NBA Free Agency Odds & Trade Candidates

Paul George (By Anthony Tolliver [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0])

I am really hoping this NBA offseason continues to resemble Christopher Nolan’s brilliant flick The Dark Knight. Allow me to explain. And feel free to follow along here.

Before you even realize the movie has started, some unknown characters (the 76ers) fire a rope gun leading them straight into a bank (Markelle Fultz). As other characters are making their way to the scene, we have discussions of a potential betrayal (LeBron James possibly leaving Cleveland again). Some gunfire ensues (Dwight Howard traded to the Hornets), and then we see our first actual betrayal (Chicago trades Jimmy Butler).

Then out of nowhere, the bank manager (Phil Jackson) goes on this power trip and loses his mind, firing off random gunshots (placing Kristaps Porzingis on the trading block) escalating an otherwise peaceful robbery. Fortunately, this man is stopped before the situation turns too violent.

We get our second double-cross (Chris Paul opts out of his contract with the Clippers) after the vault is opened, and one man collects a bag full of riches (Houston Rockets).

That brings us up to date. As we know, in the movie, the next thing that happens is a school bus slamming through the wall, killing off another member of the heist crew. Could the driver be Gordon Hayward sinking the Jazz? As the plot progresses, we watch one of the last few clean lawyers, who has always fought for justice, get manipulated by The Joker turning him into a super-villain. It really seems the role of Harvey Dent/Two-Face is being played by Paul George here, while LeBron James dons The Joker persona.

Regardless of the character fits, the rest of the movie is filled with heart-pounding action and plenty of drama. We can only hope NBA Free Agency, which opens July 1, continues to emulate The Dark Knight.

How closely will it mirror the plot? That’s where I come in. Though I’m not actually writing the script, I can provide you with the odds of what’s coming next. I won’t waste your time with any of the obvious events: Steph Curry and Kevin Durant will re-sign with Golden State; Dirk Nowitzki won’t play for any team other than the Mavericks; and LeBron James will play this season in Cleveland. I also won’t bother you with what will happen to the C-list stars, like Danilo Gallinari and Rudy Gay. Their decisions won’t dramatically impact the upcoming season.

To summon my inner Jimmy Butler, call me if you have any problems with that. (Or maybe just email me.)

Here are the odds on where some of the NBA’s bigger names will be playing in 2017-18.

Free Agent & Trade Odds

Paul George

  • Boston Celtics: 3/1
  • Los Angeles Lakers: 15/4
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 4/1
  • Houston Rockets: 6/1
  • Washington Wizards: 9/1
  • Indiana Pacers: 33/1
  • FIELD: 14/1

It would be reckless for the Pacers to not trade Paul George before the start of the season. The four-time All-Star has already made it clear he won’t be re-signing when his contract expires in the summer of 2018. With the rumors of George wishing to play for the Lakers, the Pacers return has likely taken a hit. But the return would be non-existent if George started the season with Indiana and got hurt.

The fact that the Lakers haven’t been very involved in trade discussions suggests they already know where George is signing as a free agent next year. So why would they surrender valuable assets to get him one season earlier? There are a handful of teams that would still be willing to take PG13 for a year, and hope they can convince him to stay. The Celtics and Wizards can offer a chance to compete, but the Cavaliers can offer a direct trip to the NBA Finals. The latter would have a hard time meeting Indiana’s asking price, though.

Carmelo Anthony

  • New York Knicks: 8/7
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 5/4
  • Houston Rockets: 15/1
  • FIELD: 49/1
By Keith Allison (flickr)

Now that Phil Jackson and the Knicks have “parted ways,” the slander Carmelo Anthony campaign has also likely concluded. With the Knicks seemingly entering a rebuild, the ten-time All-Star has engaged in buyout discussions with New York, but the team still seeks a trade. The problem is Anthony has a no-trade clause, and the only teams he’d be willing to waive that for would be contenders, who wouldn’t be able to offer the sought assets.

It’s believed Anthony only wants to play with his close friend LeBron James, but with both New York and Cleveland’s front offices in turmoil, a deal appears far from imminent. Melo may have to at least start the season with the Knicks.

Gordon Hayward

  • Boston Celtics: 3/2
  • Utah Jazz: 2/1
  • Miami Heat: 5/1
  • FIELD: 9/1

Hayward has the obvious connection to Boston through head coach Brad Stevens, who he played for at Butler. But Hayward also recently admitted that he can’t stand Tom Brady. Not sure how well that will go over in Massachusetts. If he can bring championships the way Brady does, I’m sure the fanbase will overlook it.

Don’t count Utah out, though, who can offer the All-Star an extra year worth up to $39.2 million with his Bird Rights. Miami is also in pursuit of Hayward. The Heat would love to pair him with Hassan Whiteside in the frontcourt.

Blake Griffin

  • Los Angeles Clippers: 13/7
  • Phoenix Suns: 5/2
  • Oklahoma City Thunder: 4/1
  • Boston Celtics: 12/1
  • Toronto Raptors: 19/1
  • FIELD: 24/1

After trading Chris Paul, the Clippers have two options: (1) lock up Blake Griffin and push forward with what they have left, or (2) blow it up. With a meeting between the Clippers and Griffin already scheduled, it doesn’t appear they’re ready for option two.

The five-time All-Star also has a meeting set up with the Phoenix Suns, and is believed to be on the radar of Oklahoma City, Boston, and potentially Toronto. The Celtics, however, see Griffin as a plan B to Gordon Hayward, so they are likely to miss out on the Blake sweepstakes. OKC is an interesting candidate, as they’ll be desperate to surround NBA MVP Russell Westbrook with reason to re-sign next summer. It could be the Suns’ up-tempo offense, and budding roster, that lures Griffin away from LA, though.

LaMarcus Aldridge

  • San Antonio Spurs: 5/3
  • Phoenix Suns: 3/1
  • Toronto Raptors: 7/1
  • FIELD: 17/3

LaMarcus Aldridge has gone from the heir to Tim Duncan in San Antonio, to seldom-used and apparently disgruntled waste of cap space. The five-time All-Star’s performance against the Warriors in the playoffs may have been the deciding factor for Gregg Popovich. After Kawhi Leonard went down, Aldridge became the go-to guy for San Antonio, but was very inconsistent, scoring single-digit points in two of the four games. The rumors began floating at the NBA Draft of the Spurs offering Aldridge in return for a top-ten pick, and the power forward has yet to be taken off the block.

Looking back to when Aldridge was a free agent, the Suns and Raptors were in heavy pursuit. Both destinations would still make sense for Aldridge, but his trade value is very uncertain right now. Pops certainly won’t just give Aldridge away. And having missed out on Chris Paul, San Antonio may not covet another high-priced free agent. We’ll see just how badly the Spurs want to free up that $21.4 million cap hit.

Serge Ibaka

  • Toronto Raptors: 3/7
  • FIELD: 7/3

Raptors GM Masai Ujiri stated they were not just renting Serge Ibaka last year when they traded for him, but coveted his Bird Rights. With the Raptors in the very uncomfortable situation of having believed they were good enough to compete with LeBron James and the Cavs, but still getting embarrassed, their hand is forced in this situation. Toronto gave up too much to let Ibaka walk, regardless of what direction Ujiri chooses to go with the rest of the team. They’re going to offer him a max-contract, which I don’t foresee Ibaka turning down.

The Heat and Mavericks would emerge as the top options should Ibaka wish to get out of Toronto.

Paul Millsap

  • Denver Nuggets: 4/1
  • Phoenix Suns: 4/1
  • Sacramento Kings: 9/2
  • Houston Rockets: 5/1
  • Atlanta Hawks: 33/1
  • FIELD: 7/2
By Keith Allison (flickr)

Is a 32-year-old B-list star worth a max-contract? Of course not! And this is why Atlanta is smart to let Millsap walk. If any of the Suns, Nuggets, or Kings are willing to pay that kind of money for a power forward who has never averaged a double-double in any season of his 11-year career, then so be it. They can suffer the consequences of trying to shed that cap-hit in two seasons.

If Millsap only cares about winning at this point of his career, he’ll take a pay-cut and sign with the Rockets, who could use a versatile forward.

JJ Reddick

  • Philadelphia 76ers: 3/1
  • Brooklyn Nets: 4/1
  • Houston Rockets: 4/1
  • Los Angeles Clippers: 39/1
  • FIELD: 27/13

Everyone in the league is in the market for a guy who can flat-out shoot. But not everyone is willing to pay the kind of money Reddick will command on the open market. The 76ers and Nets can throw whatever they wish at Reddick, but the 33-year-old would obviously much prefer to sign with a contender.

The Rockets would likely be the preferred destination, but the 76ers may be able to provide Reddick with the best of both worlds. It has become evident the guard will not be re-signing with the Clippers, though.

Derrick Rose

  • New York Knicks: 3/2
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: 4/1
  • San Antonio Spurs: 6/1
  • Indiana Pacers: 9/1
  • FIELD: 11/2

Is the 2010-11 NBA MVP even a premier point guard anymore? Rose still has some of his lightning-quick burst, but is a shell of his former self. There is also a ton of skepticism as to whether Rose can play within an offense and distribute the ball as a traditional point guard.

If there’s anyone who can get Rose to buy into team-first basketball it would be Gregg Popovich. The Spurs missed on Chris Paul and could set their sights on Rose now. But it’s been rumored that there’s mutual interest in the three-time All-Star re-signing with the Knicks. The T-wolves speculation will continue to gain traction now that Tom Thibodeau has reacquired one of his former Bulls.

Kyle Lowry

  • Minnesota Timberwolves: 13/7
  • Toronto Raptors: 5/2
  • San Antonio Spurs: 5/1
  • FIELD: 4/1

Before the 76ers, Mavericks, and Knicks addressed their PG needs in the draft, Kyle Lowry was set to get paid in free agency. Now, the market has seriously dwindled for the 31-year-old.

There have been many rumors of Lowry wanting out of Toronto, and the team likely won’t be willing to offer him a max-contract anyways. With the Timberwolves acquiring fellow USA teammate, Jimmy Butler, Lowry is actively being recruited just slightly south of the border. Minnesota could both provide Lowry an opportunity to win and a lucrative contract. It makes all the more sense now that Minnesota has traded Ricky Rubio.

Kevin Love

By Keith Allison (flickr)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers: 3/4
  • FIELD: 4/3

If the Cavaliers are going to add one of Carmelo Anthony or Paul George, they will need to shed some salary. In other words, Kevin Love’s $22.6 million cap-hit needs to vanish. However, neither of the Knicks or Pacers are going to accept a deal with Love as the biggest return, so a third team will be needed.

The Nuggets and Suns are the two teams who stand out as options.

Andre Iguodala

  • Golden State Warriors: 7/2
  • Minnesota Timberwolves: 7/2
  • San Antonio Spurs: 7/2
  • Philadelphia 76ers: 13/2
  • FIELD: 4/1

Does Andre Iguodala want to make more money, or have a better chance at winning the 2018 NBA Championship? Fortunately, the 33-year-old has some interested teams that could provide him with both. The Spurs would love to add Iggy, but he’d likely be taking similar money to what Golden State would offer. The Timberwolves could see Iguodala as the perfect sixth-man in their championship pursuit, and have cap space.

Don’t rule out a reunion in Philadelphia, though.

Phil Jackson

  • Given a role with the Lakers: 1/1
  • Never works in the NBA again: 1/1

Yeah, he’s not a free agent player, but I couldn’t help myself. His three years in New York should be enough to deter anyone else from giving this senile 71-year-old any power. But no one will ever forget what he did in LA.

Perry

Perry is a regular contributor to MTS and a die-hard Broncos fan. Yes, he does remember the five Super Bowl losses, but likely remembers all your teams shortcomings, too. Consider yourself warned. Though his love for the Broncos may seem unconditional, Mr. Port never mixes his emotions with gambling.