas – UFA|
|Norris Cole – UFA||Greivis Vasquez – UFA|
Well, it was fun. You can hold your heads high knowing that you played in the most competitive basketball league on the planet. From some it was a hell of a ride (The Flight of the Bird is definitely a book I want Anderson to write, maybe with Jonathan Abrams), for others like Onuaku it was basically a toe in the water. But whether it was injury (Vazquez), age (Scola), or lack of improvement (Payne), these players all appear poised to say goodbye to the big time, at least for now. Don’t let Trey Burke’s Dad see this.