On Saturday morning at 12 AM EST, the floodgates of free agency open with all 30 teams trying to bolster their roster. There are also many teams that want to be able to beat the Warriors, and the only way they will do that is acquiring stars through free agency. After both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin opted out of their player options, there are many stars that could possibly leave their teams they played for last season. Here are predictions for where the top NBA free agents will end up.
Paul will get a massive contract wherever he ends up, for at age 32, he is showing no signs of slowing down (career high 3-point percentage last season). Though, this will probably be Paul’s last massive contract, and the Clippers can offer Paul a max contract that is one year longer and contains 53 million dollars more than any other team in the NBA. And, the Clippers are in a good position. If it hadn’t been for unlucky injuries to Paul and Blake Griffin these past two postseasons, there would’ve been a very good chance that the Clippers could’ve made it far in the Western Conference side of the bracket. They’ve had 5 straight 50+ win seasons, and with a combination of the Clippers success and the extra money, there’s no reason Paul should be leaving L.A.
Prediction: Re-signs with Los Angeles Clippers
Blake Griffin will be actively pursued by more teams than his teammate Chris Paul, and he is more likely to leave. He’s got at least two big contracts left, so he can afford to leave the extra money on the table in L.A. Plus, a lot of teams that are trying to contend with Golden State and Cleveland (Washington, Boston, Houston, etc.) are all weak at Power Forward and could desperately use Blake Griffin.
If Griffin really wants a ring, his best bet would be leaving for the Eastern Conference. But, the Clippers are in a good position, and the extra 40 million dollars the Clippers can put on his max deal might be a deal breaker considering his injury past. Griffin is 28 and has struggled with injuries, so it might be wise to take the money before he starts declining.
Prediction: Re-signs with Los Angeles Clippers
Out of any free agent, Hayward is the most probable to leave his team. Although the Jazz are a solid team, his chances of reaching an NBA finals in the Eastern Conference is so much more likely, considering the fact that 5 Western Conference teams won 50+ games compared to the mere 3 teams in the Eastern Conference. I think Hayward’s best bet is in Miami with Pat Riley. Boston’s direction is unclear, for they won 53 games last season and still won’t trade for a star, and are a clearly inferior to the Cavaliers. Washington has been linked to trade rumors with Paul George and Carmelo Anthony, and with the possibility of re-signing Otto Porter, Hayward wouldn’t be ideal in Washington.
The Heat went 30-11 to end the season, have one of the best Centers in the league in Hassan Whiteside, and have Pat Riley pulling the strings, and he pulled Lebron to South Beach. The Heat with Hayward have a clear direction, bright future, and pose as a serious contender in the Eastern Conference. Plus, after living in Utah, I think Florida would be nice for Hayward.
Prediction: Signs with Miami Heat
Lowry has been quoted that the only thing he cares about is “winning a ring.” If that’s the case, it’s time for him to leave Toronto. Toronto has been owned by Cleveland for years now, and the Raptors have acquired no one who can help that change that. With Philly picking Markelle Fultz 1st overall, Philadelphia is apparently not going after Lowry. There’s only one team that can be a true contender and is missing a Point Guard: the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After the acquisition of Jimmy Butler, the Timberwolves are looking scary with the big three of Butler, Wiggins, and Towns. The Timberwolves would be great for Lowry, as he would get a lot of playing time with the chance to win now and in the future. Lowry is a great defender, which is something coach Tom Thibodeau values tremendously. The Timberwolves are ready to win now, but since Jimmy Butler is under contract until the year 2020, the Timberwolves have established a young core for many years to come, and Lowry, as a veteran, can help them. Lowry is a perfect fit in Minnesota, and it only makes sense for him to be playing for the T-Wolves next season.
Prediction: Signs with Minnesota Timberwolves
Unless desperate, most teams would pass up on giving a huge contract to a 32-year-old frontcourt player, but there’s most likely going to be some desperate teams in free agency, and I think Houston will be one of them. Millsap is almost certain to leave Atlanta, because new Hawks GM Travis Schlenk is taking the team in another direction, and he might have drafted Millsap’s replacement in John Collins, who says he’s trying to model his game after Millsap.
The Rockets have a lot of pressure to make a splash in free agency after being buyers at the deadline and having most of their roster in their prime (including James Harden at age 27). With my prediction of Paul, Griffin, Lowry, and Hayward signing in other places, the Rockets might have to give Millsap a deal. Although it won’t be a great long-term deal, Millsap is a guy who is at the back-half of his prime and needs a chance to win now. Millsap also can step into a huge weakness for the Rockets, which is the Power Forward position, but he also can stretch the floor. The Rockets are clearly playing for the present and not the future, so the Rockets might be willing to give Millsap the max deal.
Prediction: Signs with Houston Rockets
Stay tuned for more free agent predictions.