In recent seasons, the NBA Free Agency period has been truly must watch. The tactical maneuvers done during this schedule period each summer has dictated the league as a whole. From Shaquille O’Neal departing Orlando for Hollywood in 1996 to LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach in 2010 to just last July, Kevin Durant waving goodbye to Oklahoma City to join forces with the Golden State Warriors. So with the NBA Finals wrapped up and the Free Agency period officially beginning on June 1st, here are the key free agents to watch that may shape the 2017-18 regular season.
Note: Both Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are excluded based on both being sure bets to remain with the Golden State Warriors.
SF Gordon Hayward, Utah Jazz, Free Agency status: Player Option – The versatile Hayward technically has a year left on his contract with the Jazz but as mentioned, his contract allows a player option which rumors have swirled that he will likely take. The 26-year-old is coming off his best professional season in which he led the Jazz in scoring (21.9), made his first All-Star team, and led the Jazz to the playoffs for the first time since the 2011-12 season. Miami and Boston are teams to watch in case Hayward leaves. Expect Hayward to target a Harrison Barnes-like contract (4 year/$94M).
PG Chris Paul, Los Angeles Clippers, Free Agency status: Player Option – The rumor mill has churned out a few rumors for Paul as well after the Clippers were dispatched by the Jazz in the opening round of this year’s Playoffs. The Spurs may be a distinct possibility for Paul his addition along with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge will make San Antonio a legit threat to the Warriors and the Western Conference. Then again, Paul can always come back to La-La Land to take one more swing with head coach Doc Rivers, C DeAndre Jordan, PF Blake Griffin, and the rest of the Clippers.
PG Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors, Free Agency status: Unrestricted – Lowry will hit the open market seeking a sizable contract and a possible fresh start at a new location. Lowry’s playoff woes have been documented while in Toronto but he is still a 3-time All-Star and a worthy point guard for a team in need of a stability at the position. His decision to decline a Player Option recently makes him a free agent this offseason, a vivid sign that he is seriously considering taking his talents elsewhere.
PF Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers, Free Agency status: Player Option – For the second postseason in a row, Griffin suffered a season-ending injury in the first round of the postseason which was also a critical reason why the Clippers endured early postseason exits. When healthy, Griffin is an extraordinary ball player and arguably a top 10 player overall. If Griffin declines the option, he may be looking for heavy money bags. It also does not necessarily mean he will be afraid to pack his things and depart Los Angeles for a change of scenery.
PG Jrue Holiday, New Orleans Pelicans, Free Agency status: Unrestricted – Another solid point guard who has dealt with a fair share of injuries in recent seasons. Holiday averaged 15.4 PPG this past season along with a career-high in shooting percentage with 45%. Whether the Pelicans will jump into the bidding war for Holiday remains to be seen, but with a talented duo in Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, a floor general is just as essential. A young team in the Western Conference (Minnesota Timberwolves) appears to have their eyes set on reeling in the veteran point guard.
SG Dwyane Wade, Chicago Bulls, Free Agency status: Player Option – Wade only spent one season with his hometown Chicago Bulls but he averaged his least amount of points per game (18.3) since his rookie season in 2003. Not to mention it was the first season he failed to make the All-Star game since his rookie season also. Wade has the $23.8M option on the table but the Bulls are a ways off from having a roster that can compete with the Cavaliers. At his age, Wade may consider heading to a team that has a better opportunity at winning a championship.
PF Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks, Free Agency status: Unrestricted – Millsap is known for his consistency and steady play. Coming off a career year in 2016, Millsap has been to the All-Star game four seasons in a row and is the Hawks most reliable option. Speaking of option, Millsap declined a $21.4M option from the Hawks to enter free agency. If you recall, Millsap opted out and re-signed with the Hawks two summers ago. This time around, things may be a little different.
PF/C Serge Ibaka, Toronto Raptors, Free Agency status: Unrestricted – Ibaka was acquired in February after being traded from the Orlando Magic and his presence gave the Raptors a nice boost. The 27-year-old veteran is a pest on the defensive end and continues to carve out a nice role on the offensive end. If the Raptors want to stay in contention, Ibaka is a must sign. If a team desires a rebounder, defensive weapon, and a guy who can average 14.8 PPG and shoot 85% from the free throw line, Ibaka is a must sign.
SF Rudy Gay, Sacramento Kings, Free Agency status: Unrestricted – Turning down a $14.3M player option, the 11-year veteran has his sights on a payday. There will be a few suitors for Gay and while he wants his money, he also has a desire to win. A critical factor to keep in mind for the athletic small forward who averaged 18.7 PPG and 6.3 RPG before rupturing his Achilles back in January. Gay can still be an asset to a team and it will be interesting to see if Gay sets aside his hunger for money to join a team that is a championship contender.
SF Danilo Gallinari, Denver Nuggets, Free Agency status: Player Option – Gallinari is an underrated versatile player and is still in his prime at 28 years old. This past season, the 6’10 forward averaged 18.2 PPG, shot 90% from the free throw line, and drained 38.9% of his 3-pointers (his best since his rookie season in ’08). The word out of the Gallinari camp is that he is likely to decline a $16.1M player option and test the open market. Gallinari is productive on the offensive end and can give a team with assets around him a nice injection of scoring and shooting.