In case you haven’t heard yet, Oklahoma City Thunder superstar Kevin Durant is set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason. I have yet to hear of any contract between he and ESPN to broadcast his “decision” on national television, but I’m sure the two parties are just working out some of the minor details.
Although Durant may be the biggest prize, he is not the only player whose services will be open to the highest bidder this summer. If you are a team on the cusp of competing for a title, being active on the open market could provide a quick, but expensive, way to help you take the next step.
Here is how I see July 7th going down:
Unrestricted Free Agents
Odds to win the Kevin Durant sweepstakes:
- Oklahoma City Thunder: 5/2
- Toronto Raptors: 5/1
- Miami Heat: 11/2
- Boston Celtics: 13/2
- Golden State Warriors: 7/1
- New York Knicks: 9/2
- Brooklyn Nets: 12/1
- Houston Rockets: 25/1
- Washington Wizards: 35/1
I’m sure many of you will be shocked that I have the Toronto Raptors possessing the second-best odds to land the All-Star forward. Let me explain why: first, everyone laughed when the Raptors announced Drake as their “Global Ambassador,” but it may actually turn into the most brilliant move the team has ever made – especially if they are able to reel in Durant. The former Longhorn has been spotted at Drake’s OVO fest, and his link to the city of Toronto hasn’t exactly been kept secret. The move also makes sense because it gets him out of the gruelling Western Conference and onto a team that is ready to win now. In order for this to happen, the Raptors would have to part ways with DeMar DeRozan, something I am sure they would be willing to do.
How does this sign-and-trade sound? The Raptors get Kevin Durant; the Lakers get DeMar DeRozan; and the Thunder get the 2nd and 9th-overall picks, as well as Terrence Ross.
Ultimately, I don’t see Durant leaving OKC. But if he does, I can’t see him staying in the West, unless Golden State can actually free up the space to bring him in.
Pat Riley has always been able to recruit top talent via free agency, so Miami makes sense. The Boston Celtics are also capable of winning now, and have enough cap space to bring in Durant and another star.
New York and Brooklyn may not be good now, but adding the superstar forward would turn them into contenders in the East. There is also a possibility that Durant wants to go back to his old stomping grounds and play with James Harden in Houston. Dwight Howard will likely opt-out, opening up some space for the Rockets to spend.
I have also included the Wizards strictly because Durant grew up in DC. I don’t see that happening though, as the odds would suggest.
Odds on Dwyane Wade ever leaving Miami: 25/1
If the odds didn’t already say this clearly, I’ll reiterate it: Dwyane Wade is staying in Miami … FOREVER!
Odds to land Brandon Roy … I mean Eric Gordon:
- Memphis Grizzlies: 3/1
- Boston Celtics: 4/1
- Miami Heat: 9/2
- Indiana Pacers: 5/1
- New Orleans Pelicans: 30/1
- Washington Wizards: 30/1
This is a bit of a tougher situation to predict due to Eric Gordon’s constant struggles with injuries. Outside of his rookie season, Gordon has never played in more than 64 games. I don’t see any team offering him a max-contract, so it’ll become more about fit.
The Grizzlies come in as my top-suitor largely due to their awful 33.1-percent mark from behind the arc, second-worst in the league. Gordon is a career 38.3-percent shooter from three and would provide the Grizzlies with some much needed offense. You can bet Memphis is going to do everything they can to first re-sign point guard Mike Conley Jr., but they should still have enough money left over to pursue the soon-to-be former Pelican.
I included Boston for the exact same reason as Memphis: they need more offense.
The Heat are in play because they will always be linked to the top names available in the market.
The Pacers come up because Indianapolis is Gordon’s hometown, and Paul George could use a better sidekick. I have also added Washington just in case they want to trade one injury-riddled shooting guard (Bradley Beal) for another.
Odds on Nicolas Batum re-signing with Charlotte: 1/10
All signs are pointing to Nicolas Batum re-signing with the Hornets. The team has made it very clear that they want to get a deal done immediately, and Batum has expressed his desire to stay in the city where he just enjoyed his best statistical season.
The Spurs and Knicks arise simply because they are the Spurs and Knicks. The wild card here is the Raptors. Should DeMar DeRozan leave in free agency, the Raptors will have a major hole to fill at shooting guard. Batum would fit nicely into Dwane Casey’s crew and Toronto would have the money to offer.
Odds the Atlanta Hawks are tired of Al Horford and his winning ways: 50/1
I strongly believe Al Horford is going to re-sign with Atlanta. The team is only one season removed from winning 60 games, which was good for top seed in the Eastern Conference. I’m sure Horford is aware that, if he stays in the East, he will have the opportunity to continue competing for a championship year after year. The whole narrative that he wants to escape LeBron James seems a little ridiculous to me. Better to deal with James than scratching and clawing for a playoff spot in the West.
Once again, Boston and Washington come up because they have money to spend and would become major contenders to dethrone LeBron and company if able to acquire the talented centre.
Odds Memphis allows Mike Conley to walk: 100/1
I can sense you’re getting tired of reading this, but don’t blame me for the lack of star players re-enacting “The Decision;” Mike Conley will re-sign with the Grizzlies. It appears as if Memphis is set to treat Conley as if he were their version of Dwyane Wade. The former Buckeye will be a Grizzly for a long time.
The only other sensible option would be to join LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard in San Antonio, but I don’t think the Spurs would be able to free up the space.
Odds to sign Rajon Rondo:
- New York Knicks: 4/3
- Los Angeles Lakers: 3/2
- Sacramento Kings: 4/1
- Brooklyn Nets: 7/1
Finally, an unrestricted free agent who may be switching cities! Carmelo Anthony has been doing his best to play matchmaker between Rondo and New York’s management. Anthony has only ever had one sniff at playing in an NBA Championship, and that came back in 2008-09. He wants to build a winner in New York, and he feels Rondo could play a major role in that.
His current team, the Sacramento Kings are not my favorites to land Rondo. A bidding war between the other three teams on the list would probably see the Kings bow out early; I don’t see them paying that much luxury tax. Sacramento did give Rondo an opportunity to resurrect his career and, for that, he may be willing to give them a “hometown discount.” But knowing what we do about Rondo, that’s not too likely.
One thing is for certain, he won’t be going back to Dallas.
Restricted Free Agents
Odds Washington maintains its backcourt: 1/10
Long before the Wizards season ended, Bradley Beal had already expressed his desire for a max-contract. Whether Washington is willing to grant him his wish is still up in the air. However, it wouldn’t make sense to let him walk. When the 2016-17 season tips off, Beal will be wearing a Wizards jersey and making around $23 million for the season.
Odds Luke Walton is fined for tampering when Harrison Barnes becomes a Laker: 5/3
In order for Barnes to stay in Golden State, he will have to take a pay-cut compared to what he could get on the open market. I am of the belief that the small forward wants to get out of the shadow of the Splash Brothers, and be at least the number two, if not number one, option for a team.
Warriors’ assistant coach Luke Walton is set to take over as the Lakers head coach next season. He’ll have an educated opinion on what Barnes is worth. I believe Walton will vouch for him, and Barnes will fit into the fast-paced, Warrior-like offense that the Lakers will install.
If Walton doesn’t think Barnes is a $20 million player, you can bet Brooklyn would be happy to pay him. I’m sure that Oklahoma City wouldn’t mind poaching some of Golden State’s talent. If Kevin Durant leaves, Barnes is a possible replacement.
Odds Andre Drummond receives a max-contract from Detroit: 2/7
All signs are pointing to the Pistons giving Drummond a max-contract. It doesn’t make sense for the 22-year-old to leave Detroit just as Stan Van Gundy has the team trending upwards. My forecast: Drummond remains a Piston, and turns them into a top-four team in the East within two seasons.
Odds LeBron James Leaves Cleveland: 1,000,000,000,000,000/1
My zero key broke or else I’d add more. He’s not going anywhere. He can’t, right?
Odds Dwight Howard is pissing-off a new team next year: 5/2
There was clearly some tension between Howard and James Harden last season. It was, and still is, believed that the Rockets’ big man is going to opt out of his deal. However, with new coach (Mike D’Antoni) bringing in a completely different style of play, the team looks more willing to have D12 back in the fold. The two stars may have to put their differences aside.
If he does decide to opt out, teams like Boston, Dallas, or even Atlanta (should Horford leave) would all make sense, as long as they are willing to deal with the baggage.
Odds DeMar DeRozan breaks-up with Kyle Lowry: 3/1
The Raptors have been clear that their top-priority is to bring DeMar back long-term. One of Toronto general manager Massai Ujiri’s biggest bargaining chips right now is DeRozan’s friendship with Lowry. If that’s not enough to keep DeRozan in Toronto, then maybe the team’s recent success will be.
Unfortunately, there is a strong-possibility that DeRozan will decide to pack his bags and head back home to the state of California. The Lakers would gladly make the former Trojan the new face of their franchise, and they won’t have an issue paying any luxury tax that would be involved.
Another piece at play here is whether the Raptors actually value DeRozan as a max-money player. It wouldn’t surprise me if they offer him less than the max in an attempt to leave some money for Bismack Biyombo as well. Also, as previously mentioned, Toronto may believe they can land Kevin Durant. If so, I’m sure they would be willing to partake in a sign-and-trade to let the Compton native return to the sunshine he grew up in.
Odds Dirk Nowitzki opts out of his deal: 10/9
Dirk Nowitzki will be a Maverick no matter what happens here. The only reason he would opt-out would be to allow the team to restructure his contract, possibly giving them more money to bring in some extra hands.
Odds Pau Gasol signs in San Antonio: 9/1
It is believed that Pau Gasol will opt-out of his contract with the Chicago Bulls and sign with a more legitimate contender. The second you mentioned the word “contender,” Gregg Popovich’s ears start to ring and the curmudgeonly coach is forced to try to smile. It’s a horrible sight.
Attracting a veteran like Gasol shouldn’t be too difficult for the Spurs. It would be the ideal situation for the former NBA champion, and would give San Antonio yet another valuable piece in their ongoing battle with Golden State and OKC.
Odds Tim Duncan wants to play for anyone other than Gregg Popovich: 500/1
There are two possible outcomes for this situation: one, Tim Duncan rejoins the Spurs for one more go at a title (ok, maybe two); or, two, the five-time champion decides to call it a career.
You will never see Tim Duncan in another team’s uniform.
Odds Lance Stephenson blows in a player’s ear while wearing a Grizzlies’ jersey next year: 50/1
Do not read those long odds the wrong way. I do believe Memphis will pick-up the club option on Stephenson; I just don’t believe he will ever blow in a player’s ear again, crazy though he is.